BY SHARON MARTIN
The state legislator stared straight into the television camera and said that we don’t calculate teacher pay honestly. He suggested that teachers could trade some of their retirement security for a pay raise.
I wish I could have been there to tell him about fellow teachers who put off retirement, despite almost 40 years of teaching, because their retirement check wouldn’t cover the cost of their family’s health insurance.
We don’t include the cost of their health insurance in salary calculations, he continued.
Right. You, a man who earns for his part-time job several thousand more than I make for my full-time job, wants to school me on salary calculations.
Oklahoma has among the highest-paid legislators and the lowest-paid educators in the country.
As a reading specialist, I’m required to have at least a Master’s degree. A person can be elected to a political office without even having to read. I give you our current president-elect as proof.
A job as our representative is ostensibly part-time, although I acknowledge that raising money to run for office is full-time work. When I was teaching high school English, teaching students how to write and how to find credible sources, my work load ran somewhere between 60 and 80 hours a week. When’s the last time you’ve corrected 120 research papers?
You and your family are provided excellent insurance. Thanks to the work of the OEA, both union members and nonunion members finally got their insurance premiums covered a few years ago. Before that more than 80% of our premium came from our wages. One hundred percent of our spouse’s premium and 100% of our children’s premiums still do.
I know teachers who bring home almost nothing but health insurance.
Here’s a question for legislators who talk job creation and praise entrepreneurship: What effect might access to insurance have on self-employment?
You want to replace our defined retirement benefit with the uncertainty of the markets. I paid into that retirement account, and I believe in the efficiency of well-run pension funds. I believe in retirement with dignity. But how long do legislators have to work to receive a full retirement?
Was this what our Founding Fathers envisioned?
I respectfully ask that Oklahoma’s state legislators quit playing games. Education is vital to the state’s economic future.
If you have any smidgen of logic, if you care one bit about the future of our state, you will find a source of revenue to cover both teacher pay raises and the money to hire more teachers. We’d appreciate it if that revenue doesn’t come from teachers’ own paychecks, and it certainly shouldn’t come as a tax on the poor, on your constituents who are barely scraping by.
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer