Oklahoma student teachers will be eligible for a $3,200 stipend over the next three years in hopes of securing more teachers and helping ease their financial burdens.
“Student teaching is a full-time job, so it is difficult to hold down another job with meaningful pay at the same time,” Katherine Bishop, president of Oklahoma Education Association, told The Center Square. “It’s not uncommon for teacher candidates to skip their student teaching and work through the alternative certification route because they can’t afford to spend five months working for no pay. I recently talked with an education major who was ecstatic at the thought of a $3,200 stipend. She said it would help her make ends meet and allow her to focus on her students.”
The State Department of Education is making available nearly $12.7 million from the state’s federal COVID-19 relief money to pay student teachers. Bishop said student teachers will automatically receive the stipend in two installments: one through the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education as they start student teaching, and the other from the school district where they sign a contract as a certified teacher.
Bishop said there is a very serious teacher shortage in Oklahoma. Thousands of emergency certifications have recently been approved by the State Department of Education in an attempt to get more teachers in the classroom. Additionally, colleges of education are not turning out as many teaching graduates, Bishop said, with only 1,100 this past year.
“According to the State School Boards Association, 2,797 emergency teacher certifications were issued in the 2020-21 academic school year,” Ginger Tinney, executive director of Professional Oklahoma Educators, told The Center Square. “The average rate of pay in Oklahoma is $54,256 compared to the regional rate of $54,943. The rate of pay for teachers is up 20% over the last five years.”
Tinney and Bishop said the state is still losing teachers to neighboring states for better pay, especially Texas, retirement or other professions.
“The stipend for student teachers is important because it will attract and keep education majors in the state, allowing them to learn in the classroom,” Tinney said. “Plus, they are present while at their student teaching job without having to worry about making it to their after-school job. This will help ease a financial burden student teachers face while finishing up college before they can teach full-time. The main benefit is that the stipend will help keep students teachers in Oklahoma.”
This article was originally posted on Oklahoma student teachers eligible for stipend in bid to keep them teaching in the state