In The Know: Low Pay No. 1 Reason Oklahoma Teachers Quit, Survey Says

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.

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Today In The News

Low Pay No. 1 Reason Oklahoma Teachers Quit, Survey Says: The State Department of Education surveyed thousands of former teachers about why they left the profession, and what it would take to get them back. The survey results, released Monday, suggest most quit because of low pay. Survey Details: When asked the open-ended question, “Why did you quit teaching in Oklahoma Public Schools?” 34 percent of respondents cited pay or a better opportunity. However, when given a multiple-choice question, 48 percent of respondents chose pay as the most important factor in their decision to quit teaching [StateImpact Oklahoma]. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced her department’s proposed budget will include $289 million for a statewide $5,000 salary increase [NewsOK]. Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy].

Oklahoma teachers continue wait for pay raise a decade after last increase: Cache Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Corey Holland worries about losing teachers due to low pay. But he’s especially concerned with the idea of potential teachers rejecting the career before they ever get started. “My oldest son loved being around students, went on church mission trips, was a summer sponsor for church camp and volunteer coach; he is the kind of person we need around kids,” Holland said [NewsOK].

Special session call amended: Gov. Mary Fallin adjusted the list of policies she will allow the Legislature to tackle during the second special session, and the new version looks similar to the Step Up Oklahoma plan. Her office issued a news release Friday evening, announcing she had updated the call to include several provisions, including new taxes on oil and gas, renewable energy generation, cigarettes and motor fuels [Journal Record]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Installment loan bills get no interest this year: Industry representatives who have pushed for controversial installment loans are pumping the brakes this year. Consumer finance organizations have sponsored and lobbied for laws that create new small personal loan products similar to payday loans but with longer repayment periods. The most recent attempt, last year’s House Bill 1913, passed through the Legislature but was vetoed. Similar legislation appeared several times, including during the 2013 and 2016 legislative sessions [Journal Record]. New protections for payday loan borrowers are coming (if Congress will stay out of the way) [OK Policy].

Teacher writes letter to lawmakers with pay stubs from the last 9 years: It’s no secret teachers in our state are some of the lowest paid in the country. “I work two jobs after school, and I have a roommate who shares my house expenses,” said Lilli Lyon, a Spanish teacher at Moore West Junior High School. She said she hasn’t received a noticeable raise since she moved to Oklahoma from Indiana 10 years ago [KFOR].

Legislature should act on proposed occupational licensing reforms: The Oklahoma Legislature has a lot to do this year, including establishing a sustainable tax base, providing a long-overdue raise to public school teachers and dealing with a long list of needed reforms to state government. We hope that list doesn’t crowd out another important job: licensing reform [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Occupational licensing is a growing barrier to Oklahomans who seek a decent job [OK Policy].

House hands out nearly $127,000 in raises to staff: The Oklahoma House has given out nearly $127,000 in raises to 14 employees since Jan. 1. The largest pay increase was $20,000, according to information provided by the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services. That was a 30 percent increase, according to OMES. The smallest hike in pay was $2,830, according to the agency [Tulsa World].

Cornett commends Step Up Oklahoma effort but not tax increase for teacher pay raise: Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett praised Oklahoma business and civic leaders for proposing a revenue and reform package but stopped short of endorsing the tax increases meant to fund a teacher pay raise. Step Up Oklahoma, a coalition of some of the state’s top leaders in the private sector, called on Gov. Mary Fallin and state lawmakers to consider an $800 million package of revenue raising items and a $5,000 pay raise for all teachers. The package also details numerous political and budgetary reform measures [NewsOK].

Bill would reroute TSET funds: A new bill would change how Oklahoma spends its tobacco settlement money, but unlike other proposals, it wouldn’t take money out of the endowment trust. Senate Bill 1149 would let voters decide whether the state should divert any new tobacco payments away from the Tobacco Endowment Settlement Trust and use the money to pay for health personnel in schools and mental health services. It would also restructure how officials spend the money that already exists in the fund [Journal Record].

In wake of scandals, sexual harassment training at Oklahoma Capitol gets new emphasis: Recent high-profile allegations of misconduct by legislators have put an increased emphasis on sexual harassment training at the Capitol. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, resigned in February after a House panel recommended that he be expelled in the wake of an investigation into sexual harassment claims against him. Kirby said he was not guilty [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmaker sues private investigator in spying case: An Oklahoma lawmaker who found a tracking device attached to his pickup truck last month is suing a private investigation company and an investigator who works for the company over the device. Discovery of the tracking device has shocked Oklahoma politicians, who are wondering who was spying [AP].

Tulsa police say they won’t meet deadline for audit of rape kits: The Sex Crimes Unit at the Tulsa Police Department says the department likely won’t meet Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s extended deadline to compile an audit of untested rape kits. Sgt. Jillian Phippen told the Tulsa World that the state isn’t offering funding to carry out the audit and that the department doesn’t have the manpower to complete it in the allotted time frame [AP].

Quote of the Day

“As our state continues suffering the effects of an unprecedented teacher shortage, Oklahoma cannot afford to ignore the results of this survey. Pay is no cure-all to staving off this shortage, but without regionally competitive compensation, we are trying to win a home run contest with one arm held behind our back.”

– State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, commenting on a survey that showed that 48 percent of former teachers chose low pay as the most important factor in quitting the profession (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of domestic abuse-related murders in Oklahoma in 2016, 22.6% of all murders in the state that year

Source: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Public Schools Must Address Disparities in Discipline Rates: Last year, students at New York City public schools missed tens of thousands of school days due to suspensions. These students were not sick or skipping. Through the overuse of suspensions and expulsions, U.S. public schools fail to serve large segments of historically disadvantaged students. Policymakers must focus on ensuring that public schools fairly serve all the students entrusted to them [Center for American Progress].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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