In The Know: With 600 positions eliminated, teaching shortage tops 1,000 statewide

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today In The News

Oklahoma’s teacher shortage: 600 positions eliminated but 1,000 vacancies remain: The latest survey of school districts by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association found that 1,000 teaching vacancies remain even after 600 teaching jobs were eliminated since last school year. Student enrollment is growing, and to grapple with the teacher shortage, school districts are seeking record numbers of emergency teaching certificates to allow applicants who haven’t completed basic higher education and training requirements to enter the classroom right away [Tulsa World]. The realities of the shortage for the Moore district include first-grade classes with up to 28 students or upper-elementary classes with 30 or more children [NewsOK].

Tulsa Public Schools literacy program students’ rate of learning: Students participating in the Reading Partners program at 15 Tulsa Public Schools elementary accelerated their rate of literacy learning and narrowed the gap between them and their peers last year, according to the organization’s impact report for 2014-2015. In Tulsa, 97 percent of the 838 students enrolled in Reading Partners last year increased their rate of literacy learning, according to the report. On average, those students tripled their rate of learning for every month they were enrolled in the program [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City Public Schools proposes expansion of aptitude testing: Oklahoma City Public Schools, which paid for 2,800 sophomores and juniors to take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test in the spring, plans to expand this year’s offerings to include eighth- and ninth-graders, Superintendent Rob Neu announced this week. “This will give students and staff invaluable information on what our students need to do to be college ready,” Neu said Friday [NewsOK]. OKCPS is also offering parent engagement workshops on weekends beginning in September to help parents learn how to get involved in their children’s schools [NewsOK].

Mark Costello had spoken about need for better mental health care in Oklahoma: Almost exactly four months ago, in now what seems like a chilling speech, Oklahoma State Labor Commissioner Mark Costello thanked mental health advocates for the help they gave to him and his family. At an April state Capitol gathering, Costello told advocates they help others understand that when Oklahomans see people in need “we are looking to the image and likeness of Christ and that we must be humane” [NewsOK].

Has Oklahoma reduced its dependence on the oil and gas industry?: Oklahoma’s deep ties to the oil and gas industry are common knowledge.  Oklahoma’s dependence on this industry brings prosperity to the state when oil prices are high and the industry is booming. But the downside can be just as dramatic when the price of oil starts dropping — as it did starting in June of last year [OK Policy].

Politics to policies, Askins tackles biggest challenge:  She’s been a judge, a state legislator, the head of a state agency, Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor and her party’s choice to serve as the state’s chief executive. Now, former Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jari Askins may be facing her toughest challenge yet: implementing a court-ordered plan to improve the state’s foster care system to better protect the thousands of children in Oklahoma’s child welfare system [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Group asks county commissioners to end Sheriff’s Office contract with law firm:  The group that led a petition effort for a grand jury investigation into the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office on Monday protested the TCSO’s relationship with outside law firms, asking county commissioners to end its contract. Tulsa County commissioners called the request moot because the contract has already run its course [Tulsa World].

Welcome to Quakelahoma: In less than a decade the state has gone from having about two noticeable earthquakes a year to about two a day. In 2014, geologists recorded 585 tremors of magnitude 3.0 or higher, and 2015 has already topped that mark. Scientists warn the state is at risk of a major earthquake, and the financial industry is starting to ponder the potential losses [Vice].

When the HeartLine phone rings in Oklahoma, someone is always ready to help: The HeartLine call center is in a small room in an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit where specialists answer the phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to help Oklahomans in need. They answer calls from 2-1-1, an information and referral line for health and human service needs; two national suicide prevention lifelines; a state-based compassionate listening helpline; and the Oklahoma Problem Gambling Helpline. They also help people who are uninsured find health insurance coverage. In short, the phone doesn’t stop ringing [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Saying we don’t have the money for teacher pay raises is no longer an acceptable excuse. Schools are doing the best they can under the circumstances, but we have to ask ourselves: Are we really OK with 5- and 6-year-olds who will go without a teacher trained to develop young readers? Are we really OK with eliminating high-level science classes because we refuse to pay teachers a competitive wage?”

– Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, speaking about a new survey revealing that even though 600 teaching positions have been eliminated across the state, 1,000 remain unfilled. Schools are seeking record numbers of emergency teaching certificates for applicants who haven’t completed basic higher education and training requirements (Source)

Number of the Day


Total number of retail prescription drugs filled at pharmacies in Oklahoma in 2014

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Housing Policy Is Failing America’s Poor Created by Congress in 1974, the “Section 8” Housing Choice Voucher Program was supposed to help families move out of broken urban neighborhoods to places where they could live without the constant threat of violence and their kids could attend good schools. But somewhere along the way, “Section 8” became a colloquialism for housing that is, to many, indistinguishable from the public-housing properties the program was designed to help families escape. [CityLab].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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