Protesters crowd into the rotunda during the teachers walkout. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file

Emergency teaching certifications continue to reach historic highs even after two statewide teacher salary hikes.

Not to make a pun, but there’s a lesson here: It took years of underfunding education to produce these types of embarrassing benchmarks; it will take years to rebuild.

Last year, Oklahoma public schools hired 3,038 nonaccredited teachers, a 54% increase over the previous year’s mark.

Tulsa World reporter Andrea Eger found the upward trend is continuing. Some 818 emergency certifications, including 512 renewals, were approved at the June state Board of Education meeting.

Tulsa Public Schools represented 180 of those, and Broken Arrow schools received 30 approvals.

Emergency certifications are the wrong way to staff a school. Each one represents a failure to provide a fully qualified teacher to Oklahoma students.

There was a time when emergency certifications were rare, intended only for use in temporary situations that couldn’t be avoided. Local school officials had to appear before the state board to explain their situation.

But the emergency is now ubiquitous, overwhelming the state board’s ability to oversee the situation effectively.

Oklahoma lawmakers caused this severe teacher shortage with a decade of budget cuts leading to stagnant wages, ballooning class sizes and elimination of supportive resources.

Even after the Legislature’s approval of teacher raises averaging $6,100 in 2018 and another for $1,220 earlier this year, the problem persists. If a new generation believed in the state’s commitment to public schools — which is far from a given — it would take years for them to make it through college and show up to take jobs.

Gov. Stitt has set a goal of being a top 10 state in education.

We suggest that one metric for judging his success in that goal would be turning the tide in emergency certifications. It will take consistent investments and a convincing argument to the next generation of potential teachers that if they will go to the classroom, the state will value their commitment and will do so throughout their career.

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