The Fort Worth school district is trying to recruit teachers with a billboard campaign in Oklahoma, where teacher protests about classroom funding recently closed schools across the state.
Fort Worth ISD has placed red billboards in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman and Stillwater. They declare, “Your future is in a Fort Worth classroom.”
The signs also promote the $52,000 starting salary for new Fort Worth teachers. According to the latest statistics from the National Education Association, the average salary for a teacher starting out in Oklahoma is $31,919. Only Missouri and Montana are lower.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last month granting teacher pay hikes of about $6,100 and providing tens of millions of new dollars for public schools. But teachers demand more.
THREE BILLBOARDS IN TULSA OKLAHOMA: Fort Worth ISD is hoping to recruit Oklahoma teachers with these billboards. They will be in Tulsa, Norman, OKC and Stillwater. I reached out to FWISD AND TPS for a response. Story airs tonight at 9 & 10. pic.twitter.com/AYByx0FWNw
— Sawyer Buccy (@SawyerBuccy) May 7, 2018
Oklahoma teachers walked out of their classrooms last month to protest low pay. Fort Worth district spokesman Clint Bond says the district is "impressed with the passion and commitment" of Oklahoma's teachers. He says the campaign is a means to tap into a pool of quality teachers and show that Fort Worth has something to offer.
"I don't think there's any doubt in anybody's mind that those teachers are passionate about their students," he said. "If they were thinking about moving to somewhere like Fort Worth, I know they would think long and hard about that."
Norman Public Schools Superintendent Nick Migliorino tells the Norman Transcript that competition from neighboring states isn't new.
"We've been dealing with this for many years now," Migliorino said. "When we go to job fairs, the bordering states, not just Texas, have booths there, and they're giving out large signing bonuses and starting salaries that we can't even touch with decades of experience."
But he says Oklahoma has a ways to go before it can compete in the market for teachers.
"We have made incredible strides as a state over this last legislative session, but there's much more to do," Migliorino said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.