TULSA - The budget bill passed by the special session of the Oklahoma legislature didn’t appear to make anyone happy, even those who voted “aye” last week.
It certainly didn’t satisfy Gov. Mary Fallin, who vetoed nearly the entire package Friday, a move that will likely mean another special session.
For educators, it’s especially frustrating since despite much rhetoric and many promises, there is no raise for teachers in the bill.
Dr. Shawn Hime is Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.
He tells KRMG he’s frustrated that despite constantly hearing how important education is from voters and from the state’s elected leaders, once again teachers got passed over for a raise.
“Everyone who runs for office, it seems like, does tout education as being very important, top of their list,” he told KRMG Friday. “Every poll from voters has education at the top of the list for the most important things to fund, most important things to improve, teacher pay. But at the end of the day, to date, we haven’t been able to hit the finish line with that because of political squabbling over what the revenue source is, where the revenue source comes from, where the money goes - any number of things.”
He said the number of emergency teaching certificates issued this year serves as a stark example of the problem.
In 2012, the state issued a total of 32.
“This year, through November, we already have over 1,800 emergency certified teachers that have been approved and are in our classrooms,” Hime said, “and that is a direct reflection of not adequately funding education, not giving teachers a pay raise for over a decade, and continuing to have this partisan bickering at the state Capitol instead of doing what’s right for Oklahoma.”
Things will be dire when the legislature re-convenes in February.
Estimates of the budget hole going into that session range from $500 million to as much as $800 million.