Teacher Shortage

Oklahoma has an unprecedented teacher shortage because until 2018-19 teachers could earn thousands of dollars more on average in most neighboring states, even after cost of living adjustments.

With the approved raises, teachers can still earn more on average in Texas, and much more in nearby metro areas. So the teacher shortage is expected to slowly improve for now, but it will take years to recover, and that recovery will diminish as other states continue to boost their salaries.

The average $6,100 increase will help a lot.

In late March, Governor Fallin signed into law a revised State Minimum Teacher Salary Schedule for 2018-2019 with raises from $5,001 for a teacher with a bachelor's degree and no teaching experience to $8,395 for a teacher with a doctoral degree and 25 or more years of teaching experience. The raises range from 15.8 to 18.25%.

The average teacher salary in the state should increase approximately $6,100. That is expected to lift the state from last in the region to being only behind Texas.

Our public schools cannot find qualified teachers. The number of teachers who lack the proper training and credentials has exploded from a few dozen to almost 2,000.

Every day, the students in almost 2,000 classrooms in Oklahoma are taught by a teacher who lacks either regular or alternative certification for the job. Districts are hiring teachers they would never have interviewed a few years ago. This is simply unacceptable.

In 2017-18 Oklahoma paid its public and private school teachers less than any other state. Teachers could easily earn $6,000-$15,000 more in neighboring states. So the $6,100 average pay increase will help a lot, but not prevent continued losses to Texas as well as large metropolitan areas in Arkansas and Kansas.

The map shows how much more secondary teachers could earn in 2017-18 in metropolitan areas in neighboring states. Elementary teachers likewise earn much more in those areas. The data combines public and private schools.

In 2017 the only states which paid their public school teachers less than Oklahoma were South Dakota and Mississippi. Here are the 2017 regional comparisons:

  1. Texas: $52,575, 25th, 89% of national avg, $7,330 more than Oklahoma
  2. Arkansas: $48,616, 37th, 82% of nat'l avg., $3,371 more than Oklahoma
  3. Missouri: $48,293, 40th, 82% of nat'l avg., $3,048 more than Oklahoma
  4. Kansas: $47,984, 41st, 81% of nat'l avg., $2,739 more than Oklahoma
  5. New Mexico: $47,500, 43rd, 81% of nat'l avg., $2,255 more than Oklahoma
  6. Colorado: $46,506, 46th, 79% of nat'l avg., $1,261 more than Oklahoma
  7. Oklahoma: $45,245, 48th, 77% of nat'l avg.

So the $6,100 increase should jump Oklahoma above all other states in the region EXCEPT Texas.

Even when adjusted for our state's low cost of living, before the raise Oklahoma teachers could readily earn the equivalent of $7,000 more on average anywhere in Texas and could actually earn the equivalent of $4,000 more on average anywhere in Arkansas and Kansas.

  • Mean teacher salary in 2018, adjusted for cost of living:
      • Texas was 16th ($7,000 more than OK)
      • Arkansas was 21st ($4,000 more than OK)
      • Kansas was 22nd ($4,000 more than OK)
      • Missouri was 27th ($2,000 more than OK)
      • Oklahoma was 35th

The $6,100 raises should lift Oklahoma above all other neighboring state EXCEPT Texas.

A University of Oklahoma researcher surveyed over 250 former Oklahoma teachers who left their positions before 2018. Their average pay increase was $19,000.

About 50% went to Texas while another 20% went to other states. The remainder were still in Oklahoma, but were no longer teaching.

Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma's 2016 Teacher of the Year, abandoned the state for Texas in 2017. He and his wife were able to secure positions in Lewisville, Texas in the DFW metro area. Teachers with zero experience earned more in Lewisville than teachers with 25 or more years of experience in Norman, Oklahoma where the Sheehans were both working.

Shawn and his wife are together earning about $40,000 more teaching in Texas than they did in Oklahoma. He has detailed their relative cost of living to show why so many Oklahoma teachers were leaving for Texas.

Former Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan and his wife make $40,000 more per year in Texas than they did in Norman, Oklahoma.