Rep. Claudia Griffith encourages teacher pay raise; Rep. Randy McDaniel also has ideas

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Claudia Griffith said Friday (October 2) she hopes to collaborate with state Rep. Randy McDaniel “to bring an even better teacher pay-raise bill to the table.”

Griffith, D-Norman, filed House Bill 1364 earlier this year as a potential means of relieving the statewide teacher shortage. H.B. 1364 would increase by $10,000 the amount of outside income a retired educator could earn and still draw a state pension.

Under existing state law a teacher who retires from a public school system can earn up to $15,000 from a school or school district during the first three years after retiring and still receive full pension benefits from the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System. H.B. 1364 would boost that amount to $25,000.

McDaniel, R-Edmond, addressed the issue in a similar manner. His House Bill 1061 would raise the threshold on a teacher’s earnings by $3,000, to $18,000.

The House Business, Labor and Retirement Laws Committee, which McDaniel chairs, voted recently to send H.B. 1061 to the state actuary for review. H.B. 1364, though, which also was assigned to that committee, did not receive a hearing.

“The measures that Representative McDaniel and I have proposed are viable options for solving this state’s teacher shortage crisis,” Griffith said. “I am confident that he and I could work together to fashion compromise legislation that would benefit the numerous school districts that are coping with teacher vacancies.”

A survey conducted last month by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) found that approximately 1,000 teaching vacancies remained even after the elimination of 600 teaching positions since last school year despite increasing student enrollment. As a direct consequence, the State Board of Education approved 842 emergency certifications in just the last three months, more than the combined total for the past four years.

School districts representing approximately 80 percent of the state’s public school enrollment participated in the OSSBA survey, which revealed that:

*Teacher shortages are widespread.

*Almost half of the districts expect to have to increase their class sizes because of the teacher shortage.

*About one-third of the school administrators said their districts probably will offer fewer courses this school year.

*About 60 percent of the districts anticipate needing to seek emergency teaching certifications to fill vacancies.

Many newly hired teachers need extensive support and training, which increases pressure on school leaders who have limited time and resources with which to provide support.

Enticing several hundred retired educators to return to the classroom is a more likely immediate solution to the teacher shortage than is an across-the-board pay raise for Oklahoma’s 40,000 classroom teachers, Griffith said.

The Legislature was confronted with a $188 million budget shortfall in 2014, a $611 million deficit this year, and could face a revenue gap of as much as $1 billion next year, she noted.