Home > Uncategorized > Guest Post on the Teacher Shortage from a POed Parent

Guest Post on the Teacher Shortage from a POed Parent

September 20, 2015

I received the following this week from UCO professor and #oklaed advocate, Dr. Dan Vincent. I present it to you, unedited. 


I’m a public school parent and I’m pissed off. I keep hearing that our state has a teacher shortage but I don’t see it this way anymore. I see an unusually high causality rate from the WAR ON TEACHERS.

Dan Vincent BAT

Let me explain….

As a parent with two kids in public school I try to keep informed on issues related to education. I read the news, follow legislation and even research topics to be more informed. For the past few years, at the start of the schoolyear, I have read stories about the growing number of vacancies in Oklahoma classrooms—vacancies that districts cannot fill. Class sizes get larger and courses get cancelled. This number has gradually been creeping up and it has hit larger urban districts particularly hard. Now, even large suburban districts, where there has historically been an abundance of qualified applicants, are being hit by this shortage.

Over the past several years I have also observed waves of educational reforms crashing into the doors of classrooms and onto the desks of students—reforms initiated and passed into law by our state legislature. If you are a student or teacher, you’ve felt it; my kids have felt it. The changes included things like the A-F, the RSA, the ACE and the TLE to name a few. These have been widely recognized by educational leaders in our state as doing more harm than good, especially when it comes to teacher morale and student engagement. Professional associations, parent groups, blogs and personal anecdotes have documented how these reforms are negatively impacting Oklahoma districts, classrooms and kids. There has also been much written about how these reforms are DRIVING GOOD TEACHERS OUT OF THE CLASSROOM. Legislators have been told this over and over. Personally, I have had civil discussions about the issues I see; I have written umpteen letters to lawmakers pleading for change. I have friends who written many more.

So what I fail to understand with the ‘teacher shortage’ in our state is why –  WHY – legislative leaders have stood by and allowed this to happen. The teacher shortage is not an unforeseen consequence of a poorly timed tax cut, but the steady attrition of teachers who have HAD ENOUGH of nonsensical educational reform policy and poor pay. The teacher shortage is not an unavoidable crisis caused by federal laws, but a compounding of state-level educational policies that fly in the face of what is known about learning. And as a parent, I hold legislative leaders responsible; they have created a WAR ON TEACHERS and our teacher shortage is a sad result of this war. It is a moral failing by our state leaders in not taking seriously their job of properly supporting a free public education.

We know that money matters and we know that teaching climate matters. Legislative leaders have tremendous power over both and have done little to nothing to create REAL SOLUTIONS for teachers. In fact, I am not big on conspiracy theories but I am now seriously thinking our legislative leaders are purposefully making a teacher’s life miserable so they can justify their own policies meant to ‘help’ the problems in education—problems they have created with the war on teachers. And this is all being done TO OUR KIDS.

Imagine if we had a shortage of qualified STEM candidates to fill the jobs in our state. Do you think our current legislative leaders would do anything to attract quality candidates? Do you think they would initiate policy to help the STEM industry will those positions? Do you think they would be advocating for the STEM industry? Would our leaders actively seek out leaders in the STEM industry for ideas on how to attract applicants? Would they try to fill the STEM pipeline with qualified applicants?

You bet. In fact, Gov. Fallin says there is a STEM shortage in our state, and our leaders have already done the things above (in fact, our governor’s 3rd annual STEM Summit is a few weeks away). But not for our teachers. Not for our kids. WAR ON TEACHERS continues.

A few weeks ago, I felt a glimmer of hope when I read House Speaker Jeff Hickman and House Republican education leaders calling for a “more cooperative approach” to address the teacher shortage. Not three weeks later however, Speaker Hickman wrote an opinion piece for the Daily Oklahoman blasting district administrators for not doing more themselves to pay teachers a higher salary; I also suspect School Boards felt targeted. I wonder if Hickman cooperated with any Oklahoma administrators on the ideas for this OpEd? I doubt it. WAR ON TEACHERS continues.

Just this week, the Republican leadership offered up a plan to allow retired teachers $18,000 per year to come back to the classroom and teach. On the surface, this sounds admirable, but honestly, how many retired teachers would be willing to work for that pay under the same educational environment that drove many to retire in the first place? Does this address the current issues our teachers face—pay and climate? Sounds like a Band-Aid solution to a war-time wound. WAR ON TEACHERS continues.

In short, the solutions offered up by republican leaders thus far only deepens my suspicions of how serious they are about addressing our state’s desperate need to put well-qualified teachers in EVERY classroom. My kids deserve better. Our state’s kids deserve better. So here are some things I would offer as solutions. I would encourage every parent, grandparent and relative that has a kid in school to write their legislator and tell them to end the WAR ON TEACHERS with some of these bullet points (no pun intended):

  1. First and foremost, do your part to fix the educational climate in Oklahoma. Stop the blame game and be real about solutions to our teacher shortage. Ask the educational leaders in our state (who are really informed about the issues they see firsthand) for input and take it seriously.
  2. Stop the High Stakes Testing (found in the RSA, the ACE, the TLE, the A-F). This would also save some money on administrative overhead and ink for signing RSA documents.
  3. Seriously rework the TLE. It is well known that value added measures are junk science yet our state leaders insist they can work. This could also save money by reducing administrative overhead.
  4. Stop the A-F charade. OU and OSU put together a pretty good summary of the charade. And this also could reduce administrative overhead.
  5. Publicly support teachers, but more importantly seek out educational leaders so your public support can be turned into fully-informed legislative action.
  6. Develop a workable plan to increase teacher pay. Money matters. Our state invests public money to support the STEM industry and others. Let’s get real about how to invest in the profession that can support all industry.
  7. Either UNMANDATE or FULLY FUND. There are many unfunded mandates placed on schools and this solution could both create a better climate in schools AND free up money that could be used on teacher salaries. One good example would be to eliminate the ACE graduation requirement.

In closing, I honestly hope our legislative leadership can do something soon to refresh the souls of educators in our state. I hope parents will a) get pissed off with me and b) constructively express their frustration to leadership in our state. Their current attempts are a far cry from the real, workable solutions needed to address the root causes of our teacher shortage. With the upcoming session being near an election cycle, I think more ears will be open to listening.

Let’s end this war.


Dan Vincent is a former public school teacher, turned university professor who has two kids in elementary school. Although he was not teaching in the K-12 schools when many of these educational reforms were passed into law, he and his wife are frequent volunteers in schools and have seen firsthand the impact of these reforms on classrooms, teachers and kids.
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  1. September 20, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I would also suggest that the legislature stop playing with the ALEC Playbook.

    Like

  2. Sue wylie
    September 20, 2015 at 6:07 pm

    Want a comparison of salaries, my student teacher of three years ago left Oklahoma to go to Texas and makes more than I do after 40 years of teaching! It’s an abomination or a death wish for Public education by Public Leaders!

    Like

  3. Eva Martens
    September 20, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    We also have to Vote Out the legislators who do not support teachers and education. Many of those who consistently vote against education are re-elected over and over. We get what we support!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Julane Taylor
    September 20, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Oklahoma can show that it values its educators by treating them as professionals and paying them accordingly. I left Oklahoma and moved to Alaska because the pay scale and retirement options are significantly higher than what I left behind. It’s sad that so many exceptional educators have left the State because of broken promises (monies for education), corrupt politicians, and top-heavy administration salaries.

    I believe Oklahoma has some of THE BEST teacher-prep universities in the nation; unfortunately, Oklahoma’s new teachers leave because Oklahoma pushes them out.

    Oklahoma legislators, do something and quit talking about it! Get the educational lobby powerhouses out of your pants and out of your pockets! Put the educational funds where they should have been all along – teacher salaries, per-student expenditures, curriculum, and educational reform!

    Liked by 1 person

    • susan
      September 20, 2015 at 11:50 pm

      Me too Julane. My first year up here and I have already saved more money in the first month than any year in the past 29 years.

      Like

    • Teacher's Husband
      September 21, 2015 at 9:32 am

      My daughter is at UCO with the goal of becoming a teacher. She has already pretty much narrowed down some places where she wants to teach. None are in Oklahoma despite already being offered a job upon her completion by a nearby district. My wife and I shall miss her being here and she has indicated the same. But life goes on.

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  5. Pat Miller
    September 20, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Yes, pay is an issue, but for me, it’s the assault on our profession from individuals who have never spent a day in a classroom actually teaching. They assume they know more and better than I do. It’s an insult to my college education and 30 years of teaching. Let technology fail, I can teach. Let the lights go out, I can teach. I am not some glorified babysitter. I am on the front…I’m battling poverty, poor parenting, poor nutrition, and an insane society that glorifies everything counter productive to learning. Give us some. respect!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. miller727
    September 20, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Dan, you knocked it out of the park, my friend. You have a unique perspective that may get more attention than our lawmakers give us “self-serving” public educators. Stay pissed and keep cranking them out!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Stan Morris
    September 20, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    First, education will have to be able to compete with oil companies, technology jobs, surrounding states salary levels. I began teaching in 1972 and retired from teaching in Okla. with 28 yrs. of service. I made more in Texas for teaching and coaching than I did in Okla. for being a H.S. principal of grades 7 thru 12, head football and baseball coach of both H.S. and J.H. besides maintaining my own playing fields. When I moved I received 3.000$ more money. Secondly, let the teachers TEACH. Eliminate all the mandated reports and statistics they have to submit under the most suppressing environment known as “accountability.” These “so called professionals” are only in it for the money and don’t give a rip about the student outcomes, so they have to be constantly monitored and held accountable b/c the administrative leaders cannot be trusted for positive outcomes. Professional teachers will do as much for their students as humanly possible Third, teachers must have greater support for managing their classrooms. Discipline problems will eat up instruction time and when no resolution is forthcoming, the teacher will have to deal with persistent discipline issues. Maybe “enabling” students and teachers and getting out their way and letting administrators develop in concert with the teachers, the most conducive learning environment for each individual.building and staff. No “cookie cutter” applications or one size fits all. Finally, the blame doesn’t belong to the legislature, although most are more concerned with garnering votes from their constituents by cutting taxes or claiming 100 million shortfall when we took in more revenue and had one of the strongest economies of any the surrounding states. Education will not become important until voters make it that. The blame lies squarely on the voters shoulders. Oddly, most of those are parents. We were 48th in the nation in teacher pay in 1972. We haven’t move off that in all these years. Yet Okla. teachers still remain competitive with the rest of the nation in student outcomes. I cannot and will not recommend teaching for a man trying to raise his family. You must be in upper management to make that kind of money. Both of my sons teach in Okla. and we have had numerous conversations about the profession. The dialogue hasn’t changed much from when I progressed through my career. I agree with the “war on teachers’ piece submitted by a parent. Now you have another account from a “professional’ and a parent.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. September 20, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Steven E. Wedel and commented:
    Good stuff here!

    Like

  9. Lucinda Loafman
    September 21, 2015 at 2:13 am

    Experience is not valued in OK. Districts would rather pay recent grads than veteran teachers. OK will only pay 5 years of out of state experience, a huge slap in the face and further nail in OK education’s coffin. When my husband and I moved to OK from TX, OK was only willing to pay him 5 of his 23 years as a high school Spanish teacher. Of course, we couldn’t afford that, so he is no longer an educator. This is a sad, because he is a great teacher. How does OK expect to compete with the salaries of other states and recruit their teachers, if it won’t even honor the service of veteran teachers?

    Like

  10. September 21, 2015 at 7:59 am

    I am a certified special education, science, and history teacher who left teaching in Oklahoma and got a nearly 20% raise by moving to New Mexico. The amount of respect I am shown in my district is refreshing, while in the district I taught in for 13 years, I was treated like garbage. It’s a no-brainer why so many of us have bailed out of education in Oklahoma.

    Like

  11. September 21, 2015 at 1:16 pm
  12. Dan Bailey
    September 22, 2015 at 4:52 am

    The war on teachers is nationwide. The textbook companies, aka testing companies, aka educational consultants, make billions with their high stake testing that serves to convince the public that the teachers are to blame, making the system waste their money on them. The legislators are just pawns.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. September 22, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Excellent article. I taught in the public school classroom for 33 years. I will agree the war on teachers is the biggest reason I made a change. Yes it would have been great to make a decent wage, but compound the low pay with ever changing policy and unfunded mandates finally wore me down.

    Like

  14. September 22, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Reblogged this on John's space and commented:
    The problem is money! It is cheaper to pay beginning teachers than it is to retain veteran teachers. Also the high turnover ensure a steady supply of lower paid teachers in the classroom. Oklahoma City Public claims that they mainstreamed a lot more special needs kids because of least restrictive environment, but I suspect it has more to do with not being able to get enough Special needs teachers to work for the pay and conditions they offer. The idea of reducing the number of children suspended sounds great except it keeps disruptive students in the class longer and hurt those students who want to learn and teachers are penalized for trying to maintain productive classrooms.

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  15. Mary
    September 22, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    So let’s think about this. There’s a STEM worker shortage. Hmm….do OK leaders think having crappy schools is going to attract STEM workers who may happen to have children? Strong schools = a strong work force. Not rocket science.

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  16. Pamela Spann
    September 29, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    It is the same here in Texas. the legislature is trying to get rid of public schools and hand over education to for profit corporations. They don’t really care anything about educating the school children of Texas. They only care about money.

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