A new survey from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association shows that school districts in Oklahoma continue to struggle with filling teaching vacancies. Data shows school districts in the state reported more than 800 teaching vacancies.
“Local school officials have been saying for a while that finding qualified teachers is difficult,” Shawn Hime, executive director of the OSSBA said in a statement. “This survey put actual numbers to the problem — and the results should concern every parent and policymaker in the state. Having a highly qualified teacher in every classroom is the most effective strategy for academic improvement, but as a state, that’s not where we’ve chosen to invest our time, energy or resources. It’s short-sighted because it limits the effectiveness of any other plan Oklahoma puts it place.”
Survey results also showed more than half of districts with vacancies said they sought emergency certification for teachers who are not fully qualified to teach in the required subject area for which they were hired.
Only a handful of districts reported they have the financial wherewithal to offer special incentives to recruit or retain employees. In the tiny Reydon district that borders the Texas panhandle, the district has more than a dozen housing units where district teachers can live rent-free. Last year, employees received a $5,000 Christmas bonus. Teachers also receive free dental insurance and a $50,000 life insurance policy.
Still, Superintendent Phil Drouhard was unsuccessful in finding a full-time high school science teacher. The school’s principal has science certification. A retired math teacher is coming back to help. Together, the pair will make sure students receive the science education they need.
“You would think all of these incentives would really help attract teachers," Drouhard said. “They might bring some people from a neighboring district to work here. But it’s not enough to convince anyone to choose the teaching profession. As long as they have other choices, not even a $2,000 raise is going to change that.”
About half of the districts also said they will use long- or short-term substitute teachers to fill vacancies. Districts representing nearly three-fourths of the state’s public school enrollment completed the survey.
KGOU is a community-supported news organization and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.