Oklahoma Teacher Shortage Significantly Worse, Hofmeister States

Monday, August 24th 2015, 11:26 am
By: News On 6

A new survey from an Oklahoma education group says the state's teacher shortage has reached "extraordinary" levels as school districts seek to fill about 1,000 open teaching positions. Those same districts have eliminated about 600 teaching jobs despite growing enrollment and are requesting a record number of emergency teaching certificates, according to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

Over 180 emergency certificates were granted last month alone, and the state says they're considering nearly 500 more.

The group's director, Shawn Hime, said students are suffering from the state's refusal to pay teachers a competitive wage.

“Saying we don’t have the money for teacher pay raises is no longer an acceptable excuse,” Hime said in a news release. Hime said increasing class sizes and undertrained new teachers are adding to the negative impact on students.

Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister commented on the teacher shortage survey: 

"The OSSBA survey confirms what we have all suspected, that the teacher shortage has worsened significantly," she said. "The shortage has meant the elimination of teaching positions, increased class sizes and the slashing of class offerings. We are shortchanging our schoolchildren each day we fail to take bold action."

8/14/2015 Related Story: Despite Shortage, Tulsa Public Schools Fills Teacher Vacancies

OSSBA conducted the survey during the first two weeks of August. Districts representing about 80 percent of the state’s public school enrollment participated. Among other survey findings:

  • About 75 percent of school leaders say hiring teachers was more difficult this year compared to last year.
  • The shortages are widespread, regardless of the district’s size and location and the subject area.
  • About 60 percent of districts anticipate needing to seek emergency teaching certifications to fill vacancies.
  • Almost half of districts expect to increase class sizes.
  • About one-third of school leaders said their schools likely will offer fewer courses this school year.
  • Special education, elementary, high school science, high school math and middle school math are the most difficult teaching positions to fill.
  • School leaders are deeply worried that the overall quality of teaching applicants is having a detrimental impact on student achievement.
  • Many newly hired teachers need extensive support and training, which increases pressure on school leaders who have limited time and resources with which to provide support.

Hime said efforts are being made to raise the cap on how much retired teachers can make when returning to the classroom.

The group also recommends the state work to:

  • Enable a meaningful increase in teacher compensation that’s regionally competitive and empowers schools to hire and keep outstanding teachers. 
  • Provide resources schools require to meet the needs of today’s students and students of the future.
  • Rebuild the teacher pipeline so it’s filled with capable, passionate educators through the launch of a bold, statewide scholarship or loan forgiveness plan for future educators.