In The Know: Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Teacher Shortage Forces Schools to Rely on Aides, Assistants: Nancy Novosad has spent the last 27 years surrounded by students in Yukon classrooms, but she’s not a teacher. She alternates between helping the teacher and helping the students. Novosad wipes noses, applies bandages, plans arts and crafts activities, opens milk cartons, leads story time, and packs and unpacks backpacks. She also passes out papers, explains assignments, takes students to the restroom and reinforces lessons taught by Elizabeth Wilson, a pre-K teacher at Ranchwood Elementary School [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma State Department of Health pursues ‘reset’ after financial scandal: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is pursuing a “relationship reset” with other state agencies as it moves forward from a financial mismanagement scandal, according to its interim leader. Interim commissioner Tom Bates told the Board of Health at its Tuesday morning meeting that department leadership was reconsidering how it works with other agencies, including the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) [NewsOK].

New Medicaid work requirement bill criticized as “cruel”: Opponents of a bill implementing work requirements for Medicaid claim the measure will do more harm than good. House Bill 2932, authored by Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa and Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond was signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin on Monday. The measure aligns Medicaid work and job training requirements with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which involves working, participation in a work program or a combination of both 20 hours a week [KFOR].

With new work requirements, health care coverage for Oklahomans without internet access is at risk: Between recently passed legislation and an Executive Order, Oklahoma is moving quickly to enact a policy allowing the state to kick low-income parents off their SoonerCare coverage if they fail to work for enough hours in a given week. Oklahoma officials must now develop a specific proposal to implement this idea and ask for approval from the federal government [OK Policy].

Bill placing Commerce under Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor vetoed: A bill that would have made the Oklahoma Department of Commerce a division of the lieutenant governor’s office has been vetoed. Senate Bill 1400 would have placed the agency under the lieutenant governor’s supervision, including the hiring and firing of the director of commerce. In her veto message, Gov. Mary Fallin said the bill is inconsistent with the Oklahoma Constitution [NewsOK].

The Oklahoma Supreme Court backs voter ID measure: The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday backed a state requirement that voters provide a photo ID at the polls, the latest decision in a nationwide battle between voting rights advocates who say the laws are aimed at suppressing turnout and conservatives who say the protections are needed to prevent voter fraud. The court upheld a lower-court ruling 8 to 0 with one justice recusing [AP].

Republicans are paying for teacher raises with taxes and fees that hit working- and middle-class taxpayers: Oklahoma teachers got an average $6,100 raise in April after going on strike for nine days. Lawmakers also agreed to a smaller raise for school support staff and more than $60 million in extra funding for schools. But politicians refused to pay for the $479 million increase in education funding by eliminating the special tax deduction for capital gains investment income, as teachers had suggested, or by raising the tax rate on high-income earners [Vox].

Consumer Watch: Teaching post Oklahoma teacher walkout: Many Oklahoma teachers say their voices went unheard post walkout. Now, they must finish out the year, and prepare for what is next. The Oklahoma teacher walkout ended about three weeks ago, but things are far from back to normal as many teachers and education leaders deal with disappointment and the future of Oklahoma’s education system [KOKH].

Billboards encouraging Oklahoma teachers to move to Texas: Several billboards around Oklahoma are encouraging Oklahoma teachers to move to Texas for a higher starting salary. The billboards read “Your future is in a Fort Worth classroom. Teacher starting salary $52,000”. They then direct teachers to the Fort Worth Independent School Districts website for more. The billboards can be seen in Oklahoma City, Norman and Tulsa [KOKH].

OK should move away from life without parole for juveniles: The Legislature has sent Gov. Mary Fallin a bill that would leave it to judges to determine whether juvenile killers should be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. It’s worth asking, particularly given Oklahoma’s move toward more justice reform, whether this should be an option at all. Mandatory life without parole for juveniles was deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court several years ago [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]. Juvenile life sentence bill would be a return to outdated thinking [OK Policy].

SQ 788 in Comparison to Other State Medical Marijuana Programs: Oklahoma is just over a month away from deciding on SQ 788, on whether or not to follow 30 other states by introducing a medical marijuana program. While some entities in our state initially dismissed the idea that marijuana has any legitimate medical benefits, most have conceded this point and are now raising more specific concerns with SQ 788 [Lawrence Pasternak / Edmond Sun]. State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OK Policy].

Twenty-three wells to reduce disposal after April’s seismic swarms that included two 4.0s in Garfield County: In response to the latest seismicity in Garfield County, state regulators have directed 23 deep disposal wells to reduce volumes by 20 percent, according to a news release Tuesday. The active wells are in the Covington and Douglas area and within 10 miles of the earthquake swarms. The seismicity also was considered to be near Perry — about 17 miles away. The region experienced magnitude 4.6 and 4.5 quakes, respectively, in a 48-hour period in April, recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma school to change Confederate name — sort of: A public school district in Oklahoma has voted to retain the surname of an elementary school named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The Tulsa Public Schools board voted 4-3 on Monday to change the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School to Lee Elementary School. But opponents question whether the new name does enough to erase Lee’s history [AP].

Quote of the Day

“Without her, my room would simply be a day care.”

– Elizabeth Wilson, a prekindergarten teacher in Yukon, praising the help she gets from her teaching aide, Nancy Novosad. An Oklahoma Watch investigation found that many school districts are hiring more aides and assistants as they struggle to hire certified teachers (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of deaths by suicide in Oklahoma in 2017, more than twice as many as deaths from homicide.

Source: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A Witness to the Desegregation—and Resegregation—of America’s Schools: On Rebecca Palacios’s first day in front of a classroom, one of her white students picked up his chair and threw it toward her, declaring that he refused to be taught by a “Mexican teacher.” It was 1976, Palacios was 22 years old, and many of her first-grade students were at the school because of a recently launched busing program in Corpus Christi, Texas, that the courts had mandated in an effort to racially integrate campuses. Large numbers of white students were now traveling across town to her school—Lamar Elementary—which for generations had served mostly working-class Mexican American children [Atlantic].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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