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Topic: Teachers Leaving Oklahoma for Texas, Kansas
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Teachers Leaving Oklahoma for Texas, Kansas
Posted: Aug 13, 1999 2:15 PM
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[Note: Thanks to Ellen Sears for bringing this article to our attention ...]

The Oklahoman Online, August 9, 1999

Teacher Exodus Frightens Districts

By Diane Plumberg
Staff Writer

Oklahoma teachers are too good. They are so good, other states are willing
to pay thousands of dollars to steal them away.

Educators say losing teachers has been a problem the last decade, but it
became critical this summer. Oklahoma school districts bordering Kansas and
Texas have lost several teachers to the two states. Ardmore has lost 17
teachers to Texas in the last two years.

"I'm really concerned. They're blowing us out of the water," said Steve
Merlyn, superintendent of the Plainview School District in Carter County.
"I had to go to Michigan to get a Latin teacher, and we're lucky he came
down here."

Merlyn, whose district is 30 miles from the Texas border, said it is
well-known among superintendents in bordering states and across the Midwest
that Oklahoma trains its teachers well.

Oklahoma was one of the first three states to start a mentor program for
new teachers that pairs veteran educators with newcomers. And it is soon to
have one of the most stringent teacher certification processes in the

That is not bad news until you consider average teachers' salaries in
Oklahoma are near the bottom of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Oklahoma's low salaries were too tempting for districts such as Houston
where teachers are flocking to private industry for higher- paying jobs.

Despite a $3,000 raise for every Texas teacher this year, superintendents
in that state are reporting a shortage. They turned to Oklahoma for help.

This summer, Fort Worth officials desperate for teachers set up a
recruiting booth at the Ardmore Holiday Inn. They enticed veteran teachers
to border hop by offering higher salaries -- sometimes $10,000 more a year
-- and signing bonuses of up to $3,000.

State law does not permit Oklahoma superintendents to offer signing bonuses.

Fort Worth and Plano districts were among those that appeared this spring
at Oklahoma college career days, setting up booths next to Oklahoma
schools. While Oklahoma districts could offer staying close to home, Texas
districts were offering $1,000 more a month to start and a bonus if new
teachers signed a contract that day. Many of them did.

Merlyn said two students who took jobs in Texas are daughters of one of his
teachers at Plainview's middle school. He said the daughters' salaries were
both higher to start in Texas than their mother's salary after 25 years of
teaching in Oklahoma.

"That's kind of frightening. ... I expect it to get worse," said Randall
Raburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of School

"We're producing teachers that are better prepared than ever before, but I
think we're going to lose a lot of them."

Starting Sept. 1, new teachers will be required to take three tests to
qualify for a teaching certificate instead of one. The tests will no longer
be only multiple choice, and will include essays and speaking tests for
foreign language teachers.

The general education test will be required for all teachers as will the
professional teaching exam. The third test will be a newly revised and
tougher version of the current subject test covering the area in which the
teacher is seeking to be certified.

"We're raising the standards for teachers in Oklahoma pretty dramatically,"
said Julie Flegal, who is in charge of teacher testing for the Oklahoma
Commission for Teacher Preparation.

The only downside to the new certification requirement is the cost. The new
tests will cost each teacher $295 -- $220 more than the current test.

After teachers earn certificates, most start a first- year residency
program. The program provides a veteran teacher from the same school as a
mentor. The new teacher also is assigned a residency committee that
includes the veteran teacher, a college professor and a school

The new teacher spends at least 70 hours with the veteran teacher and meets
with the committee at least three times the first year. The committee
suggests ideas on how to improve teaching skills and lists the teacher's
strengths and weaknesses.

The committee's recommendation to the state Board of Education can
determine whether the teacher is certified the next year.

As is the case with salaries, the mentor program, which started in 1982,
has been underfunded. The program hasn't been fully funded for six years,
said assistant state Superintendent Ramona Paul.

She said mentor teachers are to be paid up to $500 for each teacher they
help, but because of the money shortage, teachers were only paid $360 last
year. She said no extra money was approved this year.

Plainview Superintendent Merlyn said lack of money for salaries and teacher
training programs has thinned the teacher pool.

"It used to be we'd go back and throw away applications after a year
because we didn't have room. Now we don't throw any of them away. We're
begging," he said. "We've never seen anything like this."

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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