OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma state leader has announced an initiative to recruit teachers to the Sooner State.

On Wednesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters announced the “Comprehensive Teacher Pay Reform” initiative.

“For decades, Oklahoma has struggled to recruit and maintain quality teachers in the state. Under my administration, I will reverse this trend with my Comprehensive Teacher Pay Reform
initiative. This will empower local school districts to compete for and attract the right talent
needed for their unique circumstances. The best and brightest teachers throughout Oklahoma and the country should be teaching right here in our own backyard,” Walters said.

Under the initiative’s recruitment program, a new teacher could receive up to a $50,000 signing bonus for a five-year commitment.

The signing bonus breakdown is as follows:

  • Less than 3 years experience: $15,000. If teaching in a rural or high poverty district: $20,000
  • 3+ years experience: $25,000. If teaching in a rural or high poverty district: $30,000
  • 5+ years experience and teaching in a rural or high poverty district: $50,000
  • 5+ years experience teaching special education: $50,000
  • Teachers moving to Oklahoma with less than 5 years experience: $25,000
  • Teachers moving to Oklahoma with more than 5 years experience: $50,000.

In order to receive the signing bonus, teachers must commit to teaching five years in a critical shortage area (PK-3 or PK-12 special education). Teachers who leave their teaching position before the five-year period will be required to pay back a pro-rated amount.

Depending on the popularity of the program, the state may implement a cap of $150,000 in total signing bonuses awarded per district.

The program is said to also include teacher bonuses and special programs to increase teacher pay.

In Fiscal Year 2023, the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved 4,437 requests for emergency certification, and 303 new alternative certificates. That equals about 10% of the entire teaching force.

“Data shows that Oklahoma is facing serious teacher shortages in pre-kindergarten to third grade classrooms, and prekindergarten to twelfth grade special education classrooms. These are the two critical shortage areas we need to focus on. Young children must be provided with high-quality education and support that can help set them up for success in later years,” a news release from the state superintendent read.