Imagine having a Master’s degree and a full time teaching position in middle school. Imagine qualifying for a Habitat for Humanity home loan; your children qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. You earn $34,000 a year. This is a teacher’s plight in Oklahoma. Oklahoma is now next to last in average teacher salaries at $45,000. But, Oklahoma has a lot of oil and gas. It is not poor. So why is this happening?
Oklahoma’s legislature cut $48 million in funding for public schools while 8,000 new students enrolled, because the State cut income and oil and gas taxes in 2014. The legislature talks about helping teachers, but it is just talk thus far. It isn’t that Oklahoma is really hurting. Its gross domestic product ranks 29th among states in the U.S.
I looked at the average Real Per Capita personal income: Oklahoma is $45,619; Florida is $45,819, and the U.S. is $43,996. I am no economist, but something is missing here.
The difference in education funding between Oklahoma and Florida is that the State of Florida pays only about one half the cost, and local property tax pays the rest. Oklahoma does not levy local property taxes to support schools. So a handful of legislators determine the fate of the schools, not local citizens.
So, we need to understand where the money comes from to fund education. It is deeper than that. We need to decide how much we care about education for all children, not just our own. There is a big cost to not caring.