I have several former students who left me at the end of their senior years filled with determination and plans to inspire young minds the way some teacher(s) had done for them. Some of them are close to graduating from college now. One of them posted a link about yet another school cutting its budget on Facebook tonight, adding that she thinks she has wasted her time in college.
This comes the day after Kevin Durant announced he’s leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder and people all over the state acted as if the sky was falling. But how many teachers have we lost? They weren’t looking for championship rings. They weren’t looking to make millions of dollars in a few short years. They were looking to pay their bills. They were hoping to have paper for their classrooms. Maybe even air conditioning in August when class resumes.
One Oklahoma teacher recently received a new home from Habitat for Humanity. That’s right, a person with a college degree and a salaried job that makes her responsible for the education and well being of dozens of children qualified for a Habitat house. A typical Oklahoma teacher salary usually leaves the teacher qualified for food stamps. And SoonerCare (Oklahoma’s welfare insurance) is a heck of a lot better than the “free” insurance the state gives teachers. Take it from one who’s still paying the bills from late 2014, you don’t want to have even minor surgery and only have HealthChoice for your insurance.
When my former student made her post, I pointed out the obvious. We don’t go into teaching for money, but to make a difference in the lives of kids. No matter how much money our legislators misspend or how much our districts have to cut their budgets, the kids will come to class. They will be there, looking to learn, looking for someone to make their lives better. Who will they find? In Oklahoma, it looks more and more like they’ll find either unqualified long-term substitutes or bitter teachers unable to relocate to another state.
Some of you will read this and say, “Those teachers are always whining about their pay. They knew the pay going in.” That’s true, and fair. What we didn’t know was that our pay would freeze, that the supplies we need to do our job would stop coming, and that our colleagues would be let go and not replaced, leaving them unemployed and us with classes too big for most teachers to manage.
Meanwhile, our elected officials are using taxpayer money to help subsidize the payroll of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The 168 employees of the team received $4 million in taxpayer money last year. That would have paid an army of teachers, although it wasn’t even the full salary for a starting player. Our teachers are the recipients of charitable handouts and welfare while our education budget is slashed more than a horny teenager in a Friday the 13th sequel, but our leaders are giving taxpayer money to an NBA team that that has a net worth of $950 million. We’d be better off if Durant had taken the whole team with him so our taxpayer money could be redirected. (Don’t give me the line about how much sales tax revenue is made thanks to the Thunder being here; you get my point.)
I finished telling this soon-to-be teacher that the school districts need to put the burden of making up the lost money on the parents, and explain to the parents the reason for this expense. The only way we’re going to see a change in the financial priorities of our legislature is if we can get angry parents into the voting booth. With July 1 behind us and schools finalizing the 2016-2017 budgets, be ready to learn what essential items you will now have to provide for your child, then make a change in November.