JENKS — Jenks Public Schools is the latest district to implement teacher pay raises in the wake of improved education funding in this year’s state budget.
The Jenks school board unanimously approved a new pay scale that will increase teachers’ annual salaries by $1,220 during a special meeting Monday evening. Each teacher also moved up a step on the pay scale. Those with at least 25 years of experience will receive an additional $725 instead of a step increase.
Further, Jenks now covers 5.75% of teachers’ mandatory 7% contribution to the state’s teacher retirement fund, a 0.25 percentage point increase from last year. The district aims to pay the entire requirement in the future, a district spokesman said.
According to the new pay scale, the starting base salary for Jenks teachers with a bachelor’s degree has improved to $39,006, which is about $2,400 higher than the Oklahoma state minimum. Total compensation has increased to $41,299.
The raise was possible due to recent increases in common education funding.
The state budget signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in the spring contained $58.8 million for Oklahoma school districts to receive $1,200 teacher pay raises in addition to the average raise of $6,100 approved last year. It also included $74 million to allow schools to hire additional staff, lower class sizes and pay for materials.
“We’re just grateful that the state continues to invest in public education,” said Dana Ezell, the district’s executive director of human resources. “That’s enabled us to start moving those salaries up, which has helped with recruiting. We’re just very appreciative of that.”
Districts across the state are beginning to implement the latest raise as the 2019-20 school year gets underway. Some are producing even higher raises than the state is requiring, in part through conservative budgeting.
In June, Broken Arrow Public Schools proposed a significant pay raise that would increase a starting teacher’s salary by nearly $3,700. The school board is expected to vote on the proposal in September after it’s ratified by the Broken Arrow Education Association. If approved, the raise would propel Broken Arrow from being one of the lowest-paying districts in the Tulsa area to one of the highest.
The Jenks raise may not be as large as those at some other suburban districts, but, historically, the district has shown commitment to improving teacher pay, Ezell said.
“Our philosophy has been to make steady increases,” she said. “We’ve looked at investing in teachers every year. We know that a teacher is the single most important thing that leads to student achievement, so we really want to put everything we can toward our teachers.”
In an analysis by the Tulsa World, Jenks posted the fifth-highest base salary for teachers among area districts last year.
Michael Horn, president of the Jenks Classroom Teachers Association, said he’s thankful that the district approved a raise that was acceptable to teachers.
But Horn said he wants to see additional local and state funding dedicated to education in the coming years. His union plans to work more closely with district officials to continue advocating for educators and ensure they’re paid what they deserve.
“We are going to be forming a committee with the district to look at our salary schedule and begin to think not just year by year but look at an extended period of time with salary increases hopefully as a five-year plan,” Horn said.
The Jenks school board also approved a raise for support staff and administrators, who received on average a 3% salary increase.
The raises will be included in employees’ first 2019-20 paychecks on Friday.
Tulsa Police Sgt. Jennifer Murphy talks about the Tulsa Police new reading program and school supply handout at the Darlington Apartments.