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Oklahoma ScissorTales: A reasonable approach to teacher shortage

Katherine Johnson, the inspiration for the film "Hidden Figures." [AP Photo]
Katherine Johnson, the inspiration for the film "Hidden Figures." [AP Photo]

The state Senate Education Committee approved a reasonable bill this week designed to help deal with Oklahoma’s shortage of certified teachers in classrooms.

Senate Bill 1115 would let local school boards keep emergency-certified teachers beyond the current two-year limit. The bill’s author, Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, says superintendents and school boards face the challenge of finding certified teachers when time runs out for those who are emergency certified.

If an emergency-certified teacher is performing capably, Sharp said, “they should give that teacher the opportunity.” He’s right.

The bill has the backing of Shawn Hime, head of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. More traditionally trained teachers are needed, and adding them must be a priority, Hime said. However, “In the short term, we have to continue with alternative pathways and emergency certifications to ensure we have teachers in the classroom.”

The full Legislature should support this effort.

Providing a little rest for the weary

A lopsided vote in the Oklahoma House — 88-2 — said a lot about how much sense one bill makes. The measure by Rep. Kevin West, R-Moore, would give state correctional officers the right to 15-minute breaks during their shifts. For many years, the Department of Corrections has been short-staffed. Consequently, correctional officers often work 12-hour shifts — with no breaks. West says that when he was told about the problem, he figured COs were allowed to step away once in a while. “But in digging into it, no, they are not,” he said. Think about that for a minute. West’s bill would give employees a 15-minute break during the first eight hours of work, with an additional break for every two hours after that. The bill now goes to the Senate where similarly easy passage should be a given.

Sad vote in the U.S. Senate

This week, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., noted that the Senate would be voting again on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. The bill, Daines explained to colleagues the day before the vote, “mandates that if a baby is born alive following a botched abortion, the doctor must protect that baby and give the same medical care that any other baby would receive. Is that too much to ask for?” For most Senate Democrats, the answer is yes. Forty-one Dems voted to block the bill and keep it from getting the 60 votes needed for passage. Three senators seeking the Democratic presidential nomination — Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders — didn’t vote this time but they all voted against it last year. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said it well in remarks on the Senate floor: “We could not get 60 senators of 100 to say even if a child is fully delivered outside the womb, crying on the table, that’s a child. That is a frightening statement about where we are in our culture.”

A history lesson worth studying

The New York Times would like schools to teach its “1619 Project,” in which the Times posits that America’s real founding occurred that year, when the first known slave boat arrived from Africa. How about having students watch the uplifting and historically accurate film “Hidden Figures” instead? Released in 2016, the film tells the story of three black female mathematicians who worked for NASA in segregated Virginia in the 1950s and 1960s. They solved equations by hand, providing trajectory analysis for various missions. Before his famous orbits of Earth in 1962, John Glenn, skeptical of data provided by an early IBM computer, insisted, “Get the girls to check the numbers.” The “girls” were Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Johnson died this week at age 101. Margot Lee Shetterly, whose book was the basis for the movie, called Johnson "exceptional in every way." Johnson's story, Shetterly said, “shined a light on the stories of so many other people. She gave us a new way to look at black history, women’s history and American history.” It's a lesson worth learning.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›