CATOOSA, Okla. – As the deadline to a teacher walkout gets closer, teachers are working to explain why they are at their breaking point.
The Oklahoma Education Association is 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 is tentatively planning a teacher walkout for April 2 if legislators don’t pass a measure to increase teacher and staff pay.
Recently, a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Oklahoma has the lowest average teacher wages in the nation.
The report states that the average teacher salary in the Sooner State is just over $42,000, but many teachers say they are paid much lower than that.
In fact, the state’s entry-level salary is just over $31,000.
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.
Now, other Oklahoma teachers are sharing their salaries on Facebook to call for change.
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"It's depressing but at the same time, we're all in this together. So I think just the unity of us across the state... because there were pay stubs on there from every corner of the state," Mandy Karleskint, a math teacher at Wells Middle School, told KJRH.
Pay stubs posted on Facebook showed teacher salaries ranging from just under $30,000 to no more than $40,000. In addition to posting pay stubs, many of the teachers also mentioned the second jobs they work to make ends meet.
Is this America? Teachers in Oklahoma make ends meet by SELLING THEIR BLOOD PLASMA! THEY ARE THE VICTIMS OF UNBELIEVABLE CUTBACKS! #STRIKE
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) March 21, 2018