Barresi urges legislative approval of efforts to curb teacher shortage

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Phil Bacharach
Director of Communications
405-521-4894, 405-249-0746

Tricia Pemberton
Assistant Director of Communications
405-521-3371, 405-431-7195-cell

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Superintendent Barresi urges legislative approval

of efforts to remedy teacher shortage 

Teacher pay raise, added professional development
are among task force proposals

OKLAHOMA CITY (Feb. 12, 2014) – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi is pushing for state legislators to approve a $2,000 teacher pay raise as part of a comprehensive effort to combat a teacher shortage throughout Oklahoma. The proposal is among several recommendations from the Oklahoma Educator Workforce Shortage Task Force, which Superintendent Barresi established last year.

“Nothing is more important than giving Oklahoma’s future generations the opportunities that come with a great education, and that requires great teachers. Attracting and keeping first-rate teachers is a serious challenge when they can receive better compensation elsewhere,” said Barresi.

“Some of our teachers have children on free- or reduced-price lunches. Too many of Oklahoma’s best and brightest reject the teaching profession altogether — or wind up leaving the classroom — because of meager pay. Before Oklahoma can move forward with teacher differential pay, it is important that we make sure teacher salaries are even competitive.”

In the wake of an alarming teacher shortage throughout Oklahoma, Barresi last year convened a task force comprised of various stakeholders, including legislators; teachers; school administrators; and representatives of the business community, higher education and CareerTech. Task force members examined how best to attract and retain high-quality teachers in Oklahoma public schools.

Barresi is urging lawmakers to approve House Bill 2966, authored by state Rep. Ann Coody, which proposes an increase of $2,000 to the state minimum salary schedule for teachers. In addition, the lawmaker has authored HB 2967, which provides a tax credit for space in a teacher’s home that is used for work purposes.

“It has been a long time since our teachers have received a raise and I believe it is very important that they receive a raise,” Coody said. “Of course, we know that we’re short on state money again this year, but a teacher pay raise is a big goal of mine.” 

Barresi is also supportive of another task force recommendation aimed at making it easier for retired teachers to return to the classroom without compromising their benefits.

Senate Bill 2118, introduced by Sen. Ron Sharp, would facilitate retired teachers returning to the profession.

“With the current teacher shortage, this is aimed at getting qualified teachers back in the classroom,” said Sharp, a veteran educator. “It addresses some of the issues that have prompted some teachers to get out of the system, so we are optimistic this will have a positive impact.”

Key recommendations from the task force include:

  • Replicate the Educator Supply and Demand Study (last completed in 2001-2002) perhaps every three to five years. Use the results to identify areas of shortage and apply the recommendations made within this document to the areas of most critical need where it does not make sense to apply the recommendations more broadly.
  • Develop a paid internship with significant mentorship and support for teacher candidates from traditional and alternative routes while completing their program and/or certification requirements. This could include replacing the traditional student-teaching experience with a multi-semester internship emphasizing co-teaching and other supports. 
  • Provide flexibility to the Oklahoma State Board of Education to certify traditionally prepared teacher candidates through alternative pathways on a case-by-case basis when unusual and/or extreme circumstances arise.
  • Allow districts to develop local policies that provide opportunities for retired educators to return to the education profession without loss of retirement benefits.
  • Reinstate the Teacher Residency Program, or offer a modified form of support, mentorship, and coaching for new teachers (including alternatively certified teachers) and those with professional growth needs. Consider current research on mentorship when making modifications to the Teacher Residency Program.
  • Provide opportunities for teacher career advancement, such as mentor/master teachers, teacher coaches, and instructional leaders, including additional state funds for stipends paid by districts that implement such strategies. 
  • In order to retain effective teachers, there must be additional professional development related to implementation of current initiatives and reforms. Without limiting funds provided to districts for discretionary professional development, target additional state funding for professional development to statewide academies and competitive grants. Provide research and best practices to districts in selecting high-quality professional development.

The entire task force report is posted online at