Weighing In On Teacher Pay Raises

Thursday, January 24th 2008, 3:51 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry is asking lawmakers to approve $1,200 raises which would bring teachers' salaries closer to the regional average. Right now, the average Oklahoma teacher makes just under $39,000 a year. Teachers in neighboring states make more than $41,000 on average. The News On 6's Ashli Sims reports the governor's plan will cost more than $68 million. Opponents say the raises are too expensive and they would rather see raises based on performance.

Oklahoma scored a C-minus in teacher pay on a recent national report by Education Week magazine. Some lawmakers say teachers who are under-performing shouldn't be rewarded. But, some educators argue no teacher should have to work overtime to make ends meet.

After 10 years of teaching, K Holland says sometimes she can't help but think of making a change.

"I'm grateful for my job. It's not that. It's just I can go to Arkansas and make a lot more money. And, the thought has crossed my mind," said K Holland who teaches 7th grade.

By day, Holland teaches 7th grade at Clinton Middle School. At night, she pulls a second shift at Tulsa Community College. She says about a third of teachers have children who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"It's unfortunate, but if you're single especially, we're living on the edge," said teacher K Holland.

Governor Brad Henry has been working to pay Oklahoma teachers on par with their counterparts in neighboring states. And, some parents agree with the plan.

"Our kids are here, I mean, how many hours a day. It's their education we're talking about," said parent Carol Folger.

"Is Oklahoma willing to invest in its children? That's the future. And, how you raise children, including most certainly at school, defines what the state will be in the future. Is that important, or not?" asked parent Lise Glaser.

State lawmakers just passed a $3,000 pay hike for teachers in 2006. Now, some are demanding results. They want to tie pay raises to performance.

Holland says pay-for-performance isn't new, pointing to several Union schools who recently received bonuses for high scores on state tests. And, she says what's missing is the dollars and cents for all of the extras: time spent outside of class and the little things they do to students succeed.

"I have been a seamstress for children. I've cooked for them. I've provided clothes. I bought a mattress for a student who didn't have a bed to sleep on. That's why I have another job, so I can support my kid habit," said teacher K Holland.

While Education Week's Quality Counts report gave Oklahoma a C-minus for teacher pay. They gave Oklahoma students a D for achievement.