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Oklahoma City is losing young teachers to higher-paying school districts

About 100 teachers have left since April; Oklahoma City Public Schools officials say they'll negotiate to raise salaries to counter ‘frustrating' trend.
by Tim Willert Modified: September 2, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: September 2, 2013
/articleid/3878495/1/pictures/2198345">Photo - Cale Nockels talks to his students at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City, Friday  August 30, 2013. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Cale Nockels talks to his students at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City, Friday August 30, 2013. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

“As with any profession salary has a huge impact. OKCPS teacher salaries are more competitive for those with more than five years of experience.”

The continuous learning calendar shortens the summer break and increases winter and spring breaks.

Other districts

Oklahoma City, which pays starting teachers with a bachelor's degree $32,925 annually, is losing young teachers like Nockels and his wife to higher-paying districts like those in Edmond and Putnam City, Allen said.

Edmond pays starting teachers about $1,200 more than Oklahoma City, Allen said.

Putnam City pays a starting teacher $33,750 annually, according to that district's website.

While Oklahoma City tends to reward senior teachers, Allen said surrounding districts have done just the opposite by committing more money up front to attract younger teachers.

“As a district and a union we cannot afford to fall behind in salaries and lose new talent,” he said. “The frustrating thing for the union … we do in Oklahoma City what most can't and won't do.”

Scott Randall, chief financial officer for Oklahoma City Public Schools, said the district, which is set to begin negotiating with the union, is trying to increase salary schedules to “recruit and retain younger teachers.”

Pay raises proposed

The proposal by Barresi to give Oklahoma teachers an annual $2,000 pay raise has been met with skepticism by school board members, district administrators and teachers.

Barresi, in a news release, said the raise “would not require increased state appropriations, but could be funded by tapping surplus funds and reducing schools' administrative overhead.”

In response, two state legislators who oversee funding for public education in Oklahoma raised doubts about the proposal, saying it would be difficult for the Legislature to come up with the $100 million needed to fund the plan each year.

Randall said Oklahoma City Public Schools can't afford to fund the raises despite carrying over an average of $24 million a year for the past five years. That money, he said, is used to pay school district bills between July and December, when state and federal money starts rolling in.

Randall said is would cost the district nearly $7 million annually to pay for the pay increases, money, he added, the district doesn't have.

“What she's proposed doesn't have a plan to come with extra money,” he said.

“It doesn't have a sustainable funding plan.”

The proposed increase, Barresi added, is designed to make Oklahoma more competitive with neighboring states, including Arkansas, Texas and Missouri, which pay teachers higher salaries.

“You don't want to have your best and brightest graduate from college and immediately cross the Red River,” said Oklahoma City School Board member Bob Hammack. “They may want to work here, but because we're not competitive they're lured away to other states.”

Barresi's proposal did little to comfort Julie Nockels, who said she has been down this roadbefore:

“It's exciting, but I'm not going to get my hopes up about it.”

by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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