After months of fierce negotiations, the House and Senate finally found common ground and came together to make a historic investment in public education. On Friday, May 26, 2023, the eduction package was signed into law. The funding package provides more than half a billion dollars of annual funding for public education. Although the package includes several initiatives, this article focuses on only one—the pay raise.
I. The Pay Raise, Explained
Senate Bill 1119 guarantees a pay raise between $3,000 and $6,000 for all certified school employees in Oklahoma. Support staff pay raises are not included in SB 1119; instead, support staff pay raises are covered by a portion of the $500 million appropriated to the school funding formula. Although support staff pay raises will be determined at the district level, support staff should expect a quality pay raise for the 2023-24 school year based on the new funding levels. Likewise, all certified school staff, which includes all full-time teachers, principals, supervisors, administrators, counselors, librarians, and certified or registered nurses, will receive their pay raises beginning with the 2023-24 school year. The pay raise for certified staff is based on one’s completed years of service. For example, if you are currently in your third year of teaching, then you have two years of completed service. You will have three years of completed service once you begin your fourth year at the start of the 2023-24 school year. The breakdown of pay raise amounts based on completed years of service is as follows:
- $3,000 pay raise for 0-4 years of completed service
- $4,000 pay raise for 5-9 years of completed service
- $5,000 pay raise for 10-15 years of completed service
- $6,000 pay raise for 16 or more years of completed service
The above pay raises are guaranteed for all certified staff in Oklahoma, regardless of current salary. If you’re a teacher, the easiest way to determine your new salary is to find your current placement on your school’s salary schedule, advance yourself to the position you’ll hold for the 2023-24 school year, and add the relevant amount listed above that corresponds to your years of completed service. The sum of those two numbers should be your new salary beginning with the 2023-24 school year. For all certified staff who are not teachers, or more precisely, are not included in the school district’s teacher’s salary schedule, you are still guaranteed the pay raise listed above, which corresponds to your years of service, but you need to add the pay increase to your current salary, not your expected salary for next year. To understand why this is the case, please read the following in-depth analysis.
II. Further Details About the Pay Raise:
SB 1119 does two main things: (1) it resets the state’s minimum salary schedule for teachers, and (2) it guarantees a precise pay raise for all certified staff, as defined above. The bill increases the state’s teacher salary schedule by adding between $3,000 and $6,000 incrementally, corresponding to years of service (see the bullet points listed above for the specific amounts). The bill also guarantees a pay raise to ensure that those who already earn more than the state’s minimum salary schedule or who are not included in the teacher salary schedule still receive the full pay raise. Two examples help clarify how this works:
Example 1. Suppose a third-year teacher named John was employed by a school district that pays above the state’s minimum salary schedule. Beginning with the 2023-24 school year, John will advance one step on his district’s salary schedule and receive a pay raise of $500. However, since SB 1119 has passed, John is also entitled to the full $3,000 pay raise. The school district must comply with SB 1119 and guarantee John the full $3,000 pay raise. Since the school district is bound to guarantee the new pay raise, even if they are already paying above the state minimum, they cannot reduce their current salary schedule. The district must increase its salary schedule to comply with the new guaranteed pay raises. Thus, John’s pay raise would be $3,000 plus the amount of his step increase according to the district’s local pay scale for a total of $3,500.
Example 2. Suppose Jane is a third-year administrator. Jane is not paid according to the teacher’s salary schedule in her district; rather, Jane is paid according to the district’s administrator pay scale (or a privately agreed upon salary). SB 1119 does nothing to alter the administrator’s pay scale—that pay scale is determined internally by the district, not the state. SB 1119 only changes the teacher’s pay scale. Jane, however, is still entitled to the $3,000 pay raise guaranteed by SB 1119. What Jane is not entitled to would be any scheduled-step pay raise she might have expected prior to the passage of SB 1119. So, if Jane was scheduled to receive a $500 pay increase for her next step, she is no longer guaranteed that pay raise—unlike John in example 1. Jane is only guaranteed the $3,000 pay raise. The pay raises described above are new minimums set by the state.
Any school district can pay more than the state’s mandated minimums if they have available funds; they just cannot pay less.