OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Lawmakers are trying to tackle the teacher shortage crisis in Oklahoma. Legislators are close to passing a new law that would encourage high schoolers to get into education in the Sooner State.
There have been many bills working their way through the Oklahoma State Capitol this session to deal with the teacher shortage in our state.
Supporters of this bill say there are over 25,000 reasons to back it.
Some are applauding the bill, but others say it’s not doing enough to keep the teachers we currently have.
“Teacher population has been on the decline for years now,” said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, author of the bill.
House Bill 3564 is a plan that would give education students entering college $1,000 scholarships their first three years and $2,500 upon graduation.
Then they would receive $4,000 in student loan forgiveness each year for five years as long as they are teaching in Oklahoma.
All told, the deal worth $25,500.
“I want to keep you here. I want to keep you in the classroom teaching,” said McBride.
“Our profession is worth it and this ensures we get quality educators into the profession,” said Cari Elledge of the Oklahoma Education Association.
Education officials say the incentives for any area of teaching are great but keeping the new teachers in state is key.
“Not only does it help with recruitment, it helps with retention,” said Elledge.
All agree the bill is a step in the right direction, but some lawmakers say it’s not enough.
“50% of our classroom teachers are considering leaving the state entirely or leaving the profession this year,” said Sen. Carrie Hicks, D-Oklahoma City.
Hicks, a former teacher from Oklahoma City, is worried about keeping the teachers already in the system.
Some pointing at teacher pay as a fault – current, starting salary in Ft. Worth, Texas is $58,000/a year – in Oklahoma, it’s $36,601.
“The legislature has not increased pay to make it competitive across state lines,” said Hicks.
But McBride says that not really comparing apples to apples and says increasing teacher pay is on his wish list.
“The pay there may be higher but the cost of living there is also higher. Do you want to drive through Dallas, Ft Worth, Houston, San Antonio traffic?” said McBride. “I want to be equal to Texas. I want to be the best in the region.”
Legislators are working right now to iron out the budget. McBride says this bill is pretty much a done deal and will be approved once a budget is passed.