Sunday, May 5, 2013

Teaching: The Discount Profession

Educators have had a rough week.  It started on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday with one of the biggest testing debacles in the history of our fair state.  (I’ll spend more time on the students’ perspectives of the testing issue later in the week.)   Then, on Thursday, we find out about the future of #OKlaED school finance.  The first thing that came to my mind was “You’ve got to be kidding me!”.  

Here are my thoughts on why this should matter to teachers:

The 2014 budget is the largest state budget in Oklahoma history.  Click here for the details: 

1.       A total of $267 million more new dollars will be appropriated in 2014 than in 2013.
2.       New money for Public Schools in the 2014 equals $74 million.
3.       Supplemental to cover health insurance as required by law in 2013 equals $16 million.

I’m really fortunate that two of my mentors in this profession are without a doubt two of the most knowledgeable people regarding school finance: Shawn and Kevin Hime.  Therefore, these are the facts as I understand them.  Some might ask how a teacher can be upset with $74 million new dollars for education.  Let me explain why teachers should be ticked off about the budget.  It’s a shell game, a magician’s trick, smoke and mirrors, or any other con game you can think of. 

1.       The 2014 budget for Public Schools is $124 million less than the budget for 2009.
2.       Health insurance will cost around $60 million for Public Schools.
3.       In 2014, there are 34,000 more students enrolled in Oklahoma Public Schools.
4.       The state’s financial commitment to public schools has eroded from 36.1% to 33.8% while student enrollment continues to increase.
(History of state budget and common education share)

In laymen’s terms, Public Schools in the state of Oklahoma have $204 Million less dollars and 34,000 more students.  This is why it should matter to Oklahoma parents.  Their kids are being subjected to a discount education!  If public schools typically get around 36% of the state’s general revenue, then why did public schools only get 28% of the new money?  Oklahoma experienced the nation’s 3rd highest cuts to education and now has the largest economy in state history.  This transcends logic!  Why is it that more students are enrolling, costs are continuing to rise, yet the state’s commitments to public schools are continuing to decline?   Each of the last 2 years the state has DECREASED the money given to schools based on enrollment midway through the year!  It is the only 2 times in history that has happened.  The state gives an allocation for schools to budget in July when teachers are hired and resources are purchased, but then tells schools  they were wrong and take back some of that money. 

I only bring up the state budget because it it insulting to teachers.  This continued erosion of state support for public schools, once again, comes at the expense of the teacher.  Teachers haven’t had a pay raise since before 2008.  For perspective, in 2008 gas was $1.78 a gallon and minimum wage was $5.25 per hour.  In 2013 gas is $3.41 per gallon (at the station on the corner) and minimum wage is $7.25.  So gas has nearly doubled and the cost of nearly everything else has increased drastically.  It doesn't matter if it is movie tickets, the price of a McDonald’s value meal, or the groceries at the store.  Everything has increased except teacher salaries.  To make matters worse, channel 43 news on Saturday night showed why it was important for students to graduate HS.  Their research indicated people with a college degree have an annual salary of $55,432 per year.  Compare that to the SDE’s average teaching salary in 11-12 of $40,496.  Furthermore, I bet not very many people have even thought about how this discounted salary plays toward teacher’s retirement.  Currently there are 51,719 teachers who will retire one day and watch as the cost of living continues to rise while 30 plus years of discounted salaries turn into discounted fixed incomes. 

Why does this matter? Teachers are tired of seeing HS graduates enter the job market and immediately make more money than what teachers are making after 20 years of service.  Parents should be tired of seeing the best of Oklahoma teachers take jobs out of state or out of education because they can’t afford to support their family on a teacher’s salary.  Teaching is a noble profession, not the discount profession.

State Minimum Salary Schedule