OKLAHOMA CITY Ok. (KAMR/KCIT) — Officials with the state of Oklahoma recently took action to help keep students in the classroom for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year.

Oklahoma Governor J. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order Tuesday (Jan. 18) giving employees with state agencies the ability to substitute teach without losing employment, pay or benefits. According to Executive Order 2022-01, executive directors of state agencies are required to create methods by which employees of those agencies can serve as substitute teachers “for an appropriate and necessary duration and throughout
such times that critical work of an employee’s respective agency will not be negatively impacted.”

“Recent staffing shortages are affecting many Oklahoma public schools’ ability to remain open or otherwise to provide adequate numbers of teachers to impart the best education possible to students in our state,” the executive order reads. “As I have repeatedly made clear, students deserve and need the right to an in-person education, and the state has a responsibility to ensure that right remains intact. The alternatives—closure of schools and/or virtual classrooms in lieu of in-person teaching—adversely impact our children’s futures, parents’ ability to work and provide for their families, and our economy that has thrived as Oklahoma has remained open for business. In light of these issues and having heard from concerned Oklahomans, I find it necessary to immediately implement a creative strategy to utilize our state agencies’ dedicated and talented workforce to fill a critical gap.”

Officials repeatedly stated their belief of how vital it is for in-person education to occur within Oklahoma. Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters praised state officials for “stepping up” to the situation with an “innovative solution and partnership,” according to a news release from the state.

As the Secretary of Education and a former teacher, I will do everything I can to keep Oklahoma schools open and will continue to work with business leaders, school leaders, our faith community and state and legislative leaders to find solutions that put students first,” he said in the release.

This order will be effective for 120 days, the release states.