Saturday, December 5, 2015

Fund Us. Support Us. Or STF(flip)U

The decidedly rude title for this blog piece was inspired by a dear friend who will go nameless. I’ve changed one word to give it a PG-13 rating, but  I want my frustration to be easily understood, and sometimes strong language makes a point more quickly…so forgive my crudeness. And remember…I changed ‘the’ word.

Every time I talk to a lawmaker…well, probably not every time, but close…I’m told with a smile that said lawmaker has a mom or an aunt or a grandmother who was (operative word) a teacher. Then I’m told how much said lawmaker loves and respects teachers. I sit with a stiff smile, thinking about my family…I’m fourth-generation educator; my son and his wife are fifth. So is their cousin. We are and were teachers.

I’m not feeling the love from these lawmakers who drag out their relatives who USED to be teachers as evidence of their respect for my profession. I watch their actions. I watch their votes. I listen to their speeches on the floor of the House and Senate.

I’ve written about our teacher shortage and teacher pay before, here and here and here

So, we are loved and respected and valued? Then explain these facts:

I’ve asked teachers to talk about their struggles to support their families and continue to work as teachers. The stories are heart-rending. We ask so much of our educators. Demand so much. And we pay them so little.

“I just hit $40,000 with my bachelor's and master's degrees and 16 years of experience. That is less than half the national average for people with the same education and years of experience”
Ironically, the figures will tell us that $44,000 is the average teacher’s salary in Oklahoma. Believe me when I say, a teacher with 16 years experience and a master’s degree is NOT the average.

“My contract before taxes is $29,908 with a bachelor's degree in education. I'm a single mom of two young boys…. None of us went into teaching for the money, but we still need a reasonable pay for the amount of work we actually do.”

And this post that started our conversation:

“My salary after taxes is $27,800. That’s with a college degree and a graduate certification. I could make more at Chipotle. I am paid less than what is considered a liveable income for Oklahoma's already low cost of living. I have student loans. I have bills. I will never own a home. I will always live paycheck to paycheck. I'm glad I don't have to raise a family on this. I deserve better.”

Throughout my entire career I said my salary would cover the mortgage and some of the bills one month, and the mortgage and some other of the bills the next. I could not have supported my family of four on what I earned. I would have been forced to leave teaching, or leave the state. This is the reality for far too many of our educators now…get out of teaching, or leave the state.

So, to review…Lawmakers love and respect us. They proudly tout family members who used to be teachers. They think the world of us…

They just will not pay us a living wage, support our classrooms, fund our schools. They won’t work to strengthen the profession. They won’t work for equitable education for all students in Oklahoma. They still want to play ‘choice’ games by starving the public schools and then giving wealthy parents tax dollars to take to private schools.  They won’t be courageous leaders and commit to raising taxes, cutting loopholes, ending tax credits. They apparently won’t stop plans for a new arch and reflecting pool on Capitol grounds.

To these policy makers, I saw, with all the fatigue of an old woman with a 39-year-career in the classroom, “Fund us. Support us. Or STF (flip) U.” 


  1. Thank you Claudia, for continuing to speak out for teachers. This is my 23rd year as a special education teacher with a Master's degree and I still have unpaid student loans and live paycheck to paycheck. I am old enough to be thinking about retirement but do not know if I will ever be in a position to do so. I feel overworked, underpaid, disrespected, and worn out. Not at all how I hoped to feel after a career spent doing what I love.

    1. It's sad that so much is placed on our shoulders as educators, we are held accountable, we are expected to create higher and higher test scores, while we worry about how to pay our bills. Something's gotta give.