OKLAHOMA CITY – It has been a whirlwind year for teachers across the Sooner State.
In March, the Oklahoma Education Association announced that it was seeking a $10,000 pay raise for Oklahoma teachers over three years, a $5,000 pay raise for support professionals over three years, a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees, and the restoration of funding for education and core government services.
OEA announced that it was tentatively planning a teacher walkout for April 2 if legislators didn’t meet those demands.
Days before the walkout was set to begin, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that raises teachers’ salaries by an average of $6,100. It also gives $1,250 raises for support staff and adds $50 million in education funding.
Although the bill almost reached the salary goal, organizers said it did little to restore education funding that has been cut for nearly a decade.
For nine days, thousands of educators and supporters headed to the Capitol to demand an increase to education funding. However, the walkout came to a sudden end.
“We need to face reality. Despite tens of thousands of people filling the Capitol and spilling out onto the grounds of this Capitol for nine days, we have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday,” OEA President Alicia Priest said.
When the walkout came to an end, many teachers said they felt abandoned by the union and like the walkout had been for nothing.
As a result, dozens of teachers announced that they would be leaving the classroom or moving to teach in other states.
Before the school year began, more than half of superintendents surveyed by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association said that teacher hiring was worse this year than last.
Now, a national survey ranks Oklahoma as one of the worst states for teachers.
Recently, WalletHub released its ‘2018 Best & Worst States for Teachers,’ and Oklahoma came in 44th.
According to researchers, Oklahoma teachers’ starting salary came in 33rd, even being adjusted for the cost of living.
The results were as follows:
- 33rd average starting salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living)
- 35th average salary for teachers (adjusted for cost of living)
- 33rd quality of school system
- 37th pupil-teacher ratio
- 45th public school spending per student
- 31st teachers’ income growth potential
- 19th projected competition in 2026
- 35th in 10-year change in teacher salaries
- 26th for teacher safety.
However, Oklahoma’s ranking was still better than South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, Arizona and Hawaii.