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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The number of Oklahoma teachers who retired during the summer of 2021 spiked compared to past years.

“They’re concerned about their own health, their family’s health, and that it has become so politically charged is very disheartening to many of our educators,” said Katherine Bishop, Oklahoma Education Association president.

Oklahoma teachers are exiting the classroom. Retirement numbers from the Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System show 2,205 teachers retired between the summer months of May and August this year.

Those same months in 2020, 1,600 teachers retired. And in 2019, 1,622 retired.

“So, it was a very large number this last year. If people don’t feel safe, if people don’t feel supported, they’re not gonna stay in a profession,” Bishop said.

Photo goes with story
A local teacher reading to her students.

Katherine Bishop with the Oklahoma Education Association says some teachers have chosen to retire for health concerns, some even having immunocompromised family members at home.

“We’re in a pandemic. This is a community health issue. This is not just an education issue,” Bishop said. “It’s a very gut-wrenching decision for many of our educators.”

On top of the number of teachers retiring, substitutes are still difficult to come by.

“Talking with districts across the state, their pool of substitutes has shrunk. And many of those substitutes are on several districts’ lists,” Bishop said.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister weighed in on the retirements, releasing this statement to KFOR:

“Teachers have moved mountains to ensure student success during the pandemic, but there is no doubt that COVID-19 is impacting retention. We are grateful for each and every educator who has and continues to invest in the lives of their students and communities.”

STATE SUPERINTENDENT JOY HOFMEISTER

“They’re frustrated. Our educators are frustrated,” Bishop said.