Oklahoma schools need educators

By Tracy Goza

Free-Lance Editor

According to a 2017 survey by the Oklahoma State School Board Association (OSSBA), Oklahoma schools had more than 500 teaching vacancies despite record number of emergency certified teachers as well as the elimination of more than 400 teaching positions since the previous school year.

Without a survey, this coming year will be no different, as the shortage continues with teachers and support staff retiring or retiring early, leaving the state for better opportunities (and pay), quitting the profession altogether or for other reasons.

As of Monday, several schools across Okmulgee County had openings for various positions.

Here is a breakdown of how many positions are open in each county school:

Henryetta Public Schools leads with 14 open positions – Elementary Special Education, High School English, High School/Middle School Dean of Students/Truancy Director, Middle School Math, Middle School Science, Elementary Music, two 2nd Grade Teachers, two 3rd Grade Teachers, 4th Grade Teacher, High School/Middle School STEM, High School Math, High School Cafeteria and a High School Principal.

Okmulgee Public Schools – Three Special Education Teachers, 7th Grade English Teacher, 6th Grade Elementary, two 5th Grade Elementary, 3rd Grade Elementary, 2nd Grade Elementary, 1st Grade Elementary and the possibility of other positions available.

Morris Public Schools – Pre-Kindergarten, Middle School Math, Middle School Special Education, Middle School Social Studies with Assistant High School Softball Duties and an Encumbrance/Payroll Clerk.

Beggs Public Schools – Elementary Music, Middle School Math, Certified Elementary Counselor, Mild/Moderate 3rd/4th Grade Special Education, Middle School Teacher Certified in Elementary Education, High School Head Girls Basketball Coach, High School Fast Pitch Assistant Coach with High School Baseball Assistant Baseball Coach Duties.

Wilson Public Schools – Certified School Counselor. Schulter Public Schools – High School Language/Arts Instructor and Elementary School Teacher.

Ryal Public Schools – Elementary Education Teacher.

According to the superintendents at Graham-Dustin Public Schools and Twin Hills Public Schools, they had no openings for any positions.

Preston Public Schools and Dewar Public Schools were unreachable and did not return phone calls regarding any current openings.

Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) sought $10,000 raises for teachers, $5,000 raises for support staff and an additional $200 million in education funding. OEA gave the Oklahoma Legislature an April 2 deadline to meet the request or a walk-out would ensue.

As teachers and support staff saw the deadline come and go, many school board’s across the state approved resolutions to support teacher decisions to walk out and close schools for at least a week. A few school boards decided that classes would continue on as scheduled.

Oklahoma Legislators approved House Bill 1010XX, a measure that included a $6,100 pay raise for teachers, $1,250 for support staff and $50 million in education funding, but OEA said it wasn’t enough.

For nearly two weeks, teachers across the state descended upon the State Capitol in Oklahoma City and were met with immense support from communities, businesses and some leaders. They also saw a complete lack of respect and support from Legislature and other government officials.

The issue sparked outrage and disappointment with the Legislature, sparking several teachers across the state to run for office.

“It seems insane to me that we have to go to those lengths to get basic supplies,” Laura Griesel, a teacher who is running for state representative. “While it’s disheartening that the walkout ended, the walkout forced change that Oklahomans will see this November.”

A wave of social media posts revealed how much funding is needed in our schools. Posts ranged from old and torn textbooks well over 15 years old to highly damaged chairs and equipment that students need.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill 1010XX but now it is being challenged by a group called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, according to OKPolicy.org.

OKPolicy.org also reported that Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite launched a veto referendum petition that would submit Bill 1010XX to a public vote to either approve or reject the law. If the petition makes it on the ballot, it will be called State Question 799.

In a recent article from the Tulsa World (TW), former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn said he will “work as had as I can” to overturn a $400 million revenue bill lawmakers say is necessary to pay for raises for teachers, school support personnel and state employees.

Coburn said he supports more money for teachers and instruction but said it should be found in existing revenue and by eliminating tax credits for wind energy, TW reported. Also, the article mentioned that Coburn trashed the state’s legislative leadership and Gov. Mary Fallin, saying they had taken an easy way out by agreeing to the state’s first general tax increase in 28 years. Coburn said he is very concerned about the direction the state is going, that state government lacks accountability and transparency and that schools and teachers could have more money if the Governor and Legislature did a better job of ramping down administrative costs, duplication and unnecessary spending.

“Teachers were a pawn in this. Why is it we can’t gain efficiences? We’re not spending money where it really matters. Our greatest asset is our children. We ought to have our investment in the people who are going to make a difference,” Coburn said.

It is still unclear as to what the future will hold for our schools to move forward and see a major change in teacher and support staff pay and education funding.

Only time will tell. 

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