When the new school year starts, the Lewisville school district will welcome a new teacher whose reputation precedes him.
Why? The pay. With a master’s degree in special education and five years’ experience, Sheehan made just $35,600 in his final year teaching algebra I at Norman High School. When Sheehan’s daughter, Scarlett, was born late last year, the move three hours south looked even more appealing.
“That was the game-changer,” Sheehan said. “I knew going into education, this was not a high-paying profession. My wife and I were very willing to run into some of the walls we knew were coming, but now what’s changed is that I’m unwilling to run into those same walls with my daughter in my arms.”
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Both Shawn and his wife, Kaysi, taught at Norman High, and with both teaching this year in Lewisville, their household will see a bump of nearly $40,000 over last year. According to Norman Public Schools’ teacher pay schedule, Sheehan’s base salary in his seventh year would have been around $36,500, before additional considerations for teaching special education, which Sheehan did for five of the six years he spent with the district.
At Lewisville, new hire teacher pay with six years’ experience is $53,450, and Sheehan said his master’s degree tacked on an additional $1,000.
“It’s significant,” Sheehan said. “We’re moving first and foremost for financial stability. It’s wild, the gains that can be made by moving such a short distance. In Oklahoma, after all bills were paid, my wife and I were, more or less, doing life off of $400 a month.”
Sheehan didn’t just ask for raises or complain to administrators. He joined roughly 40 other educators who ran for seats in the Oklahoma Legislature last year, calling for more funding for public schools. Sixteen made it through primaries, but just one was elected to office last November in the state, which ranks 49th in the country in teacher pay, according to the latest numbers from the National Education Association.
Sheehan, who ran as an Independent, lost the general election for Oklahoma Senate, District 15, to incumbent Republican Rob Standridge.
Texas ranked 27th in the U.S. in average public school teacher salary, at $51,890, in 2016.