State Senate passes bill for teacher raises

The Associated Press - March 29, 2018 10:30 am

A package of tax hikes that include oil and gas production to generate hundreds of millions of new dollars for teacher pay and avert statewide school closures has received final legislative approval and is heading to the Oklahoma governor’s desk.

The Oklahoma State Senate voted 36-10 Wednesday for a bill that includes taxes on cigarettes, fuel and lodging – narrowly giving it the three-fourth’s majority needed to pass. The House already approved the package, which is designed to generate about $450 million for teacher raises and other spending.

After a furious, last-minute lobbying effort by the hospitality industry, House and Senate leaders agreed to pass a separate measure to remove the proposed $5-per-night lodging fee.

“This is an historic evening for the state of Oklahoma,” Gov. Mary Fallin said after Wednesday’s vote. “I applaud the bipartisanship shown in the Senate tonight and in the House of Representatives earlier this week by passing House Bill 1010XX. Those voting yes answered the call from the public by voting teachers a pay raise and putting the state on a solid foundation for the future. I will follow through on their courage and action by signing House Bill 1010XX.”

Passage of the revenue package will fund a $6,100, or 16 percent, pay raise on average for Oklahoma teachers, the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister also praised the State Senate’s actions.

Thanks to members of the state Senate, our teachers are much closer to a desperately needed and long-overdue pay raise, one that will finally make us regionally competitive and help turn around a crippling teacher shortage,” Hofmeister said. “I am grateful for the strong bipartisan support on behalf of Oklahoma’s schoolkids.”

Hofmeister said this pay raise propels Oklahoma to second in the region for average teacher pay.

“Nationally, we will move from the basement to better than 19 other states,” she said. “While this legislation is far from all that needs to be done to reverse years of education funding cuts, it is a tremendous step forward. There is no one more important than the teacher in classroom instruction, and House Bill 1010-XX will be critical in retaining and recruiting teachers. This vote is a bright light for public education in Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Education Association says there is still work to be done to get more money into classrooms. Association president Alicia Priest said that work will begin Monday when educators descend on the Capitol.

 

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