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It’s easy to shrug at the idea of underfunded education without real-world examples of how it’s affecting our children – and what it could mean for our state in the near future. Learn more about the issues here – and please share with other concerned Oklahomans.
F is for Funding Our Future
A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute found that “providing expanded access to high quality education will not only expand economic opportunity for residents, but also likely do more to strengthen the overall state economy than anything else a state government can do.”
It also said that states can increase the strength of their economies and their ability to grow and attract high-wage employers by investing in education - and that makes sense. Oklahoma’s children will be Oklahoma’s political leaders and corporate executives someday. We need to prepare them for those tasks.
Bottom line: Public education is essential to Oklahoma’s economic prosperity.
F is for Failing to Pay Teachers
Oklahoma’s average teacher salary is in the bottom three in the United States, so it’s no wonder why from 2006 to 2014 nearly 17 percent of first-year teachers in Oklahoma left the public school system. Nationwide, between 40 and 50 percent leave the profession altogether within five years.
The average starting salary for an Oklahoma teacher is $31,600. Here are the starting salaries for fields that require comparable training:
- Computer programmers: $43,635
- Public accounting professionals: $44,668
- Registered nurses: $45,570
How can we expect our best and brightest to choose a career in education if we don’t pay them fairly?
Bottom line: Paying more attracts teachers with better credentials and motivates them to stay in Oklahoma classrooms.
F is for Four-Day School Weeks
In 2016, 1,500 Oklahoma classrooms were led by either a long-term substitute teacher or a teacher without proper training and qualifications. Additionally, many school districts in Oklahoma are now operating on a four-day schedule and seeing the number of students in their classes increase, giving teachers less time to cover curriculums and making it harder for them to provide individual attention to students.
Bottom line: Because of a lack of funding for public education, our children aren’t getting the education they deserve.