A budget for the Oklahoma’s department of education 2024 fiscal school year was presented to the state board of education. The budget, worth more than $3 billion, was given a unanimous greenlight by the board Thursday.
A large part of the budget, over $309 million, would go towards teacher pay increases.
If it is approved during legislative session, Oklahoma teachers would get a $5,000 pay raise. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the teacher pay increase is crucial to Oklahoma students and the growth of the state economy.
The current average teacher compensation in Oklahoma is $54,096. The minimum starting salary is $36,601. The minimum starting salary with a doctorate degree is $39,381.
The pay raises will bump each of those $5,000.
At the beginning of the public comment period, Stacey Woolley with Tulsa Public Schools shared her concerns with the current teacher pay.
“The gross underfunding of public education over the last several years has resulted in teachers and support staff who rely on their unions to provide them with food pantries supply drives and contacts with local organizations to help fill the financial gap," said Woolley.
“Budgets reflect priorities," Hofmeister said.
Hofmeister said their priority is investing in Oklahoma children.
“This is a budget that's saying, ‘We have to invest in our children. Education is an investment, not an expense,’" said Hofmeister.
Hofmeister said the pay raises will help recruit and retain teachers in Oklahoma.
“Additional dollars for education,” Hofmeister said. “That means schools are able to hire more people.”
“This bonus really does help keep those critical people in the school, so we are requesting an increase to fully fund that for next year," Oklahoma State Department of Education chief of government affairs Carolyn Thompson said.
The last teacher pay raise came in 2018. Thanks to inflation costs, Woolley said teachers are due for another.
“This year, the consumer index is up 8.5%, which completely negates the teacher raise in 2018," said Woolley.
Hofmeister said they took that into account those rising costs when making this budget.
“The other thing you see in this budget is rising costs, and we need to be able to keep pace with those rising costs," said Hofmeister. “We have to keep pace with surrounding states. We've got to be competitive.”
The budget will be presented to the state legislature at the start of the 2023 session.