Districts Say Oklahoma Teacher Shortage Is Worse

Aug 22, 2017

Uncompetitive pay is cited as a major reason why Oklahoma public schools are short more than 500 teachers for this year.

More than two-thirds of Oklahoma’s school superintendents say the teacher shortage is worse than it was last year.

Oklahoma State School Boards Association President Shawn Hime said that wasn’t a surprise when OSSBA got back its annual survey.

"We expected that based on very little legislative action to increase teacher compensation so we can compete with surrounding states or to increase funding for public education so we can take care of things like class size and other issues that we know are big factors in teachers' decisions whether to work in Oklahoma or move to another state or another profession," Hime said.

Despite eliminating 480 teaching positions since last year, Oklahoma school districts have 536 teaching vacancies right now.

As a result, three in four districts will use more emergency certified teachers this year, and the state is on track to approve a record 1,400-plus emergency certificates by the end of the week.

Hime said districts end up investing additional time and money on remedial training for teachers without an education background — and there’s another common problem.

"They're looking for a change in profession or a change in their life, and they say, 'I want to try teaching,' and they haven't been through that process so it's overwhelming to them," Hime said. "So, there's a large number of those teachers that may leave even before the school year's over, which puts an even larger burden on the local school district."

More than half of districts have increased or will increase class sizes for this year.

"And then eliminating fine arts, activity classes or even advanced courses that they can't find teachers in those areas," Hime said. "It's very difficult to find upper-level physics and science and mathematics courses."

In all, 300 districts representing 78 percent of Oklahoma's public school students responded to OSSBA's fourth annual survey.