Something has been gnawing at me for months, and I can’t keep silent any longer. A few nights ago, a friend posted this graphic on Facebook, which I shared.
I’ve actually known this for about a year. Oklahoma legislators’ base salary is $38,500. Just for comparison, I’ll tell you my base salary is $36,076.62. That’s with 9 years of experience AND a master’s degree. In addition, Oklahoma legislators who live more than 50 miles from Oklahoma City receive a $160/day per diem during session.
Here are a few other comparisons:
Senators must be at least 25 years old and representatives must be at least 21 years old. Both must be residents in the district they represent for at least six months prior to their election. Educators must hold a college degree, preferably in education. They must pass a minimum of three examinations (OGET, OSAT, and OPTE) to be certified. Some disciplines, like high school math and science, require multiple OSAT’s so candidates will be qualified to teach all the courses that fall into that discipline.
Oklahoma legislators begin the legislative session on the first Monday in February, and end on the last Friday in May. This year, that’s 117 days INCLUDING weekends. Without weekends, it’s 83 days. As a teacher, my contract is for 180 days each year.
A teacher with a master’s degree will work 14 years before his/her pay equals that of our legislators. A teacher with a bachelor’s will need to put in 17 years.
I want to make it clear that I do not find fault with any profession being compensated with a competitive and appropriate wage. I do, however, find it a hard pill to swallow that our legislators are content to accept their paycheck that places them 15th in the nation for state legislator compensation, while failing to raise teacher pay above 49th in the nation. I find it an especially hard pill to swallow while listening to justifications for low teacher pay like: 1.) Teachers only work 9 months out of the year 2.) The cost of living in Oklahoma is lower than other states 3.) Teacher pay should be tied to performance (have you checked out our state budget issues? Do legislators want their pay tied to performance?)
[This is where I wrote something particularly snarky about hypocrisy, but I took it out. Draw your own conclusions.]
Our legislators didn’t set their own pay, so I can’t blame them for taking home a reasonable wage for their work. I can and do blame them for failing to find a way to fund teacher salaries that keep us competitive with our neighboring states. Enough excuses. Fund education. Pay teachers…
Or I invite any legislator to justify why you deserve to bring home a higher salary than I do.