Nothing [New] to See Here…

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus lately. A combination of being busy at home, busier at work, while nursing chronic bronchitis has left me with little energy for reading the blogs I normally follow, let along contributing to my own.

But something that landed in my twitter feed tonight, (thanks @meganloyd) has prompted me to dust off the keyboard.

For months, teachers, administrators, and education advocates have been lamenting the shortage of teachers in our state. Even with a record number of emergency certifications, we began the school year with more than a thousand classrooms teacher-less. Considering the fact that class size mandates have been suspended, the shortage is probably more severe than we think. A colleague of mine began the year with 35 kindergarteners in her classroom.   35!!! I’d say we’re short a teacher there for sure, wouldn’t you?

How do we attract more teachers to Oklahoma, and keep the ones we have? Apparently, the solution has been right in front of our noses all along:

Pay them more.

Last week, I worked 12-16 hour days 4 out of 5 days in a row. So perhaps it’s my own exhaustion to blame for my reaction to this news:

Well…duh.  

Are there really people who don’t know this? Is there anybody out there who, upon finding out that Texas pays starting teachers nearly 20K more than Oklahoma, is surprised to hear our education graduates are crossing the border? Are we really surprised we can’t find anybody who wants to pay tens of thousands for a college degree and then enter a profession where they qualify for WIC, Soonercare, and childcare subsidies (and sometimes depend upon them to make ends meet)? We’ve been somewhere at or near the bottom in teacher pay for some time. Apparently, we’ve been paying our teachers at about 80% the going rate for decades. Are we seriously going to throw our hands up in the air and say we didn’t see this coming?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, here are some other known facts you might be surprised to learn:

  1. Smoking causes cancer. Inhaling a chemical fire and vomiting ash is apparently bad for you. I know. Who knew, right? Hopefully anybody who has ever read the surgeon general’s warning on a pack of cigarettes. And everybody else on the planet.
  2. Wearing your seatbelt increases your chances of surviving an automobile accident. An object (your body) in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force (a restraining device…like a seatbelt). Actually, some kids might not know this since we can’t find any physics teachers!
  3. A healthy diet and exercise is good for your body. Sorry to squash any dreams of living on funyuns and mountain dew while binge-watching countless television shows on streaming apps.

Are we really going to continue to justify not paying teachers a living wage by saying they’re “in it for the outcome, not the income”? Are there really individuals who believe this isn’t about the bottom line? Sure…it’s also about respect. Start with a healthy raise, and let’s see how many teachers are willing to stick around a while longer to fight high stakes testing, inequitable evaluations, and the voucher wolves. Have we really become a society willing to pay $5 for a cup of coffee, but want the bargain basement deal when it comes to securing the individuals who will spend more than a thousand hours with our children every year?

Here’s a fourth to add to the list above:

You get what you pay for.

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