Bureau of Labor Statistics: Oklahoma had lowest average teacher salary in the country

OKLAHOMA CITY – It is well-known that teachers in Oklahoma are some of the lowest paid in the country.

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

When another legislative session came to a close without a teacher pay raise, many educators decided to leave the classroom or the Sooner State for better pay.

Lilli Lyon, a Spanish teacher at Moore West Junior High School, told News 4 that she is seeing many teachers leave the state for schools in Texas.

“The cost of living there is very comparable, and the one is making $14,000 more a year just by driving four or five hours down that way,” Lyon said.

Lyon compared her net pay from 2009 to now and realized she has barely received any additional compensation in almost nine years. Any raise she has received in the past she said has been taken by the rising insurance costs.

"It would take a $6,000 teacher pay raise right now just to make up the difference what they've lost over the last 10 years,” said Katherine Bishop, the vice president of the Oklahoma Education Association.

For teachers who decided to stay in Oklahoma, many are being forced to pay for supplies out of their own pockets.

Teresa Dank, a third grade teacher in Tulsa, turned to panhandling to help raise money for school supplies.

“It all adds up week after week, and month after month,” she said. “So it’s a huge need.”

Now, a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics based on 2016 data is adding fuel to the fire.

The report indicates that Oklahoma has the lowest average teacher wages in the nation.

The department states that the median annual wage for high school teachers across the country was $58,030 in May of 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,180.

The highest paying states are Alaska, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and California.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average teacher salary in Oklahoma is $42,460, which is considered the lowest in the country.

Mississippi is considered the second lowest with the average salary of $43,950.