A new teacher pay program hurriedly thrown together by Governor Frank Keating contains only "funny money," not a real pay raise, according to the leader of the Oklahoma State Senate.
Wednesday -- three days after Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor and House Speaker Loyd Benson announced an across-the-board, $3,000 pay hike for teachers -- the Governor unveiled a $2,000 pay plan, but with several strings attached.
Besides the dollar amount, the biggest difference between the two plans is funding. Legislative leaders plan to finance their program with growth revenue; Governor Keating wants to cut schools budgets to raise money for teacher pay.
"This is just another funny money pay raise program by Governor Keating. He's determined not to put a single penny of actual funding in his proposal. Teachers deserve a real pay raise, not some kind of phony baloney, accounting shell game that makes them cut their own school budget to get a pay increase," said Senator Taylor.
In recent months, Governor Keating has been all over the map on the issue of teacher pay raises. For example:
"The Governor's zig-zag on teacher pay raises is the greatest bit of open field running since the glory days of the wishbone. One second he's here, the next he's there. One day he's threatening to hold their paychecks hostage, the next he's promising them they'll get a pay raise. One day he
says he'll sign the Legislature's $3,000 pay program, the next he proposes a $2,000 plan that doesn't have any money in it," noted Senator Taylor.
"With all the different positions he's adopted on teacher pay, it's difficult to know where the Governor stands at any given hour on any given day. I don't even think he knows for sure."
In perhaps the most bizarre twist in the evolution of his teacher pay stance, Governor Keating posted an open letter to Oklahoma teachers on his office internet website. Among other things, the letter promised approval of the Legislature's $3,000 pay program and portrayed Governor Keating as a great defender of public education - quite a departure for a chief executive who may be best remembered in education circles for labeling thousands of Oklahoma teachers as "slugs."
"I'm not sure whether to give the Governor an 'A' in revisionist history or a perfect '10' for the gymnastic flip-flops he performed in that letter. He's obviously worried about the poor record he's compiled on education and is working overtime to remake his political image. Unfortunately, his
actions haven't matched his press release rhetoric," said Senator Taylor.
"If Governor Keating really wants to help us improve public education, I would urge him to support the Legislature's $3,000 pay program and drop all the talk about alternative plans that prescribe school budget cuts as the answer to the teacher pay question."