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Oklahoma certified teacher bonus pay program underfunded in 2010

BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: December 26, 2009
Almost 300 teachers in Oklahoma achieved National Board Certification this year, enough to maintain the state’s rank as one of top 10 states in the nation with the most certified teachers.

Oklahoma ranks ninth nationally with 2,599 certified teachers, or about 5.7 percent of the state’s approximately 46,000 teachers.

Many attribute Oklahoma’s success to a more than $20 million state-funded program that provides board-certified teachers $5,000 bonuses every year for 10 years and pays the $2,500 National Board application fee for up to 400 teachers a year.

The bonuses for that program however, are underfunded for 2010 by about $4.7 million, said Shelly Hickman, spokeswoman for the state Education Department.

"Superintendent (Sandy) Garrett very much believes it is a promise that has been made to those teachers and that it is a promise that should be kept,” Hickman said. The governor and Legislature could restore some or all the shortfall once lawmakers are back in session.

"When we moved from Iowa to Oklahoma, I lost 1,000 real dollars of salary,” said Claudia Swisher, a board-certified teacher at Norman North High School. "The bonus was a way to be rewarded professionally in a state that I was losing money in every year.”

Immediate benefits
But Swisher, who was certified first in 1999 and again 10 years later, emphasizes that although most teachers begin the process for the bonus, they come out on the other side more effective instructors.

"The benefits are immediate, National Board forces teachers to stop and reflect on what they’ve done,” said Swisher, a teacher for 36 years.

"I know for a fact these last 10 years have been the most productive and positive of my career.”

Cuts are possible
Nancy Shakowski, regional director of board certification for 10 western states including Oklahoma, said that states with incentive programs generally see greater participation in board certification.

She said bonuses for certification vary across the west.

In New Mexico, teachers can receive $5,800; Wyoming $4,000; and in Colorado the bonus is $1,600 but $3,200 for teachers in low-performing schools.

But Shakowski and Swisher both acknowledge that heading into a fiscal year that is expected to be one of the worst ever for education in Oklahoma, the program may see some cuts.

National Certification

Top five school districts in Oklahoma:

• Tulsa:
13 new, 144 total

• Norman:
18 new, 128 total

• Edmond:
10 new, 121 total

• Oklahoma City:
14 new, 109 total

• Moore:
13 new, 106 total

• State total:
2,599, or 5.7 percent of teachers

Source: National Board for Professional Teaching Standards


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