Oklahoma's "panhandling teacher," Teresa Danks, continues to get a lot of publicity. Whenever I see the latest story, I'm reminded of an email exchange I had with her earlier this year.
From: Brandon Dutcher
Sent: Thursday, July 20, 2017 9:26 AM
To: Danks, Teresa
Subject: TPS classroom supplies
Hello Mrs. Danks (cc: Sara Whaley),
I saw your story on FOX 23. Given that TPS employs more non-teachers (3,258) than teachers (2,377), it’s pretty clear that the money isn’t getting to the classroom. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the TPS organizational chart, but it really is a sight to behold. TPS employs 22 individuals with salaries in excess of $100,000—several of whom have the job title “executive assistant.”
The surprising truth is that, even when adjusted for inflation, TPS per-student spending in 2016 ($12,180) is only down slightly from a decade ago ($12,261). But the money hasn’t gone to teacher salaries or to classroom supplies. Indeed, using data that the Oklahoma State Department of Education reports to the U.S. Department of Education, economist Benjamin Scafidi points out that between 1993 and 2014, TPS enrollment decreased by 3 percent and the number of teachers decreased by 4 percent—but non-teaching staff increased by 147 percent.
I think it would make sense for policymakers to redirect some of the current money towards the classroom.
Senior Vice President
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Inc.
1401 N. Lincoln Blvd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73104
She replied the next day, thanking me for the information and asking if she could call on me in the future to discuss it in more detail. Regrettably, she never has.
Mrs. Danks (and, more importantly, journalists) would do well to take a look at Oklahoma's non-teaching staffing surge.