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Free Market Friday: unpaid school system leads to teacher shortage

Jonathan small

For years, Oklahoma residents have been told that the way to reduce the teacher shortage is to provide general pay increases. In 2018, lawmakers raised taxes and significantly increased teachers’ salaries. An Oklahoma State School Boards Association official recently noted that teachers’ salaries have now been increased by nearly $ 10,000 each and that public school credits have increased by $ 750 million.

But guess what? The shortage of teachers persists. The Oklahoma State Department of Education recently reported that Oklahoma schools have submitted 2,991 applications (and it’s not over) to hire certified emergency teachers this school year. That’s more emergency certificates than before the pay increases.

Those in the private sector are not shocked to hear that a quasi-monopoly unionized system where people are paid by seniority over quality is unattractive to many people – even with salary increases. significant wages.

This is not a new trend. Senator David Bullard, a Durant Republican and 15-year teacher, recently recalled how the seniority pay system was more daunting for him than the low initial teachers’ pay. After the challenges of his early years of teaching, Bullard recalled realizing that “there was a coach down the hall who asked five questions on the board” and taught very little, but who was paid “astronomically more. ‘money than me’ because it ‘I was there for 30 years.

He recalled that “one of the best science teachers I think I have ever seen” left teaching after five years in part because of the seniority-based pay system.

Besides seniority, the other way to improve income within the school system is for teachers to become administrators. But that forces them to leave the classroom.

Prior to my current job, I worked in the Oklahoma City school system and state government. In both systems, I have seen how paying people for longevity and not for results encourages mediocrity, not progress. When you pay employees for quantity (years of service) rather than quality (classroom performance), you tend to attract more people willing to just sit in a seat for years than those willing to make a difference. immediate effect in children’s lives.

It’s hard for people to feel valued if they are never paid for the value they bring to their work. Until that changes, Oklahoma schools will continue to struggle to attract and retain the best teachers, and student outcomes will never reach their full potential.

Jonathan Small is chairman of the Oklahoma Public Affairs Council (

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