Common Questions: 2019 Legislative Session Proposed Teacher Pay Raise

DISCLAIMER: This information is to the best of our knowledge as of 10:22 a.m. Friday, May 17. As Oklahomans know, things can change quickly in the Capitol. As the budget deal progresses and more information becomes available, we will update this blog with additional details.

The governor and legislative leaders announced an $8.3 billion budget deal May 15, and that deal includes about $59 million for a teacher pay raise. Districts will receive funding for an average pay raise of $1,220 per teacher. The process for distributing and allocating the raise is unusual, so here are answers to some common questions about the pay raise proposal.

The funding

How is this money going to districts?

Through the state funding formula. The state department will distribute state aid beginning July 1 as usual. That money will have an extra $157.7 million in education funding, including $59 million will be specifically earmarked for certified employee pay raises.

How many teachers will receive a state-funded raise?

The governor estimates about 49,000 certified teachers will be covered by the raise, and about 1,300 will not. The teachers who are not included are those who work for school districts with enough local revenue to disqualify them from state aid.

What about districts that don’t receive state aid?

This year, 35 districts are “off” the state funding formula, and they won’t receive that extra funding for pay raises. Some districts receive a portion of the funding formula, so they’ll receive a prorated amount of the pay raise dollars. The governor said he “strongly urges” leaders in those districts to give $1,220 raises anyway with their own money.

How do I know if my district is off the formula?

You can see your state aid allocation on the Oklahoma State Department of Education website. The following districts don’t receive foundation state aid or salary incentive aid: Alex, Arnett, Balko, Banner, Bray-Doyle, Burlington, Calumet, Calvin, Cashion, Cheyenne, Cleora, Cushing, Deer Creek-Lamont, Dover, Fort Supply, Freedom, Frontier, Hammon, Kildare, Kiowa, Maple, Medford, Oakdale, Okarche, Peckham, Pond Creek-Hunter, Pryor, Reydon, Riverside, Seiling, Straight, Stroud, Sweetwater, Taloga, and Waynoka. (Note: all districts receive transportation aid if they bus children, regardless of their other types of state funding.)

Does this affect the state minimum salary schedule?

No. This raise does not modify the state minimum salary schedule. Of the 512 school districts in Oklahoma, 337 are on the state minimum.

Do districts have to use this for pay raises? Can they use it for something else?

This $59 million is earmarked for certified employee pay raises, so districts can only spend it on that expense. It can’t be shuffled to something else.

Who decides how raises will be distributed?

Superintendents and school boards get to decide how to add this money to their pay scales. For example, some districts may do $1,200 for everyone, but a superintendent could give $2,400 to half of the teachers and nothing to everyone else. Districts that are desperate for new teachers may give larger raises to the bottom of their pay scales and smaller raises to the teachers at the top.

Do districts have to report how their pay raise money was divided?

Yes. Districts will have to show they provided their teachers with an average pay raise of $1,220. The governor said that information will be reported online for public review.

Is this funded with one-time or ongoing revenue?

As far as we know, this is funded with state general revenue, which is ongoing. Taxes are rarely dedicated to specific expenditures.

My raise

How much will my raise be?

It depends on what your district decides.

When will the raise go into effect? 

The raise goes into effect Sept. 1. The state's fiscal year begins July 1, so teachers won't receive the raise for June 2019 and July 2019, the first two months of the state fiscal year. 

When will I see a change in my paycheck?

We aren't sure. 

Is this an ongoing raise or a one-time stipend?

Ongoing raise. State law says your pay can’t decrease from one year to the next unless your job changes dramatically.

What about retirement costs?

It depends on your district. By law, each school district must pay 9.5% of a teacher’s salary to the Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma. Employees are responsible for 7%. In some districts, that 7% comes out of teachers’ checks, and in other districts, the district pays that cost. If you are a bargaining local, the retirement cost of the raise will have to be negotiated.

What if my district already announced raises?

Some school districts have front-loaded their raises in anticipation of a state-funded raise, but check with your building rep, your local OEA leaders, or you district human resource office to find out if that’s the case for your district.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said in his State of the State address Feb. 4 that he wanted teachers to receive a $1,200 raise. “We are confronted with a nationwide teacher shortage,” he said. “This is not a problem unique to our state, but Oklahoma was among the hardest hit. With recent revenue growth, I ask the legislature to bring our teachers to No. 1 in our region in pay and benefits. This is a $1,200 increase per teacher.”

Since then, legislative leaders have promised they would make good on Stitt’s proposal. With that in mind, several districts have already banked on that raise. The teacher shortage has caused such a rush for recruiting, and some superintendents and school boards wanted to start the hiring season with that raise already on tap. Some districts may add any state-funded raise on top of the raises they have already promised, but others may say the state funding will pay for the raise.


How does my district bargaining team come into play?

If you are a bargaining local, any pay raises would have to go through the bargaining process, and your bargaining team would have a voice in how that money is distributed. Negotiated agreements cannot be changed otherwise. About 200 OEA local affiliates have collective bargaining rights.

What if my district doesn’t bargain?

If you don’t have a bargaining unit at your district, your superintendent and school board will decide how they want to allocate these raises. Start conversations now with your superintendent and your school board members about how you believe the raise distribution would best benefit your district. (Also, consider becoming a bargaining local! Contact the OEA Center for Advocacy.)

Support staff

What about support professionals?

There is no mandated pay raise for education support professionals.

Can districts give support professionals a raise?

Yes. The budget includes an $74.3 million for general public education operations in the state funding formula, and, in theory, some of that money can be used to give support professionals raises. Districts leaders will decide how that money is spent, whether it’s raises, hiring more staff, cutting class sizes, supplementing classroom materials, or a host of other needs. Bargaining local affiliates of support professionals can try to bargain for some of these funds as a raise.

Other questions

What bill mandates the pay raise?

We don’t know right now.

The governor said this pay raise will make teachers No. 1 in the region for pay. Is that true?

No. The governor's office is comparing projected Oklahoma teacher salaries for 2019 with regional data from 2017, the most recent year available. We know that other states have also given out significant raises, so to claim that Oklahoma will be No. 1 is inaccurate.

How common are state-funded teacher pay raises?

Not common enough. The governor said this is the first time in state history that teachers have been given a state-funded pay raise two years in a row. It’s also the first time state employees have been given a pay raise for the second year in a row.

What is “Section G?”

It’s the part of the 2018 legislative pay raise bill that mandated all certified staff received raises — not just the ones who pay the state minimum. Lawmakers have talked about “Section G” during their budget negotiations. This pay raise doesn’t have a similar stipulation.



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