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Plain Words About Teacher Pay in Oklahoma

August 30, 2013 6 comments

Quite often, when I post things here that other people have written, they generate more engagement than the things I write. I expect that will be true again this time.

The following is from Rob Reck, who posted these words on the Oklahoma BATs site on Facebook:

This is long, but it is the response that I emailed in response to the article asking for teachers’ opinions. Maybe there are some talking points in there you can use when you are at church and other places away from school.
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Dr. Baressi has suggested that there is plenty of money for teacher raises in Oklahoma by cutting administrative pay and by using carryover funds.

Districts tend to carry over a similar amount of money from year to year. Carryover funds for the school system are similar to the farmers seed wheat. A farmer could net more money if he sold ten percent of his seed wheat every year, but this can’t go on forever. Back in the day, farmers did not eat or sell their seed wheat. Schools set aside their carryover money to start the following year. Like many enterprises, it takes money to get the school started and school boards and administrators allow for this.

One would have to ask: What would be the rationale for carrying over “extra” money? When there is crime the first thing the police look for is a motive. There is no motive for carrying over excess cash. Seasonal businesses who do not have enough money to weather the off-season can, if need be, take out loans or extend their line of credit. The general fund of an Oklahoma School system is a cash business. Carrying funds over is a responsible business practice that prevents Oklahoma schools from dealing with situations like the one we now see in Philadelphia. Schools have gotten in financial trouble in Oklahoma, but never from carrying over the maximum allowed by law.

The comment about cutting administrative pay is laughable. The money Oklahoma schools may spend on “administration” is limited by statute. They range from 8% for very small districts to 5% for districts over 1,5000 students. According to an article dated January 21, 2013 on NewsOk.com, only three of Oklahoma’s 532 school districts were out of compliance at that time. That would be a little over one-half percent. None of the districts were large districts. Schools are keeping within legal and good business norms with administrative costs. The irony of the matter is this: With the advent of the new teacher evaluation instrument in Oklahoma the amount of time required to document teacher evaluations has increased and not just a little. Some schools have actually had to hire more administrators to properly do teacher evaluations. So the legislature requires that schools spend more money on administrators and the State Superintendent suggests that schools need to spend less.

The repeated mantra is that there is “plenty of money for teacher raises if schools would….” In truth, there is not. Oklahoma schools are run at bargain basement prices. Schools now are forced to pass bond issues and borrow money for things that could be payed from the general fund when I first started teaching 35 years ago.

And while I am at it, I used an inflation calculator to check on my “raises” over those 35 years. I graduated with my masters degree in 1978. My salary was $12,500. I remember it like it was yesterday because I lived so simply in college. Today that would be, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, $44,500. I don’t believe we are paying beginning teachers anything like that these days. So when we fire all of these teachers for bad evaluations we are going to have to hire new teachers to replace them at a wage that is far less competitive than in years past. That makes no sense.

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In another matter: The opposition to Janet Baressi is bi-partisan and deep. It is not about “liberal groups” any more. The tea party types are just as ticked as the teachers, the administrators, the school board members, and the parents of Oklahoma students..

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Episode III – Response to the Response to the Response

August 28, 2013 12 comments

First, the response to the response:

Barresi Responds to CCOSA / OSSBA Critique of Plan to Give Teachers $2,000 Raise

CCOSA and the OSSBA have shown their true stripes once again. When I was elected to office in 2010, the voters of Oklahoma gave me a mandate: bring meaningful reform to Oklahoma schools, raise standards, and give Oklahoma’s kids a chance at a brighter future.

The best way to do that is with great teachers.

Even CCOSA and the OSSBA can’t argue that Oklahoma schools don’t have enough money on hand to use ten percent of their carryover funds for increasing teacher salaries. Oklahoma schools had a little more than $565 million carryover entering last year. This year the carryover amount of $710 million ($145 million more than last year) clearly shows they have enough sitting in the bank to give teachers in most every district the additional money they desperately need and deserve.  Whether it is called a raise or a stipend, the key is that our teachers have more money.

The liberal education establishment has fought me the whole way. And they’re not about to let reality get in the way of their agenda. CCOSSA and OSSBA claim that I’ve secured an additional $106 million for programs directed by the State Department of Education, and suggest that money doesn’t benefit schools. What are the funds they’re talking about? School Activity Funds that all go directly to the districts, including money for Teacher and Support Employee Health Insurance, Alternative Education – including online learning options for kids and parents, National Board Certified Teacher stipends, reading and teacher support programs…vital, direct-to-the-district programs for our teachers and students to meet the tougher standards Oklahomans voted for.

The response of CCOSA and OSSBA also conveniently ignores my call for them to re-prioritize just two percent of their administrative overhead. By continuing to improve efficiencies, we can find a sustainable source for teacher pay. We cannot stand by and preserve bloated administrative budgets at the expense of teachers.

I know of no teacher who would scoff at even a one-time $2000 increase in pay. In the meantime, we’ll continue to look at ways to focus and prioritize funding while growing our economy by producing college and career ready students. Together, we can get our teacher pay raised to where it needs to be to support these professionals. As I have said before, other than parents, teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s education. Our shortage is in quality teachers, not administrators.

I agree with two parts of this. Barresi was in fact elected in 2010. And teachers are the most critical piece of public education.

Where we must part company is at the rest of it – the part that I call facts. This spreadsheet that Barresi sent to legislators shows each district’s carryover. Unfortunately, these are the cash forward amounts that districts had in their general fund as of June 30. Wait, that’s June 30, 2011! Those numbers are nowhere near accurate now.

In case you’re not convinced, look at this revenue report for Achille Public Schools. I picked them because they’re first in the alphabet. Both the spreadsheet and the revenue report show a carryover (cash forward amount) of $377,301.31. What’s worse is that her spreadsheet lists the number of full-time teachers with the 2012 figures. So we’re giving legislators 2011 financial data and 2012 employment data to make decisions at the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year. It would be more helpful if Barresi would provide the legislature (and the public) with accurate, current information. I’ve heard from a number of people tonight who are certain that their carryover and staffing levels are much different than what she’s representing.

It would also be good if Barresi would check voter registrations. For some reason, she thinks that there is a “liberal education establishment” in this state. In fact, her disdain for liberal teachers is in part why she formed a charter school and then later ran for state superintendent. However, I don’t think there are as many liberal administrators (or teachers, for that matter) as she believes there are. This is a very red state, and educators make up a significant part of the electorate.

Her call to cut more waste from the budget also rings hollow. For each of the last several years, that’s all schools have done. We’re beyond cutting into the bone at this point.

Oh, one last thing…Oklahoma conservatives aren’t thrilled with Barresi’s pay raise plan either.

About the Teacher Shortage

August 27, 2013 8 comments

Oklahoma has a teacher shortage. That much is fact.

The reasons for it are varied. One, of course is money; Oklahoma has the 47th highest teacher pay in the country. On the other hand, Texas has a teacher shortage. Missouri has a teacher shortage. The whole country has a teacher shortage!

Could there be other reasons?

Yesterday, the SDE convened the Oklahoma Education Workforce Shortage Taskforce to discuss these issues. Here is the press release:

Oklahoma Education Workforce Shortage Task Force

OKLAHOMA CITY (Aug. 26, 2013) – Several dozen education leaders convened today for the first meeting of State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s Oklahoma Education Workforce Shortage Task Force.

Classroom teachers, school administrators, legislators and civic leaders from rural, suburban and urban areas from all across the state met to discuss workforce shortage concerns and determine first action steps in addressing the problem of recruiting and retaining the best teachers in the present economy.

“The most important factor in a child’s education is having a highly effective teacher in the classroom,” said State Superintendent Janet Barresi, “and yet we are facing a critical shortage of classroom teachers in our state. I convened this task force to study the issues and to come up with solutions so that we can improve the outcomes of students.”

The task force meeting came after a weekend call by Barresi for a pay raise of $2,000 for state teachers. She said the salary increase could be paid from school carryover accounts and by repurposing district discretionary funds.

Task force members broke into groups to discuss current workforce shortage issues across the state, to find common themes and hypothesize about the root cause of the concerns. Each group was then asked to share their findings.

Teacher salaries, strong competition with the private sector and border state competition for higher-paying jobs were mentioned as the biggest factors districts face in recruiting and retaining excellent teachers. Lesser factors were divorce rates forcing single parent teachers to find better-paying jobs and isolation that sometimes exists in rural areas where the teacher shortage is more acutely felt.

Several of the teachers on the task force mentioned items such as too stringent certification requirements for those coming to the state with out-of-state certificates or for those seeking specialty certification such as for world languages.

State Department of Education Chief of Staff Joel Robison presented the Oklahoma teacher salary schedule in contrast to surrounding states and the nation. His report showed that the average teacher salary in the state, $44,343, ranks 47th in the nation, while starting teacher salaries, $31,600, rank 41st. Teacher salaries have not been raised for the past five years.

A comparison of surrounding states shows:

  • Texas pays starting teachers $34,234 and an average salary of $48,638.
  • Arkansas pays starting teachers $32,478 and an average salary of $46,500.
  • Kansas pays starting teachers $32,964 and an average salary of $46,598.
  • New Mexico pays starting teachers $32,092 and an average salary of $46,888.

Dr. Kerri White, Assistant State Superintendent of Educator Effectiveness, presented the group with information from “The Irreplaceables,” a report from The New Teacher Project.

White said the report is based on the premise that there are some excellent educators who are almost impossible to replace. The research delves into how school leaders can recognize and retain them.

White said administrative support of teachers is important, as is the chance for teachers to advance into leadership roles among their peers.

“When great teachers feel they are not making an impact, they don’t stay,” White said.

The New Teacher Project is a group founded by controversial public school reformer Michelle Rhee. Diane Ravitch ripped this report apart last August:

Here is the tip-off to their self-interest: “In fact, in these districts, 40 percent of teachers with more than seven years of experience are less effective at advancing academic progress than the average first-year teacher.” Imagine that! The average first-year teachers (that is, the ones you can get if you work with TNTP) are far more effective that 40 percent of teachers with more than seven years experience! You can see where this is leading: experience is irrelevant because those great first-year teachers are better than 40 percent of the veterans. Why not ditch tenure and seniority and get rid of 40 percent of anyone who has taught for more than seven years? Unfortunately, the report laments, those ineffective experienced teachers were making more money than the average first-year teacher, which struck TNTP as blatantly unfair!

Ask yourself this question: Is teaching a respected career in this country?

I would argue that it used to be. I would also argue that it’s a little too little (and a little too late) for Barresi to pretend to be on the side of educators. We haven’t forgotten about when she blamed liberal teachers for the outrage over the Common Core . Or when she said schools were responsible for technology failures. Or when she accidentally hit the Reply to All button and insulted several districts.

Teachers (and administrators) catch the blame for not just every school outcome, but the inputs as well. The perpetuated myth that public education is in ruins deters people from entering the profession as much as the salary limitations. Replacing veterans with first-year teachers won’t fix that. Neither will pandering in an election cycle.

More on the Suggested Pay Raise and Candidate Forum

August 26, 2013 1 comment

Over the weekend, I told myself that I would take the time to listen to each candidate’s speech at the OSSBA/CCOSA candidate forum, transcribe their remarks, and provide them for you, my loyal readers. Realizing that this would take an inordinate amount of time – and that time is a resource that I don’t have in abundance – I looked for places that I could make cuts in my life, just to provide that little extra. Maybe I don’t need to spend so much time sleeping, working, eating, or tending to family.

I even thought maybe there would be some wisdom for me in old, discredited research about time management – some obscure report championed by a former leader who failed in a brief but controversial tenure as a …

Ok, this allegory is really not worth the effort I’m putting into it. Clearly I’m talking about Barresi’s reckless campaign ploy, suggesting that schools use a one-time resource to provide pay raises to teachers that would not be sustainable after this school year. The second part is a reference to Barresi’s commission that met today to discuss Oklahoma’s teacher shortage. One part of the meeting focused on the Michelle Rhee-founded group, The New Teacher Project, and their report, the Irreplaceables. I won’t get too much into the report, but you can read more from Diane Ravitch, who blistered their findings over a year ago.

I really did sit down for a while yesterday and start transcribing each of the speeches given on Saturday. I made it about halfway through the first one and realized that I was looking at about 14 hours of work. I took an hour to listen to all of them, and you should too. One of these seven people will likely be the State Superintendent of Public Instruction from January 2015 to January 2019. They all deserve to be heard – even the one who began her speech by saying how much she didn’t want to be there.

By the way, here are responses I saw in my Facebook news feed from two of the candidates who spoke Saturday:

Freda Deskin

Not a metaphor, but an analogy:

Having non-educators, micro-managing our educational system is like hiring a well-trained bus driver to take us safely to our destination of choice. However, this bus is loaded with back-seat drivers with megaphones and they are on the Los Angeles Freeway.

These back-seat drivers don’t have a driver’s license and have never driven a bus, but they have sat in a school bus a time or two.

The passengers in the bus yell at the driver on their bull-horns to go faster, refuse to let the driver stop for gas or a rest-stop and keep changing the destination. “Go this way, watch out, turn left, no, turn right, stop!, go!”

Crash!?? Now, let’s all blame the bus driver for not know how to drive us safely to our destination.

See any similarities???

 

Donna Anderson

After telling a room full of board members and administrators, who have been weathering cuts since 2008, we need to dig deep into carry overs and cut non instructional costs by 2% to fund teacher raises she ran out the back door of the Cox Center. If I knew that little about school finance, I would run, too.

I keep enough carry over to pay the bills from July to January. Bills run about 200,000 to 225,000 and we bring in about 100,000 a month. As you can see, without a carry over we don’t pay the bills.

It’s an election year so she is trying to make schools look like the bad guy. Sort of like she blamed schools for the testing problems.

Time to reopen her dental office and put an educator back in charge of education. Positive change in 2014 where children come first!

And as always, this is not an endorsement.

She Took Her Ball and Went Home

August 24, 2013 10 comments

Today at the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA) conference, State Superintendent Janet Barresi participated – along with her challengers – in a candidate forum. By participated, of course, I mean that she spoke and then left. She didn’t stick around, as the other candidates did.

Classy.

Maybe she was mad at seeing one of her former board members there. Maybe she was mad that another candidate alluded to the fact that Barresi’s campaign manager Jennifer Carter is married to Oklahoman editorial writer Ray Carter. In any case, storming out with other candidates waiting to speak was a move without dignity.

She called in her speech for districts to rearrange their budgets and give each teacher a $2,000 pay raise. This shows that she is either really savvy or really ignorant. In any case, she’s completely disingenuous.

On one hand, she is using flawed math to try to tell teachers that their employers are holding out on them. Yes, school districts aim to carry over funds from the end of one fiscal year to the next. This helps them meet costs that they face since they don’t get state aid checks right away. She also neglects to mention that by eating at the carry over, the raises would have to be a one-time thing. Districts wouldn’t have those funds available next year. She also employs straw man rhetoric, blaming districts for having too many administrators. She neglects to mention the increased requirements for administrators due to TLE and other reforms.

On the other hand, someone reading the headline and nothing else (and having spent the last three years not paying attention at all) might think Barresi supports teachers. This is her goal: to say that she’s been on the side of teachers all along.

If you really want to know what Barresi thinks of educators, read my True Colors post from 13 months ago. She doesn’t think teachers deserve more. She thinks they need to quit complaining.

No amount of rebranding and faulty logic can change that.

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You can view the candidate forum here. Barresi’s seven minute speech begins at about the 29 minute mark.

Test Scores Delayed Another Week

August 22, 2013 4 comments

Of course.

Last week, I wrote about this email from the SDE:

Schedule for Release of Test Scores

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 08/14/2013 03:55 PM CDT

Superintendents and District Testing Coordinators

Please see the calendar below for a schedule for the release of test scores.

Test Scores Released August 23
Districts have 30-day window to verify tests scores August 29 to September 30
Districts have a 10-day window to review A-F Report Cards October 10 to 23
SDE staff presents A-F Report Cards to SBE for approval October 24 BOE meeting

 

As of last night, the timeframe has changed:

Testing Score Posting Schedule and OK Acuity Dual Announcement Letter

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 08/21/2013 04:30 PM CDT

Superintendents and District Testing Coordinators

Please see the dates below for an updated schedule for the release of test scores.

Test Scores Released to the CTB Website August 28
Scores Posted for Correction August 30
Districts have 30-day window to verify tests scores August 30 to September 30
Districts have a 10-day window to review A-F Report Cards October 10 to 23
SDE staff presents A-F Report Cards October 24 BOE meeting

Why does this matter? Reformers like to act as if schools have ignored test results in the past. This is far from true. Throughout most of Oklahoma, school has already started. Schools have made initial student placement decisions and begun remediation programs based upon preliminary data. As Tuesday’s press release about the testing disruption study made clear, though, the preliminary data is not something we can trust. In some cases, there were major discrepancies between the originally reported raw score and the one issued on the two week report by CTB. In cases in which this has happened, the higher of the two scores will be counted.

Not the more accurate score, the higher score.

And we’re just supposed to accept this. This is the way it’s going to be. If the testing company screws up, so be it. We’ll keep them around, slap them on the wrist, and pretend we punished them. If the scores are wrong, you don’t need to worry. We’ll just count the higher score. If everything runs late, that’s ok…as long as it’s not the school or district missing a deadline. If that happens, well, you don’t want to see what we’ll do if that happens.

We’ll have none of that.

The phrase double standard doesn’t even begin to describe this ongoing debacle.

How Many Did Your District Have?

August 21, 2013 2 comments

A reader asked me over the weekend if I had heard of other districts having to account for testing materials. The funny thing is that I hadn’t four days ago, but for the last couple of days – until the Independent Report came out – I couldn’t stop hearing about it. Some districts were being told they had 40, 50, 100 or even 200 items missing. Then they were being told that all was well, even though no action had been taken.

Here’s the short of it: districts are being asked to account for unreturned testing materials, mostly for OMAAP tests (modified assessments for special needs students). Somehow, though, the districts had received scores for the so-called missing items.

These are the same people who caused the testing glitch. These are the same people who scored all our state assessments. These are the same people releasing final testing data to districts Friday.

How’s that make you feel?

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