OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – A survey by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association shows that the Sooner State is in dire need of teachers.

The survey also comes as State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister included a $5,000 pay raise for teachers in this year’s budget request set to go before the State Board of Education.

“One of the most important things in Oklahoma is to have a high-quality teacher in front of every classroom,” said Oklahoma State School Boards Association Executive Director Shawn Hime.

Hime said he is hoping the results will bring everyone together to find solutions after the ninth annual survey found over 1,000 teaching vacancies in Oklahoma schools as the new year started.

That’s the highest in the survey’s history – and over 300 more than last year, despite Oklahoma being on pace to hire record numbers of emergency-certified teachers and expanding adjunct roles.

“We’ve had fewer people going into the colleges of education, fewer people choosing education for their profession,” Hime said.

Hofmeister announced Monday that a $5,000 pay raise for teachers is included in this year’s budget request and it would require $310 million to fund it.

The last big pay raise for teachers came in 2018 following the walkout to the tune of $6,000.

Another raise came in 2019 at just over $1,200.

Hofmeister said she hopes to address something even Hime said is an issue, which is retaining educators.

“They have no real incentive to come back, even though they want to make a difference in the lives of kids,” Hofmeister said.

Oklahoma ranks fourth in the region for teacher pay at $54,096. That trails New Mexico ($54,256), Texas ($57,090) and Colorado ($57,706).

“Once we get teachers in the classroom, how do we retain them?” Hime said. “Part of that is salary and benefits. Part of it is work, climate and culture. A lot of wraparound services.”

KFOR reached out to the Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office for comment and that full comment can be read below.

“From his first year in office when he worked with the Legislature to deliver a $1,200 pay raise, to this year’s proposal to pay those in the classroom six figure salaries, Governor Stitt has been a tireless advocate for getting Oklahoma teachers to be the highest paid in the region and looks forward to continuing that effort with the next state superintendent.”

Carly Atchison, Communications Director for Governor Kevin Stitt