In hundreds of classrooms around the state, students are sitting by themselves because their schools are short on teachers.
In recent years the number of vacancies has increased steadily along with the number of emergency certified teachers required for districts. Schools have also taken drastic measures such as shortening the school week and combining classes or grades which has caused class sizes to swell. But vacancies remain in the hundreds.
According to a newly release study from the Oklahoma State School Board Association, 494 Oklahoma classrooms are without teachers despite optimism surrounding recent pay raises and a focus on education from voters.
“The number of vacancies this year from last year is about the same. Glad to see that there weren't growing number of vacancies,” Shawn Himes of the OSSBA said after the report came out.
“My son came home the first day and said oh well my teacher wasn't here today and that was on Wednesday and then again on friday he's like mom my teacher's still not here,” One mother told News9/Newson6 although she asked to remain anonymous for the sake of her children.
She has two students in the Oklahoma City Public School district, she says her second grader was left to his own devices.
“I asked my son ‘what are you doing in class all day?’ And he says we're just coloring. So I'm like, ‘so you’re going to school to get an education but you're just coloring?’” she said.
OKCPS officials say the district is at 98 percent staffing but they still have 64 vacancies and 293 emergency certified teachers. OKC isn't alone. According to the State Department of Education Oklahoma, schools have already been given 1,238 emergency certified teachers in just the first six months of the year. Last year there were 1900 emergency certificates given out.
The state is working to fill those vacancies and some districts have been able to hire more thanks to newly passed raises. Himes also said the timing of the raise passage and the legal challenges to it likely stopped teachers from applying to schools in Oklahoma but may have prevented current teachers from leaving or retiring. He said he’s hopeful that the security of the raises come the spring of 2019 will attract teachers.