State Watch

Oklahoma calls on state employees to substitute amid teacher shortage

Oklahoma is calling on state employees to step in as substitute teachers as the Sooner State grapples with a shortage of educators in the classroom.

Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed an executive order on Tuesday that allows state agencies to substitute teach without being deprived of employment, pay or benefits. The governor said it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that students can receive an in-person education.

“I appreciate schools and teachers that are doing everything they can to provide in-person learning for their students, as well as the business community for stepping up,” Stitt said in a statement.

The order will remain in effect for 120 days.

A number of teachers, staff and students in Oklahoma have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent weeks, forcing school districts to shutter operations or transition to virtual learning, according to KFOR.

State employees already appear to be stepping in as substitute teachers amid the educator shortage. The Moore Police Department posted photos on Facebook on Tuesday of on-duty officers teaching sixth grade students in classrooms.

The officers are wearing their uniforms in the photos.

“Moore PD is a proud community partner of Moore Public Schools. This week, several on-duty officers are serving in the classroom as schools continue to face teacher and staff shortages,” the police department wrote.

Watermark Bank is also stepping in to help keep students in classrooms. The bank’s CEO, Matt Pollock, told KFOR that he will give his 21 employees the resources to acquire substitute teacher certificates, according to KFOR.

“At the end of the day, we’re not taking a political stance,” Pollock told the station. “We’re just trying to help them in our small way do their job.”

The new initiative in Oklahoma comes as the U.S. is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide, driven largely by the highly transmissible omicron variant. Daily infections are on the rise in the Sooner State, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

It appears that Oklahoma is not the only state grappling with school issues amid the spike in cases: two large Kansas school districts shuttered operations on some days this week because of staffing shortages due to COVID-19.

State Watch