- Oklahoma school districts are facing budget crises in the wake of years of tax cuts and declining revenue, and some have responded by cutting the school week from five days to four — a move that doesn't save much money, but attracts applicants to typically low-paying teacher positions, according to The Washington Post.
- Schools in several states in the region have taken this approach, though few as severe as Oklahoma, where 96 of the 513 school districts in the state have moved to four-day weeks — triple the number from 2015 — with another 44 considering a four-day week or shortening the school year in the fall, according to a school board survey last month.
- The Post reported that education spending had decreased by 14% since 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, with only a few states spending less on students than Oklahoma. And some educators felt that so many cuts had been made already that there wasn't much left to be cut further.
Teachers’ starting salaries can leave much to be desired, particularly in cash-strapped states. The Hechinger Report found that teachers in Arizona make an average of $42,560, which is 11% lower than what they made in 2001 when adjusted for inflation and below the minimum annual salary a family of three or four would require. Teaching has become an increasingly untenable profession, and while many states have lowered the requirements for teacher certification to combat the shortage, the profession still requires a level of education that could require taking out student loans. After consideration, young adults who were interested in teaching may be finding that low salaries coupled with the burden of loans, would make entering the profession not only uncomfortable but impossible.
It remains to be seen how the upcoming federal budget will impact schools and states in situations like Oklahoma. President Donald Trump’s proposed budget promised to enact significant cuts to the Education Department, though it is likely that the budget will undergo changes before it passes Congress. Most funding for school districts is typically provided by state and local governments, but the federal government can have a heavier hand if states are unable to adequately fund schools. It remains to be seen exactly how a "skinny" education budget would impact schools in states like Oklahoma that have already undergone their own austerity measures, but any solution will likely mean less available funding for such schools from either the state or federal government.