FORTY miles from Tulsa, including along unpaved road, sits Wagoner High School, with its 650 students, championship-calibre football team and show barn—a seemingly ordinary small-town school. But unlike most high schools, Wagoner is closed on Mondays. The reason, a severe reduction in state funds, has pushed 90 other school districts in Oklahoma to do the same. Teacher pay is the third-lowest in the nation and has triggered a statewide shortage as teachers flee to bordering states like Arkansas and Texas or to private schools. “Most of our teachers work second jobs,” says Darlene Adair, Wagoner’s principal. “A lot of them work at Walmart on nights and weekends, or in local restaurants.” Ms Adair hopes that Walmart does not offer her teachers a full-time job, which would be a pay raise for many.
The roots of the fiasco are not hard to determine. Like its northern neighbour Kansas, deep tax cuts have wrecked the state’s finances. During the shale boom, Oklahoma lawmakers gave…Continue reading