Teacher Pay Raise, Referendum & Retirement FAQs


The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has received a number of questions relating to the pay raise(s) provided for in recent legislation, potential impacts on teacher retirement and the potential for a referendum on said measure(s). This document is not intended to serve as legal advice but is general in nature relating to questions that the OSDE has received as of May 7, 2018. 

Pay Raise: Certified and Support Personnel

*For specific questions regarding how a potential referendum may impact the implementation of a legislative measure, see FAQs relating to the referendum process below.

1. When does the teacher pay raise bill (House Bill 1023XX) go into effect?

House Bill 1023XX is effective Aug. 1, 2018.  

2. Is there an exception to the effective date of House Bill 1023XX?

No. Some have raised questions as to whether the implementation of House Bill 1023XX is contingent upon the effective dates of other laws. While House Bill 1023XX states that its effectiveness is contingent upon the enactment of the provisions of House Bill 1010XX and House Bill 1011XX, both of these measures will be effective prior to the effective date of House Bill 1023XX, which is Aug. 1, 2018. (HB 1010XX will be effective June 27, 2018 and HB 1011XX was effective Jan. 1, 2018).

3. How is the raise determined?

House Bill 1023XX provides a new State Minimum Salary Schedule for the 2018-2019 school year, meaning all certified personnel as defined in 70 O.S. §26-103 will receive salary in the amounts specified.  

4. Who will receive the salary increase provided by House Bill 1023XX?

House Bill 1023XX provides an increase to the Minimum Salary Schedule for “certified personnel,” which is defined in 70 O.S. §26-103 to mean a “certified person employed on a full-time basis to serve as a teacher, principal, supervisor, administrator, counselor, librarian, or certified or registered nurse, but shall not mean a superintendent of a school district.” This definition essentially includes all staff holding a teaching certificate, except a superintendent.  

5. What if the school district currently pays above the State Minimum Salary Schedule?

House Bill 1023XX provides that those employed as “certified personnel” in a school district paying above the Minimum Salary Schedule during the 2017-2018 school year shall receive a “salary increase amount equal to the amount indicated on the new minimum salary schedule for the step level indicated … provided he or she remains employed by the same district unless the hours or duties are reduced proportionately.” For example, an individual with 10 years of experience receiving $1,000 above the minimum in the 2017-2018 school year would receive the raise required for 10 years of experience in addition to the $1,000 currently received.   

6. Are principals required to receive the salary increase on top of what they are currently making?

Yes, see Questions 4 and 5 above.

7. What raise, if any, will a person receive if he or she moves employment to a new school district?

All school districts must adhere to the new Minimum Salary Schedule. However, if a person was employed by a school district that paid above the Minimum Salary Schedule during 2017-2018 but leaves for a job in a school district that pays at the new Minimum Salary Schedule, the new school district is not obligated to pay above the step level at the same amount as the previous district. 

8. How will the Salary Increases (certified and support) be calculated in the State Aid funding formula?

The funding formula, per statute, will be calculated per high year weighted average daily membership (WADM). The additional formula funding dollars will increase the formula factors, which in turn provide additional funding to districts.

9. If the district receives very little or no State Aid formula funding, how will the district receive funding for the salary increases?

The funding formula takes into consideration several sources of funding (local, county and state dedicated) to determine the amount of state-appropriated funding a district will be allocated. If a district only receives transportation dollars or receives little foundation and salary incentive aid from the state, then the district relies more heavily on local and/or state dedicated sources and will need to budget accordingly.

10. Do you know what the future State Aid factors will be for FY 2019?

No, the data to calculate those factors will not be available until mid-to-late July.

11. House Bill 1026XX provides a wage increase for support employees. When does this take effect?

House Bill 1026XX is effective July 1, 2018.

12. What support employees are entitled to the wage increase provided in House Bill 1026XX?

Though House Bill 1026XX does not reference or define “support personnel” in any way, the OSDE believes the definition set forth at 70 O.S. §26-103(4) is most appropriate and consistent with legislative intent. This section of Oklahoma law defines “support personnel” as “full-time employees of a school district as determined by the standard period of labor which is customarily understood to constitute full-time employment for the type of services performed by the employees who are employed a minimum of six (6) hours per day for a minimum of one hundred seventy-two (172) days or a minimum of six (6) hours per day for a minimum of one thousand thirty-two (1,032) hours per year and who provide services not performed by certified personnel, which is necessary for the efficient and satisfactory functioning of a school district, and shall include cooks, janitors, maintenance personnel, bus drivers, noncertified or nonregistered nurses, noncertified librarians, and clerical employees of a school district but shall not include adult education instructors or adult coordinators employed by technology center school districts.”

13. Will part-time support personnel receive a wage increase?

Yes. House Bill 1026XX provides that the dollar amount of a salary increase is to be prorated based on the total number of hours of work performed by a full-time-equivalent support employee. As such, any individual who does not meet the definition of full-time support employee, as defined in 70 O.S. §26-103(4), will receive a prorated wage increase. The support personnel raise is permanent and not a one-time wage increase.

Referendum

1. What rights exist for a referendum on any act of the Legislature?

The Oklahoma Constitution, at Article V § 1, specifically reserves the power to the people of the State of Oklahoma to approve or reject any act of the Legislature.  

2. What are the relevant sections of law relating to a referendum against an act of the Legislature?

Relevant sections of law are found in Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution,  particularly Sections 1-9. In addition, laws relating to the referendum process are also located in Title 34 of the Oklahoma Statutes, particularly Sections 1-27. Pursuant to 34 O.S. §27, the Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office has formulated an outline of the referendum process, as well as information relating to signature requirements for a referendum.

3. What are the timelines and other requirements associated with a referendum petition?

Referendum petitions are to be filed with the Secretary of State, and addressed to the Governor, not more than ninety (90) days after final adjournment of the session of the Legislature, which passed the bill on which the referendum is based (see OK Const. Art. V. § 3). Elections on referendum petitions are to be held at the next election held throughout the state, except when the Legislature or the Governor shall order a special election for the express purpose of the referendum. 

4. What is the threshold for signatures on a petition to send it to a vote of the people?

Five percent (5%) of the legal voters, the ratio and percent of which is to be based on the total number of votes cast in the last general election for the Office of Governor (see OK Const. Art. V, § 2). The total votes cast for the Office of Governor at the General Election in 2014 were 824,831. As such, a referendum on a measure for the upcoming statewide election will require 41,242 signatures.

5. What is the status of a legislative act pending the outcome of a referendum? 

The Oklahoma Constitution, at Article V Section 3, provides that “[a]ny measure referred to the people by the initiative or referendum shall take effect and be in force when it shall have been approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon and not otherwise.” In other words, once a referendum is referred to the people for a vote (i.e., subsequent to the filing of a petition with the requisite number of signatures), that legislation is likely to be put on hold until the referendum is approved or disapproved. It is important to note that a court of competent jurisdiction may be presented with questions of law relating to these matters, and the aforementioned statements may be altered by the rendering of an opinion by a court.  

6. Does the referendum have to be against all of an act of the Legislature?

No, the referendum may be against one or more items, sections or parts of any act of the Legislature (see OK Const. Art. V, § 4). However, the filing of a referendum against one or more items, sections or parts of an act shall not delay the remainder of such act from being operative as law.  

7. What is the referendum petition that was filed on May 1, 2018?

On May 1, 2018, Referendum Petition 25 (State Question 799) was filed with the Oklahoma Secretary of State. The subject of Referendum Petition 25 is House Bill 1010XX, one of the measures to fund the pay raise provided by House Bill 1023XX. (Note:  Referendum Petition 25 does not include HB 1011XX mentioned previously). As set forth above, Referendum Petition 25 will need 41,242 signatures to appear on the next statewide election ballot. Further, the signatures must be collected within ninety (90) days after Sine Die adjournment of the session. For purposes of Referendum Petition 25, the signatures must be submitted no later than July 18, 2018.

8. What impact does Referendum Petition 25 have on collective bargaining agreements and/or contracts with personnel?

School district personnel contracts and/or local bargaining agreements are matters of local control, and each school district is encouraged to seek independent legal advice relating to how they approach upcoming bargaining agreements and personnel contracts. While the OSDE is unable to provide legal advice on these matters, we can state that it is our common understanding that school districts and school district personnel are working to ensure that language in any contract and/or bargaining agreement protects against the possible repeal of legislative acts. As such, again, we encourage the seeking of independent legal advice relating to these matters of contractual concerns.

Retirement

1. If I recently retired, is there a period of time during which I am not allowed to be employed by Oklahoma public schools?

After a 60-day break in employment, a retired member of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System (“OTRS”), other than a member receiving disability retirement benefits, may be employed by Oklahoma public schools and continue to receive monthly retirement benefits, but earnings from such employment are limited based on the member’s age and how long he or she has have been retired (see Question 2, below).

2. What are the statutorily required limits on earnings from employment while receiving retirement benefits?

A retiree employed in any capacity by a public school is subject to the following earnings limitations per calendar year (the “Earnings Limitations”):

  • If he or she is 61 or younger and has been retired less than 36 months, the earnings limit is the lesser of one-half of the final average salary used in calculating the monthly retirement benefit or $15,000.
  • If he or she is 62 or older and has been retired less than 36 months, the earnings limit is the lesser of one-half of the final average salary used in calculating the monthly retirement benefit or $30,000.
  • If he or she has been retired for more than 36 months, there is no limit on earnings.(see 70 O.S. § 16-116.10)

When one’s annual income from covered employment exceeds his or her earnings limit, notify OTRS and either have monthly benefits reduced or plan how to repay any overpayment of retirement benefits by March 1 of the following calendar year.

3. Is it possible for a retiree to return to full-time employment with an Oklahoma public school and not be subject to the Earnings Limitations?

Yes. A retiree who returns to full-time employment may elect to continue monthly retirement benefits until he or she reaches the Earnings Limitations (described in Section 2) or elect to return to active contributing status. If he or she chooses to return to active contributing status, his or her monthly retirement benefits will be suspended until employment is terminated. He or she will make contributions to OTRS in the same manner as active members, and upon termination of employment, his or her monthly retirement will be increased to include credit for the additional service. OTRS can provide detailed information to assist in deciding which option is best when returning to full-time employment.

4. What paperwork must be completed prior to returning to employment without being subject to the Earnings Limitations and making active contributions to OTRS?

The retired member must file an irrevocable election to discontinue retirement benefits for the period of such employment. The return to membership contributing status must coincide with the beginning of a school year. If not, the member must refund all benefit payments received from the start of the school year in which employment begins and make employee contributions on any compensation earned from the beginning of the school year to the date of the election to return to contributing status (see Oklahoma Administrative Code 715:10-17-13). For additional information, including what must occur if post-retirement employment is terminated, contact OTRS at (405) 521-2387 or refer to the aforementioned administrative rule.

5. What effect does my post-retirement employment salary have on my future retirement benefits?

Upon return to membership and contributing status, service credits will be accumulated and credited to the member’s record. Upon termination of post-retirement employment, a supplemental benefit for the year(s) of additional service will be calculated using the standard retirement benefit formula and retirement plan selected by the retiree when the member first retired. Further, the average salary used in calculating the supplement benefit will be the average of the salaries earned during the period of post-retirement employment. The post-retirement years of service cannot be used to wear away years that fall under the $40,000 cap.

6. Was there a change in law pertaining to members who retired on or before July 1, 2017?

Yes. Effective July 1, 2017, Oklahoma law was changed to provide an incentive for retired classroom teachers to return to work as classroom teachers without impacting their retirement benefits. Stated otherwise, legislation was enacted to allow members who retired on or before July 1, 2017, to return to employment as classroom teachers with no earnings limitations in certain circumstances (see 70 O.S. § 16-110(A)(3)).

7. What are the circumstances in which someone who retired on or before July 1, 2017, can return to the classroom without a limitation on earnings?

Notwithstanding as otherwise noted, each of the following must be met before a member who retired on or before July 1, 2017, may return to employment in an Oklahoma public school without a limitation on earnings:

  • The member must have been employed as an active classroom teacher as is defined in 70 O.S. § 17-101(27) for at least one full school year immediately prior to his or her date of retirement. Members employed as superintendents, administrators or in other non-classroom teacher positions (i.e., counselors) during the school year immediately preceding retirement are ineligible;
  • The member can only be employed as an active classroom teacher as defined in 70 O.S. § 17-101(27) when he or she return to employment;
  • The member must have been retired and drawing an OTRS retirement benefit and not be employed by any public school or career technology district in any capacity for the 12 consecutive months immediately following the last day of employment prior to his or her retirement date;
  • Prior to the member’s return to employment, he or she must provide to OTRS documentation establishing his or her eligibility under this provision. This documentation must be accepted by and approved by OTRS prior to the member commencing employment under this provision; and
  • This opportunity is only available for three years total, and will subsequently expire (see also OAC 715:10-1-15 and TRS Frequently Asked Questions).
Last updated on June 6, 2018