September 21, 2017
It’s nothing new to report that the state of Oklahoma is 48th in education outcomes.
As our legislature continues to dither and waffle about whether they want to out-Brownback Kansas by being the new example of a failed state economy, Oklahoma educators vote with their feet — teachers move just across the border into Texas or Arkansas (yes, Arkansas!) where they get significant raises for doing the same thing.
Oklahoma public school teacher salaries are capped by mandated state funding. Any attempts by municipalities to raise more $$ for teachers results in automatic reductions to the state funding schedule — their way of keeping all state teachers at parity regardless of whether they live in a poor rural or urban district or a wealthy suburban one. Gotta keep everyone equal, don’t ‘cha know.
One way to make the playing field unequal is by property tax and bond issue revenues. School districts lucky enough to be in desirable, white-flight suburbs can plow property taxes into their schools and thus provide beautiful, well-appointed spaces. My daughter benefits from the fact that Jenks Gymnastics has a gymnasium (at the Middle School) that has few or no equals in the state. My tax dollars at work.
So what if we provide quality, modern housing to teachers and their families for FREE?
Much like the George Kaiser Foundation does with providing low-cost housing for City Year/Teach for America teachers, only for all teachers?
We know that one of the biggest hits to one’s monthly paycheck is housing, followed by auto ownership/maintenance/insurance, etc. Perhaps if we remove that 20-25% of one’s monthly cash flow, it would be like an automatic raise.
So imagine this scenario:
- A number of OK philanthropic family foundations buy several parcels of land, centrally located within the city, where perhaps there are a great number of small, 1940s postwar homes on them. OR…
- …a large, well-property tax-funded school district, after running out of stadia and extracurricular buildings to fund, decides to build a “pocket neighborhood” on 5+ acres, within walking distance to some of their schools. Efficiently designed homes clustered around a common or greenspace, encouraging community.
- Optimally, this redevelopment tract would be close to the expressways, and perhaps adjacent to major bus routes, freeing the teacher or his/her family from being a 2-car household as well.
Imagine houses close-in to the commons or the road, looking a bit like Seaside, FL or Carlton Landing, OK. But for TEACHERS.
When I was at Tulsa University in the 80s, there were a few instructors (adjunct professors) who lived in those cute little Tudor style homes near the TU campus. I always thought: building a community of thinkers near a University would be a good idea. Now, I think it’s an even better idea for Oklahoma schools.