The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday approved a nearly $3.6 billion budget request that would provide a $5,000 across-the-board teacher pay hike in 2023-24.
The fiscal year 2024 budget request also includes a proposed increase of $66 million in state aid funding for local school districts to help cover labor needs for increasing student enrollments, as well as the increasing costs of basic operational needs such as fuel, utilities and insurance.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who is running for governor, included $310 million to cover the cost of salary and benefits increases for 52,850 current certified teachers in her agency’s annual budget request to the Oklahoma Legislature.
That was by far the greatest portion of the $390 million total increase being sought.
Oklahoma’s minimum starting salary for a public school teacher is currently $36,601. The proposed increase would increase that to $41,601.
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State education officials report that Oklahoma currently ranks fourth in the region for teacher pay with its average annual salary of $54,096, trailing New Mexico at $54,256, Texas at $57,090 and Colorado at $57,706.
Board member Jennifer Monies noted that Oklahoma’s cost of living may be less than some of those states, including Colorado, but also with Oklahoma’s robust state-required benefits package, teachers don’t see all of that in their take-home pay.
“This projection (of total cost) includes the state-required benefits,” Carolyn Thompson, deputy chief of staff and chief of government affairs, told the state board.
The state’s public school teachers received an average increase of $1,220 in 2019 and one of $6,100 in 2018, after teachers from across the state staged a walkout at the Capitol.
Tulsa School Board President Stacey Woolley offered public comments in support of seeking across-the-board teacher raises in the next regular legislative session.
“This year, the consumer price index is up 8.5 percent, which completely negates the raise teachers received in 2018,” Woolley said. “Without any increases in state funding, most districts provided increases this year of 7 to 11 percent. We did this by carving into ourselves, and mostly we did it with federal money.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is running for reelection, has discussed the possibility of a pay for performance system that would make it possible for “the best and the brightest” classroom teachers to earn as much as $100,000 annually.
Another noteworthy increase in the proposed budget is $8.9 million total for state-mandated public school activities, including $2 million more to fund alternative education options for students.
That public school activities budget request increase also includes $4.2 million to cover a cost increase expected for state-required student assessments, which are bid out by the state Education Department every six years.
July 2022 video: Legislative report says Oklahoma public schools affected by poverty more than most but funding does not always reflect it