Thursday, April 05, 2018

I Stand with Oklahoma Teachers

I was born in Oklahoma. I lived in Oklahoma for a total of 12 years of my life. I went to college in Oklahoma, met my wife there. Most of my family lives in Oklahoma. I visit the state two or three times a year. I love Oklahoma. I really love Oklahoma.

My wife and I would have loved to live and work in Oklahoma. But as teachers, it was simply economically unfeasible.

Years ago, a colleague who had taught twenty years in Grove, Oklahoma before moving to Texas to finish out her career told me "As bad as teachers are treated in Texas, it's far worse in Oklahoma." She told me that back in 2006. She also told me that by moving to Texas she immediately got a $12,000 raise in pay. Both her and her husband were high school teachers so they made over $24,000 more a year simply by crossing the Red River to teach the same subjects. Over ten years ago.

If I were to move to the suburbs of Tulsa and teach in the Union School District my pay cut would be unbelievable. The Union School District is an upper middle class district and one of the highest paying in the state. Based on a comparison of salary schedules including a Masters Degree stipend given by Union and my school district, I would have to take a $12,000 pay cut to work in Union Schools.

And I don't teach in a wealthy school district in Texas. I teach in a Title One rural school district outside of Dallas. 65% of our students are economically disadvantaged. My district is not even close to being among the highest paying districts in the state. And yet even my pay cut would be huge if I moved to one of the best school districts in Oklahoma.

The pay cut is actually worse than that. My health benefits would be far less than what I currently receive. My retirement much worse. And, Oklahoma would only give me five years of service credit for coming to teach there. I have nineteen years of service. I would be starting out as a fifth year teacher in pay if I moved to Tulsa next year. Which means my actual cut in pay would be $16,000. No wonder Oklahoma can't recruit good teachers from out of state.

Add my wife, a school counselor, to the mix and we would lose $36,000 in income to work in the same exact jobs just a couple of hours north.

A $36,000 pay cut.

Our cost of living has been virtually the same as living in metro Oklahoma City or Tulsa. Now, home prices have skyrocketed this past year in DFW so that may make Texas a little more expensive a place to live now days when it comes to buying a home. But that's a recent phenomenon. Our gas, groceries, insurance and utilities are nearly the same as Oklahoma.

I have many friends and family members who are teachers in Oklahoma. I don't know how they make a living. I don't know how they will have enough to retire on. I work with many Oklahomans who reluctantly moved to Texas because the pay is so much better.

I really believe that many in Oklahoma expect teachers to be wives married to husbands who make substantially more money in other careers.

So 19th century. So patriarchal.

How else do they expect teachers to make a living? State legislators are downright hostile to teacher demands for better pay. The governor compared educated professionals to teenagers wanting more money for a car. It's sickening. Disgusting. Oklahoma deserves better. Oklahoma needs better.

Priorities. If OU and OSU cancelled their football seasons until teachers got better pay I guarantee the legislature would miraculously find the money to fund Oklahoma schools. Taxing energy and natural gas only 2% the past 20 years? Unbelievable. 5% is a start but even that falls short.

Education is about the future. Corporations won't locate their headquarters in places with un-educated workers no matter how good the tax breaks.

Oklahoma won't have a future if they don't treat their students and teachers right.