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The Oklahoma House of Representatives gave an approval to two bills designed to increase the number of special education teachers in the classroom and to address the statewide teacher shortage.
Representative Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, presented Senate Bill 1436, which creates a new pathway to certification in two areas for aspiring special education teachers and provides additional training for existing special education teachers.
“Oklahoma has a serious shortage of qualified special education in our schools, and we need to figure out how to provide better services for these students,” Miller said.
“Senate Bill 1436 combines the two certification tests for these aspiring special educators into one comprehensive test and outlines a path to certification in severe-profound disabilities for teachers currently certified in mild-moderate disabilities. This would allow for a greater pool of qualified candidates so our students are learning from highly trained teachers.”
Currently, aspiring special education teachers must take two separate tests to certify in mild-moderate and severe-profound disabilities.
The bill also creates a micro-credential pathway for special education teachers already certified in mild-moderate disabilities to gain certification in severe-profound disabilities without taking the certification test.
Representative Danny Sterling, R-Tecumseh, also passed legislation to help address the teacher shortage. Senate Bill 1115 was authored by Senator Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, and passed the House 87-3.
The bill allows school districts that cannot find a certified teacher the option to rehire a quality emergency certified teacher after their second year.
Current statute limits an emergency certified teacher to two years. However, if a certified teacher is available, the local district must hire the certified teacher.
“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 after two years,” Sterling said.
“By allowing school boards the option of rehiring emergency certified teachers who have performed well in their classrooms when certified teacher candidates are not available, our classrooms will have more stability.”
Sterling is a former educator who worked for 40 years in Tecumseh Public Schools as an agriculture education teacher and later as an assistant principal and principal.