Pending legislation would put the state in a stronger position to attract experienced teachers from other states.
Sen. Adam Pugh has proposed a bill that would grant certified teachers from other states certification in Oklahoma without additional testing or other potential burdens. Teachers moving into Oklahoma would still have to pass criminal background checks.
Another bill Pugh proposes would give those out-of-state teachers career credit for all of the years they have taught.
Under current law, out-of-state teachers coming to Oklahoma are sometimes required to take competency examinations and meet other requirements set by the State Board of Education. After they are certified, they can only get pay-scale credit for five years of out-of-state experience, regardless of how many years they have been teaching.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to increase the potential pool of teacher applicants, and attracting out-of-state teachers is one way we can do that,” Pugh said in a press release last week. “However, we need to get rid of some of the roadblocks that are keeping out-of-state teachers from continuing their careers in our classrooms. Recognizing their teaching certificates and years of service is a great first step.”
For years, Oklahoma has been exporting teaching talent. Low salaries and poor school funding have led many teachers to head to Texas and other places where the money is better.
While schools remain inadequately funded, the state has improved teacher pay in recent years. If education funding were to continue to improve in Oklahoma relative to other states, its possible to imagine the teacher pipeline reversing.
But if Oklahoma throws up bureaucratic roadblocks to discourage teachers from crossing the state line, there’s little reason for optimism.
Pugh’s ideas aren’t going to solve the state’s teacher shortage, but they might help, and they deserve fair consideration.