OKLAHOMA CITY – State Reps. Tom Gann, Rick West and Kevin Calvey have co-authored House Bill 8384, legislation that would require the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO) to raise Oklahoma teacher salaries by $5,000 starting next school year using part of the almost $2.4 billion currently in the CLO fund.
“The money that is currently in the CLO fund is adequate to fund a teacher pay raise on top of what the CLO already gives to schools,” said Gann, R-Inola. “Both the state Constitution and the Enabling Act specify the money from this fund is to be used for the benefit of public education. What better avenue than to pay our teachers – the very lifeblood of our public education system – a wage commensurate with our surrounding states.
“We are not asking the land office to do anything aside from their core mission, which is to support public schools. This measure would just increase the amount that is given to schools each year, earmarking the additional funding to be spent on teacher compensation.”
The measure will specify the money will not count as a chargeable against school districts that receive money through the state funding formula, meaning they will not get less formula money in exchange for receiving additional funding for teacher pay.
According to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the CLO’s total portfolio was almost $2.4 billion for 2017. Total program revenues were $322.8 million, compared to $87.6 million in 2016.
In 2017, the CLO distributed more than $143.6 million, $103.4 million to K-12 schools, the highest total in state history. The distribution is done according to the Average Daily Attendance of each school as provided by the state Department of Education. The CLO distributed more than $35.9 million to universities and colleges and $103.4 million for public buildings. This was an increase of $11 million from the apportionments of fiscal year 2016.
The state Constitution grants the CLO its authority to hold sections of land in each state township, granting property and oil and gas leasing rights for the sole purpose of supporting common education.
“Before we talk about raising multiple taxes on individuals, we should evaluate available resources. The CLO exists for the benefit of public education, and the state of Oklahoma. We should use this money to raise teacher salaries to be competitive with other states in our region” said Rep. Rick West, R-Heavener.
“The use of this money as a sustainable and permanent solution to provide competitive salaries to our teachers is what the taxpayers want us to do” added Rep. Calvey, R-Oklahoma City. “The State of Oklahoma should focus on better utilizing the assets already available.”