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TPS heads back to school with teacher shortage

Posted: 7:33 AM, Aug 21, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-21 08:33:18-04

TULSA — Tulsa Public Schools is going back to class Wednesday with around 30 classrooms without a teacher.

That’s according to district officials who say this is nothing new - given Oklahoma’s history with an ongoing teacher shortage.

Tulsa Public School Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist explained, “Sometimes what happens is we have (teachers) but they haven’t gotten through all the processing, so we have a gap of a few days.”

So, when these kids walk into class on day one, they won’t see their teacher, but they will see someone else.

Gist said, “We will have folks from the district office who are certified and ready to go, including me, to fill in to those places while the new teacher comes on board, so that the students have a smooth transition.”

It’s something Gist experienced firsthand back in 2017 when she - the superintendent of the second largest school district in the state - started the school year teaching third grade.

So, in the event of a teacher-less classroom, Dr. Gist wants parents to know their children will have an education professional leading the charge on the first day of school. She said, “What their child will have is a certified teacher in the classroom – someone who knows the position and is committed to making sure their child has an awesome start to school.”

Tulsa Public Schools is still hiring and officials hope to have every classroom transitioned within next week.

The superintendent credits the teacher shortage to the lack of state funding, adding administrators across the state are grateful for the teacher raise state leaders gave two years ago and the slight increase this past year, but it’s still not enough to keep teachers in Oklahoma school districts.

The superintendent said, “We still have a tremendous amount of improvement we need to make in terms of the rest of what we invest in education. There are many other things that go into quality education besides teacher salaries. Even with those increases in teacher salaries, we are still very much behind the districts we compete with in Texas, Arkansas and Kansas.”

The Oklahoma State School Board Association reports there are nearly 600 teacher vacancies in the state of Oklahoma to date.

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