Should I Stay or Should I Go?

With spring break on the horizon, hunting season is upon us.  Specifically I mean job hunting for teachers.  Many districts have already begun enrollment for next year, and they’re gathering letters of intent from tenured teachers.  They’re also determining exactly how many teachers they need and how many they can afford to hire for the following year.  Job postings are going up.

In fact, job postings are going up in districts here and in surrounding states.

With every passing day in this legislative session, the odds of passing a plan to raise teacher pay get slimmer.  A few options have made it out of committee, but they all share one common flaw:  they don’t have revenue plans.  In other words, they don’t have a way to fund these plans.  It doesn’t take a rocket brain scientist to figure out what happens if you tell districts to pay teachers more without providing more revenue:  lay offs.  A teacher pay raise without a funding source is just another unfunded mandate from our legislature.  I’m not surprised at all.  I was only ever surprised that people voted down a fully-funded teacher pay plan because they thought our legislators would take care of the problem.

I said in November my family would likely look at moving out of Oklahoma next year, and that I would seek employment in a state that values education and educators more than Oklahoma does.  I don’t want to leave.  I like my school.  I love my students.  The parents have stepped up to invest in the program I’m directing and their children deserve a good teacher.  I like my neighborhood, and I love the life we live in Norman.

But I also don’t think it’s healthy to continue letting Oklahoma off the hook for the way it treats its educators and, quite frankly, other employees who provide necessary social services.  If we as teachers keep going above and beyond the call of duty despite being so poorly treated and compensated, then we are just enabling our abusers.  They will continue to do what they’ve always done, because they continue to get what they’ve always gotten:  educators willing to martyr themselves to the profession “for the sake of the children.”

There’s got to be a tipping point.  A point at which the well is dry, and we simply say, “no more!”  It’s easy for some people to vilify teachers for wanting our state to do the right thing.  Other states have found a way, and that’s one of the reasons we find ourselves 51st in teacher pay in the nation at the end of this year.  Some legislators continue to paint educators as greedy union thugs.

What’s so greedy about a college-educated professional wanting a salary that doesn’t qualify them for government subsidies?  What’s so greedy about wanting certified professionals in every classroom?  What’s so greedy about wanting our districts to attract the best and the brightest educators to fill vacancies, instead of begging anybody with a heartbeat to take a teaching position?

I don’t want to leave.  But the fact we are a state that pays its legislators a salary that is higher than that of an educator with a master’s degree and 10 years experience is absolutely heart-breaking.

And it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

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