OKLAHOMA CITY – The Senate Education Committee approved legislation Tuesday to help fill the large number of teaching vacancies in the state. Retired teacher Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, said his Senate Bill 1115 is desperately needed to help decrease classroom sizes by extending emergency teaching certificates.
“We currently have hundreds of teaching vacancies that districts are desperate to fill. But between fewer people getting teaching degrees and teachers retiring or resigning to pursue careers in other fields, the only option most schools have is to hire emergency certified teachers,” Sharp said. “These are individuals who are passionate about helping our students but we’re running into another problem because they only have two years before they have to get fully certified. Many don’t want to do that because it’s too expensive and time-consuming, so they quit. This bill will allow them to continue getting emergency certified indefinitely if they want and are approved by the State Board of Education.”
Currently, emergency teaching certificates are only valid for up to two years. SB 1115 would allow local school districts to annually request that the State Board of Education renew emergency or provisional teaching certificates for those who have been employed by their district for at least two years. Applicants must have been emergency certified for two years but not successfully completed the competency exams. They must also submit a work portfolio to the State Board. The local school district superintendent must submit to the State Board why the certificate should be renewed, and the local school board must agree to renew the individual’s contract for the upcoming fiscal year.
The State Board of Education has approved 3,199 emergency certified teachers this fiscal year. According to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, Oklahoma needs an additional 4,000 to 5,000 more teachers to meet the regional average of student-to-teacher ratio.
SB 1115 now goes before the full Senate.