OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Board of Education has approved a record number of certificates for emergency teachers to fill vacancies caused by a lack of certified one.
The board has approved 1,082 certificates this school year, up from 1,063 the previous year and more than double the 505 approved two years ago during the 2014-15 school year. The greatest number of certificates are for elementary, early childhood, science and math teachers.
An estimated 52,000 students, about 7 percent of all public school students in the state, are being taught by an emergency certified teacher.
The state Department of Education has offered ideas to address the teacher shortage through its Teacher Shortage Task Force, including increasing the number of hours adjunct teachers can work to expanding opportunities for teachers in other countries to come to Oklahoma.
Task force member Debra Welch said she believes the key is raising salaries. Oklahoma ranked 48th in the nation in 2015, according to figures from the National Education Association.
"There are lots of ideas, but it won't come as any surprise that the idea I like best is increasing teacher pay," Welch told The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/2i7NHTr ). "We have to be more competitive with pay in Oklahoma and increasing pay will do more to encourage teachers to stay and enter the profession than anything else we could do."
State lawmakers have begun floating various ideas for increasing teacher pay ahead of next year's legislative session that begins in February, but specific revenue-increasing methods are proving challenging as a nearly $870 million shortfall has been projected for next year.
"We've had a really interesting debate this year on teacher pay raises," Gov. Mary Fallin said. "But until the energy sector turns around . we've got a lot of challenges ahead of us to address these issues."
Emergency certificates allow individuals without a teaching degree to work in an Oklahoma public school classroom if they can pass a test in the subject area they wish to teach and pass a criminal-background check.