TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A statewide teacher pay increase last year boosted Oklahoma educator salaries from 49th to the 34th highest in the nation, according to federal estimates.
The National Education Association’s yearly Rankings and Estimates found the median income for Oklahoma teachers jumped 13.2% from $46,300 in the 2017-18 academic year to a current average of $52,412, the Tulsa World reported. State-paid benefits, such as retirement and health care premiums, were included in the estimates.
“This is exciting news for Oklahoma, as it is the first time in our state’s history to rank this high in teacher pay,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “I look forward to protecting this pay increase and continuing to invest in our teachers and students in order to move Oklahoma forward.”
In March 2018, Oklahoma’s then-Gov. Mary Fallin approved the largest educator pay increase in the state’s history. The governor’s authorization came as Oklahoma’s largest teacher union conducted a statewide walkout over demands for more education spending. The springtime walkout was part of a nationwide rebellion of teachers, which included Kentucky, West Virginia and Arizona.
Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, highlighted new wage increases by Texas, who they consider to be the chief drain on Oklahoma’s pool of public school teachers. Priest emphasized the state’s need to remain focused on addressing public education funds.
“We have to continue to invest because Oklahoma is not the only one investing in their teachers,” said Priest. “Texas has already passed a $5,000 raise for next year, so if we stay stagnant, we will be right back in the same boat.”
The new report indicates that Oklahoma has progressed from trailing every nearby state in average educator compensation to now being third behind Texas and Colorado, said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.
“That’s significant progress and a sign that with continued investment,” said Hime, “Oklahoma can begin to reverse a severe teacher shortage crisis and focus on the need to hire more teachers, reduce class sizes, restore programs that contribute to academic success and increase mental health supports for students.”
In 2018-19, the national median teacher salary is projected to be slightly under $62,000.