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Teacher Pay Raise Settled

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July 2, 2018

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma has spoken. Teachers will get their pay raises as scheduled. Any doubt as to whether House Bill 1023xx (the “teacher pay raise” bill) would be affected by a vote to repeal House Bill 1010xx (the revenue-raising bill) was resolved in the fifth paragraph of the Court’s ruling:

¶5 Some of the revenue raised by HB 1010xx was evidently intended to provide the funding source for increases to teacher compensation found in another bill passed during the second special session, HB 1023xx. HB 1023xx, often referred to as the "teacher pay raise" bill, was made explicitly contingent on the "enactment" of HB 1010xx. The parties to this protest have raised questions concerning what effect a referendum petition against HB 1010xx might have on the effectiveness of HB 1023xx. The answer is none. Okla. Const. art. 5, § 3 provides that any measure referred to the people shall not take effect until approved by a majority. HB 1023xx was not made contingent on HB 1010xx's effectiveness, however, but rather on its enactment. A bill is enacted (and becomes an enactment) when it is passed by the Legislature and all of the formalities required to make it a law have been performed.  Norris v. Cross1909 OK 316, ¶23, 105 P. 1000. As this Court implied in Norris, the process of enactment is completed prior to any referendum on the subject enactment. See 1909 OK 316 at ¶¶20-25. HB 1010xx has been enacted. The contingency requirement of HB 1023xx has been met, and it will become effective on its specified date.

We are fortunate to have been given this definitive answer before the beginning of the new fiscal year, as many—if not most—school districts were struggling with what to do about teacher contracts and payroll. As of this writing, there is still a slight chance the group opposing the tax increases could start over, correct the problems with their petition, and collect the requisite number of signatures by July 18th. No matter. The raises will stand.

What an interesting few months we’ve had! It looks like our next interesting issue will be the possible effects of now-legalized medical marijuana as pertains to schools. Stay tuned.



About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC.  Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.

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