COMMENTARY: For State Question 779, and paying a salary that says we value teachers
by Joshua Putnam
Convincing teachers to stay in our classrooms is becoming more difficult every year we fail to offer them a raise. I know because I’m a teacher who had to make the painful decision to leave.
After 13 years in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, including three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, I came home and decided I wanted to teach.
I completed my degree and began teaching Psychology and Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics. I learned quickly that teaching is not a part-time job with a summer vacation. Non-stop reading, lesson planning, grading, and building curriculums — that’s what a teacher’s life looks like.
And the paycheck I was bringing home didn’t reflect the amount of sweat equity I was investing in my classroom and in my students. Meanwhile, my wife was earning a salary three times the size of mine while working fewer hours.
When we began planning for our first child, it turned out daycare was going to cost as much as I was making in a year. So we decided to save our money, and I quit teaching so I could stay home and spend these next few years raising Rowen.
I’d love to return to the classroom one day, but right now I need to make sure that our family is in a good place financially.
Addressing the challenges our education system faces — like grade-level reading, high school dropout rates, and workforce readiness — begins with having qualified teachers in every single classroom. Getting them there begins with offering them a salary that says we value them and the hard work they do, which is why I’m supporting State Question 779.
Like many Oklahomans, I want to make sure the money collected goes into the classroom and helps students, and the strict accountability measures in S.Q. 779 give me the peace of mind that it will. In fact, not a single cent can go toward superintendent salaries, something that we can all agree on. The required yearly audits in the measure will ensure every single penny is tracked and accounted for. Finally, it’s constitutionally protected, meaning lawmakers can’t take this money and use it for other things.
Our kids are worth this penny, and voters can rest assured these funds will go toward teacher pay raises and reversing the education funding crisis.
I hope you’ll join me in voting “yes” on S.Q. 779 on November 8th.
Note: A former Oklahoma school teacher, Joshua Putnam is a military veteran. This essay is sponsored content, via The City Sentinel Online.