The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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April 26, 2014

Oklahoma’s teacher pay gap is growing

(Continued)

Facts of teacher pay

Teacher pay in Oklahoma reflects its overall K-12 funding.

In the 2012-2013 school year, Oklahoma spent $7,912 per student on average on public schools, ranking it 49th in the nation and last in the seven-state region, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

That same year, Oklahoma’s average salary for teachers was $44,128, which ranked the state 49th nationally and lowest in the region. The ranking was lower than it was more than 40 years ago, in 1969-1970, when Oklahoma was 46th in teacher pay, according to the center. The state had the second lowest pay in the region at the time, beating only Arkansas.

When adjusted for inflation, teacher salaries in Oklahoma have risen by about $1,979  since 1969-1970, but remain lower than in 2009-2010. Surrounding states, such as Texas and Colorado, have increased teacher pay at a faster rate.

Teaching in Oklahoma does have its perks.

Teachers typically work eight hours a day in school. They have in-school hours that are friendly for teachers who are parents and want to be at home with their children after school. Teachers also get summers off, which they can use to work a second job or for leisure.

Teachers also receive good health benefits and, unless the Legislature changes it, a defined-benefit pension plan.

The number of hours teachers work during the school year, though, goes well beyond their time in the classroom, involving preparation of lessons and grading of papers and exams.

Linda Hampton, president of Oklahoma Education Association, said during the summer, many teachers participate in professional development, work on advanced degrees, tutor students or teach in summer school. They don’t get paid for the former two.

“These things are often a donation of their time,” Hampton said. “That’s because they want to be teachers. They are working more than 10 months in a year.”

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