The Oklahoma House and Senate passed two bills to address the statewide teacher shortage and increase the number of special education teachers in the classroom.

The first creates new pathways to certification for aspiring special education teachers and provides additional training for current special ed instructors.

Currently, teachers must take two separate tests to certify in mild-moderate and severe-profound disabilities.

If signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt, the bill will combine both tests into one and offer a micro-credential pathway for teachers already certified mild-moderate to be certified for both without an additional test.

The second bill allows school districts that cannot find a certified teacher the option to rehire an emergency certified teacher after their second year.

Rep. Danny Sterling (R-Tecumseh), formerly an agriculture education teacher and school administrator for 40 years, presented the bill to house, saying, “Senate Bill 1115 does away with the practice of making schools hire inexperienced or unknown emergency certified teachers just because we don’t allow them to rehire those who have already served in this capacity for two years.”

“By allowing school boards the option of rehiring emergency certified teachers who have performed well in their classrooms when certified candidates are not available, our classrooms will have more stability,” Sterling said.

Senator Marty Quinn and Representative Mark Lepak, of Claremore, approved both bills.

Claremore Public School Superintendent Bryan Frazier said, “We are much appreciative of the legislature approving both of these bills.”

“The teacher shortage is real and will be a problem for years to come. It took many years to get into this position, and it will take many more for us to get out,” Frazier said. “I believe the teachers have stepped up in a huge way during this pandemic and hopefully, students will again see the profession's importance and aspire to become teachers. But again, this will take time.”

“Both bills will undoubtedly help us in the future and address the shortage, but these two bills by themselves will not end the shortage. However, it is an excellent step in the right direction,” Frazier said.

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