theadanews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

Local News

August 28, 2013

Proposal to boost teacher pay criticized

Ada — Asking school districts to tap their carryover funds to cover the cost of boosting teachers’ pay is a bad idea, a state lawmaker said Wednesday.

School districts rely on carryover funds to help pay their bills whenever they are waiting on state aid to tide them over, said Rep. Todd Thomsen. He noted that using carryover funds to cover teacher pay raises would remove that cushion.

“I don’t see how that could even be considered as a wise option for a state teacher pay raise,” said Thomsen, an Ada Republican who serves on the House Conference Committee on Common Education.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi has asked local school districts to consider tapping their carryover funds and reducing overhead costs so they could boost teachers’ salaries by $2,000 a year without legislative action. She unveiled her proposal at a candidates forum on Saturday, then repeated her challenge to school districts on Monday.

“With only a 10 percent reduction in carryover and a 2 percent cut in overhead, we can give every teacher in Oklahoma a $2,000 raise,” Barresi wrote in a column, which appeared in Tuesday’s edition of the Tulsa World. “That $2,000 would move Oklahoma teachers ahead of their counterparts in Arkansas and nearly tie Missouri’s teacher salaries. The pay gap with Texas would be slashed by more than half.

“It’s not everything our teachers deserve, but it’s a start.”

She estimated that the plan would cost about $100 million a year, which would come from districts’ carryover funds and discretionary spending accounts.

Barresi won the state superintendent’s job three years ago, but she may have a difficult time holding onto it in 2014. The prospect of replacing her has drawn three Democratic challengers, who will square off in the 2014 primary.

Barresi also faces an intraparty challenge from Tulsa Republican Joy Hofmeister, a former state school board member who resigned to seek the superintendent’s post.

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