TPS lags behind on minimum teacher pay

School boards vote on teacher salaries

Crooked Oak schools in Oklahoma County have the state’s highest minimum starting teacher salary at $37,985

The only district around Tulsa that is close to that figure is Bixby, with a starting salary of $34,743. Jenks is right behind at $34,506.

The starting salary for Tulsa Public Schools is just $32,900 – only $1,300 above the state minimum teacher salary of $31,600. These figures are the least a teacher with only a bachelor’s degree and no experience can make. Districts pay more for advanced degrees and years of experience.

State lawmakers do not determine teacher salaries. They make laws that determine the minimum teacher salaries but salary schedules are determined by local school boards, who usually follow the recommendations of school administrators. The Oklahoma minimum is $31,600 a year for a teacher with a bachelor degree and a minimum of $34,000 for a teacher with a doctorate.

According to the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, the minimum salary for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $28,080 – $3,520 less than the minimum in Oklahoma.

Here are some state minimums:

  • $28,080 – Texas
  • $28,705 – Missouri
  • $29,244 – Arkansas
  • $33,386 – Kansas
  • No minimum – Colorado

More than half of the more than 500 districts in Oklahoma pay the state minimum. Districts near the state border tend to pay more to be competitive.

The top five schools districts in terms of minimum pay, according to the Oklahoma Department of Education report, “Oklahoma Public Schools Local Salary Schedules,” are:

  1. Crooked Oak (Oklahoma County) – $37,985
  2. Grove Public Schools (Delaware County) – $37,426
  3. Putnam City Schools (Oklahoma County) – $36,915
  4. Stroud Public Schools (Lincoln County) – $36,600
  5. Maple Public Schools (Canadian County) – $35,666 At the top end, a teacher with a doctorate and at least 25 years’ of experience makes $57,271 a year in Tulsa Public Schools – $24,371 more than a starting teacher with a bachelor degree.

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist blames the Legislature for low salaries in her district and is publicly pushing for large, permanent tax increases for Oklahomans.

“Countless Oklahoma families are looking to our state to pass a plan that will keep our schools open, protect our mental health services, and provide care to our aging parents and loved ones,” Gist said in a press release on the district website. “…Our children cannot wait any longer, and our teachers need a reason to stay.”

Conservative lawmakers contend that higher teacher salaries could be funded by consolidating school districts (without necessarily closing any schools) and cutting administrative positions without a need for higher taxes.  They say that the Department of Education has sufficient funding but not enough goes to help classroom teachers.