Former Oklahoma Teachers Cross State Lines For Better Pay
COFFEYVILLE, Kansas - Oklahomans teaching in neighboring states are watching what happens here.
Some spend a lot of time on the road commuting to make more money.
Lifelong educator Susan Simmons taught in Bartlesville for 29 years until she was eligible to retire. She now teaches Special Ed and Career Exploration in Coffeyville, Kansas.
“There was really no financial incentive for me to stay in Bartlesville, so I started looking around,” Simmons said.
Teachers in Coffeyville, Kansas earn about $10,000 more starting out than Oklahoma teachers.
"Unless I got a second job or I pursued a doctorate, I was not going to be making any more money than I was making," said Simmons.
Simmons said it was difficult to leave Bartlesville but she's happy to make the 40-mile drive to Coffeyville every day.
"I think that the teachers are valued here and I feel very respected here," said Simmons.
Coffeyville Public Schools said that nearly 14% of their teachers have crossed the state line out of Oklahoma to come to Kansas to teach.
"You're not driving across the state line to make a lot more money. You're just driving across to be able to pay your bills," said Simmons.
In another Coffeyville classroom, Clayton White also crosses the state line every day.
“It’s tiresome, you know. You're on the road for 80 miles a day round trip. 45 minutes each way,” White said.
He said when he had the choice between working in Oklahoma and Kansas, he chose Coffeyville because of the many resources for his students.
“We recently incorporated laptops for almost every student so what I lack perhaps within textbooks, I can make up on the internet. The more tools I enable my students with, the better off they will be," White said.
And like Simmons, Mr. White said he wants what's best for Oklahoma students and teachers.
“Lack of textbooks, lack of resources, and just the pay difference was really tremendous and I felt sympathy for these people,” said White.
"I hope that it changes because they deserve better," said Simmons.