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Legislators discuss teacher pay at forum

Additional education funding and the fate of a proposed $1,200 teacher pay increase — currently tied to an unpopular bill — were hot topics of discussion Thursday during a legislative forum hosted by Professional Oklahoma Educators at Lawton High School.

State senators John Michael Montgomery and Chris Kidd were joined by state representatives Trey Caldwell, Rande Worthen and Daniel Pae for the panel discussion. State representative Toni Hasenbeck was scheduled to attend, but couldn’t make it. Questions were solicited from members of the audience and primarily focused on the continuing battle for additional funds for public education.

Chief among the concerns raised was the fate of a $1,200 increase for teachers supported by Gov. Kevin Stitt. The increase was initially passed by the state House of Representatives in February, but stalled in the state Senate, which had a primary concern of eliminating the use of four-day school weeks by smaller, cash-strapped school districts. After the Senate passed SB-441, which would essentially force districts to move to a five-day week, the proposed pay raise was attached to that bill in the House. Montgomery said the ongoing debate represents the opposing views of the two legislative bodies over additional education funding.

“The House has taken this position that they want to do the teacher pay raise plus a little bit of money into the formula,” he said. “The Senate has been more on the side of putting it all into the formula to give out to school districts across the state.”

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