State Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi is calling for all Oklahoma teachers to get a $2,000 raise.
The raise would not require increased state appropriations, but could be funded by tapping surplus funds and reducing schools’ administrative overhead.
“How many of you have heard of all the teachers leaving for Texas?” Barresi asked the crowd of administrators and school board members attending a Saturday event hosted by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. “With a $2,000 raise, we will see Oklahoma teacher pay jump past numerous states, including our neighbor to the east, Arkansas, and get within just a few dollars of Missouri. We’ll also cut by more than half our gap with Texas.”
To provide teachers that raise, however, Barresi said Oklahoma’s school administrators will need to reset priorities. Oklahoma schools are facing a massive shortage of quality teachers.
“Our shortage is quality teachers, not administrators,” Barresi said, pointing to reforms in her administration that have reduced state Department of Education Department spending by more than $250,000 a month. “Aside from parents, teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s success.”
Barresi’s plan calls for moving less than 10 percent of Oklahoma schools’ carryover money – currently more than $700 million – to teacher pay, while also asking individual school superintendents and school boards to redirect 2 percent of money now going to administrative overhead to teacher pay.
Despite the biggest recession since the 1930s Oklahoma schools have left a record amount of money on the table in their carryover – money that is just sitting there, unused. Barresi noted it doesn’t do Oklahoma kids any good to have hundreds of millions of dollars sitting on the sideline when the state is facing a teacher shortage and the teachers that schools have are often financially stressed.
“By combining the 2 percent reallocation of non-instruction costs with a slight reduction to the carryover, we can give every teacher in the state a $2,000 pay raise in the next fiscal year,” Barresi said before challenging her audience. “At this point, this is not a mandate. There are many people who want to set a percentage of how much money goes to the classroom. I want to see where your commitment is.
“I’m asking you to redirect 2 percent from your overhead to give our teachers a $2,000 raise. Make the adjustments where and how you see fit. Two percent for two grand, for every teacher in Oklahoma,” Barresi concluded. “Our teachers need our support. They have mine.”