On Thursday, April 19, State Rep. Josh West commented on the passage of the state’s largest teacher pay raise and the education budget for the coming fiscal year.

On April 3, the governor signed into law a $2.9 billion education budget for Fiscal Year 2019, which starts in July.

This will give every Oklahoma teacher an average pay raise of $6,100 – more for those with more years of experience and more education and less for beginning teachers.

It will also give a $1,250 raise to school support staff. This budget has $33 million earmarked for textbooks, $24.7 million for additional flexible health care benefits and an additional $17 million to go through the school funding formula to be spent at each school district’s discretion.

Education will get an additional $19.5 million for FY19 and $20.5 million in subsequent years by the passage of House Bill 1019XX.

“Since I and 31 other freshman lawmakers took our seats for the 2017 Legislature, we’ve worked tirelessly to secure a teacher pay raise and more funding for education as our No. 1 priority,” said West, R-Grove. “We also must fund other core government services, such as veterans care, health and mental health care, public safety, transportation and many more.

"I have voted time and again to get more money to education and to our teachers as well as to other state services starved by the state’s recent recession.”

West said he also wants to clear up several misconceptions that currently are circulating in the education community.

“This is not one-time money,” he said. “This is recurring revenue that will generate income for Oklahoma services for years to come. Education, which receives more than 50 percent of the state budget year after year after year, will continue to be a priority for this state.”

West said teacher pay raises also will carry into the future, as the House voted to raise the state minimum teacher salary schedule. That measure also was signed into law by the governor.

West also pointed out that House Bill 1014XX, which passed with a bipartisan vote of 77-8 this week in the House does not take away from education funding.

The bill simply matches transportation-related collections of motor fuels taxes with the state’s transportation fund. Money that now goes to transportation will remain in the General Revenue Fund – dollar for dollar – where it can be appropriated for education and other government services.

West also addressed his position on a push to repeal the capital gains tax exemption, approved by state voters in 2004. 

“This bill would be bad for agriculture and bad for business in our state. It would harm the average taxpayer, not just a high-income earner,” he said. “Again, I have voted on many measures that would fund teacher pay raises and education funding overall.

"My reluctance to vote yes on a few bills that would harm taxpayers and the overall state economy does not mean I’m against education.”