Editor’s Note: The Oklahoma House late Monday approved both a revenue-generating package that would raise the gross production tax to 5% and a measure that would give pay raises to teachers, support personnel and state employees. The proposals now go to the state Senate for consideration. While the pay raises are long overdue, the package is but a butterfly bandage applied to a gaping, seeping fiscal wound still threatening vital state services – one reason teachers are still poised to walk out April 2. See the April Observer for more details.
BY DAVID PERRYMAN
The Oklahoma Legislature is on the precipice of working out a long overdue plan that will increase pay for teachers, but in reality, this plan is not about teacher pay.
It’s about your kids, my kids, your grandchildren and my grandchildren.
This is not about teacher pay. It’s about doing our best to raise generations of children whose potential will be recognized. It’s about fostering a future Oklahoma where our kids and grandkids become educated, enlightened, trained and productive citizens.
This is not about teacher pay. It’s about providing opportunities for children who really would choose a future that includes a career that pays them enough to raise their children rather than a life of incarceration.
This is not about teacher pay. It’s about allowing public schools in our state to produce a high quality workforce that will entice businesses to locate good paying jobs here; jobs that have benefits including health care and retirement plans and the quality of life that those benefits nurture.
This is not about teacher pay. It’s about the fact that during the 2011-12 school year, the state of Oklahoma granted 30 emergency teaching certificates to individuals who had not satisfied certification requirements. Earlier this year, in an attempt to fill classrooms, the State Board of Education reported that number to have exploded to 1,979 emergency certificates.
While teachers have taken steps to bring Oklahoma’s desperate situation front and center through the “Together We’re Stronger” plan, anyone who takes a serious look at the package quickly realizes that this is not about teacher pay.
This is about an attempt to curb the loss of services that are vital to citizens of Oklahoma.
For instance, the cutbacks in DPS driver license testing offices that cause new drivers to wait weeks and sometimes months to be tested and cause hundreds of commercial operator jobs to go unfilled because commercial driver license testing facilities have closed.
This is about an effort to provide the first raise in a decade to teacher aides and low wage school district employees who work day in and day out to protect school children in hundreds of different ways.
This is about funding schoolbook purchases so that 12-year-old children do not have to use 12-year-old science books in a world where technology changes daily.
This is about putting dollars back into health care so that rural hospitals and ambulance services that affect Oklahomans of all ages will be less likely to be shuttered.
This is about taking the gross production tax on oil and gas back to at least 5% so that the tax burden is more equitable and less burdensome to working and low wage employees.
This is about doing what the Oklahoma Legislature needs to do to make Oklahoma better for its citizens and compromising in a bipartisan manner to put the interest of all Oklahomans above partisan politics.
Teachers affect the life and future of all Oklahomans. That is why this is about much more than teacher pay.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House