Oklahoma school district offering signing bonus for prospective teachers amid teacher shortage

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CROOKED OAK, Okla. (KFOR) – An Oklahoma school district is offering a signing bonus of $2,500 for teachers to come work for them Tuesday due to a lack of certified teachers in the state of Oklahoma and nationwide.

Crooked Oak School District Supt. Bradley Richards said it’s been difficult to find certified teachers coming out of the pandemic. The Oklahoma Education Association said the offer isn’t a surprise due to a problem stemming all the way back to the teacher walkout.

“We need quality certified teachers,” Richards said.

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Supt. Bradley Richards

According to Richards, the school needs them right now. President of the Oklahoma Education Association Alicia Priest said the number of dwindling certified teachers over the last two years doesn’t look good.

“There’s been a need for quality teachers for a long time,” Richards said.

“We know that there is a teacher shortage and it’s being filled by emergency certifications and alternative certifications,” Priest said.

One decade ago, there were 32 emergency teacher certifications. Last year that number reached just over 3,300. For this school year, it sits at almost 2,800.

“We know that there’s an issue,” Priest said.

Another reason on the forefront, according to Priest, is retirement.

“Teachers are exhausted at this point,” Priest said.

About 2,700 teachers have retired this year alone, compared to about 1,300 at this time in 2020.

“We haven’t gotten to the biggest month of retirements yet,” Priest said.

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Oklahoma teachers protesting.

Increased salaries and retirement check’s incentivized teachers to stick around for three more years following the 2018 teacher walkout. However, that time is up.

“And they’re done,” Priest said.

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Both Priest and Richards cited a number of other issues as well.

“The legislative session also is exhausting for educators to see what’s being done to us and not with us and for us,” Priest said.

“This has been a year when all of our patience has somewhat worn thin because it’s been so challenging,” Richards said. “Good teacher is what makes a school really great and we look to be great so we want to do all that we can to get the best teachers.”

Priest went on to say they have had 20,000 calls from teachers with retirement questions. That’s about half of Oklahoma’s teacher workforce. Meanwhile, the state is investing more than $3 billion into Oklahoma Education as part of the budget coming out of the pandemic.

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