We wrote that it would happen back in June. And even though everything in our Teachers Matter effort also indicated it was a foregone conclusion, we hoped through some miracle we would be wrong. Unfortunately, we weren’t and the teacher shortage crisis is showing no signs of improvement.
In fact, Oklahoma’s teacher crisis has gotten so bad that even with 600 teaching positions eliminated statewide because of budget cuts, there are still 1,000 vacant teacher positions - in spite of the 2015-2016 school year being well under way. That means there are 1,000 would-be classrooms without a teacher at the helm and tens of thousands of Oklahoma’s students receiving an inferior education.
This news came yesterday via the latest survey of school districts by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA). The survey results were affirmed by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who said the data backs up what the state Department of Education is seeing in the realm of emergency certification, which is occurring in addition to the 1,000 vacant positions.
To be clear, emergency certification is the equivalent of hiring a long-term substitute: someone who has a college degree but little to no training in being a teacher or managing a classroom. It’s a last resort option for desperate districts that need warm bodies at the head of a classroom simply because they can’t fit any more students into an already overcrowded classroom that does have a qualified teacher.
Consider this, the state granted 500 emergency teacher certificates during the whole of the last school year. But by the end of this week, the state will have granted 664 … and the school year has just begun.
As OSSBA’s executive director Shawn Hime told reporters yesterday “[As a state] we have to ask ourselves: Are we really OK with 5- and 6-year-olds who will go without a teacher trained to develop young readers? Are we really OK with eliminating high-level science classes because we refuse to pay teachers a competitive wage?”
He further shared OSSBA has discovered:
- Most districts had difficulty filling positions this year ·
- 60 percent of districts will seek emergency certification to put warm bodies in front of classrooms and about the same percentage anticipate class sizes increasing again this year.
- One-third of districts will offer fewer courses this year. ·
- Special education, elementary, high school science, high school math and middle school math are the most difficult teaching positions to fill.
Stand for Children Oklahoma’s response to all of this is “Enough!" It's beyond time for leaders to come up with a comprehensive funding plan to address this teacher shortage issue and ensure all students have access to a quality education.
A quality education for all Oklahoma children should be a promise this state delivers to our families who call this state their home. When we fail to deliver on this promise, our entire state suffers and our future success is compromised.
Our children deserve better and we have the power to change this. Will you stand with us? Will you sign our petition telling Oklahoma leaders enough is enough and that this state MUST develop a long-term solution that ensures we pay our teachers a competitive wage?
Standing with you,