Some teachers' salaries not meeting state standard
BY GAVIN OFF World Data Editor
Monday, September 27, 2010
9/27/10 at 4:11 PM
Database: Search a database of teacher salaries.
Because public charter schools are exempt from the state minimum salary schedule, some local teachers earn thousands of dollars less than their counterparts teaching in traditional districts.
Each year, the Oklahoma State Department of Education produces a minimum salary guideline for public school teachers. The guideline increases teachers' salaries as their teaching experience and education increase.
Many school districts, including some exempt public charter school districts, follow the guideline or pay teachers more.
Some local public charter schools, however, do not meet the minimum because of budget problems, administrators said.
Kaan Camuz, the superintendent of Discovery School of Tulsa and Dove Science academies in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, said the schools negotiate contracts with each teacher individually.
Education Department data show that often, the schools' pay does not meet the state's minimum salary standards.
"We would like to pay even more to our teachers, but with the budget cuts, we have to wait," Camuz said.
According to the state's database, at least 17 teachers at Discovery and Dove are paid less than the state's minimum.
One second-year teacher with a bachelor's degree at Dove Science Academy, for example, earns a total of $27,300 - or about $4,600 less than the state's minimum salary schedule for a person with a degree and one year of experience.
Camuz, who earned $75,000, said the schools usually pay more to math and science teachers because the schools emphasize those subjects. The state data, however, show that teachers of other subjects sometimes get as much, if not more, than math and science teachers.
Lori Whiteday, a first-grade teacher at Discovery, has 10 years experience as a teacher, she said. Last year, she signed a $29,500 yearly contract, and data show that she earned an additional $1,475 in district-paid retirement benefits.
Whiteday, however, said she has yet to receive the benefits. Even so, she makes thousands of dollars less than her counterparts in traditional public schools do.
"I didn't argue because I know there are teachers who make less than that at some charters or private Christian schools," Whiteday said.
Administrators told her that all teachers at Discovery, which opened last year, would be paid $29,500, she said. But state data show that nearly every full-time teacher at Discovery, including those with fewer years of experience, make more.
Whiteday said she was happy to receive a $1,500 raise this year but disappointed to learn that the raise only brought her up to about the base salary of many first-year teachers in other districts.
Even with the exemption, some local public charter schools still pay teachers the state's minimum.
Eric Doss, the principal of Tulsa School of the Arts and Sciences, said the school elected to follow the state's payment guidelines.
"We believe that our teachers are professionals, and they should be paid accordingly," Doss said. "I wouldn't believe in paying them less than the state standard."
According to the state's 2009-10 minimum teacher salary schedule, first-year public school teachers with a bachelor's degree must receive at least $31,600 in base salary and district-paid benefits.
The state's minimum increases as teachers gain experience and education. For example, a second-year teacher with a bachelor's degree must earn at least $31,975 and a second-year teacher with a master's degree must earn at least $33,175.
Tulsa Public Schools officials are discussing a switch to a performance-based payment system. If TPS makes the change, it would reward teachers based on effectiveness - such as increasing test scores - rather than experience and education.
Currently, Tulsa Public Schools pays first-year teachers with a bachelor's degree $32,900, or $1,300 more than the state's minimum.
Original Print Headline: Charter teachers lowballed on pay
Gavin Off 732-8106