PRYOR, OK —
We’re at a crisis point in this state when it comes to our teacher shortage. For years we’ve seen shortages in subjects such as science and math, but now we are starting to see this spread to areas such as elementary and early childhood. That’s a new phenomenon and one that must be reversed.
Late this summer, I convened an Educator Workforce Shortage Task Force made up of teachers, school administrators, higher education officials, state legislators and other civic leaders. I asked them to examine all aspects of the issue and devise action steps to help us move past this crisis.
The task force met for the second time last week, discussing effective recruiting, interviewing and hiring practices. We don’t just want to put anyone in our classrooms; we want to put the most effective teachers with our students.
Outside of a parent, an effective teacher is the single most important factor in a child’s education. An effective teacher can overcome poverty, learning disabilities and almost every other obstacle that might stand in the way of student academic achievement.
An effective teacher needs an effective administrator. In survey after survey, teachers say the No. 1 most important thing for them is that they feel supported by their administration and that they have a culture where their talents and skills are valued. They also want the opportunity to advance in their field, and they want to be paid adequately for their work.
In our first meeting in August, task force members examined teacher compensation. We all realize that teacher pay is not where we want or need it to be, and we need to take a hard look at how to fix this.
In Oklahoma, we pay teachers with zero years of experience and a bachelor’s degree a base salary of $31,600. That’s not a bad salary for a fresh college graduate, but on the other end of the scale, we pay teachers with a Ph.D and 25 years of experience only $46,000. That’s tragic. We must find a way to increase pay for our teachers and give them room to advance in their field.
Effective teachers should be rewarded for their exceptional work. That is why I have proposed a $2,000 stipend be given to teachers.
This is absolutely doable. We are at a time when state school districts have record amounts of carryover funds. I’m an advocate of a healthy carryover. My proposal entails asking districts to take simply 10 percent of their carryover and combine it with 2 percent of discretionary spending to give teachers this much-deserved $2,000 stipend. Then we can look for the way to sustain this for the future.
Janet Baresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction