In The Know: Teachers struggle with low pay, working conditions

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Teachers struggle with low pay, working conditions: It’s 7 o’clock on a school night and all Jennifer Thornton and Virginia Ayers have had to eat all day is one serving of trail mix plus a handful of peanuts, and a half a block of cheese, respectively. Both are routinely in such dire straits, but they’ve only resorted to seeking out help two or three times from the food pantry at John 3:16 Mission because they’re ashamed. “You always hear about teacher collaboration — we collaborate about how to be poor,” Thornton said, laughing a little as tears streamed down her cheeks, red-hot with embarrassment [Tulsa World].

Superintendents’ pay at center of Oklahoma’s education funding debate: Some lawmakers and others advocate consolidating districts or administrative positions as a way to save money that could be used to increase teacher salaries and make Oklahoma more competitive with surrounding states. But opponents argue that small-district superintendents often are tasked with leading their community’s largest employer and often don’t have the assistant superintendents, program directors or other support systems of larger districts to help implement state and federal mandates [NewsOK].

Broken Arrow’s Reading Recovery program showing results: As Robyn Carey walked a student back to the classroom on Thursday, the student made a proclamation: “I love reading.” Carey, who this year is a Reading Recovery teacher and Title I reading teacher at Arrowhead Elementary in Broken Arrow, was thrilled to hear it. Reading Recovery is a program that provides one-on-one, targeted intervention for first-grade students who are in the bottom 20-25 percent of their class in reading [Tulsa World].

Phone bills, sofas covered under Oklahoma Senate’s office fund: Oklahoma state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, whose office examines public financial operations, said using state money to pay for phones that may also be used for personal or campaign purposes, “brings up a huge red flag” [NewsOK].

Lawmakers to state agencies: “Don’t tell us what Oklahoma needs. Tell us what we can cut”: The governor’s budget folks along with legislative appropriations leaders have been meeting recently with various state agencies to warn them about the upcoming budget problems for the next couple of years. The agencies are being encouraged to draft their budget requests in view of the likelihood of large budget cuts [OK Policy].

When will we demand results from our Legislature?: Oklahoma citizens have many unmet needs. Article after article in the Tulsa World talks about the lack of mental health care for families in need, the large number without adequate health insurance, struggling rural hospitals, overcrowded and unsafe prisons and the challenges of our public education system. Are we going to let these problems remain unmet and ignore the consequences of our chronic lack of investment in the social needs of our state? [Judy Kishner / Tulsa World]

Former lieutenant governor Jari Askins hired to oversee Oklahoma courts: Askins will replace retiring Administrative Director of the Courts Michael Evans, effective Oct. 1. She has served in numerous roles in every branch of government, most recently as a special adviser to Gov. Mary Fallin for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services implementing a court-ordered plan to improve the state’s foster care system. Before that she was executive director of the Pardon and Parole Board, associate provost for external relations at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, lieutenant governor, state representative, deputy general counsel in the governor’s office, and special judge [KOCO].

Nonprofits face more roadblocks to help homeless: Those who work in government housing in Oklahoma City are finding it more challenging to get places for veterans and the chronic homeless. “We’ve had a hard time finding landlords with available units,” said Kim Woods, deputy director of the Homeless Alliance. “We have a lot of people with vouchers, but the rental market has been really tight” [Journal Record].

State regulators order two injection wells closed just before Cushing earthquakes: Regulators decided Thursday night to close two injection disposal wells west of Cushing, hours before two earthquakes shook the midcontinent hub of the nation’s oil pipeline network early Friday. Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said operators of the two wells and three others that will have to reduce inflows could not be notified of the decision until Friday morning, after earthquakes measured at 3.5 and 4.1 magnitude were felt in the area [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“They’re there — you have to see the children you used to have in your class. They look up to you. You’re a model of hope of what a college degree can get you.”

-Emerson Elementary teacher Virginia Ayers, speaking about why she is ashamed to seek out help from a food pantry even though Oklahoma’s low teacher pay frequently leaves her unable to afford enough food (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans with a disability in 2012, 8th highest among all fifty states.

Source: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medical insurance is good for financial health, too: People who have health insurance have less health-related financial stress. That’s a not-so surprising finding from a recent survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There’s good reason to expect the Affordable Care Act to reduce financial strain. Exposure to health care costs fell for those who gained coverage, as it has for those whose coverage became more generous, too [New York Times].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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