At worst, any shortage is functionally trivial in size

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (October 26, 2016) – The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma state policy think tank, has published “Oklahoma’s Teacher Supply: Shortage or Surplus?” a paper critical of claims that there is a significant teacher shortage in Oklahoma set to grow significantly in the future. This is the conclusion of the study’s authors, Byron Schlomach, Director of the 1889 Institute, and Baylee Butler, a Research Associate of the 1889 Institute. They reviewed available evidence including anecdotes, emergency certifications, and an professional-quality study chiefly commissioned by the Oklahoma State Regents of Higher Education.

“The biggest problem with the teacher shortage narrative is that the evidence is just scant,” said Byron Schlomach, co-author of the paper. “The fact that there are several hundred unfilled teacher positions at the beginning of August in a state with 42,000 teachers is evidence of pretty much nothing as far as a shortage goes,” he said.

The paper points out that 542 August teacher position openings reported by Oklahoma’s school boards association constitute a very small proportion, just over one percent, of Oklahoma’s active teachers. While much has been made of emergency certifications, these constitute only 2 percent of all teachers. Sixty to seventy percent of those emergency certified in key subjects clearly had related college degrees and must pass subject exams. Also, 41 percent of emergency certifications were in elementary education and early childhood, not complex academic subjects.

“It seems telling that only three districts – Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Putnam City – requested 36 percent of all emergency certifications from January 2015 through September 2016 when they educate only 19 percent of the state’s students,” said Schlomach.

The authors also reviewed a study by the American Institutes for Research, which shows only a 0.62 percent shortage of Oklahoma teachers in the future.

“For me, the American Institutes for Research study is the most persuasive evidence that most of the talk about a teacher shortage is almost meaningless,” said Baylee Butler, the paper’s lead author. “After all, a trivial increase in average class size would eliminate the shortage, and the study is based on the best hard data available,” she said.


About the 1889 Institute

The 1889 Institute is an Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. The publication, “Oklahoma’s Teacher Supply: Shortage or Surplus?” and a summary can be found on the nonprofit’s website at