For nearly a decade, Oklahoma has been facing a severe teacher shortage. Steep budget cuts during this period have forced teachers to make due with limited resources, fewer staff, and chronically low salaries. Unsurprisingly, Oklahoma teachers leave the profession at rates that surpass the national average. The latest 2018 Oklahoma Educator Supply and Demand Report shows that over the past six years on average 10 percent of educators leave Oklahoma’s classrooms each year, compared to 7.7 percent nationally. Approximately half of all teachers exit the classroom within five years.
To address this shortage, Oklahoma issued 97 emergency teaching certifications in 2012-2013 to individuals with bachelor’s degrees, but who lacked university-based education coursework, content area background or classroom experience. The number of emergency certifications has skyrocketed since this time with 3,320 emergency certifications awarded in the 2019-2020 school year.
Strengthening the teacher pipeline is vital to ensure all Oklahoma students have access to a high quality education. Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has resulted in higher student to teacher ratios and larger class sizes, which has a negative impact on student achievement. Studies have also shown that uncertified teachers produce lower academic outcomes for students than their certified peers. Fixing Oklahoma’s leaking pipeline will require recruiting new teachers into the profession and providing the resources and support educators need to stay in the profession.
Fortunately, lawmakers have filed a number of bills this legislative session to address the teacher shortage. The following bills aim to strengthen the teacher pipeline in Oklahoma:
- HB1592 (Rep. Provenzano) For purposes of state salary increments, teachers with active duty in the military service or out-of-state or out-of-country teaching experience as a certified teacher or its equivalent shall be granted credit for the respective years of experience.
- HB1813 (Rep. Blancett) Student teachers serving a full-day internship, shall be eligible to receive compensation beginning on the first day of the internship and for up to one full school year.
- HB1836 (Rep. Waldron) The State Department of Education shall develop a system to code teacher certification and renewal applications in order to report data on the pathways for teacher certification, including emergency certification.
- HB1837 (Rep. Waldron) Expanding the teacher shortage incentive program for students enrolled in any major course of study at the undergraduate or graduate levels who teach in Oklahoma for a minimum of five years.
- HB1838 (Rep. Waldron) Each eligible student participating in the teacher internship program shall be awarded a one-time stipend of $4,000.
- HB1840 (Rep. Waldron) Any teacher who graduated from an in-state institution of higher education and who is assigned to teach at a Title I school shall be reimbursed for any testing fee or payment for a competency exam.
- HB2692 (Rep. Hasenbeck) Advanced Roles for Teachers and School Leaders Act would establish a three-year pilot program for advanced teaching roles and organizational models in schools.
- HB2693 (Rep. Hasenbeck) Reward teachers who are renewing their National Board certification by awarding them a portion of the renewal application fee.
- HB2752 (Rep. Baker) Establishes a micro-credential program in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science to award add-on endorsements to teachers in STEM and to be used in lieu of the subject area competency examination.
- SB51 (Sen. Hicks) Remove the requirement of taking and passing the general education exam for teacher certification.