Recently, Arianna Pickard of the Tulsa World wrote a front page story entitled, “Paycheck Problems.” The article was based on two surveys conducted by Tulsa Public Schools to get a handle on why employers are resigning.
One survey was conducted last summer of teachers who had left and the second survey was of current staff. The results of both surveys were revealing. Although the education community continually points to money being the sole problem, there are many other reasons that should be discussed.
In Oklahoma, over 50 percent of our teachers leave within 3 or 4 years of starting teaching to never return. For Tulsa Public Schools, according to the article, the district on average has “lost 20 percent of its teachers over each of the past five years.”
The district estimates that replacement costs amount to about $3.3 million annually to hire 469 teachers to be fully staffed each year.
Of those who are no longer employed by TPS, 52 percent cited a need for a higher salary as the top reason for leaving. The TPS survey of current staff was far more telling when asked what the district could do or continue doing to keep educators for the long term. The top response of 56 percent was to cut down on routines and meetings. It seems the administrators who don’t teach do lecture to their employees and teachers.
Can you imagine that? Mandated meetings are cutting into planning periods, which takes away time with their families because lessons are then planned at home, said the vice president of the Tulsa Classroom Association.
OK, then money must be the second most important reason. Well no, coming in at 54 percent of teachers is having support for student discipline issues.
According to the Tulsa Classroom Association Vice President, “Teachers want more autonomy.” 33 percent of respondents agreed.
“Teachers are told they are trusted and then they are not treated as they are,” she said.
Ms. Mott-Wright concluded, “They feel incredibly defeated and beaten down. They are not trusted; they’re not respected; and if they are, they’re not treated like they are.”
Back to those who left, money was 52 percent, wanting to be closer to home was 47 percent and other personal life reasons was 46 percent of why they left.
Across Oklahoma superintendents and administrators want you to believe that if only they had more cash, everything would be better. That is not the case and from the two TPS surveys, administrators might be more of the problem. Maybe, they should look in the mirror and see the problem up close?
A big problem in Oklahoma is administrators not hearing the problem and being unable to try new methods for improving education. Take for instance Seminole’s School Board voting down twice a proposed charter school when their high school is unusable; two bond issues to build a new high school were defeated by large margins and ACT averages won’t get you into a flagship university. School choice was the only option and the State School Board took it.
Again citing the Tulsa World article, the starting salary for a TPS teacher is $32,900. This is a higher starting salary than for most college graduates from Oklahoma schools. The problem is it takes another 18 years of teaching to reach $43,471.
Matthew Hendricks, PhD, and Economics professor at The University of Tulsa found a solution, “If the salary schedule was adjusted to give newer teachers a pay bump earlier in their carriers, they would be more likely to stay in the public school system.
His findings were, “This configuration of when teachers receive raises wouldn’t cost the state any additional tax dollars” and just might cut down on the ruiness turnover.
Dr. Hendricks presented his thoughts to a group of public school superintendents and no one agreed to try it – much less adopt it. And we wonder why our public education is failing? The wrong people are running our schools.