Education funding push (copy)

A teacher makes a sign during a rally for education funding at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Feb. 12, 2018. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file

OKLAHOMA CITY — A legislative panel on Wednesday heard a variety of reasons for the teacher shortage and ways to correct it.

The House Common Education Committee held an interim study on the issue.

Oklahoma has been certifying a growing number of people on emergency status due to an inability to attract and retain traditionally certified teachers.

Recent legislative action raising teacher pay aims to increase the number of traditionally certified teachers.

Robyn Miller is deputy superintendent for school support and accountability. She said a lack of respect has slowly eroded the pathway to the classroom.

She said teachers who had an active Oklahoma teaching certificate but were not using it were asked about the issue in a 2017 survey. They cited compensation, lack of support, class sizes and lack of opportunities for advancement as reasons, she said.

Elizabeth E. Smith is chair of the University of Tulsa Education Department. She said those who are granted emergency certification don’t have the preparation to teach.

Graduates of teacher education programs have a higher retention rate than those who came through the alternative or emergency certification process, she said.

She said about 71% of graduates stay in Oklahoma, but the figure could be higher if more incentives were provided.

The cost to replace a teacher, depending on the setting, ranges from $9,000 to $20,000, she said. The figures include processing, recruitment, training and loss of productivity.

Over a period of six years, some 30,000 teachers have left. The average cost was $11,000, she said.

Joe Siano is associate executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association and past superintendent of Norman Public Schools.

In 2012, the state had 32 emergency certifications, a figure which rose to 2,319 in the 2020 school year, with more expected to be approved by the State Board of Education, he said.

“The teacher shortage evolved over the years,” he said.

Shortage areas include special education, secondary math, secondary science, elementary education and early childhood education, he said.

In 2019, 63% of districts reported difficulty in hiring special education teachers, he said.

“Teacher shortages across the country are very similar,” he said.

Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, is a former educator and one of those requesting the study.

Waldron said he is considering filing several pieces of legislation to help solve the problem, including loan forgiveness, paid internships and incentives for traditionally certified teachers entering the profession.

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Barbara Hoberock


Twitter: @bhoberock

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