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How is the teacher raise helping hiring in Oklahoma?

Supporters pack the Capitol rotunda April 5 in support of Oklahoma education. (Courtesy DPS)

The pay raise for teachers across Oklahoma went into effect last year and some educators said it hasn't made much of a difference yet.

Many districts are asking for more from lawmakers.

Edmond Superintendent, Bret Towne, said he's noticed small differences since the pay raise passed but not all who want to go into the profession have taken notice.

"We're starting to see just a turning of the tide a little bit," Towne said, "but we're still three or four years away from seeing students getting in the pipeline to become teachers."

Public school teachers received a minimum $5,000 pay raise last March but still walked out bcause they believe they deserve even more and so do their public schools.

Towne said it's not just teachers, "We also need to continue to fund our support personnel. They're very important to the education of our students. We're trying to put money back into the formula so we can hire more teachers, more counslers, lower class sizes and re-institute programs that were cut over the last ten years."

The Oklahoma Education Association led the walkout in April.

OEA President, Alicia Priest, said they appreciate the raise but still want to see more for teachers.

"Even after this year, we still have work to do to make sure our kids have the opportunities in education they deserve," said Priest.

OEA is asking for an additional $250 million in state funding to go towards education, $3,000 more for teachers and $2,500 for support staff.

Priest said, "We cut education over ten years so making a three-year investment is starting to fill that deep ditch that was made in the ten years by bucket loads."

In Putnam City, Steve Lindley, Putnam City Schools Spokesperson, said they've seen incremental improvements since the latest raise.

He said some in the district even delayed their retirement after the raise.

Lindley said, "That's good. That's also consistent with research. We know from study after study if you increase salaries and provide bonuses you're going to keep some teachers in the classroom that you might have lost otherwise. So, that's been a positive."

Many districts said, however, it will take more time to get Oklahoma to the level of surrounding states and they need more money to provide a quality education.

"What was heard last year is still the case." Lindley said, "More money for operations, more money to buy things that are needed in the classroom and, to some degree, more money to hire more teachers."

"One of the things that we hear is 'The pay raise is fine and we need to continue that but we also need to make sure we have supplies, make sure we have smaller class sizes so we can get more individual attention." said so-and-so.

Educators will be working with Governor Kevin Stitt and the new legislature this year and Priest said she's hopeful they can meet Stitt's goal of Oklahoma being a top ten state for education.

"That does take funding," Lindley said, "Our members, our teachers, our support professionals, our administrative members, our student members are all talking about what they need to move that forward."

Priest said continued investment in education benefits the entire community but district leaders said it will still take several years before they get to the level of funding they want to see for schools.


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