OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma schools started the school year with hundreds of vacancies. This, despite a record number of emergency certified teachers stepping up to help.

"We have more than two dozen middle and high school positions posted right now," said Randy Decker with Edmond Public School.

It's these positions Edmond Public Schools is struggling to fill.

"We don't have the pool of candidates waiting in the wings to become that next great teacher," Decker said.

District leaders say in years past, they would see 400 teaching candidates attend this annual job fair. This year, not even half showed up.

"Our principals will tell you there are times when they would have 50 to 75 applicants for a job, now when I get their recommendations sometimes its five to seven at best," he said. 

Like many districts across the state, Edmond was forced to use emergency certified teachers in the classroom just to fill the gap.

"Five or six years ago, we had 25 to 30 emergency certificates a year, this year now we're approaching 2,000 emergency certified teachers in our classrooms," said Shawn Hime, the executive director for the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

A survey completed by 300 Oklahoma districts showed 536 teaching vacancies as of August 1, and another 480 positions that were eliminated.

"Class sizes continue to grow," Hime said. "When you can't find a teacher then you combine classes and the existing teacher then has more difficult working conditions."

The survey conducted by the OSSBA also found the number one factor contributing to the teacher shortage in Oklahoma is teacher compensation.

"For all job markets you want a competitive compensation package and Oklahoma is dead last in our region and dead last in the nation when it comes to teachers," Hime added.

"The quality of candidates is very good the quantity is what is lacking right now because some of those quality candidates are choosing to go out of state," said Decker.

The lack of quality teachers leave concerns for the students left behind.

"We all want a high quality teacher in the classroom," said Hime. "Schools are doing everything that they can to insure that they're offering the best quality education."