Oklahoma governor compares underpaid teachers to ‘teenage kid who wants a better car’

Teachers are angry after Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin made a comment comparing teachers to spoiled teenagers.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. CREDIT: Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. CREDIT: Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) compared teachers who are walking out of schools to demand better pay and education funding to spoiled teenagers in an interview with CBS news on Tuesday.

“Teachers want more, but it’s kind of like a teenage kid who wants a better car,” Fallin said.

In reality, Oklahoma teachers are the lowest paid in the country, according to 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Data gathered by the National Education Association, which only considers public school teachers, shows Oklahoma teachers only made slightly more than Mississippi and South Dakota teachers, with an average salary of $45,245.

Teachers are continuing to strike on Wednesday to demand more education funding.

Before the walkouts began on Monday, President of the Oklahoma Education Association Alicia Priest told ThinkProgress, “I don’t know many teachers who don’t have a second or third job.


“If I didn’t have a second job, I’d be on food stamps,” Rae Lovelace, a single mom and a third-grade teacher at Leedey Public Schools told the Associated Press.

Teresa Danks, a third-grade teacher at Grimes Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, made headlines when she panhandled last year for school supplies. She stood at a highway intersection to get the supplies which she says cost her anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000. Danks made only $35,000 a year.

When Fallin’s interviewer, Omar Villafranca, said that teachers’ “car” had been taken away for the last 10 years — referring to the fact that teachers haven’t had a raise in a decade — Fallin replied, “Well it has been a difficult time, and that’s why this year, I’m very proud we were able to get something done for our teachers.”

Fallin referred to a “remarkable historic vote” for teacher pay raises. The Oklahoma Education Association said it wanted a $10,000 pay raise for teachers over three years and a $200 million increase in funding for education.

Last week, the Oklahoma Senate passed a teacher pay raise of $6,000 on average and restored education funding by $50 million. Teachers said these changes were not sufficient and that they would continue their plan to walk out.

On Monday and Tuesday, teachers went to the capitol building for a rally and went inside the building. On Tuesday, Gov. Fallin (R) signed a number of bills related to education funding. The appropriation bill includes $52 million for support personnel pay, $353.5 million for teacher pay, $33 million for textbooks, and 24.7 million for health benefits, according to KSWO. That boost in education funding totals $480 million.


OEA President Alicia Priest released said that funding wasn’t enough. Priest referred to schools with “more students than desks, duct-taped text books, and schools that are only heated to 60 degrees.”

“This legislation falls well short of fixing those problems. These measures leave millions in revenue on the table and still leave Oklahoma students among the worst funded in the nation,” Priest said.

On Tuesday, teachers flooded the state capitol rotund and chanted “We’re not leaving,” according to Reuters. Teachers wanted lawmakers to pass a bill that would increase hotel and capital gains taxes. The OEA argues that lawmakers could easily bring in more revenue if they passed this legislation.

At the end of the interview on Tuesday Fallin added, “Let’s not forget, there are parents, there are students, there are industries that need these employees to graduate from college and get out into the workforce. The students need to be able to meet their deadlines and the state certainly doesn’t want to lose federal funding.”


Fallin is referring to testing requirements, which schools need to meet if they don’t want to risk losing federal funding.

CORRECTION: This piece initially stated that according to NEA data, Oklahoma teachers only make more than teachers in Mississippi and Nebraska. In reality, the data found they make slightly more than teachers in Mississippi and South Dakota.