Home > Uncategorized > Shortage of Teachers, Shortage of Pay

Shortage of Teachers, Shortage of Pay

January 4, 2015

It all goes hand-in-hand.

Yesterday on social media, a Washington Post article on state-by-state teacher pay made the rounds again, so I went ahead and retweeted it. The image illustrating differences among the states is particularly interesting.

(from the Washington Post)

(from the Washington Post)

The article is 13 months old. The data are from the 2012-13 school year. Visualized another way, we clearly see Oklahoma in its usual place – 2 from the bottom (blazing by  South Dakota and Mississippi).

(from Washington Post)

(from Washington Post)

We know that our state minimum salary schedule hasn’t changed since 2007, so no matter how old the data, it serves to remind us what our state thinks of our profession. Fortunately, the Post also provided links to the source data from NCES. If you follow the link, you can see historical data for all 50 states, and the District of Columbia.

Below, I have created a table showing Oklahoma’s historical average salary for each of the years in the NCES dataset. The figures included represent actual dollars.

Year Oklahoma Nation
1969-1970 $6,882 $8,626
1979-1980 $13,107 $15,970
1989-1990 $23,070 $31,367
1999-2000 $31,298 $41,807
2009-2010 $47,691 $55,202
2011-2012 $44,391 $55,418
2012-2013 $44,128 $55,383

As you can see, 45 years ago, Oklahoma teachers made 79.8% what teachers around the nation made. Two years ago, our state’s teachers made 79.7% what teachers around the country made. Basically, we have a long-standing tradition of paying about 4/5 of what teachers make nationally. The NCES dataset also looked at the salaries with each value set to 2012-13 dollars based on the Consumer Price Index.

Year Oklahoma Nation
1969-1970 $42,149 $52,830
1979-1980 $39,060 $47,592
1989-1990 $42,034 $57,152
1999-2000 $42,772 $57,133
2009-2010 $50,907 $58,925
2011-2012 $45,130 $56,340
2012-2013 $44,128 $56,383

Relative to the overall economy, I guess Oklahoma’s teachers are about in the same place they were 45 years ago. In 2009-10, however, teachers were having a pretty good year. This is what we need to aim for.

I should also mention that ever since I posted the link to the article, I have been receiving comments along the lines of these averages not matching reality. I will try to explain what I believe to be the methodology. According to published data (from the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability)  for the 2012-13 school year, the average teacher in Oklahoma had 12.5 years experience. A quarter of the teachers in the state had a master’s degree.

The state salary schedule for that school year (for about 7 years, really) would give a teacher with 12 years experience and a bachelors degree $36,800 in salary. The flex benefit allowance for that school year was $5,495. Throw in the districts paying over the state minimum and any portion of teacher retirement included as fringe, and I can believe that state average. Still calling it teacher salary rather than total compensation is probably a little misleading.

Another question that has come up on twitter regards the extent to which cost-of-living plays into teacher salaries. I would say that it does to an extent. We know qualitatively that Oklahoma is a cheap place to live. I always hear transplants from other states comment on the relatively inexpensive cost-of-living here. I thought I’d apply a quantitative perspective as well. Using Oklahoma City as a reference point (since it’s our state capital), I will use an online calculator to compare how far the dollar goes in reference to every song named in Mark Chestnutt’s 1993 country hit, Blame it on Texas (because Johnny Cash’s I’ve Been Everywhere would have taken too much time).

$45,000 in Oklahoma City would be worth …
$48,913 in Beaumont, TX
$44,648 in Amarillo, TX
$46,906 in Santa Fe, NM (using Rio Rancho as a proxy)
$80,819 in San Francisco, CA
$44,799 in Tulsa, OK

If you aren’t transplanting to a major coastal city, or to a remote location (such as Alaska or Hawaii), the cost-of-living isn’t going to be that big of a factor – not a 20% difference, in any decade.

That leads me to another inevitable line of argument: Teachers fared no better financially when Democrats controlled state government. That’s absolutely right. This state has never valued the teaching profession. Until the last few years, though, Oklahoma had never worked this hard to make teaching so unattractive and drive good teachers into other career or other states.

On a related note, Clinton Superintendent Kevin Hime posted on his blog today that the biggest issue facing us today is the teacher shortage.

I have been pushing for #oklaed to have a one issue legislative session.  I believe the only issue we should be discussing until fixed is #teachershortage.  Recently looking at SDE documents I noticed #oklaed employed almost 60k teachers in 2008 and a little more than 52k in 2014.  Mathematically it looks like we should have almost 8K Teachers looking for a job but we started 2015 over 1000 teachers short.  We are setting records for alt certs and emergency certifications every year.

He also touches on other issues that impact teachers, some of which we indicated were most important to us on Superintendent-elect Joy Hofmeister’s recent survey: Testing, Teacher Evaluations, Retirement, School Funding, Reform Overload. These issues – along with compensation – have all contributed to the shortage. Nonetheless, he’s right. The fact that we no longer have a surplus of applicants for our vacancies hurts students. Every other issue in the state contributes to this problem.

To me, it still comes back to money more than anything else. Pay people something attractive to enter the profession. Make earning an advanced degree worth their while (one-quarter of teachers having masters degrees is way too low). Appreciate the careers of those who choose to stay in the classroom more than a decade or two. In other words, 49th still isn’t alright. Nor is 80 percent.

  1. January 4, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    Since they are comparing the “average” teaching salary, I feel like we need more information. How many years’ experience does the average teacher have in each state? That would certainly affect the results. I wonder if there are more experienced teachers in some of these states?


    • January 4, 2015 at 9:28 pm

      I agree completely. Maybe teachers stay in the classroom longer in other states. Maybe the working conditions are more conducive to it.


  2. January 4, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    Or would fewer years experience mean that more new teachers want to work there?


    • January 5, 2015 at 6:59 am

      Perhaps. I think it takes more than a couple of thousand dollars to uproot your family. Then again, maybe people are leaving the state before they have family. In any case, this dataset doesn’t capture all the variables.


  3. Teacher's Husband
    January 5, 2015 at 8:08 am

    “Still calling it teacher salary rather than total compensation is probably a little misleading.”

    And that’s a reality too. Thanks for saying what most do not..


  4. Mindy
    January 5, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I teach with a fantastic lady (who happens to be my mother) who has been at the top of the “steps” for quite a few years. She hasn’t had a pay raise since Brad Henry gave the across the board pay raises. When looking at the map, I called her to see what her yearly salary is. If she is at the top of the steps, how is the “average” teacher pay (the “average” teacher is not at the top of the steps) $44+K, when her salary is less than that?


  5. Skeptical Teacher
    January 5, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    The state is obligated to provide a free education to its young people. How well it does that–not how much it pays teachers–should be the measurement of success. So, the question we need to be asking ourselves is now how our pay stacks up, but how our students compare to the students in the rest of the country. Seems like last year, our ACT-score average was either right at, or maybe 0.1 below, the national average. Considering that a higher-than-average percentage of Oklahoma students take the ACT, that’s not bad.

    As our traditional ways of doing things are considered such a failure, consider this alternative. No public schools. The state pays for every student to go to the private school of his or her parents’ choice. That would shake up our fossilized way of doing things, wouldn’t it?


    • Teacher's Husband
      January 6, 2015 at 8:06 am

      I have had kids in private school. I can tell you that some of my wife’s students would never be allowed to remain in the private school if they got in at all. At least, not the schools with which I am familiar.


      • Mindy
        January 6, 2015 at 8:28 am

        Teacher’s Husband you are correct. I teach in a small public school. The discipline issues with several students would keep them out of any private school I am familiar with. Another problem is, we are in a rural area. Our town has no private schools. There are a small handful within the county, but with the low SES of our area, driving children to other towns for school is not a possibility for too many of our families.


  6. Disappointed Parent
    January 6, 2015 at 11:41 am

    My 10th-grade daughter came home yesterday and told us that her history teacher had quit mid-year and has been replaced with an ex-substitute teacher drawn out of retirement. The new teacher told the class that she took the job because she wanted some extra money to remodel her kitchen. If this is the “talent” barrel we’re scraping, we won’t have a public education system in 10 years.


  7. Fran Evans
    March 20, 2015 at 11:35 am

    What this article does not address is Oklahoma does not pay for out of state experience. When I returned “home” a few years ago, only five of the many years I had worked were counted. It was insulting and demeaning that my previous experence, while of value to the classroom, was not valued enough to receive renumeration.


    • March 20, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      You’re absolutely right. I can’t imagine coming to Oklahoma and losing credit for all that experience and losing all that pay. Do other states do this when teachers transplant?


      • Jan
        March 20, 2015 at 2:47 pm

        They also don’t pay for years in private schools OR universities. I’m lower than I should be on the scale for both those reasons.


  8. Sandy Cravens
    March 20, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    This is sad, but no big surprise.


  9. Denise
    March 20, 2015 at 10:50 pm

    The question I always have when discussing teacher’s salaries is the number of days per year they work if the school year is only 180 days out of 365 days per year. How does this factor into compensation?


    • robinrodriquez
      March 21, 2015 at 9:33 am

      The school year may only be 180 days but teachers work all year (summer included) on preparation for the coming year, attending classes, seminars and workshops to stay on top of the ever changing curriculum. I’ve been teaching for 18 years and I can honestly say I work just as hard during the summer break as I do during the school year. I love my profession but I don’t think I would work as hard during the summer at preparing and improving if I were not getting paid to do so. Just my thoughts.


  10. Levata
    March 21, 2015 at 12:03 am

    In the cost factors, there are also things like, Texas teachers do not pay state taxes. Coming from California to Oklahoma, the cost of living is not that much different, since in Oklahoma, we are taxed to death as well. Housing may be a bit lower, depending on where you live, but by the time you pay double the insurance (due to hazardous weather area), property taxes that rise every year in Oklahoma (they are frozen in California from Jarvis tax bill passed years ago – unless you make improvements or sell, your property taxes stay the same), and taxes on food, we have felt there is not THAT much of a difference in cost of living. All factors need to be in for it to be accurate.


  11. Bec
    March 21, 2015 at 8:10 am

    Arkansas allowed me to transfer my years of experience but did not allow me to transfer my
    sick days. I am enjoying teaching there, mostly because I feel that I am respected as a professional. Every time I read an Arkansas newspaper, I am not dodging the rocks thrown at teachers.


  12. Amber
    March 21, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    I would like to know what is included in these average numbers. I worked on a major city in Texas for 8 years before moving to Tulsa almost 3 years ago. Oklahoma only transfers 5 years and o took almost a 15,000 per year pay cut. Based on the scale, I would have to work here almost 30 years to make what I did in Texas. 44,000 can’t possibly be just the average teacher salary plus benefits. It’s too high. Other things are added in. Probably stipends and coaching. Sports are huge here.


  13. Marcella Lee
    March 21, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    44,799 in Oklahoma for who??? That is not my base pay and I have a masters degree and 18 years of experience. The base pay for 18 years with a master degree in Oklahoma for 2014-2015 is $40975. and that includes fringe benefits like retirement. The highest amount for 25 years and a masters is $43950. So where is this average coming from?


  14. Julie
    May 8, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    I am afraid you are incorrect in your information regarding base salary. The Oklahoma State Department of Education states, “Beginning with the 2014-2015 school year, teachers in the public schools of Oklahoma shall receive in salary and/or fringe benefits
    not less than the amount specified in the following schedule.” The $36,800 you refer to as the minimum base salary for 12 years experience includes the fringe benefit number. School districts are not required to pay a base salary of $36,800 PLUS fringe benefits. They are required to pay a base salary plus fringe benefits that TOTAL $36,800. The pay difference between a bachelor’s and a master’s in the district that my children attend….$328. Unfortunately, this information has circulated through the communities and businesses of Oklahoma, yet again misleading the public as to the real salaries of educators.

    In reference to an earlier comment regarding the number of days educators “work”. There is a distinct difference between the number of days educators “work” and the number of days in which they are compensated for working. In any other profession, when you work through the summer, you are compensated for working through the summer. In education, teachers work in their classrooms throughout the summers and are not compensated for it. As a business owner, if I allowed my employees to work for many weeks without paying them for their time, I would be answering to the department of labor. Educators not only donate their time, they also donate their hard earned money to buy supplies for their classrooms. The decline of funding for public education has worsened the need for this because districts cannot afford to reimburse teachers and teachers refuse to allow their students to go without.


  1. March 29, 2015 at 6:38 pm
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