UPDATED to include School Board President Steve Broudy’s comment.
Many Oklahoma school districts will continue a teacher walk-out on Wednesday, but Luther Public Schools will be open. Superintendent Barry Gunn announced late Tuesday that classes will resume Wednesday, April 11. School has been canceled for seven days because of a lack of certified teachers in the classrooms.
Some Luther teachers spent their days away from the classroom at the State Capitol with thousands of other teachers and education funding advocates. While the legislature has moved forward on a teacher pay raise and other education funding measures, still more work is being done on education funding as well as coming up with a budget to fund the rest of the state, including human services, mental health, corrections and transportation.
On Wednesday, Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill repealing the $5 hotel/motel room tax that originally was part of the teacher raise package. Meanwhile, two Republican house members trotted out a package of bills that would provide more education funding.
Read each news release from the Governor’s office and the House of Representatives.
News Release: Governor Mary Fallin today signed House Bill (HB) 1012XX, which repeals a $5 tax on hotel and motel rooms, and two other bills that are estimated to replace the revenue to help fund teacher pay raises and increased education funding.
Fallin signed HB 3375, which allows tribal casinos to use traditional roulette and dice games, which were specifically prohibited since a 2004 vote of the people. Exclusivity fees generated by the change will put substantial additional dollars into education.
The governor also signed HB 1019XX, which will require third-party online retailers to collect and remit sales tax back to state coffers. It will affect purchases made through sites like Amazon, when the seller is someone other than Amazon. It is estimated to bring in about $20.5 million for public schools.
The House of Representatives and Senate voted to repeal the hotel-motel tax, which was included in a larger revenue package, HB 1010XX. That bill raised a variety of revenue to pay for an average $6,100 teacher pay raise – the largest teacher pay increase in state history – and added $50 million in new revenue for textbooks and school supplies.
“The revenue package that funded the teacher pay raises would not have passed the Senate with the required super majority, or three-fourths support, had a bipartisan agreement not been struck to repeal the hotel/motel tax,” Fallin said.
The governor and the Legislature have worked diligently to pass historic funding measures for K-12 public education.
Fallin last month signed HB 1010XX, part of an historic revenue package to fund pay raises for teachers. The package allows for a $6,100, or 16 percent, pay raise on average for Oklahoma teachers. It moves Oklahoma’s teacher pay up from the lowest, in average teacher pay, to second in the seven-state region and up to 29th from 49th nationally. Oklahoma’s teacher-pay ranking improves to 12th in the nation when adjusted for cost of living.
Last week, the governor signed the $2.9 billion appropriation bill for common education for the upcoming 2019 fiscal year. The funding marks the largest amount ever appropriated in Oklahoma for K-12 public education and a 19.7 percent increase over the $2.4 billion appropriation bill for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
The $2.9 billion education funding contained in HB 3705 includes an additional $353.5 million for teacher pay; $52 million for support personnel pay: $33 million for textbooks: $17 million for the state aid formula; and $24.7 million for flex health care benefits.
“This shows again that education is a priority with legislative leaders and me,” said Fallin. “The single-most important thing we can do to help Oklahomans have fulfilling and productive lives is improving the quality and outcomes of education.”
Fallin said today’s action should complete funding K-12 public schools for the 2019 fiscal year. She encouraged legislators to turn attention now on other issues, such as criminal justice, and address the financial needs of other core services, such as public safety and health and human services, in finishing work on the 2019 fiscal year budget.
The governor made it clear she supports the voters’ decision in a 2004 statewide election of encouraging investment in Oklahoma through the capital gains tax deduction.
The capital gains tax deduction, which was a tax reform measure approved in a statewide vote in 2004, is an exemption from capital gains taxes for property and business located in the state of Oklahoma. The idea was to increase the incentive for people to invest in Oklahoma, and to put Oklahoma properties and businesses on an equal footing with other states.
Among other things, the bill package authored by Choctaw State Rep. Tess Teague and Osage County Rep. Sean Roberts would call for an audit of the Oklahoma State Department of Education, cap superintendent’s pay to not be any higher than the Governor’s at $147,000 and earmark lottery money for textbooks and technology.
Reps. Sean Roberts, Teague Propose Legislation to Increase Education Revenue Without Increasing Taxes
Contact: State Rep. Sean Roberts
Phone: (405) 557-7322
State Rep. Tess Teague
Office: (405) 557-7395
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Reps. Sean Roberts and Tess Teague filed six pieces of legislation today aimed at maximizing classroom dollars and minimizing administrative waste. The new measures come after both lawmakers talked extensively with constituents and educators.
“These past few weeks at the Capitol have invigorated me,” said Roberts, R-Hominy. “Listening to teachers and residents of House District 36, there’s been a clear message – we don’t need to raise taxes to increase classroom spending. These bills are a result of productive conversations between lawmakers and stakeholders, and the results will benefit educators and the average taxpayer alike.”
The six bills were filed as part of the 2017 second special legislative session.
“This is a collection of common-sense legislation that will help ensure teachers have the resources they need,” said Teague, R-Choctaw. “Every single one of my colleagues and I agree we should seek to send as much money as possible straight into the classroom. It’s a shame administrative bloat strips funds from teachers who ought to have supply stipends large enough to cover basic expenses. Through this package of reforms, we hope to make sure educators can teach without worrying about whether they can cover the cost of paper.”
The proposed legislation includes:
House Bill 1043XX, which enforces a performance audit of the State Department of Education. This would be performed by the state auditor.
House Bill 1044XX, which requires the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO) to provide every teacher with a $500 annual stipend for classroom supplies.
House Bill 1045XX, which caps superintendent salaries to that of the governor’s. The governor’s salary is currently $147,000 per year. This legislation mimics federal law.
House Bill 1046XX, which consolidates superintendents across Oklahoma’s more than 500 school districts. This would only affect counties with populations less than 400,000.
House Bill 1047XX, which requires the state superintendent to submit to the Legislature and the governor a rolling five-year plan to meet existing and future public education needs for funding and policy reform.
House Bill 1048XX, which reallocates $15 million of lottery funding for textbooks and curriculum technology.
“Over and over again, I listened to constituents and teachers voice concern about lottery funds, what the CLO was doing with the $2 billion it has in its account and why school administration was making so much money. Our hope is to make certain lawmakers are appropriately spending taxpayer dollars, and these smart measures are a crucial step in doing so,” said Roberts.
At Monday night’s Luther School Board meeting, a handful of teachers attended the meeting and retired teacher Donna Shinn reported on the teacher’s activities at the capitol. Superintendent Barry Gunn said he had several meetings with the teachers and certainly understands their concerns and desire to be with their students in their classrooms.
“My opinion is the teachers are not just pushing for their pay raises but they went for their classrooms and students and to fight for additional education funding. It’s pretty obvious our teachers love their students and miss them,” he said. Mr. Gunn also warned that state testing is taking place in April. “That requirement is not going away,” and is connected to federal funding for all public education in the state.
Mr. David Harp, LPS’s contracted encumbrance clerk, told the board that the new law passed at the legislature for teacher pay raises should send another $350,000 to the district to fund about a $6,000 raise for each of the districts 60 certified teachers next school year. Still, if the raise isn’t funded past the 2018-2019 year, Mr. Harp said Luther’s careful budgeting with some carryover and building funds could be used to fill a gap to continue funding those pay raises for support staff.
“When this plays out and the dust settles, it’ll all work out,” he told the board also saying that Luther’s savings in the building fund will help with a planned capital improvement campaign, in the future.
UPDATE: School Board President Steve Broudy commented on the original story with the following comment about the costs of the new law to provide raises for school personnel. “Actually the raises to certified personnel will cost LPS approx. $350k. Support staff approx, $100k for a total of $450k. Best guesstimates for the increase in state aid right now is $200-250k. The remaining balance of 200k-250k is to be paid from the general fund. Right now all those numbers are estimations, but we are being conservative in further spending this year,” said Broudy.
On Monday, a group of teachers left from their overnight stop and Wellston and continued walking through Luther on the100-mileile journey from Tulsa to the Capitol. They made it to the capitol Tuesday afternoon. While in Luther Monday, they stopped at the First Christian Church for lunch and were treated to a feast donated by several community members and The Chicken Shack. The Luther Police Department also provided a police escort to the teachers while in town.