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Survey Shows Oklahoma Schools Lost 1,500 Teachers To Budget Cuts

Students rally against Oklahoma City Public Schools budget cuts in May 2016.
Emily Wendler
Oklahoma Public Media Exchange
Students rally against Oklahoma City Public Schools budget cuts in May 2016.

A new statewide survey found that at least 2,800 public school jobs have been lost to budget cuts this year.

The survey, conducted by the Oklahoma State School Board Association, showed that 1,500 of those jobs lost were teaching positions and 1,300 were support staff.

The OSSBA conducted the survey during the first two weeks of August. Districts representing about 83 percent of the state’s public school enrollment participated.

Other survey results show:

  • About half of the participating districts expect class sizes to increase.
  • More than half of school leaders say hiring teachers was more difficult this year compared to last year.
  • A third of school leaders surveyed said they will offer fewer courses this school year.
  • These leaders also said they’re worried that the overall quality of teaching applicants is having a detrimental impact on student achievement.

The OSSBA says the combined impact of budget cuts, too few prospective teachers and teachers opting for other careers or out-of-state teaching jobs is worse this year than it was last. Despite losing 1,500 teachers to budget cuts, schools across the state are still trying to fill 500 teaching positions. Last year schools had about 1,000 vacancies after eliminating 600 teaching jobs. The survey also shows that the vacancies are no longer just in math and science, but instead are across all subjects.
The State Board of Education has already issued 300 emergency teaching certificates this school year, and is expected to consider as many as 350 more emergency certificate applications when it meets Thursday.

Shawn Hime, the executive director for the OSSBA, said this is a real loss for students.

“People who have never trained a day as a teacher are now responsible for teaching elementary school students how to read and do math. We have high school students who can’t take Spanish because their school can’t find a teacher. We are hemorrhaging teachers to Texas, Arkansas and Kansas,” Hime said.

Hime said solutions for the state’s teacher shortage crisis remain unchanged from previous years. Oklahoma needs a long-term funding strategy for public education that meets three key goals:

  • Enables a meaningful increase in teacher compensation that’s regionally competitive and empowers schools to hire and keep outstanding teachers.
  • Provides resources schools require to meet the needs of today’s students and students of the future.
  • Rebuilds the teacher pipeline so it’s filled with capable, passionate educators, possibly through the launch of a bold, statewide scholarship or loan forgiveness plan for future educators.
In graduate school at the University of Montana, Emily Wendler focused on Environmental Science and Natural Resource reporting with an emphasis on agriculture. About halfway through her Master’s program a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love. She has since reported for KBGA, the University of Montana’s college radio station and Montana’s PBS Newsbrief. She was a finalist in a national in-depth radio reporting competition for an investigatory piece she produced on campus rape. She also produced in-depth reports on wind energy and local food for Montana Public Radio. She is very excited to be working in Oklahoma City, and you can hear her work on all things from education to agriculture right here on KOSU.
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