“I’m sorry it’s come to this,” Oklahoma Teacher of Year announces he is leaving state for higher pay

NORMAN, Okla. – As lawmakers continue to bicker over a budget at the state Capitol, many teachers say they are already making other plans for next year.

For months, teachers have been asking lawmakers to find a way to fund a pay raise for educators across the state.

“We always put the cart before the horse,” said Sen. J.J. Dossett told NewsChannel 4 in April. “To talk about a pay raise for four months and then actually have no product at the end, that’s a blow to morale and I think if we’re not actually going to take it seriously, we need to not talk about it at all.”

Throughout the session, lawmakers heard several bills that call for a teacher pay raise. However, some didn’t include a way to fund the pay raise.

Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz said without a way to pay for the raise, the measures were simply giving teachers “false hope.”

As it looks like teachers will go another year without a pay raise, many are making the decision to leave the state.

Shawn Sheehan, who was named Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year in 2016, announced that he has made the decision to move south of the Red River to make more money in the classroom.

“At the end of the day, the simple truth is that we can be paid a respectable wage for doing the same job- this job we love very much- by heading out of state. I’m sorry it’s come to this, but I will leave with my head held high. I poured my heart and soul into my teaching at Norman High School. I represented our state at the highest level. I tried to help find funding sources via SQ 779. I ran for state senate. I started a non-profit focused on teacher recruitment and retention that has spread nationwide. I’ve done everything I know how to do to try and make things better. We could stay, but it would cost our family – specifically our sweet baby girl. My wife and I are not willing to do that. We, like you, want what’s best for our children and she deserves to grow up in a state that values education. And so do your children,” Sheenan wrote on his blog. 

Last year, Sheehan was among four finalists for the national ‘Teacher of the Year’ honor. He was also behind a campaign to recruit teachers to Oklahoma after he learned about a shortage.

“I hope my and my family’s departure, which is among many this year, makes a statement. We’re voting with our feet on this on,” he wrote.