It’s the type of logic that has been used by conservatives for decades in Oklahoma that drives me crazy.
It goes like this: Oklahoma is a low-wage state so we all just need to accept it, especially when it comes to that pesky fact that teacher salaries here traditionally rank 49th or 48th lowest in the nation. Everyone is “in the same boat” here.
Note that the argument isn’t that all working Oklahomans, given the data, should make MORE money and have MORE household income. That would be a more positive message. No, we’re all “in the same boat.” Get over it.
I’ve repeated the cliché “in the same boat” because it was used by The Oklahoman in an editorial brief Saturday as part of their Oklahoma ScissorTales series to qualify how badly teachers are treated here.
Teachers here make some of the lowest pay in the nation when compared to teachers in other states and now the state faces a major teacher shortage that is probably going to get worse because of a state budget shortfall of $611 million and growing.
The answer to the problem by The Oklahoman is, to repeat it again, to say we’re all “in the same boat” here. Here’s the editorial brief:
Much is made of Oklahoma’s low ranking for average teacher pay. Yet new data from the Internal Revenue Service suggest many people across Oklahoma would likely be glad to swap incomes with those teachers. Oklahoma’s average teacher salary is $44,128. IRS data show that the average income in 32 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties is less than $44,000. In Marshall County, the average income is $43,534. The lowest average income recorded is in Adair County ($31,347). The highest average income was recorded in Grant County ($86,864). But that high number, nearly double the amount notched in Grant County in 2009, was tied mostly to oil-field work. Teachers work hard, but oil-field work is not exactly for slackers. And that work is prone to boom and bust cycles, as many are experiencing today. This doesn’t mean some teachers don’t deserve more. It just shows that many Oklahomans are in the same boat.
Seems logical at first, right? It even throws out the idea that “some” teachers should make more money. “Some” is the operative word here. But the problem with this thinking is that it’s self-defeating for all us same boaters. The Oklahoman just wants us to accept our same-boat low wages and get over it. Let’s all bask in our low wages and poverty, people.
It also proposes absolutely nothing of value when it comes to the critical issue of our teacher shortage problem here. Education officials have estimated there are 1,000 unfilled teaching positions in the state, primarily because teachers trained and educated at Oklahoma colleges seek higher-paying jobs in other states. If education funding is cut further for next fiscal year-Oklahoma has cut education funding the most of any state since 2008-then that number could grow even more and what we’ll have here is not a crisis but a full-fledged disaster.
So that whole issue of low salaries for teachers has really nothing to do with how much someone makes working at a convenience store in Adair County. It has to do with educating our children to make sure they get off the ship of fools.