FORT WORTH, TX — Fort Worth Independent School District has constructed 10 tempting billboards across some parts of Oklahoma in an attempt to lure teachers to the district.
The billboards reflect few of the things seen in a usual job posting, instead boasting a brief phrase: "Your future is in a Fort Worth Classroom. Teacher Starting Salary $52,000."
The simple message speaks volumes in the state where teachers in April spent nine days protesting low wages in an organized walkout that left several schools shuttered for the duration of the protest.
At the center of the debate was Oklahoma’s controversially low starting salary for teachers. Entry-level educators in the state are paid $31,600 on average, down some $20,000 from their counterparts in Fort Worth.
The Oklahoma walkouts, CNN reported, came on the heels of a similar protest in West Virginia. That nine-day walkout gained teachers a five percent pay raise, on average.
Not long before West Virginia’s protest, more than 300 teachers in the Pendergrast Elementary School District staged a sick-out, affecting schools in Phoenix, Avondale, and Glendale.
Fort Worth ISD explained the decision behind the billboards in a post on its website, writing, "The passion and concern for children recently demonstrated by thousands of Oklahoma teachers who rallied at the state capital are exactly the attributes Fort Worth ISD wants for our classroom leaders."
In response to the walkouts, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed into law a bill giving state educators their first pay raise in 10 years. StateImpact Oklahoma reported the average teacher received an average annual raise $6,000 dollars.
Even with the $6,000 raise, Fort Worth ISD offers teachers more. The district’s superintendent wrote a note to teachers aspiring to cross the state line and start a career in Texas.
"If you want to work where your dedication is appreciated and where you will have the tools needed to improve student achievement, then we want to talk with you," said Superintendent Kent P. Scribner.
Fort Worth ISD educates some 86,000 students, and spans 143 campuses and more than 10,000 employees. The district’s website cites a $750 million investment project aimed at building new schools, remodeling existing learning spaces and providing technological improvements across the entire District.
Research from the National Education Association shows that the average teacher salary around the country is $58,353. That was up 1.3 percent from 2015.
New York had the highest average salary in 2016 at $79,152.
Image via Fort Worth ISD