2017 Teacher of the Year

(Editor’s note: The Yes for 779 campaign has purchased advertising on NonDoc, including two funded content pieces. The first of those pieces appears below from Durant High School teacher John Hazell.)

DURANT — Oklahoma is my home, and I don’t want to go anywhere else. But as a teacher from Durant, the reality is that Texas and its impressively higher teacher salaries are just a 20-minute drive from my high school.

Today, teachers across our state are either having to take on a second job to make ends meet, leave for another state that pays more or leave the teaching profession altogether. They love their jobs and their students, but they simply can’t afford to stay in the classroom and raise a family.

One of those teachers was Josh Doe. Mr. Doe was a former colleague of mine and an outstanding, very popular math teacher and tennis coach who recently left my school and took his talents 20 miles south to Denison, Texas. His salary is now significantly higher, and his new school is thrilled to have him.

In my 34 years in the classroom, I have seen situations just like this occur dozens of times, and it always breaks my heart.

For years, bordering states have recognized that Oklahoma has great teachers, which is why they come here to recruit. But do we as a state recognize what seems obvious to these other states? How much do we truly value and honor the teaching profession? Ask any teacher, and you will hear that morale is at an all-time low. Teachers don’t feel like they matter here. And sadly, when they leave, Oklahoma students are the ones who are hurt the most.

This election is about whether or not we value our teachers enough to invest in them. In other words, it is about whether we value our children enough to invest in them.

Year after year, we’ve asked our schools and teachers to do more with less. And our schools have responded. However, this is simply not sustainable. Oklahoma schools have received the largest cuts in the nation. We are literally on the verge of being dead last in what we pay our teachers — behind Mississippi and South Dakota.

These facts challenge the very essence of who we are as Oklahomans. That’s why I’m supporting State Question 779. It’s the only option on the table to give our teachers a $5,000 pay raise and invest much-needed funding in our schools. And while it won’t solve every problem our schools are facing, it will decrease the ability of other states to keep draining our talent to their benefit.

I love Oklahoma, and it deeply saddens me to see us shortchanging our children. I’m not one to back down from a fight — especially when there’s so much on the line. And there is no greater fight than the one for our children’s future. That’s why I hope you’ll join me in voting “Yes” for State Question 779 on Nov. 8.