Tulsa Public School teachers have some concerns, too. They'll report to work in about another month and hope the start of classes brings them a raise just as their boss, Superintendent John Thompson, just received.
When Tulsa Public School teachers reenter the classroom next month, their union says they must be paid better. Starting pay for Tulsa teachers is now $22,500 a year. The Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association says that's unacceptable. The union is negotiating with the district to pull salaries up for the coming school year. The talks come in the shadow of the Tulsa district giving Superintendent John Thompson a $5,000 pay raise last February and then a $6,000 raise this week. The pay raises have brought Thompson's salary level up to $131,000 a year.
"The message of that raise to me is that there is money within the district for employees. Let's get that money on the board, on the table and decide how it's going to be given to the teachers and let's move on. Then everybody's happy and we're ready to start school in August," said Beth Gooch, TCTA.
At this stage, neither side will say how much the teachers' union is asking for. "At this point, I couldn't tell you that. However, we are seeking our step increase for each teacher. Plus we will be seeking a raise for each teacher. To me, it's a matter of fairness," said Gooch. Teacher Lonnie Wilson says Thompson's raise is hard to accept in light of low pay and increases from the district in recent years. "Unless we can create a salary schedule that will attract the best teachers to our district and keep thousands of well-qualified teachers in their classrooms, that's as least as important as keeping a superintendent," she said.
School board member Doug Dodd agrees. He was one of two who voted against the Thompson raise. "He is very well compensated. It's not a question of him being overpaid. It's a question of every other educator in the district being grossly underpaid," said Dodd.
Teachers say morale is already low following recent legislative action on education. They're eager for some good news and hope it comes at the bargaining table soon. Teachers and the district are winding up negotiations on non-monetary issues this week and are expected to move on to salary talks within the next two weeks.