OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new school year has begun in Oklahoma — but some complaints are still the same. Oklahoma teachers remain unsatisfied with their pay. And they’re reacting to a new study that ranks the state second in the country for largest pay gap between its teachers and other college-educated professionals.
The study, from the Economic Policy Institute, reveals that on average, Oklahoma teachers make one-third less money than their college-educated counterparts.
“The teachers in Oklahoma [are] falling further and further behind the other professionals within that state,” said researcher Sylvia Allegretto, author of the study named, “The teacher pay penalty has hit a new high.”
It reveals disappointing results for Oklahoma’s teachers, finding that the Sooner State ranks second in the country for largest pay gap between its teachers and other college-educated professionals. It finds Oklahoma public school teachers make about 32.8 percent less money than professional counterparts.
“That is a huge gap,” Allegretto told KFOR. “That is saying that teachers, on average, are making a third less than their non-teaching college graduate counterparts. That is a huge pay gap. It’s really an indictment on what we think, not just about children, but about those children as workers in the future and then the future of the productivity and the success of the state of Oklahoma and indeed the United States.”
In comparison, Rhode Island’s gap was -3.1 percent (#51), Arkansas -20.5 percent (#25), Texas -21.5 percent (#22) and Colorado -35.9 percent (#1).
Professional Oklahoma Educators’ Executive Director Ginger Tinney shared her reaction to the state’s low ranking with KFOR.
“Oklahoma teachers are not paid at the same level as our counterparts with the same education and it has been that way forever, and it should stop immediately,” she said. “We have the funds in this state now to pay our teachers and quite frankly, even at Rhode Island, there should not be any discrepancies.”
The average teacher salary in Oklahoma is $54,762, according to the National Education Association.
“I think teachers should have a great salary of $75,000, that should be at least the average,” Tinney expressed.
Tinney said without competitive pay, the most qualified teachers will leave, ultimately hurting the next generation.
“When you lose teachers to other states or other businesses, the children pay the price on that, too, and that lasts sometimes for a lifetime,” she said.
She also provided a solution.
“I think you have to value the job of an educator,” she said. “You have to value education. You have to want a high level of education for your child. And you have to really put pressure on elected officials to make that come to reality.”
Tinney told KFOR that Professional Oklahoma Educators will be pushing a bill at the statehouse this upcoming legislative session to raise teacher salaries. They’re still determining how much of a raise they’ll push for.