Oklahoma's teacher shortage, according to new State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, must be fixed or there's no way to improve student outcomes.
At a recent budget hearing, Hofmeister estimated, if the department of education has to take a four percent funding cut, which is possible, given the state's $611 million shortfall. The teacher shortage would grow from 1,000 where it is now to more than 2,800.
At the heart of the problem is the low pay teachers receive in Oklahoma.
Right now, the average starting salary is $31,600. That's 43rd in the nation. While average salary overall is 44,400. That's number 48.
Hofmeister wants to boost teacher pay $5,000 over the next five years.
The question is where's the money going to come from? Oklahoma, unfortunately, leads the nation in the amount that it has cut education funding since the recession started in 2008.
Per-student funding in Oklahoma is now around $7,600 dollars which is almost $3,000 less than the national average and almost $900 less than where we were in 2008.
Superintendent Hofmeister had proposed a slight budget increase this year, but that was before it became clear just how big the budget gap was. As one leading lawmaker said recently, most everyone is going to have to expect some sort of cut.