Oklahoma teachers are heading back to their classrooms after an eight day walkout over pay. Lawmakers approved a funding package to give teachers an average of $6,100 more per year the day they abandoned their posts. What drew them back to their students was a fear of having to extend the school year.
On April 2, the day the walkout began, lawmakers adopted massive tax hikes in an effort to thwart a teacher strike. The tax increases included limiting itemized tax deductions, $1-per-pack cigarette tax, a gasoline tax hike, and tax increases on oil and gas production. It wasn’t enough. For eight days, striking teachers deemed it too little.
Lawmakers didn’t approve any new tax hikes in that time. Students are being educated in Oklahoma again, but lawmakers aren’t backing down from efforts to add more school funding. Some legislators are making attempts to add funding without absconding more from taxpayers.
Rep. Sean Roberts and Rep. Tess Teague filed a series of bills designed to maximize classroom dollars and minimize administrative waste. One proposal would consolidate superintendents in Oklahoma’s 500 school districts. Another would cap superintendent pay to the Governor’s salary of $147,000 per year.
That’s a proposal Kansas lawmakers may want to emulate. It’s not unusual for school employees to far out earn the Governor. The Kansas Governor’s annual salary is $99,636. but the Wichita School District superintendent’s initial salary and benefits package included a base salary of $240,000 in addition to a $780 per month car allowance, $525 per month for incidental expenses and an annual $25,000 contribution to her retirement. But it isn’t only superintendents in public schools who earn more than the Governor. In the Blue Valley School District, 80 employees make more than the Governor. In Shawnee Mission, 79 district employees out earn the state’s top executive.
“We don’t need to raise taxes to increase classroom spending,” Oklahoma Rep. Roberts said in a press release.
If only Kansas lawmakers would say the same.