Oklahoma senator pushes to repeal sales tax exemption for newspapers, periodicals to fund estimated US$17M debt owed to state's Nationally Board Certified teachers

Kendall Sinclair

Kendall Sinclair

Jan 11, 2012 – Oklahoma State Senate

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma , January 10, 2012 (press release) – In an effort to fund the estimated $17 million backlog owed to Oklahoma's Nationally Board Certified teachers, Sen. Jim Wilson wants to repeal the sales tax exemption for newspapers and periodicals. Senate Bill 1098, filed Monday, would help create around $17 million in additional revenue according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission, which the Democrat from Tahlequah says could be used to pay back the state's most qualified teachers.

"The State made an agreement to pay teachers $5,000 per year if they became Nationally Board Certified. There is an exception in the law allowing the State to renege on its commitment if money is not available, but that agreement is a contract and should be paid back eventually,” said Wilson. “We need to get our priorities straight. I believe it’s much more important to keep our promises to these educators than to provide sales tax exemptions for newspapers.”

Wilson came up with the $17 million NBC teacher backlog figure by adding the shortages of bonuses made in the past three years. In 2010, the State gave the districts $5,000 for each certified teacher, but neglected to pay the district’s portion of payroll taxes. In this case some of the districts shorted their teachers $355.32 in their gross pay to accommodate the under reimbursement. The teachers were shorted $1,495.42 in their gross pay in 2011. The district’s portion of payroll taxes was again omitted from the gross. In addition, the State Board of Education voted to combine the funds in the NBCT revolving fund with revolving funds in other nationally certified educators – like speech pathologists. In 2012, the State of Oklahoma decided to omit the entire $5,000. The sum of shortages over the three years – at least for some teachers - is $6,850.74.

“We have a moral obligation to these outstanding, hardworking individuals to give them the bonuses they were promised,” said Wilson. “Legislative leaders have discussed restoring the stipend, but have not been specific as to when, how much or whether retroactive obligations would be honored. It’s much too easy to avoid commitments by claiming lack of money, but I’ve found a funding source that will help fully reimburse these teachers and I hope my colleagues will support my bill.”

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