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A 15 Minute Commute to Texas is Costing Oklahoma Students their Future

School Funding | 06/30/2015

Amber England
Executive Director

Amber England is the Executive Director of Stand for Children Oklahoma

Imagine this: a Marietta high school graduate, just 15 miles from Texas, studies hard,  takes all the right courses, is involved in as many activities as possible in high school and her hard work pays off—she gets a scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma and becomes the first in her family to graduate college. Her dream is to return to her hometown in southern Oklahoma and work for the same school district that put her on the path to live out her dream. Even though she was a scholarship student, she incurred some considerable student loan debt at OU and has a tough choice to make: Does she accept a position with her alma mater and earn $31,600 or make a 20 minute commute to Texas and make $50,000?  She agonizes over the decision, but ultimately accepts a teaching position in Texas—just a short commute across the Red River from her hometown in Marietta. 

This story plays out every single school year in Oklahoma, when hundreds of graduates from Oklahoma colleges leave their home state for higher pay in states that border us. In fact, a recent Dallas Morning News report details how starting teacher pay in a north Texas school district like Denton has reached $50,000. Meanwhile, minimum starting teacher pay in Oklahoma is $31,600 (the equivalent of a full-time job paying $15 per hour) and it hasn’t increased since the 2007-08 school year, which means Oklahoma’s already low pay isn’t even keeping pace with inflation.

The fact Denton, Texas can pay its teachers $50,000 a year but no southern Oklahoma school district has the resources to do so should be cause for alarm. And it’s not just north Texas districts. EVERY surrounding state offers higher wages for teachers and it’s causing a critical shortage of teachers in Oklahoma with more and more opting to pursue their careers across the state line.

A new teacher in Sallisaw can drive a mere 24 miles to Ft. Smith, Arkansas and earn $6,000 more right out of college. An additional $2,000 more in salary is paid to National Board certified teachers. And veteran teachers in Ft. Smith also fare MUCH better than their Oklahoma counterparts. A teacher with 20 years of experience with a doctorate in Ft. Smith earns $67,600, compared to $43,875 in Oklahoma, according to Oklahoma’s minimum teacher salary schedule.

 It’s the same to the north of us. Teachers living in north Oklahoma border towns have a modest commute to Wichita and can earn $7,162 more out of the starting gate.

 And while only 28 miles separate the towns of Miami and Joplin, several thousand dollars separates teachers’ starting pay.

Is there something so very different between Oklahoma and Arkansas or Kansas, or Missouri or Texas that policymakers here can’t come together to devise a way to close the gap between starting pay here and the states that surround us? What message does this send to Oklahoma teachers?  It’s no wonder so many of them told us as we crossed the state doing a listening tour they feel undervalued and unappreciated.

If we don’t come together to take action, even more Oklahoma teachers will leave our classrooms and the students of this state will pay the ultimate price with an inferior education. Sign our petition and tell lawmakers that we must invest in our teachers: stand.org/TeacherMatterPledge

Standing with you,

Amber England

Executive Director
Stand for Children Oklahoma

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Comments

  • 38 years ago I decided to forego the teacher track at UCO because teacher pay was dismal in Oklahoma. Guess it still is.
    Lucy Middlebrook

    June 30, 2015 4:57 PM

  • I lost even more coming from Texas to Oklafu**lahoma. I came with 18 uears experience, and was only paid for 5. I live in Tulsa, and cannot make the commute. I would be making over $60,000 in TX, and dont even clear 35,000 here. Can you imagine how infuriating that is EVERY day? Not only the money, but the paperwork load in OK is so much more! So the discussion every summer with my husband is do we separate so I can make a living wage?
    Susan Vilar

    June 30, 2015 5:22 PM

  • If it's so infuriating, move or change professions. I'm not saying teachers in Oklahoma are paid enough, just that it has been no secret. I commute to Texas for better pay and I'm not in education, just so it's out there. Years ago I saw a show about how only two border counties in Oklahoma had average salaries competitive with the states they touch. I've commuted to Kansas from Oklahoma and to Texas from Oklahoma for a total of 17 years. And the rest of my career so far I lived in Kansas. I actually never even got licensed in Oklahoma because the pay has always been so poor.
    Cc90118

    July 1, 2015 7:08 PM

  • What's really sad is a teacher with a masters degree and over 30 years teaching experience in southern OK doesn't make what a beginning teacher in Denton TX makes.
    Debbie

    June 30, 2015 5:35 PM

  • I moved to OK in 2004 after retiring from MICHIGAN-I was allowed to only bring in 5 years of the 39.5 years I had accrued while teaching in MI. My starting salary in OK was almost 24,000 less than I was making in MI with a Masters degree--if I had not been able to draw Social Security and my MI retirement at that time, I would never have considered teaching in OK. They are losing many other experienced teachers from other states by putting a cap on experience--what a loss they are experiencing-and no wonder they cannot find any teachers who want to work in OK--wake up, legislators!!!! Pay us for our experience that all districts need!
    S Keyser-Gay

    July 1, 2015 2:40 PM

  • I recently graduate from OU, over half of my peers went to Texas because of the pay opportunities. I love my principal and co-workers but it is hard. I think as these recently graduated grads have children the choice will be harder to stay.
    misty henry

    June 30, 2015 6:03 PM

  • It will cost Oklahoma MORE in the long run to have lower pay than everyone surrounding them....Do the right thing and raise the teachers salaries for everyone's good !
    Fred Merchant

    June 30, 2015 6:06 PM

  • Good teachers need good pay Keep our Teachers Let us support our teachers. Educate our children so we don't have to spend more on our prison system.
    VivianMartinez

    June 30, 2015 6:37 PM

  • I've lived in Woodward Oklahoma my whole life. My daughter graduated from the University of Oklahoma this May and is in working for Fort Worth Texas schools as a teacher. We need the teachers here In Oklahoma, but you can't blame her for going to where she will make 20,000 more a year. Anyone who goes to four years of college should make more that 31,000!
    Delaina Jeter

    June 30, 2015 7:14 PM

  • I agree. I work for the State of Oklahoma and I graduated last year from UCO. I make $27,660.
    Bailee

    July 1, 2015 11:39 AM

  • oklahomans deserve better.
    John

    June 30, 2015 8:35 PM

  • I'm from Muskogee, OK. I would take a $25-30k pay cut to go.back home and teach/coach. I currently teach in Dallas I SD and should make close to 60k this year with my experience and coaching stipend. If OK could get close I would love to to go back home and have an impact on my Alma mater. But..... -50% salary? LIES!!!! COME ON OK. We need better for our kids and our future.
    J. Walker

    June 30, 2015 8:51 PM

  • Did you coach in warner, ok at the elementary?
    Lisa brown

    July 1, 2015 10:00 AM

  • i just retired after 40 years of teaching special education (double master's degree) in Oklahoma . I made the same salary (with 40 years experience) as my nephew's wife did teaching music (bachelor's degree) in Texas her first year. Our system is really broken.
    D. Conner

    June 30, 2015 8:54 PM

  • I just retired after 40 years of teaching special education (with a master's degree in learning disabilities and psychometry). My ending salary was the same as what my nephew's wife made her first year, teaching music (with bachelor's degree) in Texas. There is definitely a problem with teacher pay in Oklahoma.
    D. Conner

    June 30, 2015 9:00 PM

  • I am starting my 13th year and I make $37000. I'm working on My graduate degree. My husband has 0 college and he makes twice as much as I do.
    Mamie

    June 30, 2015 9:29 PM

  • Additionally OK has a policy in place in which they will only take 5 years experience of your years of experience from out of state! I met a teacher who taught 16 years in TX, and moved to OK, and now lost 16,000 a year in pay because of the policy. As a military spouse for 20 years moving all over the nation we chose to retire back in OK where we grew up...well thank you OK for recognizing my sacrifice as a military spouse! Not taking all your years of experience! This is an easy fix OK!
    Sherri Johnson

    June 30, 2015 10:12 PM

  • I am reading the fourth letter down. When a graduate from a four year university can't write a sentence using the proper tense and and spells (principal) as (principle), that is a cause for concern.
    RS

    June 30, 2015 10:20 PM

  • Aw, come on! That person did not spend as much time going to the pricipal's office as I did, hence the misspelling. You've "gotta" know where the pricipal's office is and there is the sign saying "Principal."
    Henry Wortmsnn

    July 1, 2015 9:10 AM

  • I lost almost $18,000 and I am doing more to get less. The insurance is terrible. Athletic facilities do not come close to matching up.
    Jim the fool

    July 1, 2015 1:24 AM

  • We had it on the ballot to raise our pay to the regional average and teachers voted no, because it was put out in the media it would break the state if it passed. I asked teachers in my district how they were going to vote. They said they had to vote against a raise in their own pay because they couldn't leave Oklahoma in the red just to increase their own pay. After the bill to raise teacher's pay was defeated, the headlines were about what great shape Oklahoma was in financially. I know most teachers are born without a selfish gene, but we have to see through some of the manipulations and improve our bottom line. What is good for teachers will be good for their students in the long run.
    Kay Gamble

    July 1, 2015 1:47 AM

  • My husband & I both graduated from SWOSU. We taught 3 years in Elk City in the early 80's. We left for teaching jobs in the Texas panhandle. We could not afford to come back until we could retire from Texas! With 33 years experience total but only paid for 5years experience out-of-state, we make more from our Texas retirement than we do for our current jobs with Putnam City and Moore public schools.
    Kelly

    July 1, 2015 2:29 AM

  • Oklahoma just does not value education as much as other states. I don't blame anyone for wanting to teach in another state with better pay and respect for teachers.
    Been there

    July 1, 2015 3:42 AM

  • I read a story the other day and, quoted in the story, was an ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT at a small, rural school here in Oklahoma. I'm all for paying teachers more, but it sure seems like our schools are heavy with administrator costs. Why not have one superintendent per county?
    FreeDrop

    July 1, 2015 4:53 AM

  • I considered the public schools because of my special needs child, but I would get paid at the 1 year rate because I've only been in tge school system for one year. So, despite 20 years as a speech pathologist with a Masters of Science degree, if I had taken a job in my hometown in Morman, I would have had to go on MEDICAID and use FOOD STAMPS, etc.... THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS
    Susanne

    July 1, 2015 5:07 AM

  • I am currently going back to school and am considering the teaching path. But seeing this tells me that after I graduate if I want to teach I need to move to Texas. I worked in a casino for almost 10 years and made over 50k a year with no college degree. I think that should say plenty considering tax revenue from all the casinos are supposed to be going into the schools.
    wes

    July 1, 2015 5:25 AM

  • Our Legislators try to used the "cost of living in Oklahoma is so much cheaper" argument, which is bull crap! Teachers moving to the metroplex pay no state income tax, pay no social security, and do not pay sales tax on their groceries. Just not paying SS and state income tax equals another 15% raise. Taxes on a house is higher, but I'm paying a pretty good chunk of taxes on my house in OK.
    Southern OK

    July 1, 2015 5:54 AM

  • I guess you could quit teaching and run for state representative and make $38,000 per year. In fact you don't even need a degree, just get enough friends to vote for you. By the way our representatives are in session from February to May.
    Leo Vann

    July 1, 2015 5:54 AM

  • I guess you could quit teaching and run for state representative and make $38,000 per year. In fact you don't even need a degree, just get enough friends to vote for you. By the way our representatives are in session from February to May.
    Leo Vann

    July 1, 2015 5:54 AM

  • Whole heartedly agree teachers should be paid more. Let's start by consolidating school districts, less administration and put that money in the classroom.
    Derek

    July 1, 2015 6:09 AM

  • I will have over thirty years experience in this state when I retire in several years and will never reach the starting salary in much of north Texas. I have never been able to afford a masters degree, although I have spent so much time educating myself that I make curriculum for those with masters degrees. My daughter is a second year teacher and she falls well under the wage requirements for a housing assistance grant intended to help families in poverty. She wants to stay near family, but is losing almost $20,000 a year to do so. Although she has two related degrees and two minors, she is paid the state base for a bachelors.
    CJ

    July 1, 2015 6:10 AM

  • Starting salary in Texas is $28,080. Most rural districts pay just over base salary. You have to go to the metroplex to make that kind of money. Both states need higher starting teacher salary minimums.
    Julie

    July 1, 2015 6:15 AM

  • Exactly! This will be my 26th year, and I will pull in 56,000. I do work in a small school district in Texas that has good benefits. It balances out though,the cost of living is relatively low compared to the larger areas.
    Vkg1164

    July 1, 2015 11:42 AM

  • Here's a link to current Oklahoma teacher Salaries http://ok.gov/sde/sites/ok.gov.sde/files/documents/files/2014-2015%20State%20Minimum%20Salary%20Schedule.pdf
    Adam

    July 1, 2015 6:16 AM

  • All of you teachers need to lobby the State capital and keep lobbying till you make yourselves heard. Drastic results sometimes call for drastic measures!!!!
    Sharlene Stieber

    July 1, 2015 6:29 AM

  • All of you teachers need to lobby the State capital and keep lobbying till you make yourselves heard. Drastic results sometimes call for drastic measures!!!!
    Sharlene Stieber

    July 1, 2015 6:29 AM

  • Oklahoma schools could pay our teachers more if less was used in administration.
    Marie Parker

    July 1, 2015 6:34 AM

  • Math is a little wrong for the hourly wage in article. There are 180 days of school a year 6 hours a day = 1080hrs 31500/1080=29.17hr if you add 2 hours a day for everyday = 1440hrs 31500/1440=21.88hr also the cost of living in Texas is higher than Oklahoma I have a daughter that is a teacher in Texas Before you come down on me I was a teacher but I do believe teachers need higher pay but they need to remember they only have to teach 180 days and have a lot of time to spend with their families
    BJ

    July 1, 2015 6:38 AM

  • I've NEVER only worked eight hours a day... I put in ten to twelve EVERYDAY. I also bring home lots of work. The first three months of school, I work seven days a week, putting in at least six hours each on Saturday and Sunday. When I get past the first three months, I work at least one weekend day. I even work on holidays. I bring home 1400.00 a month because they keep hiking up insurance. In January, my check went down 125.00 because insurance went up. Because I'm on salary, I make way less than what I should get an hour.
    Donna J.

    July 1, 2015 7:28 AM

  • Don't forget the long evenings we spend planning and grading papers. It's not an 8 to 5 job by far. In the summer we go to numerous workshops. We use our own money to by manipulatives and various things for our classroom. So in all actuality our time we put in is by no means 180 days. It is probably more days than you put in throughout the year!
    s

    July 1, 2015 8:13 AM

  • I, too, am a teacher. I spend far more time working than you stated in your comment. First my official work day is 7:45 - 3:25 with a 25 min lunch (7.25 hours). I counted my planning period because I do work during that time. However, my day has never ended at 3:25. I work weekends and during the summer. I attend professional development during the summer. I also do cirriculumn mapping, have moved classroom, read and research teaching methods to help me reach students. I also research other methods of teaching specific concepts. I kept track of the time spent outside the regular schedule: over 552 hours. 1305 hours + 552 hours = 1857. 31500/1857=$16.96 an hour. I'd bet my additional hours are less than they should be for many teachers, especially, elementary teachers who spend hours making bulletin boards, learning centers, etcetera. But, you also need to read the article again. The author said "at full-time".
    Tracie Grunewald

    July 1, 2015 8:36 AM

  • Only 180 days a year? How about the requirements to get a Master's Degree to keep teaching? And what of the time spent home correcting papers, writing tests, doing all the required reports, Sam's overtime pay? Six hours a day? What of the extra duties required as papart of the job?
    Henry Wortmann

    July 1, 2015 9:18 AM

  • Only 180 days a year? How about the requirements to get a Master's Degree to keep teaching? And what of the time spent home correcting papers, writing tests, doing all the required reports, Sam's overtime pay? Six hours a day? What of the extra duties required as papart of the job?
    Henry Wortmann

    July 1, 2015 9:18 AM

  • Teachers from Marietta have done great things. Major General Jim Chambers for example.
    Dan Moore

    July 1, 2015 7:03 AM

  • My son who works at a casino four days a week makes more than I do, and he has full benefits. I told someone yesterday that I moved from Texas to Oklahoma to be near family and he said, "Oh, you took a pay cut. I decided to get out of teaching years ago because I couldn't support my family here in Oklahoma." It is sad that politicians, particularly Republicans, see no value in education in this state. When I moved, I lost years as well. I have rethought my choice of vocation, but the kids keep me coming back.
    Donna J.

    July 1, 2015 7:17 AM

  • My son who works at a casino four days a week makes more than I do, and he has full benefits. I told someone yesterday that I moved from Texas to Oklahoma to be near family and he said, "Oh, you took a pay cut. I decided to get out of teaching years ago because I couldn't support my family here in Oklahoma." It is sad that politicians, particularly Republicans, see no value in education in this state. When I moved, I lost years as well. I have rethought my choice of vocation, but the kids keep me coming back.
    Donna J.

    July 1, 2015 7:19 AM

  • I will start my third year teaching in Oklahoma this year. I've recently become a single mom, and I am finding it very difficult to be able to afford to live, and I certainly don't spend or live extravagantly. In April I started looking for positions in other states to feel out opportunities for the 2016-2017 school year. I must do what is necessary to provide for my family.
    Niki

    July 1, 2015 7:20 AM

  • I moved to Oklahoma with 7 years of teaching experience and a Masters Degree. I was teaching in the poorest district in Arkansas and it would have been a $7000 pay cut for me to teach in the district I moved to!!! I couldn't afford to do that!
    Ann

    July 1, 2015 7:36 AM

  • Lobbying the state capital doesn't do anything. The problem is that people continue to vote for the same people again and again and again. We have to elect common sense legislators who understand that the some tax cuts aren't good tax cuts.
    Jeremy Skaggs

    July 1, 2015 7:48 AM

  • I left Texas to come back closer to family during a time of great need and to be closer to grandchildren. My take home pay after 2 years is still over $500 a month less than when I left. And because of continuing cuts in school funding, I do not expect any real changes this coming year. I love the school, students teachers and administrators here and hope to remain for years to come. But if our legislators can't figure something out soon, I may be forced to leave for simple financial reasons. Many of my music colleagues did so this summer and I can't blame them one bit.
    David

    July 1, 2015 7:49 AM

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