Survey claims Oklahoma’s classrooms still have big teacher shortage

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma State School Boards Association surveyed more than 300 school districts with 81% of the students in the state, and it seems the state is still in need of qualified teachers.

"It continues to show we have a teacher shortage crisis, which we knew we would,” said Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association Shawn Hime.

As of Aug. 1, there were almost 600 teacher vacancies in the state. That doesn't include the positions filled by emergency teacher certifications.

Organizers say one of the biggest problems is finding people who want to teach.

"Public schools need to work with colleges to recruit students into the college of education and strengthen the pathways to education as well,” Hime said.

The most difficult spots to fill include special education, elementary, middle school math, high school science, and early childhood education.

This comes as districts are able to hire more positions thanks to recent increases in classroom funding.

"There's more optimism around back to school time this year than we've had in decades. People are optimistic that we've had two years in education investment and not only in teacher salaries but also in the classroom."

The survey also found a majority of districts plan to use the more-than-$133 million increase in state funding to give their teachers a $1,200 raise.

It’s an incentive they hope will bring more qualified teachers to the classroom.

"Five years ago, the base salary for a starting teacher was about $31,000. Now we have more teachers starting at $40,000 than we do under $40,000,” Hime said.

For the full survey, click here.

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