State Senate President Pro Tem Emeritus Stratton Taylor ended a quarter century legislative career by winning a $3,000 across-the-board pay raise for each and every Oklahoma public school teacher.

Taylor conquered some of the most self-centered, money grubbing members of the Legislature in the battle including the nation’s sorriest metropolitan newspaper, House Speaker Todd Hiett and Claremore’s state Rep. Tad Jones. Hiett is running for lieutenant governor and Jones, whose constituency is mostly on the Owasso side of the county, drew no opponent for his final term.

In an editorial last week, the Daily Oklahoman wrote: “Just months after suing the state for $4 billion, it appears Oklahoma’s largest teachers union will get its way with the Legislature again. What a shame.”

What a crock!

Senator Taylor entered his last term in the legislature with raising teachers’ pay as one of his main priorities, and he succeeded, although he Senate President Pro Tem Fred Morgan almost had to drag Governor Brad Henry along.

The teacher pay raise measure was the last bill Taylor authored and voted for in his 28-years in the Legislature. He has been a champion of education throughout his career, and when he introduced this bill he did it without the OEA holding a gun to his back, as the Oklahoman would have us believe.

Switching from chairman of highways to lead the Senate appropriations subcommittee on education, Taylor dubbed the highest pay raise for teachers in seven years as a key plank for Democrats. Jones holds the counter position in the House and worked for a watered-down version of teachers’ pay.

Calling Oklahoma educators “the best trained and lowest paid in the country,” Taylor was challenged for weeks by Republicans who control the House, and the Oklahoman, who controls the Republicans.

Tossing aside an almost daily rebuking by the Oklahoman, Senator Fred Morgan set his jaw and went to the mat for Democrats’ convictions. The Oklahoman called it a “refusal to be reasonable.” The fact that the House had refused to compromise with the Senate was “political skill.”

Even with the raises, Oklahoma teachers are still underpaid. The Daily Oklahoman and the House leadership are stuck on the archaic principle that most teachers are secondary wage earners, therefore can afford to work for less money than a head of household. That, of course, is pure tommy-rot.

Some new teachers cannot afford to accept a teaching job in Oklahoma because the pay is insufficient for them to repay the loan they had to take out to get an Oklahoma education.

Teachers across the state owe a great deal of gratitude to Senators Fred Morgan and Stratton Taylor.

Thanks to this state’s highly undemocratic term limitations Taylor will gracefully bow out of politics at the end of this year. Teachers, and all of Rogers and Mayes County will miss his leadership and legislative skills.