School districts are preparing for their first year after House Bill 1010’s passage, but the bill’s longterm impact is unclear.
The legislation provided funds for a teacher and support staff pay raise as part of a larger general revenue bill. A petition to remove the legislation funding the raises was killed by the state Supreme Court in July, ensuring the pay raises were here to stay.
The bill raised the minimum salary teachers at varying levels of experience can be paid, which will effect every district budget differently, especially because school funding is determined by the number of students a district has, not its number of teachers. Springer Public Schools Superintendent Cynthia Hunter said the percent of her district’s budget spent on teacher and staff salaries increased from last
year, 78 percent to 89 percent.
“The guidance we received is that it’s based on student count,” Hunter said. “Even some school districts that have a lower class size may end up costing more than they were prepared for as well.”
Springer, a relatively small district, does not currently receive state funding. It’s financial standing means it’s not included in the funding formula that dictates how much state aid Oklahoma schools get.
“There are a lot of districts in a  worse position than we are,” Hunter said. “If you’re off the formula, you have a better chance of being able to make it. If you’re not making it you may be back on the formula.”
“Our only hope is that we can recoup enough revenue from the tax increases to cover the cost without cutting into our carryover,” Hunter said. “We have funds available now, but if you don’t replenish those funds you continue to eat into your carryover.”
Hunter said, for now, her district is not in any danger, but that could easily change in years to come.
“There is no doubt in my mind teachers deserve and needed a pay raise,” Hunter said. “It is difficult to say what would have been a perfect solution.”
Dickson Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Colclasure said for larger districts on the funding formula, the pay raises are a positive first step.
“We’re really excited to see our teachers paid closer to what we feel they should be paid,” Colclasure said. “I’m not going to say this should be the end, there’s still room for improvement, but this is a good step.”
Colclasure said the question of whether or not the raises will remain funded in years to come is one that every superintendent in the state is most likely considering.
“It depends upon how the revenue comes in,” Colclasure said. “They’ve tried to increase the general revenue fund so they can put this money into pay raises, so there’s a lot to be seen.”
House Bill 1010’s passage came amid a shortage of teachers that has not yet let up. Colclasure said his district and others still struggle to find applicants for positions and will likely continue to do so. He said the changes aren’t enough to bring teachers back to Oklahoma or draw more college students to the profession.
“People understand this won’t change things overnight,” Colclasure said. “It’s going to take us years to overcome what has happened to education over the last 10 years.”