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Plain Words About Teacher Pay in Oklahoma

August 30, 2013

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.
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.


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..

  1. Brooke Spencer
    August 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Well written & very accurate!


  2. Kate
    September 2, 2013 at 8:23 am

    How disturbing yet not unexpected that district superintednents and others must give the State Dentist lessons on school funding (among just about every other area of education). How can the head of the education agency be so uniformed and uneducated? I think it should be mandatory the State Superintendent of Public Instruction hold a superintendent teaching certificate and actually spent time being an educator. (starting a charter school so her two sons would have a place to attend school does not really count as being an educator). Would a dentist be allowed to be superintendent of a school district without proper certification? I don’t think so…..so why is it acceptable for a dentist to be state superintendent?


    • Brooke Spencer
      September 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      I completely agree!


  3. shane
    September 4, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Barresi has been comparing public schools to charter schools from day one and she is comparing apples to oranges. Her own words when she was on the school board of a charter school. If a child had academic or disipline issues, the child along with the parents were brought in and threatened with expulsion if the child didnt straighten up. That is a pretty good piece of leverage public schools just do not have. The burden of improvement in public schools is placed on the shoulders of the teachers. There is no leverage when it comes to incompetent parents, outside of fining them for truency. Some have said, behavioural issues may only make up 5% of the student body, but i will tell ypu teachers spend 95% of their time with those 5% which in turn holds all the other students back. There is giant elephant in the room and it seems like the our elected officials are blind or just ignoring this critical fact


  4. Rob Reck
    September 5, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with a wider audience. And thanks for the affirming comments.


    • September 5, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      It’s just nice to walk out into a world and know I’m not alone in feeling this way!


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