OKLAHOMA CITY – As school districts around the state continue struggling to fill teaching positions, Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, has filed legislation to help adjunct and highly-qualified substitute teachers fill the void. Senate Bill 1119 would remove the 270-hour limitation adjunct teachers may teach per semester in a classroom. SB 1144 would allow substitute teachers with a valid, lapsed, or expired certificate or a bachelor’s degree to work as many days as needed.
“Increasing pay and other recent changes haven’t helped end the teacher shortage problem, so we need to look at what assets we already have available, like adjunct and substitute teachers, and how we can better utilize them,” Garvin said. “Given that many districts are still struggling to fill essential teaching positions, being able to rely on local professionals to share their expertise in the classroom as well as former teachers or individuals with degrees to substitute has been a lifesaver. My bills will ensure these professionals can work as many hours as they’re needed and willing to.”
Adjunct teachers are educators who have distinguished qualifications in their field, such as accountants or journalists. They do not have to meet the standard certification requirements given their professional background but can be authorized by the local school board to teach a subject related to their field of expertise.
According to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA), the number of adjunct teachers in Oklahoma schools has increased annually from around 175 during the 2015-2016 school year to more than 400 last year. The State Board of Education has also approved more than 3,600 emergency certifications this school year – further evidence of the ongoing teacher shortage crisis.
Garvin believes removing restrictions on certain substitute teachers may also help Oklahoma schools. Currently, substitute teachers with a lapsed or expired certificate or a bachelor’s degree cannot work more than 145 days during a school year while those without such a certificate or degree can only work up to 135 school days. There is no limit on how many days a substitute can work if they hold a valid teaching certificate. Under SB 1144, substitute teachers who do not have a valid, lapsed, or expired certificate or a bachelor’s degree would be prohibited from teaching the same course or grade-level class for more than 10 consecutive school days unless the school district is granted a waiver from the State Board of Education. The measure also directs school district board of education policies regarding substitute teachers to include the required qualifications and their pay rate.
Both bills will be up for consideration when the legislative session begins in February.