How to Keep Oklahoma’s Low-Paid Teachers From Leaving the State? Give Them a 4-Day Work Week
Since 2013, the number of districts moving to four-day schedules has quadrupled, The Washington Post reported.
“We had two [Oklahoma] districts very close to us that moved to four-day weeks, and we have lost some teachers to them,” David Pennington, superintendent of Ponca City Public Schools in northern Oklahoma, told The Oklahoman. The article noted that two-thirds of the schools on four-day schedules are within 50 miles of border states where teachers have been moving for higher-paying classroom jobs.
Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year, Shawn Sheehan, is moving to Texas with his wife after both accepted teaching jobs there. In a blog post, Sheehan explained that “at the end of the day, the simple truth is that we can be paid a respectable wage for doing the same job — this job we love very much — by heading out of state.”
A math teacher, Sheehan made $35,419, not including benefits, The 74 reported last year. He has a master’s degree and was a finalist for national Teacher of the Year in 2016.
Oklahoma, which has a $900 million budget deficit, pays its teachers some of the lowest wages in the U.S. The state’s voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure last fall that would have raised teacher salaries by $5,000 in exchange for a sales tax increase of 1 percentage point.
After cutting to 4-day week, Oklahoma principal drives school bus to cope with budget cuts. https://t.co/6fdA9o1yDh
— Evie Blad (@EvieBlad) May 17, 2017
Low pay can be financially and emotionally disheartening for teachers, making the four-day week one bright spot among diminishing benefits.
“It’s disheartening,” one teacher told The Washington Post. “If I have to go back to a five-day week, I think I’m done, because I know I’m not going to get more money.”
— Annie Lowrey (@AnnieLowrey) May 28, 2017