It may have been one of the last votes Senate President Pro Tempore Emeritus Stratton Taylor cast as a citizen legislator, but he called it one of the most significant.
Every Oklahoma teacher will receive a $3,000 pay raise effective July 1.
Measures containing the pay raise language and funding to provide the across-the-board pay increase were completed late Friday night as the three-day special session of the Oklahoma Legislature came to an end.
Governor Brad Henry’s signature will seal Taylor’s last major legislative initiative.
“I am extremely proud to have been the architect of the most significant pay increase for teachers in seven years,” Taylor said.
The Claremore Democrat proposed the $3,000 pay raise in January as the key plank in the education agenda of the Democratic majority in the Senate. He is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Education.
“Oklahoma’s teachers are among the best trained and lowest paid in the country. We must do all we can to raise teacher pay in our state to keep our high quality educators in Oklahoma.
“Others proposed much smaller increases in teacher pay,” Taylor said. “I pushed for the $3,000 raise for every teacher because I believe that if Oklahoma is ever going to reach the regional average in teacher we have to do something significant.
“This is a year of record revenues. We had a unique opportunity and today the Legislature has taken a bold step that.”
Taylor credited the resolve of Democrats in both the House and Senate for making the $3,000 pay raise reality.
The pay increase will be funded outside the State Aid Formula, ensuring that every school district will receive the funds necessary to increase teacher salaries.
Other plans called for an average pay raise of $3,000 for state teachers. Taylor said that plan would not have guaranteed that all teachers received a salary increase.
“While some were willing to wink and tell teachers they were getting a $3,000 pay raise when many of them would have actually received less.
“I believed it was important to fully fund and mandate a $3,000 across-the-board salary increase for every teacher,” Taylor said.
The teacher pay raise measure was the last bill Taylor authored and voted for in his 28-year career in the Legislature. Taylor will leave office at the end of the year due to term limits.