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Teachers Leaving Oklahoma For Better Pay

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OKLAHOMA CITY -

Teachers have made it clear, they don't want to leave Oklahoma, but some feel forced to go.

"Honestly, money plays a huge factor," said Amanda Satlow, an Oklahoma teacher. "Right now, I have to have two part time jobs just to do enough for my daily life."

Satlow is in her third year of teaching in Oklahoma City. We ran into her at a job fair in Oklahoma hosted by the Dallas Independent School District. 

"I have kids that need money and put gas in your car, emergencies happen," Satlow. "Teaching here, there's no way to reserve money for emergencies."
   
In Oklahoma, the state minimum salary for a teacher just starting out is $31,600. In Oklahoma City, it's $34,000, but in Dallas, it's much higher.

"We start out at $51,000 a year which is about the average in Texas," said Eric Carrizales, recruitment and selection coordinator for Dallas ISD. "But you have the ability to earn more money more quickly in Dallas through teacher excellence initiative. You can make up to $60,000 within three to four years."

"Being in an environment where your classroom supplies aren't coming out of your own pocket," Satlow said. "Where you have to dip into your savings to fund your classroom, cops don't have to buy their guns and their bullets, fireman don't have to buy their suit. Any other profession gets much more support than the teaching does."

So how does Oklahoma compete? Over in Arkansas, a teacher can start making $37,000 in Fort Smith and $44,700 in Bentonville. Up in Wichita, Kansas, starting pay is $40,700. A $10,000 raise would make Oklahoma very competitive.

"There's a certain allegiance to the State of Oklahoma and I think if teachers saw that the legislature and community cared enough to give them that type of raise, the results would be positive," said Karl Springer, former OKCPS Superintendent.

Springer is now retired and living in Dallas where he now volunteers.

"What's happened is over the last 15 years, revenue for education has been going down," Springer said. "So the attitude has been it'll be ok, we'll reduce taxes, have prosperity and have more revenue' and that has not been the case."

He says until that happens, out-of-state school districts will find success in holding career fairs in Oklahoma and teachers like Satlow will be looking to leave. 

"Study after study keeps telling us that teacher pay is the reason we're having such a hard time retaining teachers," Satlow said.

While a lot of Oklahoma teachers are moving to Texas for a bigger paycheck, the higher cost of living will still take a chunk of that extra money. For example, housing costs about 41 percent more in Houston, than in Oklahoma City. Utilities will cost you about 20 percent more in Dallas, when compared to Tulsa.

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