Oklahoma Department of Education sets record for emergency teaching certifications

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials with the Oklahoma State Department of Education say the state has reached a record number of emergency teaching certifications following a meeting on Thursday morning.

For years, teachers have been asking Oklahoma lawmakers to find a way to fund a pay raise for educators across the state.

When another legislative session came to a close without a teacher pay raise, many educators decided to leave the classroom or the Sooner State for better pay.

In May, Shawn Sheehan, who was named Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year in 2016, announced that he  would move south of the Red River to make more money in the classroom.

“I hope my and my family’s departure, which is among many this year, makes a statement. We’re voting with our feet on this one,” he wrote.

Earlier this week, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association released figures detailing the teacher shortage across the state.

The report showed that there were 536 vacancies, and budget cuts forced districts to eliminate an additional 480 teaching positions.

When surveyed, the association says 75 percent of districts said they expect to rely more heavily on emergency-certified teachers this school year.

On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Department of Education announced that it approved 574 emergency certifications, which broke the previous record of the most emergency certifications in a school year.

The Department of Education says Thursday’s approvals brings the total number of emergency teaching certifications to 1,429, which is nearly 300 more than last school year.