I read with keen interest the full-page presentation in Thursday’s edition (October 22, 2015) by Oklahoma’s Children-Our Future. Clearly, from the information in the presentation, Oklahoma is shamefully well below what should be reasonable teacher pay. According to the information, our state’s average teacher salary is from $1,500 to nearly $6,000 below our neighboring states. Based on this information, this group is embarking on an initiative petition drive to force a statewide vote on adding another penny to the state sales tax to provide additional state funding toward education.
The value of our teachers can never be overstated; they have the formidable responsibility of preparing our children for their future as productive adults. However, the hard truth is that it’s just not a reasonable argument to say that teacher compensation in one state can be fairly compared to compensation in another. Those who use statistical data to support such an argument aren’t being fair to those who will ultimately vote for or against their proposal. Such is the case here.
While it’s true that Oklahoma has the lowest average teacher salary compared to those other states, we should also note that our state revenue provides more by percentage (39.82%, ranked 11th in the nation) toward total education spending than all the others in the comparison group. Texas, where average teacher salary is highest, contributes 27.01% (ranked 42nd in the nation) toward total education spending. As a percentage of the total state budget, Oklahoma ranks 13th in the nation at 2.3%, while Texas ranks 42nd again at 1.4%. Additionally, as a percentage of median household income, Oklahoma teacher salaries average 98.43%, and that ranks us in the middle among the comparison group. Texas is next below us at 97.45%, and Colorado is last at 85.27%. Arkansas, Missouri and New Mexico all exceed the percentage of median household income in compensation to their teachers from 117% to 100%. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, actual teacher salaries are set by each independent school district in Oklahoma, while adhering to the state minimum salary schedule based on years of experience, education level, national certification, and any specialty area consideration.
As you can see, the numbers can be used in many different ways to support whatever argument you want to make. I guess the bottom line for me is that it’s not fair to Oklahomans to use deceptive tactics or emotional upheaval to argue for something that comes down to dollars and cents. If there’s available money to pay for an increase in pay; fine; but if not, then No. This is not being insensitive to our teachers; it’s being realistic about the issue. Oklahoma ranks 41st in median household income according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which signals much about our capacity to match or show parity with our neighbors in average teacher salary. Our teachers are a treasure worth keeping, but let’s be honest about why and how. Oklahoma’s Children-Our Future isn’t being completely honest, so I don’t support them.
Dennis L. Heath
I was never scared of all the witches, zombies and assorted goblins wandering around on Halloween next Saturday night.
What really used to scare me was the meat industry.
This is the industry that mutilates, cages and butchers billions of cows, pigs, and other feeling animals, that exposes thousands of undocumented workers to crippling workplace injuries at slave wages, that exploits farmers and ranchers by dictating wholesale prices, then jails those who document its abuses through unconstitutional “ag-gag” laws.
It’s the industry that generates more water pollution than any other human activity and more greenhouse gases than transportation, then promotes world hunger by feeding nutritious corn and soybeans to animals.
It's the industry that threatens our public health with increased risk of killer diseases, that creates antibiotic-resistant pathogens by feeding antibiotics to animals, then bullies health authorities to remove anti-meat warnings from their public messages.
Now, that’s really scary stuff.
But, instead of being scared, I decided to fight back by dropping animal products from my menu. I am no longer scared of the meat industry, and I invite everyone to join me.