Teachers: Passing SQ 779 Would Improve Ability To Teach, Live

Thursday, October 20th 2016, 11:24 pm
By: News On 6

With the vote on the Oklahoma one-percent sales tax looming, some area teachers are hoping Oklahomans will support them by voting to put more money into public education.

Area teachers say the upcoming vote on state question 779 could not be more important to their ability to teach, and for some, their ability to live and work in our state.

One Tulsa Public Schools teacher gave us a look at her monthly take-home pay after taxes and insurance is taken out. It was just under $1,100.

“I think people would be flabbergasted, and shocked, and many people don’t believe it,” said vice president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, Shawna Mott-Wright.  “I knew what I was getting into as a teacher, but I did not know what I was getting into financially speaking.”

She said there are hundreds of teachers like Shawna Kerr, who posted a message on Facebook letting people know about her reality – showing her monthly take-home pay of $1,099.19. That post has been shared over 1,000 times online.

“That’s what I have left going into my Arvest account,” she said.

Life’s been on the up the upswing for Kerr; she’s building a family and making investments.

“It’s very exciting, we’ve been together for five years but we just got married in June,” she said.  “We bought our house last year.”

But at the same time, she’s saddled with expenses and has little money to pay for them.

Kerr said, “There is nothing they can do about that, and it is absolutely not livable.”

Even though Kerr has a four-year degree and four years as professional, there’s also no money in her savings account and less than $1,100 a month is what she has to show for it.

“I don’t feel respected,” she said.

That’s why she and Mott-Wright are pushing for 779 to pass, saying the extra money isn’t just needed to improve teacher’s lives at home.

“My kid’s teacher’s working conditions are my kid’s learning conditions,” Mott-Wright said.

But not all think it’s a perfect fix.

Gene Perry, with a non-profit, non-partisan Oklahoma research group said, “Increasing the sales tax doesn’t seem like it would be the best option…The sales tax takes the most percentage of income away from people who make the least.”

Still, others think it’s the only option left to fund public education and retain teachers in Oklahoma.

Mott-Wright said, “It is the only realistic plan on the table.”

If state question 779 passes, people living in the city of Tulsa will be paying just under 10 cents for every dollar they spend here.

TPS superintendent, Dr. Deborah Gist, said in a statement, "Our teachers work tirelessly to prepare our young people for success. Oklahoma continues to trail the regional average for education funding by $1.4 billion. The impact of inadequate education funding creates a situation in which we cannot pay our teachers competitive salaries. As a state, we have an opportunity to show that we value education and the professionals who work with our children each and every day. I urge my fellow Oklahomans to get out and vote on November 8th."