Poorly Paid Hero Teachers in Oklahoma Risk Their Lives to Save Students From Tornado

Oklahoma City bore one of the greatest natural disasters in recent history with a deadly tornado that tore through the humble community. Although initial numbers indicated that the death toll reached as many as 51 people, recent figures have estimated the number to have fallen to 24, but more than 200 people have been treated for injuries at area hospitals. Dignitaries and celebrities from all across the nation offered their prayers and opened their pockets for the Oklahoma City community.

In the wake of tragedy is hope. The teachers at Plaza Towers elementary school, a place where seven students were confirmed dead, exemplify the selflessness of the human spirit and provide society with a symbol of faith. Incredible pictures of teachers like Rhonda Crosswhite carrying students out from the crumpled debris and wreckage give recognition to the type of people they really are: heroes. Putting one's self in danger in order to secure the well being of others is the definition of self-sacrifice and the actions of the teachers that shielded kids from danger are a small nugget of inspiration in the presence of tragedy. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin states, "We will rebuild and we will regain our strength." And with the example of teachers in schools all over the community, the nation has no doubt Oklahoma will recover.

The altruism of the teachers in Oklahoma is an unquantifiable part of the human condition; however, there is something to be said for the average salary for an Oklahoma teacher to be the fourth lowest in the nation. "When you're nickel-and-diming the education these kids are receiving, I think down the road you're going to pay for that," said Steve Ellis, principal of Fike High School in North Carolina, on NPR's Talk of the Nation. The inequality between teachers in the lower quartile as compared to those in the higher one is over $25,000. Nationwide 46% of teachers quit before reaching their fifth year. The causes for these struggles lie in resource and budget allocation.

The budget of a state government can be split into short-term and long-term goals. If states aren't willing to invest in human capital to create an efficient and productive public education, their will is no opportunity for growth. The foundation behind creating a fundamentally sound educational system is an adherence to macroeconomic principle; incentives matter. Teachers in the lower quartile of average teacher pay do not have the same incentives or fiscal capabilities to continue teaching on mediocre pay. It's clear that teachers, especially those in Oklahoma, are in it for genuine purposes. But to maintain an educational foundation in the United States, teachers must be compensated for their exemplary service.

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John Mathew

Hello, I'm a 2nd year at the University of Virginia studying politics and Economics. I love discussing policy and developmental economics with just about anyone with an opinion on the subject. Apart from academic interests, you can ask me anything about basketball (especially the NY Knicks!), running, and super smash brothers, I love them all. Feel free to contact me with any questions about my work!

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