Broken Arrow Express
TEACHER RAISES NEEDED: State Representative Michael Rogers was among the speakers at a November press conference held by city leaders. Rogers promised that teacher pay would be the “number one priority in the next legislative session.”
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Broken Arrow city, chamber of commerce and education leaders hosted a press conference on Nov. 21 to discuss the current crisis in teacher pay and the recent rejection of State Question 779. In a show of regional unity, many area school districts were represented, including Sand Springs, Bixby, Union and Owasso public schools.
“I was overwhelmed by being asked by the Broken Arrow city and chamber to speak at this event and by seeing them reach out to the school district,” said Broken Arrow Superintendent Jarod Mendenhall.
“Teachers are entrusted with our most precious commodity, our children, but teachers’ pay shows that we don’t value them.
“I urge legislators in next session to pay them what they deserve.”
He also urged parents to reach out to their legislators.
Broken Arrow City Manager Michael Spurgeon spoke about the rejection of State Question 779, a proposal that would have raised the sales and use tax by one percentage point. Of the total revenue generated by the new tax, 60 percent would go to providing a salary increase of at least $5,000 for every public school teacher. The remaining funds would be divided between public schools (9.5 percent), higher education (19.25 percent), career and technology education (3.25 percent), and early childhood education (8 percent), according to okpolicy.org.
“When I heard about the rejection of State Question 779, I had mixed emotions: I was relieved that it failed because sales tax is the life blood of Oklahoma cities and this would have raised our sales tax, but I also felt sad because teachers need the pay raise.
“I don’t think that this was s sign that citizens are against teachers, but I think this state question pitted cities against school districts.”
Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Wes Smithwick then spoke about the necessity of education in bringing jobs. “I work daily to grow jobs but can’t do that without an adequately funded public education system,” he said.
Finally, State Representative Michael Rogers promised, “Our number one priority in the next legislative session will be to address teacher pay, and we will make a concerted effort to address early.
“We want to show that we value and respect teachers.”