OKLAHOMA CITY – The legislature approved much-needed pay raises for teachers and school support staff this session. Sen. Rob Standridge and other legislators are growing concerned after hearing plans by multiple districts that want to give their administrators pay raises meant for support staff. The legislators want to ensure the pay raises are dispersed correctly and want to encourage the public to hold local school boards and administrators accountable as these decisions are made in next few months.
“I’m extremely concerned that districts are wanting to use the support staff raises for their administrators when they’re already going to get the certified personnel raises,” said Standridge, R-Norman. “The intent of House Bill 1026 was to provide a $1,250 raise for those support staff who typically have the lowest pay in a district including cafeteria workers, janitors, building assistants and secretaries. It was definitely not intended for school district’s highest paid employees, which are administrators.”
Standridge has agreed not to name the districts in question but only wants the public to be aware that this has been discussed so they can stop any misuse of taxpayer funds.
On April 3, Gov. Fallin signed HB 1026xx into law to provide a $1,250 raise for school support personnel including building aids, cafeteria workers, building assistants, janitors, building secretaries and paraprofessionals.
On March 29, Gov. Fallin signed HB 1023xx providing an average $6,100 to all certified school personnel including teachers, nurses, counselors, principals and administrators except the district superintendent.
“Being that administrators, except superintendents, will already be getting the larger certified personnel raise, it would be fiscally irresponsible and disingenuous for them to also take the pay raise meant for support staff, which are typically school’s lowest paid positions,” said Standridge. “Just as the public held the legislature accountable this session for increased education funding, it’s now their job to hold their local school boards accountable in ensuring the money for these pay raises goes to the people it was intended for because if not, schools won’t have enough funds to give all the necessary raises.”
Standridge explained during the walkout that the two most repeated needs expressed by educators and their supporters were for smaller classroom sizes and more pay for support staff. He went on to point out that
there was a clear misunderstanding about how education funds are handled and disbursed in the state.
The state legislature appropriates funds (this year it was $2.9 billion) to the State Department of Education (SDE). That agency then distributes funds to the various school districts based on various calculations. It is then the responsibility of the local school boards and administrators to decide how to utilize those funds. While some funds have to be spent on certain areas such as building improvements, others can be spent however the school board and superintendent see fit.
“The public thinks that the legislature controls how education funds are spent but this isn’t the case. I think it was eye opening for teachers and parents from different districts to hear stories of how other districts spent their unencumbered funds on Chromebooks, new furniture, raises for teachers and other staff and so forth while their school boards were using funds to raise superintendent or administrative pay,” said Standridge. “The bottom line is that it is the local school boards and administrators who make the majority of financial decisions as to how to spend their funds and it’s up to local citizens to hold them accountable for those decisions.”
Standridge went on to say that he and his colleagues have also heard of various administrators being awarded increased salaries in the last few years when schools are struggling financially and going to four day weeks.
“Many who came to the walkout believed that the legislature set all school salaries but it only sets the minimum salary schedule for teachers not the pay for superintendents, administrators or support staff. Those salaries are set by the local school boards and they also decide how a majority of state and federal dollars are to be spent in their districts,” said Standridge. “The public has to hold their locally-elected school boards accountable. Superintendents shouldn’t be getting $40,000 raises when their teachers are buying their own classroom supplies and the school is forced to go to four day weeks. Instead of giving huge raises to superintendents, school boards could hire more teachers to reduce classroom sizes or split that money to provide raises to their teachers or help buy classroom supplies among other things. Teachers shouldn’t be forced to panhandle for money to buy classroom supplies when these administrators continue to make extremely high salaries.”
More information about the school certified personnel and support staff raises can be found on the SDE website at HYPERLINK "https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/OKSDE/bulletins/1eede7b" https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/OKSDE/bulletins/1eede7b.
“I’d urge Oklahomans to attend school board meetings and see how your tax dollars are being spent. Teachers shouldn’t have to be using money out of their own pockets when school boards are using excess funds to give administrators thousands of dollars in raises. That is not fiscally-responsible but school boards are locally-elected so they are only accountable to the people in their communities not the legislature.”