Trio of House Members Propose Land Office Should Pay for Teacher Pay Increase

Representatives Tom Gann, Rick West and Kevin Calvey believe the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO) would be able to generate enough revenue for a $5,000 teacher pay increase without raising taxes. They have co-authored House Bill 8384 which would require the agency to do so. According to the lawmakers, the CLO Fund currently has nearly $2.4 billion.

“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. “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.”

Additionally, if the money is given to schools for teacher pay raises, it won’t count against that district’s formula money.

“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 West.

According to the recently released Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the CLO portfolio was almost $2.4 billion last year. Total program revenues were $322.8 million in 2017, compared to $87.6 million the previous year. The increase in revenue lead to the highest distribution total in state history from the CLO at $143.6 million.

“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 Calvey. “The State of Oklahoma should focus on better utilizing the assets already available.”

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