I thought I’d write a quick note to set the record straight on some misconceptions I’m hearing about on social media. This article is intended only to present facts that may have been overlooked.
Oklahoma legislators cannot vote themselves a pay raise. The Legislature does not set its own pay. Legislators’ pay is set by the Legislative Compensation Board, a nine-member board appointed by the Governor, House Speaker and President Pro Tem of the Senate. Legislator pay has actually been cut 8.8%, starting November 1, 2018, so legislators elected or returning in November will be paid less. The benefits package for legislators is the same as it is for state employees.
According to statements on Facebook and some of the unions and educators, teachers have not received a pay raise in the last ten years. School personnel records are public; you may access them at http://sde.ok.gov/sde/documents/2018-01-02/certified-staff-salary-information. My office did a little research, and I have obtained every teacher, principal, superintendent’s salary and benefits in the state.
I have compared the 2016/17 school year to the 2009/10 school year. From a preliminary review, it looks like the average increase in teacher salaries during that time period has been from $3,000 to $8000. Principals’ pay increases ranged from $8,000 to about $13,000. This does not include fringe benefits, which includes 100% health care for employee and district paid retirement.
I have reviewed OEA’s projected budget that they are encouraging educators to walk out for. If you will look at the bills that have been put forward in the House or Senate over the last two years, you will find that virtually every one of these demands has been voted on at least once (except for the Romney plan, which caps itemized deductions). If you research the votes, you will also find that no Democrats voted for these measures, except for a few on the recent Step Up plan.
Last Wednesday there was a vote on the Senate floor at 10:30 p.m. that would have provided a 12.7% teacher pay raise and a $2500 state employee pay raise. OEA encouraged all Democrats to vote against this measure, and the measure failed. Democrats sent a message in debate on the Senate floor that these pay raises were not enough; it was “all or none.” With the past votes on the tax increases they are proposing, “all” is not attainable. This is indicated by the voting history on all of these bills.
I was glad to receive teachers and administrators from the district who have been to visit the Capitol and my office this week. During our conversations I realized the bulk of their message was really about more money to the classroom, and that a raise would help. The main message I understood from their visit was to fund education. I suggested they contact the unions to change the messaging to look at what is attainable now so the unions will allow the Democrats to cast a supporting vote.
Another issue being discussed on local social media sites is voter registration. I encourage voter registration. However, it is against the law for someone to ask or encourage you to declare a specific party affiliation when you are registering to vote. This is your decision. Research the platforms.
When I was elected in 2010, the teachers’ retirement system was less than 50% funded. Today that fund is over 70% funded because of putting almost $300M a year into the Teachers’ Retirement system. Teachers’ retirement in Oklahoma is based on the last three years of earnings, while Social Security retirement is based over 35 years of income. A teacher with a salary of $30,000 who moves to a higher paid position such as a principal with a $60,000 to $90,000 salary will retire at the end of their Oklahoma career at that higher salary, even if they only worked for three years at that higher position.
One final thing: I do not engage on Facebook. Every once in a while, my office will share an informative post, but the account is not regularly monitored as a means of contact. To contact my office, please visit, email or call the office and we’ll be glad to hear from you.
Until next time,