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  • Writer's pictureShawn Sheehan

Someone Like You, Oklahoma

“I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited, but I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it. I’d hoped you’d see my face and that you’d be reminded that for me it isn’t over.”

We’ve all sung that quintessential Adele song loudly in our car, am I right? Perhaps even on our way to Dallas for the annual Red River Rivalry game. Well, I’m here once more to remind you that as the 2016 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, I am committed to advocating for education in Oklahoma, albeit from afar. I can’t stay away and I can’t stop fighting for public ed in my home state.

Lots of folks have reached out asking for comparisons between Oklahoma and Texas, so I decided what better time to respond than during Red River Rivalry week? The annual college football game between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas takes place this weekend and for those not in the know, this game represents a bitter rivalry between schools and their respective states. Texas leads the series overall, but recent history has OU winning more frequently.

In my last post, I announced that my wife and I had chosen to make the move to Texas to continue our teaching careers. I had no idea that my blog post would garner national attention and, at one point, become the number one trending story on Reddit. There were literally thousands of comments from outsiders, insiders, educators, and critics and they could largely be grouped into two categories: “sad to see you go but do what’s right for your family” and “way to abandon children, you selfish, greedy teacher - you must be terrible with finances - it shouldn’t be about the money”.

The main argument from the latter group revolved around cost of living. It was as if folks thought this math teacher was incapable of preparing a budget and factoring in cost of living differences. In this blog post, I will provide a side-by-side comparison of my and my wife’s expenses and experiences as educators in Norman, Oklahoma and Lewisville, Texas. Please note that my story is not representative of every educator who has made the move. There are similarities and differences, of course, so know that my story is that of two early career educators with one 11-month-old dependent.

I hope these numbers help provide anecdotal evidence to respond to the cost of living argument. Yes, some things cost more here in Texas. And when we begin to look at buying a house, that’s going to change things, too. But at the end of the day, we have something here in Texas that we likely never would have had teaching in Oklahoma: financial stability. See, in one year, we’ll have made roughly $40k more than we would have. Then, each successive year after that, it’ll be $40k more than it would have been. Three years later and we’re an extra six figures ahead of what we would have made over the same amount of time. And that’s the math that I think most people forget about.

Make no mistake about it. We miss teaching with our friends in Norman. We hate that we have to drive an extra two hours to visit family in Owasso. Sure, we traded some issues for others and debates over funding, vouchers, and testing are the same. Politically, our states are very similar. Public ed faces challenges each day in Oklahoma, Texas, and across the country. Ultimately, it boils down to one’s ability for provide for his or her family. We have been welcomed with open arms in Lewisville and we love serving our students, their families, and our community.

So, that’s that. This post took me a long time to write because it’s so deeply personal. It’s nerve-wracking being so transparent with our money and bills. But someone has to do it. Someone had to respond to the naysayers and dispel the myths about the cost of living in north Texas being exponentially higher than similar-sized suburbs in Oklahoma.

I hope this becomes more than a talking point or a target for comments on Facebook. I hope it reminds Oklahomans that they have the power to change things for students and educators who have been waiting years for a sign that things will get better. Demand better for your children and hold your legislators accountable for the promises they made when they knocked on your door or called you on the phone. Demand that Oklahoma not continue to lose educators to Texas. If our college football stats matched our public ed rankings, we would’ve demanded changes long ago.

“I wish nothing but the best for you, too. Don’t forget me, I beg…”


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