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Oklahoma's "teacher of the year" moved to Texas for financial stability

Low pay causing teacher shortages
Low pay pushing teachers to relocate, commute to other states 03:00

The average teacher in Texas makes about $52,000 per year but just next door in Oklahoma, educators are paid about $45,000. That pay gap is forcing teachers in Oklahoma, ranked 49th among states for teacher pay, and elsewhere to relocate to other states, creating a teacher shortage.

According to a 2015 study, Oklahoma loses about 13 percent of their teachers a year to low pay with many of them turning to out-of-state jobs, reports CBS News' Omar Villafranca. Teachers there entered their ninth day of striking Thursday over low wages.

"Over the last six years our teacher shortage crisis has grown exponentially," said Shawn Hime, the executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. "Our problem for decades has been, we haven't been able to retain teachers because they could drive right across the border."

Math teacher Shawn Sheehan was Oklahoma's 2016 teacher of the year. Last year, Sheehan, his wife Kaysi, who teaches English, and their daughter Scarlett, relocated to Lewisville, Texas. He said that move immediately upped their combined salary by about $38,000.

"Month after month we were in the red. This is was with rent and daycare, before even groceries and diapers and so we were living off of our credit cards for the longest time," Sheehan said.

Teachers in Arizona could be the next group of educators to go on strike. Thousands wore red and rallied outside schools before classes on Wednesday for a 20 percent raise.

Special education teacher Robin Edgerton commutes 80 miles per day to her out-of-state teaching job. She lives in Lake Havasu City, Arizona – and works in Needles, California. She says she'll never teach in Arizona again.

"My first year I think was over a $20,000-a-year raise, Edgerton said. "No one cares in Arizona…. Those teachers care. That's why they're there. If Arizona would support those teachers supporting those kids, their education system would change 100 percent."

Edgerton says she could not have the same quality of life if she had not changed where she works. And Sheehan agrees.

"For the first time in my life I have financial stability, something I have never known….I'm finally saving for my first home. It's remarkable," Sheehan said.

Arizona teachers could stage their walkout as soon as this week. On Facebook Live, protesting teachers were told to be ready to leave their classrooms and that, "the time is coming."

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