(The Center Square) — Two bills involving teacher raises await Oklahoma lawmakers when they begin their legislative session next month, and a third bill for merit-based pay is on the table.
The Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a proposal by state Superintendent of Education Ryan Walters to base teacher salary increases on merit. The plan could cost $150 million.
The incentives would range from $2,500 to $10,000 and would be in addition to the minimum wage plan, according to the proposal.
The plan differs from one approved by the state Board of Education in September, when it voted to ask lawmakers for a $5,000 raise for state teachers. The increases would cost the state $310 billion and be supported by the Oklahoma Education Association.
The association does not support the meritocratic plan.
“The metrics used to determine merit-based pay are controversial and unfair,” OEA President Katherine Bishop said in a statement. “Our students deserve educators who are rewarded and respected as the professionals they are. Previous salary increases for all educators have been shown to increase the quality of candidates for the profession.”
The starting annual salary for an Oklahoma teacher is $38,074 and the median salary is $54,762, according to the National Education Association. Surrounding states start teachers with higher salaries. New teachers in Texas start at $44,527. New Kansas teachers earn slightly more than their Oklahoma counterparts at $39,100.
Lawmakers are also introducing bills that would give pay rises to teachers.
Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, a retired educator, introduced a bill in December that would give teachers a $2,000 annual raise for the 2023-2024, 2026-2027 and 2029-2030 school years. He said The central square he hoped the salary increases would ease the state’s teacher shortage.
“We obtained 3,338 emergency certifications last year,” he said. “We have about the same number this year. We can’t find teachers, especially in the areas of math and science.”
Pemberton’s bill goes to the Senate Education Committee.
Senator Adam Pugh R-Edmond unveiled a comprehensive education package last week that includes a bill allocating $241 million for teacher pay increases. The proposal would move teachers’ initial pay to $40,000 a year with a $3,000 increase over the next four years and incremental salary increases thereafter. This bill is also assigned to the Senate Education Committee.