OKLAHOMA CITY – Now that many lawmakers are calling for a freeze on judicial pay and the salaries of all statewide officeholders, state Rep. Jason Nelson said it’s time to also freeze school superintendent salaries.
“Last year we saw hundreds of instances of superintendents getting pay raises while furloughing teachers and increasing class sizes,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “If it doesn’t make sense to give statewide officeholders a pay raise while Oklahoma is climbing out of recession, the same thing holds true for school superintendents at a time when education budgets have been cut. They should not be getting pay raises when teachers are being asked to do more with less.”
In a recent report, Oklahoma Watchdog found that 356 Oklahoma district superintendents (more than two-thirds) received some form of compensation increase this year. The combined expense of those raises was an extra $1.4 million annually.
Oklahoma Watchdog found that 37 of the superintendents receiving raises oversaw districts placed on the State Department of Education’s “Needs Improvement” list and 16 of those individuals received raises of $5,000 or more .
The Board of Judicial Compensation recently recommended pay increases for judges. Since the compensation of judges and statewide officials is linked, both would get a raise under that proposal.
State Rep. Scott Inman, leader of the House Democratic caucus, has been one of the most vocal critics of potential pay increases for statewide officeholders even though none of those officials could receive a salary increase during their current term in office.
Nelson said the Del City lawmaker should now join him in opposing superintendent pay raises.
“To protect school funding, we have to do more than oppose phantom pay raises that no current statewide officeholder is eligible to receive,” Nelson said. “It is ridiculous to complain about phantom pay raises for current statewide elected officials while ignoring $1.4 million in real pay raises for superintendents across the state.”
Last year, Nelson filed House Bill 1746 to require schools to spend at least 65 percent of funds on direct instructional activities within three years.
That bill included a provision that would have prevented superintendents from furloughing teachers without first having their financial plan reviewed by the State Board of Education so that classroom teachers would be protected.
“My legislation would have protected teachers from layoffs and furloughs, yet it was opposed by superintendents and their allies, including Representative Inman,” Nelson said. “I hope he and other opponents will now join me in standing up for teachers.”
Nelson praised State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, who announced she would not accept a pay raise when the issue was first raised this month.
“Superintendent Barresi did the right thing for Oklahoma students,” Nelson said. “Given that many local school superintendents are paid more than the governor or state superintendent, there is clearly no reason for local administrators to get a pay raise at the expense of teachers and classroom funding. It’s time to freeze superintendent pay.”