Teachers Searching for Jobs
The Department of Education just took more than 4% cuts by the legislature this session, the largest cut to the agency in recent years.
Cuts of more than 10% since 2009 are forcing many schools to lay off educators and stop hiring new teachers.
23-year-old Nicole Meter surfs the web to see about possible job openings near her home in Tulsa.
She graduated with about 27 others from Oral Roberts University at the end of April, and only about two of those in her class have gotten hired as teachers.
She says it can be scary and frustrating as schools determine what to do next year while facing a four-percent cut to funding.
“You have to wait for the budget to come through. You have to wait for them to figure out exactly how many teachers they’re going to be rehiring that were temporary the past year. And, then how many positions they need to fill and then they’re going to start interviewing.”
Nicole has applied in Jenks, Broken Arrow, Bixby, Sapulpa and Union and is also considering Sand Springs and Owasso.
She’s restricted because of a scholarship she received which requires her to work in a lower income school and she wants to stay in Tulsa.
The lack of jobs is impacting veterans as well as new graduates.
Kim Sloggett has a Masters’ Degree in Education and 20-years of experience.
“A school district is probably not going to want to hire me because they’re going to have to pay me more money than a first year teacher or even somebody who has a few years experience and they’re probably an excellent teacher.”
Kim is working on a temporary pilot program for OSU.
The Teacher Excellence Network allows first year educators to be observed by instructors over the Internet.
Kim hopes the program gets picked up permanently, because she doesn’t want to go back to the job hunt.
After getting laid off last year, she sent out more than 75 resumes and not just to schools.
“Anything, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, I even applied to be a photographer for Olan Mills, I sent out on anything at all, and I got three interviews out of the whole thing.”
Last year, the state saw a drop of 1,500 teacher positions across the state while enrollment jumped by more than 6,000 students.
While House Bill 1017 passed in the early 90s to require small class sizes, many districts are able to avoid that mandate.
Oklahoma Education Association Associate Executive Director Joel Robison fears classrooms could return to the pre 1017 sizes of 30 students or more.
“There was an old saying in the teacher business about you stack them deep and you teach them cheap. We don’t want to get back to the days of stacking them deep and teaching them cheap because that’s unfortunately I think where we’re about to go to.”
Of course there’s no shortage of teachers coming out of Oklahoma’s colleges.
The University of Central Oklahoma just graduated 350 candidates into the job market.
College of Education Dean Jim Machell says getting a job might be tough, but there are options.
“There are still shortage areas in areas such as special education, working with English language learners, science education, mathematics education, those fields are still strong.”
Doctor Machell says students can also find work in hard to staff schools such as rural and urban districts.
The University of Central Oklahoma is working with Oklahoma City Schools to help train its students for inner city education.
At Oklahoma State, about 280 students received Education degrees, and OSU Career Services is doing its best to keep recent graduates abreast of jobs in Oklahoma and around the US.
Senior Employee Services Coordinator Jeff Grizzle admits it’s a tough year for teachers, but they can’t get discouraged.
“There may not be anything right now but as the schools get ready to start back in august we have a lot of our education majors that actually don’t get jobs until a couple of weeks before the next school year. So definitely just keep looking, keep looking and be open minded.”
Teachers can also find work in test prep and tutoring companies such as Kaplan and Sylvan Learning Centers.
Nicole Meter says if no teaching job opens up by fall, there’s always substituting just to get her feet wet.
“I’m already ready for it. I had great experiences with my internships. All my teachers were like ‘if something happens that you don’t get hired let us now and we’ll use you as a sub’.”
Educators can find jobs online at teachers-teachers.com.
And, the Oklahoma Education Association is also available to help get candidates connected with districts needing help.