Oklahoma Lawmakers Work to Address Teacher Pipeline

Monday, October 14th 2019, 5:02 pm
By: Amy Avery

Oklahoma Teachers are still feeling the pain of large class sizes and their colleagues leaving for teaching positions in other states.

That's why some Oklahoma Lawmakers are proposing new legislation to help fix the teaching pipeline in our state.

Studies have shown that the teachers who are most likely to stay in the state are the ones who were raised here, went to school here, they were given contracts to teach here in Oklahoma classrooms.

Now some legislators hope to create legislation to reward teachers for doing just that.

"The walkout was never about a raise, it was about respect for education and that’s why the educator legislators are going have to fight to keep education at the forefront of the debate,” said House District 77 Representative John Waldron.

Former Booker T. Washington High School teacher, John Waldron was one of several educators who decided to run for office to help to change the fate of public education in Oklahoma.

The Legislative Education Advocacy Plan or LEAP is still in the works, but Representative John Waldron says the essential principles are clear and based on the concept that the teacher pipeline is the keystone of education reform and restoration.

Because despite the pay raises, many teachers are still leaving to teach in other states.

"The other states know we have great people here and we produce great teachers so they hire them, and we should be building our own teaching corp out of our own communities to teach our kids,” said Waldron.

In August, Oklahoma Educators met at the University of Tulsa to discuss the growing number of emergency certified teachers across the state.

They wanted to work on coming up with ways to entice students studying education to stay and teach in Oklahoma classrooms, like reimbursing the cost of teaching exams, having paid internship programs and even paying off student loans.

"The numbers tell us that the people who are most likely to serve to teach children and even the children of those children are the career educators who come out of Oklahoma colleges and universities,” said Waldron.

But they also don't want to forget about those already teaching in the classrooms.

Representative Waldron says he and his colleagues hope to take a closer look at some of the burdens teachers face, like the cost of insurance.

"Teachers should be able to carry their spouses and dependents on their insurance the same as other state employees, right now that takes a big chunk out of their paychecks,” said Waldron.

Because the future of Oklahoma's children is at stake.

"We never really were about the money, but we do need to be able to raise families and we need to feel like we are being effective in the classroom,” said Waldron. “I think Oklahoma needs to send the message that it’s okay to be a teacher again in Oklahoma.”

Some other reforms include:

• Test reimbursement or waiver for all certified teachers taking their teaching exams, if they hold a contract to teach at a Title I school.
• Fully funded paid internship programs for students in accredited OK colleges and universities working for a semester in Title I schools. Internships would be paid by the state at a flat rate on par with the existing program at OU.
• Replacement of chronic absenteeism with teacher retention and/or a measure of building climate on the A-F report card.
• Where school districts have a step 0, new teachers certified by an accredited college or university would enter at step 1.
• Counting of all of the years of experience in out-of-state public schools on the state and local pay scale, when teachers are hired from out of state.
• Full funding of NBCT stipends by guaranteed legislative appropriation.
• Funding of 1017 classroom size limits by legislative appropriation.
• Insurance relief for educators by placing them on state plans that pay a greater share for spouses and children.
• Forgiveness of student loans for graduates of accredited college and university certification programs for teachers in Title I schools at a rate of 20% of the loan each year up to 5 years in the Title I school.
• Reduction of burdens and mandates on teacher PD and planning, including 250 minutes planning time for all teachers/week, requiring access to collaborative time. Limitations on the ability of administrators and districts to impinge on this time.
• Implementation of play-based standards in pre-k to 3rd grade to emphasize the importance of movement, creative expression, exploration, socialization, art, and music.
• Recognition of the importance of art education
• Barring of use of non-certified personnel as teacher coaches and/or evaluators.

The deadline for legislators to introduce new bills is January 16th and the first day back for the legislature is February 3rd. Again, this is proposed legislation.

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