For months, Oklahoma's teacher shortage has been making headlines, nearly1,000 classrooms without teachers at the beginning of this school year and no end in sight. But according to a study put out by the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition and Oklahoma State School Board Association, there's a simple fix: Give teachers a raise.
The study showed an alarming trend over the last decade. Teacher pay has been declining since 2006 and teachers are leaving fast. According to the study, 35 percent of teachers will leave their schools after their first year and 17 percent -- nearly one in five -- will quit teaching all together.
The study compared numbers with those of the Texas Department of Education. Texas has become a harbor for teachers fleeing low and stagnant wages in Oklahoma according to Shawn Hime the Executive Director at OSSBA.
According to the study, Texas boasts lower attrition rates and salaries. Both areas where experts have been saying need reforms in Oklahoma to retain and attract teachers.
“We need bold leadership to look at options moving forward because our teaching shortage crisis is getting worse every year,” Hime said.
The study says teachers should be paid 12 percent more across the board. It also makes changes for pay in low-income and urban schools as well. The study suggests a 50-percent bump in pay to help attract teachers to those schools that often struggle to hire experienced teachers. The cost to the state would be in the hundreds of millions.
“Education is really that foundation that we build our economy on in Oklahoma,” said Executive Director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, Amber England. “There isn't a more important investment than education.”
England’s organization is behind a ballot measure named ‘Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future.” The initiative advocates a $0.01 raise in the state sales tax to fund education, including teacher pay.
The state is facing a budget shortfall that’s been estimated as high as $1 billion and OSSBA acknowledges there isn’t money to fund their proposal, but Hime said when there is another influx of money, a long term education plan should be a priority.
“Every year that goes by that we don't have that plan in place, that we don't give hope to our current teachers and future teachers, then we lose more,” Hime said.