Education cuts cause Oklahoma ‘Teacher of the Year’ to leave state

Shawn Sheehan was voted "Teacher of the Year" in 2016 in Oklahoma. But state cuts to education have forced him and his family to take a higher-paying job in Texas. Photo by Shawn Sheehan/Twitter

July 3 (UPI) — Oklahoma’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2016 has decided to move to Texas after the state’s education cuts have left teacher salaries stagnant.

Shawn Sheehan and his wife, who is also a teacher, said that cuts to Oklahoma’s education budget have forced them to look elsewhere for job opportunities because of the state’s low teacher pay and their growing family.

According to Oklahoma Watch, the average teacher salary, depending on the district, tends to range between $36,000 and $44,000.

The celebrated math teacher told NPR that he and his wife earn about $3,600 each month and after bills are paid, they are left with only $400 to $450 per month.

“Sure, life can be done on $400, $450 a month, but I would challenge others out there to buy diapers, groceries and all the things that you need for a family of three on $400,” he said.

By moving to Texas, the Sheehans will see a $40,000 increase in their combined annual pay.

“This decision wasn’t an easy one. Not by a long shot. Our circle of friends can attest to that,” Sheehan wrote in a blog post announcing his move. “I considered other jobs, tried to find adjunct positions, and my wife and I have worked very hard to pay off our debt in bigger chunks. But at the end of the day, the simple truth is that we can be paid a respectable wage for doing the same job — this job we love very much — by heading out of state.”

Cuts to Oklahoma’s education budget have led to cuts in art classes, athletics, advanced coursework, and dozens of districts have implemented four-day weeks, canceling classes on either Friday or Monday.

“The problems facing Oklahoma are our own doing. There’s not some outside force that is causing our schools not to be able to stay open,” Democratic state Sen. John Sparks told the Washington Post. “These are all the result of a bad public policy and a lack of public-sector investment.”


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