Oklahoma Voters Reject Initiative To Raise Teacher Pay

Oklahoma Voters Reject Initiative to Raise Teacher Pay

Unfortunately, the efforts to increase teacher salaries in Oklahoma were unsuccessful. Despite the campaign to raise funds through a sales tax increase from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent, the ballot question known as Question 779 only received slightly over 40 percent of the vote.

Question 779 aimed to provide a $5,000 raise to every teacher in the state, a significant increase considering that Oklahoma teachers are currently among the lowest paid in the country. In fact, their average compensation has even decreased when adjusted for inflation since 2009. The state has been grappling with a shortage of certified teachers in recent years, and research has consistently shown that pay plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining educators.

Although many states across the country have experienced cuts in education spending since the Great Recession, Oklahoma has faced the most significant reductions. State education funding in Oklahoma has dropped by nearly 25 percent since 2008.

The campaign in support of Question 779 was primarily led and financed by Stand for Children, a national nonprofit that generally advocates for education reform policies such as charter schools and accountability measures. Interestingly, the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the country, which often clashes with Stand for Children, also endorsed the measure.

Supporters of the initiative have highlighted the importance of providing teachers with fair compensation and stressed that Oklahoma students deserve well-paid educators. One commercial featured Jon Hazell, named the state’s 2016 teacher of the year, stating, "Other states recognize the value, training, and effectiveness of Oklahoma teachers. That’s why they come here and recruit every year and take as many as they can." The Tulsa World reported that many Oklahoma teachers frequently leave for neighboring states like Missouri or Kansas, where salaries are several thousand dollars higher.

Country music star Toby Keith also endorsed the measure in another advertisement.

Opponents of the tax increase argue that it would end up being a slush fund for school administrators. They point out that not all the money raised would be allocated towards teachers, and they consider it a waste of taxpayer dollars. It is worth noting that some of the additional revenue would go towards funding pre-K programs and the state’s higher education office.

Several editorial boards from newspapers in the state have also voiced their opposition to the measure, expressing concerns about the increased tax burden. The Oklahoman editorial board raised questions about the permanency of the tax, the broad approach of the question, the lack of clear reforms, and the potential harm it could cause to Oklahoma’s cities, towns, and businesses.

According to Ballotpedia, supporters of the initiative managed to raise over $4 million, while opponents spent very little on their campaign.


  • joshwright

    Josh Wright is a 34-year-old educational blogger and school teacher who has been working in the field for over a decade. He has written extensively on a variety of educational topics, and is passionate about helping others achieve their educational goals.

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