New Oklahoma State School Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is off to a good start.
Of course, that should be expected.
You know how they say it's hard to follow a legend? Well, it's pretty damn easy to follow a complete failure. The best thing to ever happen to Bob Stoops was John Blake, and the best thing to ever happen to Joy Hofmeister was Janet Barresi. Right now, Joy can do no wrong. Thanks to Barresi, just showing up to work at the Oklahoma Department of Education and being nice to people is considered an accomplishment. That's why I don't think we should even call Joy by her real name. Instead, I propose we call her Joy Not Janet Barresi, because that's essentially what she is.
Anyway, Joy Not Janet Barresi announced yesterday that she is seeking a $5,000 year pay raise for state teachers. When Janet Barresi heard the news, she hopped on a magical sleigh pulled by recently flunked third graders and flew off into the sunset, vowing to plot a terrible revenge.
New state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is asking the Legislature for an extra $205 million to fund teacher pay raises and additional instruction days as part of a five-year plan “to secure education excellence.”
Hofmeister revealed the plan to members of a Senate appropriations committee during a Monday budget hearing. It calls for teacher raises of $2,000 and two additional days of instruction in the 2015-2016 school year.
“If we’re going to see the kinds of outcomes that I insist we see for our students and that I believe everyone in this room desires, it’s going to take increased instructional days and it’s also going to mean that we are able to attract and retain top talent,” she said.
State Board of Education members are expected to consider the proposal — part of a revised fiscal year 2016 budget request totaling nearly $2.1 billion — on Thursday.
In October, the board unanimously approved a $2.78 billion budget request by then-Superintendent Janet Barresi for fiscal year 2016 that included $2,500 salary increases for about 50,000 teachers and other certified personnel.
Hofmeister, who took office Jan. 12, is seeking to elevate teacher pay to the regional average and the number of days of instruction to the national average. By the 2019-2020 school year, Oklahoma teachers would receive $5,000 pay increases over 2012-2013 figures and schools would add five days of instruction under the five-year plan.
“This allows us to finally become competitive,” Hofmeister told the committee.
So, the proposed raise will be phased in over the next five years? That's great. It will give our neighboring states just enough time to bump pay for their own teachers, ensuring that Oklahoma stays in its traditional spot of 48th in the country in teacher pay.
I guess we could focus on that, but something is better than nothing. One thing we can all agree on is that Oklahoma teachers are underpaid and we need to keep the good ones from fleeing to other states, so giving them an overdue raise is a smart thing to do and everyone should be for it.
Cue the Oklahoma Legislature...
Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, education committee vice chairman, said he doubts the Legislature will approve the request given the current budget climate.
“This is a great proposal, but I think we have to look at the reality of the situation,” Sharp said, referring to a projected $330 million budget shortfall. “It’s going to be very difficult for education to maintain current budget levels without other agencies (taking additional cuts).”
The state appropriated nearly $1.9 billion for education funding for FY 2015.
That's a shame. Mary Fallin and legislature can't afford to give teachers a pay raise. Oh well, at least in the last legislative session they were able to get a tax cut passed for the rich, and keep our energy taxes at ridiculously low levels. I think teachers will able to see the forest for the trees and appreciate that policy. Granted, the forests and trees will be in Texas or Kansas, but whatever.
Anyway, I guess I should write something like "we'll keep you updated on this," but in all honestly, I probably won't. Now that Janet Barresi is out of office, I can probably go back to generally not caring about our state's education policy. As I've written in the past, it’s not that I hate kids and their future or anything like that. It’s just that as a 36-year-old childless male, I have more important priorities like freedom, sleeping and doing whatever I want when I want.