Jay Chilton | January 17, 2017
Oklahoma teacher pay closer to average when cost of living considered
Oklahoma City – State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told legislators that average teacher pay in Oklahoma is among the lowest in the nation as she presented her agency’s budget request to the House Budget Committee earlier this month.
Hofmeister called for what she described as parity with the regional average by increasing funding to provide all teachers a $3,000 raise, as well as increasing the length of the school year by four days.
“Our average is $44,921. The regional average is $48,450. The national average is $58,064,” she said. “So, we didn’t ask for anything remotely close to the national average.
“But regionally, we’ve got to work to provide regionally competitive pay or we will continue to lose teachers across the (Texas) border.”
In a statement after the hearing, Rep. Kevin Calvey (R-Oklahoma City) criticized Hofmeister, saying she “seemed unaware that Oklahoma’s affordable cost of living has a great competitive advantage over other states.” Studies and cost-comparison tools show the difficulty of comparing salaries across state lines.
For example, according to CNN Money’s online salary comparison tool, a person who earns $50,000 in Oklahoma City would need to earn over $60,000 to maintain the same standard of living in Denver, more than $70,000 for Portland, Ore., and more than $80,000 to break even in Washington, D.C.
A study on teacher pay in August 2016 by the 1889 Institute found that, when the cost of living is considered, teacher pay in Oklahoma jumps from 48th to 30th.
The study also determined that “it would take only a $2,100 raise for Oklahoma to rank 24th among the states in cost-of-living adjusted teacher pay, moving us ahead of Maryland, California, Massachusetts, and neighboring Missouri.”
Other analyses have produced similar results. TeacherPortal.com offers teachers a “Comfort Score” for each state based on pay and the cost of living. Oklahoma is ranked 29th of 50 on that index. By contrast, New York is ranked 1st in the nation on average teacher salaries, but is only ranked 28th in the Comfort Score – just one spot higher than Oklahoma – due to that state’s extremely high cost of living.
Last fall, the financial website WalletHub.com did a similar analysis with similar findings. Oklahoma ranked 36th in its adjusted teacher pay scale. California was 35th, Kansas ranked 32nd, and Arkansas was 39th.
Jay Chilton is a multiple-award-winning photojournalist including the Oklahoma Press Association’s Photo of the Year in 2013. His previous service as an intelligence operative for the U.S. Army, retail and commercial sales director, oil-field operator and entrepreneur in three different countries on two continents and across the U.S. lends a wide experience and context helping him produce well-rounded and complete stories. Jay’s passion is telling stories. He strives to place the reader in the seat, at the event, or on the sideline allowing the reader to experience an event through his reporting. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma with a minor in photographic arts. Jay and his wife live in Midwest City with three dogs and innumerable koi enjoying frequent visits from their children.