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Guide to Navigating Oklahoma's New Adjunct Teacher Law

By Janet C. Vinson, Ph.D., Deputy Superintendent of Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Support, Oklahoma State Department of Education

In response to the stifling nationwide educator shortage, the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) is partnering with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE) and university teacher education providers to provide more pathways for pursuing funding opportunities to improve teacher recruitment efforts.

In the meantime, SB 1119, authored by Senator Jessica Garvin R-Duncan and Representative Kyle Hilbert R-Bristow (effective July 1, 2022) eliminates the 270-hour cap for adjunct teachers to serve in Oklahoma public schools. This discussion provides guidelines and tips for utilizing adjunct teachers.

SB 1119

70 O.S. 6-122.3

The State Board of Education shall promulgate rules authorizing adjunct teachers who shall be persons with distinguished qualifications in their field. Adjunct teachers shall not be required to meet standard certification. A person employed as an adjunct teacher pursuant to this subsection who does not hold a valid certificate to teach shall not be considered a teacher as defined by Section 1-116 of this title.

SB 1119 Highlights

■ Removes 270-clock-hour limitation for adjuncts.

■ Permits local boards of education to approve adjuncts based on “distinguished qualifications.”

■ Disallows adjuncts in Special Education, PreK, Kindergarten and Administration (including Superintendent).

■ Requires “Parents’ Right to Know” communication for Title I sites and classrooms.

■ Requires an application process and $25 fee for each candidate.

■ Designates non-certified adjuncts as support employees.

The Oklahoma legislature passed SB 1119 during the legislative session, which increases the number of hours an adjunct teacher may teach. Specifically, the bill repeals the 270-clock-hour limitation on the amount of time adjunct teachers – persons with distinguished qualifications in their field who do not hold a valid teaching certificate — may teach per semester. As a result, there is now no limit on the number of hours an adjunct teacher may teach in Oklahoma. The measure specifies that adjunct teachers are not to be included in the statutory definition of “teacher.” For purposes of the Teachers’ Retirement System, adjunct teachers are to be considered “non-classified personnel.”

With the ever-growing burden on school leaders to recruit, retain and support Oklahoma teachers, recent legislation is one avenue that may provide some relief for school districts until teacher education candidates increase. The OSDE is currently pursuing a a plan to tackle the issue, but traditional teacher pathways take at least four years to produce new candidates and school leaders need teachers now. As a result, this legislative session produced several bills addressing the teacher shortage, with perhaps the most complex being new adjunct teacher legislation.

Adjuncts vs. Certified teachers or Certified Adjuncts

Non-certified adjunct teacher:

Adjunct personnel, unless already a certified teacher in another content area, are persons that do not hold valid certification of any kind, including educators with an expired certificate serving as an adjunct teacher. As support staff, non-certified adjunct teachers will NOT be required to be evaluated using TLE.

Certified adjunct teacher:

A certified employee “adjuncting” to teach outside of their area of certification. Certified personnel WILL be required to be evaluated using TLE.

Who may and may not be an adjunct in Oklahoma?

The law removes the 270-clock-hour cap (formerly approximately three hours a day) for adjunct classroom teaching per semester and allows adjuncts to teach in almost any area without a time limitation, classified as support personnel. Existing law requires adjunct teachers to be “persons with distinguished qualifications in their field.” 70 O.S. S 6-122.3(G). Additionally, existing administrative rules provide that the local board of education determines the specific qualifications, duties, salary scale OAC 210:20-37-2, 210:25-3-4(b) and responsibilities of adjunct teachers, and that such persons must be approved by the local board OAC 210:20-37-2. It is recommended, but not required, that local boards of education provide criteria or administrative rules defining the parameters of “distinguished qualifications” for adjuncts.

What are the Process and Accreditation Requirements?

When a school district has exhausted all other means to hire a certified teacher, then local boards of education, under the recommendation of administration, may vote to issue employment for a non-certified adjunct teacher if the individual meets the local board’s criteria of “distinguished qualifications” as either an action item or consent if administrative rules or policy has been approved. Administration should work with the local board to define these and provide them for public viewing.

Once a non-certified adjunct is approved by the local board, these steps must be followed:

Initially:

■ Administrative regulations direct the salary for non-certified adjunct teachers to be established by the school district. Importantly, the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act regarding minimum wage, overtime, etc., must be met for adjunct teachers. For certified individuals serving as adjuncts, the state minimum salary will continue to be applicable during the adjuncting fraction of the day (FOD) and adjunct hours may apply toward teaching experience under accrual guidelines. OAC 210:20-37- 2. 210:25-3-4(b).

■ A new job class (218) has been added to OCAS for non-certified adjunct teachers serving in a support capacity. Support designated object codes should be used for salary/benefits. Formal notification must be provided to the OSDE within thirty (30) days of the date of employment OAC 210:20-37-2.

■ Districts will initiate an Adjunct Application request with a $25 fee annually for each applicant within the Oklahoma Educator Credentialing System (located within Single Sign-On).

■ Accreditation will require that districts go through a similar process as they would for emergency certification, with an online application, in which each will be assigned an adjunct number. This will act as an identifiable number to assign them subject codes (accreditation application) and will populate the teacher assignment page in the accreditation application moving forward.

Districts that have exhausted all other efforts to recruit a certified teacher, or that have specialized professional/high-skill pathways for students that benefit from an adjunct, may use this option with approval from the local board of education. OSDE personnel are available for guidance at any time. Contact Dr. Janet Vinson, (405) 570-4592, Janet.Vinson@sde.ok.gov, or Ryan Pieper, (405) 365-3692, Ryan.Pieper@sde. ok.gov for questions or guidance.