The Proof Is in the Paycheck

***I have edited this post to reflect my June paycheck.  The pay stub I posted originally was technically my August pay.  The stub was posted to my online employee file on June 25th, even though the deposit will not occur until August.  My June check is $42.19 less than my August check will be.

I’m going to take a big leap and do something unconventional. Some may consider this a major faux pas, but if it helps shed some light on the issue of teacher pay in this state, then I’m willing to let a few people scold me for not properly following rules of etiquette pertaining to money.

I just completed my 9th year of teaching, all in Oklahoma. I have a master’s degree in my subject area (music). And this was my latest paycheck:

File Jul 17, 11 19 43 PM
I work in a district that pays monthly, so this was my take-home pay for June. All of my checks this year looked similar, give or take a few dollars here and there for covering a class on my  planning period, or attending a few paid district PD days. Some districts allow employees to  choose whether to have their salary divided across the calendar year or the school year. Most  elect to receive roughly the same amount each month for budgeting purposes, and  because…let’s face it…many of us are still working in the summer. I myself spent the entire  month of June producing a musical with my students. During July, I will be cleaning out  multiple storage rooms in my building, and writing curriculum for two new electives I’m  teaching this coming school year. Many teachers I know are participating in professional  development or AP training, attending team meetings, participating in vertical or horizontal  curriculum meetings, or a host of other things that can’t get done while we are teaching August through May. But the difference between the real job and the contract is a post for another  day.

On the left side of my pay stub, you will see my compensation broken down into a few different categories. On the right hand side are all the deductions. State and federal taxes, social security, teacher retirement (which is not ever put in my check, but paid by my employer  directly to TRS), my health insurance premiums (which is over $900 so I can insure two of my  children in addition to myself), and a few small deductions for additional insurance (vision and  life).

My base salary (gross) for my years of experience and level of education is 2,775.12/month*.

This is before taxes.

My flexible benefit allowance, an untaxed amount that I can spend on health insurance, is $526.88. It’s the same amount for all teachers, and the exact cost of the high-option health insurance. Teachers can elect to take a slightly less expensive plan offered through the state  and use the balance towards other benefits like dental, vision, or coverage of spouse or  children. The risk, of course, is the out-of-pocket is much greater in the case of a major medical incident. With the FBA, it’s use-it-or-lose-it. Teachers CANNOT use this balance to shop around
for cheaper individual or universal insurance policies, such as the plans offered through the ACA marketplace. If a teacher elects NOT to enroll in insurance through the state, he/she DOES NOT receive the full FBA added to his/her paycheck. The amount a teacher can receive en lieu of  state insurance is $69.71. So if a teacher is insured through his/her spouse, or wants to pursue  less expensive options on the marketplace, the most he/she can be compensated is about $70.

You also see a line in my compensation called “HSVCMS”. This means “high school vocal music”, and it’s referring to my “extra duty stipend”. This is the amount of money I am paid additionally by the district to run a high school vocal music program. Coaches also receive  stipends, as do activities sponsors like yearbook, STUCO, NHS, class sponsors, and so on.  Sponsors work LOTS of night and/or weekend hours outside of their contracts, and this is a  district’s way of trying to compensate some of them. The amount of the stipend varies greatly  not just from activity to activity but from district to district. Regardless, this is $300 MORE I  receive each month than a teacher without an extra duty assignment.

In addition, my base salary is $1321.53 more each year for holding a master’s degree. You read that right. My extra degree is worth less than my extra duty. But still, that’s a little over $100/month I get that somebody with only a bachelor’s degree doesn’t.

So, if I were teaching English with a bachelor’s degree and entering my 10th year as a teacher, this year I would be bringing home less than $2000 each month.

You can surely understand why so many teachers in this state are confused when they hear our adversaries claim that teachers in Oklahoma make an average of $44,000/year. While that may
be true when you include benefits, and even teacher retirement, it is far from the whole truth.

Just for comparison, I checked out the compensation for Plano ISD, less than 3 hours south of us. I couldn’t determine my compensation based on years of experience, but teachers with a  master’s degree and ZERO years of experience receive a gross base salary of $53,000  ($4,416.66/monthly). The district contribution to health insurance is $259. Yes, it is less than Oklahoma’s flexible benefit allowance. But the insurance premiums are much less expensive in Texas, so I would pay almost the same amount out of pocket to insure myself and my children as I am now in Oklahoma. In Texas, it would cost $356  in addition to the district contribution to insure both myself and my children (I currently pay  more than $400 additionally to insure my children). My extra duty stipend for 11th/12th grade  music would be $4,950 (412.50/monthly).

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers for all you math folks. Since the insurance situation is comparable in both states,
I’ll just use the pre-tax salary amounts:

Base Salary:

OK:  $36,056/yr or $3004.66/mo

TX:  $53,000/yr or $4,416.66/mo

Extra Duty

OK:  $3,659/yr or $304.92/mo

TX:  $4,950/yr or $412.50/mo

TOTAL COMPENSATION
(BEFORE TAXES):

OK:  $39,715/yr or $3,309.58/mo

TX:  $57,950/yr or $4829.16/mo

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

* Because my current district pays employees on a September-August contract, I had to elect a 13-month pay plan this year in order to avoid going without a paycheck last august. If you want to know what my check would look like on a 12 month contract, add about $225 to it. Still not that impressive, eh?

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