Economist: Context missing in Oklahoma teacher pay debate
By Byron Schlomach

I’m an economist. Consequently, I cringe when people use raw numbers to make comparisons that fail to take context into account, making such comparisons meaningless.

By way of illustration, comparing raw average pay for men and women fails to consider work experience, fields of specialty and seniority. Comparisons of average life spans across countries fail to take into account obesity rates, murder rates and deaths by automobile.

Likewise, when people look at national statistics on teacher pay and pronounce Oklahoma a bottom-feeder, I start feeling like someone is scratching fingernails on a chalkboard.

Yes, it’s true, according to raw statistics, Oklahoma ranks 48th among the states in teacher pay in 2016. However, raw pay statistics fail to account for benefits, especially retirement. Perhaps more importantly, the raw numbers fail to take account of the very low cost of living in Oklahoma.

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