House lawmakers have given teachers and school district employees a 2 percent raise -- but some school districts could be exempted if they can prove they don’t have the money to give the raises.
Last month, the House budget committee voted to give an extra $152 million to school districts to give their employees a 2 percent raise. But lawmakers also took away some one-time money from the school districts. In some instances, that meant school districts would get less money this year than they got last year.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure can’t give a 2 percent pay raise if you get less money,” House Minority Leader Harry Ott, D-Calhoun, said.
Tuesday, the second day of the House budget debate, a group of Republicans and Democrats pushed through a proposal that would take $6 million set aside for the administration of some programs -- including the Gifted and Talented program, which provides assistance to High School advanced placement courses -- and give it to school districts for teacher salaries.
“That gives the school districts that didn’t get enough money a place to go to get that additional resources to guarantee their teacher a 2 percent raise,” Ott said.
State law requires these programs continue to exist, and state education officials will have to “get creative” to find ways to pay for them, said Jay Ragley, spokesman for State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais.
But school funding formulas are complex, and lawmakers are concerned some districts still might not have enough money to give the raises. If that’s the case, then districts have to give as much of the raise as they can afford, then apply to the state Board of Education for a waiver -- an application that would require documenting why they can’t give the raise.
The waiver would only be required for principals and below. If a school district wants to exempt district level administrators from the raise, they do not need to apply for a waiver.
“The reason we put that there is to force people to put in writing and demonstrate their ability, not just to say, ‘(We) can’t do it,’” Rep. Kenny Bingham, who lead the House budget subcommittee on education, said. “What it is trying to do is make sure that that is real and we’ve done everything we can to enforce that.”