Tulsa Public School system is desperate for teachers

The lack of respect for teachers, low salaries and partisan divides have drastically decreased potential future educators.
The Tulsa Public School system is massive compared to neighboring districts. With a total of 45 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, nine high schools, seven alternative schools and six charter schools, TPS needs an experienced person in charge who can adequately run such a large district. With so many vacancies, TPS offers certified teachers a one-time hiring incentive of $2,000 to teach subjects where they struggle to find trained educators. TPS particularly struggles to assign teachers to special education courses, secondary math, secondary science and languages.

The Oklahoma education system has been in a detrimental power struggle for decades, so the TPS teacher shortage should not come as a surprise. Like it or not, teachers are the foundation of our society. They are the entire reason that doctors, lawyers, engineers, you, me and your mother can count to ten or can spell their names. Good teachers change people’s lives, and bad ones leave lasting impressions. Every single person is the product of their education system and the teachers that taught them.

As Tulsa Public Schools continues to be a hotspot for public and political criticism, the teacher shortage has been massively overlooked. It is all about who the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction should be and what Ryan Walters wants to stick his underqualified nose in instead of actually focusing on the fact that TPS is horribly understaffed. By making public education a political issue, Walters contributes to the lack of trust partisans have for teachers. Nationally, partisans cannot even agree on what topics should be taught in public schools. Nobody can honestly blame teachers from TPS for running away.

Stating the obvious, teachers in Tulsa are grossly underpaid. A TPS teacher can make less than $50,000 a year, well below the national average. They spend all day dealing with the youth of the world and molding young minds for what is essentially minimum wage. Then there is the fact that no one respects them. When did it become a cultural norm to have a slight distaste for teachers? It seems that everyone has one fifth-grade teacher who yelled at them once, which made them never want to trust a teacher again. People continue to judge and poke fun at those who were just crazy enough to get an expensive college education to make $30,000 a year. Screw passion, screw pride and screw making a difference. Varying data points suggest that there are 20% to 30% fewer people entering the teaching profession each year than there were a decade ago. There are many theories about why these numbers have drastically decreased beginning with how respect for teachers has declined, significantly reducing the supply of potential candidates. There is no respect for teachers, internally or externally.

Youth today are not taught to respect their teachers. They are taught to be independent and free thinkers. They are raised in households that prioritize their parents not wanting to upset them and shiny screens. To respect a teacher, one must first be taught how to respect people in general.

It is clear that this sentiment carries to the system around teachers as well. Superintendents and principals alike no longer want to support teachers, and TPS is a blaring example of this. Most recently, Walters made a public mockery of Tulsa and its school system by calling for a public witch hunt for TPS’s Superintendent Deborah Gist. With no thought for teachers or the prospective effect on students, Walters and his political agenda once again proved to take priority. It appears nobody cares what the teachers of Tulsa Public Schools have to say about Tulsa Public Schools. Listening to the perspectives of the experts would be silly. No one ever cares what a teacher thinks. So, teachers are leaving; and honestly, let them run.

Post Author: Macy Pugh