Low teacher pay leads to hundreds of departures

The impact of low teacher pay on Oklahoma schools is dramatic. (Mummolo/KTUL)

It's like an agonizing algebra problem; if X is teacher pay in Oklahoma, and Y is the number of teachers who leave because of it, calculate the impact that one has on the other.

"In the 14-15 school year we had 410 exits, in the 15-16 school year we had 451, which was about a two percent increase, in this last year 16-17 school year we saw 628 exits," said Devin Fletcher, Chief Talent & Learning Officer for Tulsa Public Schools.

And while some of those are regular retirements, 76 last year, by and large, the main reason for the exodus...

"What our data says is that salaries are first and foremost at the top of the list," he said.

"It’s been a decade since teachers have had a raise," said John Waldron. He's a teacher at Booker T. Washington and a candidate for state representative. What are voters talking about when he's out on the campaign trail?

"Nine times out of ten it’s education. They know that the teachers need a raise, that we need to put more money into schools," he said.

"When people are leaving, they’re leaving because they need to sustain their livelihood," said Fletcher.

The arithmetic of teacher pay...

"I think I’ve counted eleven teachers the last three semesters who have left just for money," said Waldron.

If X continues to stay low, is it any wonder Y remains so high?

"We are at the moment one of the lowest paying states in the country," said Fletcher.

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