Shortage of Teachers, Shortage of Pay
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.