Norman, Okla. (KOKH) — It's a sign of tough times for education in Oklahoma. A former teacher of the year is calling it quits, packing up, and heading south.
Shawn Sheehan, his wife, and seven month old daughter will start a new life in Texas.
"We've seen increasing class sizes, We've seen programs that were really helpful for kids cut," says Sheehan.
Those are all reasons behind Sheehan's decision to leave the state. Shawn Sheehan is a math teacher at Norman High School. In 2016 he was selected as Oklahoma's Teacher of the Year. He went on to be one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. Now, Sheehan says the time has come for him to pack up his family and move to Texas. Sheehan and his wife were both teachers in Oklahoma, living on a limited income. He says the final straw was this year's legislative session. Lawmakers decided to not include a teacher pay raise in their budget this year. On top of that, he expects more cuts to education.
"At what point will we stop excusing this behavior," asks Sheehan.
Sheehan says he does not have a message for lawmakers before leaving to teach in Texas. He goes on to say that the decision to not increase teacher pay did not surprise him.
"If I'm being brutally honest, it's about par for the course. This state has been on this trajectory for a while it's not new it's not a surprise to anyone who is in education," he said.
Despite being a dedicated teacher for students in Norman, and creating the "Teach Like Me Campaign," an effort to help improve teacher recruitment and retention, he tells FOX 25 he has received backlash for his decision.
"Oklahoma has some of the best teachers in the world, and I know this just from traveling across the country last year as Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. But, as a parent, I'm going to hang it up on this one because I've got to do what's right for my seven month old daughter," he said.
Sheehan and his wife will continue to teach at the same school district, in a community 30 minutes north of Dallas. He tells FOX 25 that combined, the two will earn $40,000 more than they did in Oklahoma.