MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

August 21, 2011

Schools concerned state is not funding stipends for National Board Certified teachers

Education department did not include stipend in 2012 budget

For the 10 years she’s been a National Board Certified Teacher, Sheri Schultz of Fort Gibson says she has paid close attention to how she teaches English to her students.

“You no longer just go through a textbook, you assess what the student needs,” Schultz said. “It makes you evaluate what you’re teaching in the classroom.”

For the 10 years she has been certified, Schultz has received a stipend of up to $5,000. Now that she has earned recertification through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, Schultz will get no money.

Neither will other National Board Certified Teachers in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Department of Education did not include a stipend for National Board Certified Teachers in its School Activities Fund budget for 2012.

Schultz and other area teachers say the state has gone back on its promise to pay an annual stipend for National Board Certified Teachers.

“We really worked hard, and the state made promises and broke the promise,” said Hilldale Elementary teacher Lisa Kerns. “The state superintendent did not even ask for these funds.”

When the State Board of Education approved the $401 million School Activities Fund budget in late June, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said her first priority was to focus on core areas of student learning and achievement. She said she also wanted to honor a commitment to fully fund teacher retirement and health benefits.

Department of Education Communications Director Damon Gardenhire said the state statute says stipends would be given “as funding allows.”

And there was not enough funding for the stipends for 2012, Gardenhire said.

A broadsheet from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards lists 20 states where no financial incentives for board certified teachers are listed. Some states, such as Iowa, leave it to individual districts.

According to the broadsheet, Alabama offers a $4,450 annual increase. Delaware offers a one-time $4,000 bonus. Illinois offers a $3,000 annual stipend “as funds are provided.” South Carolina offered a $7,500 annual salary increase for the life of the certificate for candidates before July 2010 and a $5,000 stipend for those certified after July 2010.

The broadsheet shows Oklahoma with a total of 2,820 National Board Certified Teachers, or 6.1 percent of the total number of teachers in the state. Certification is usually good for 10 years and can be renewed.

Kerns said she had planned to use this year’s stipend to help start earning a master’s degree.

“And I have a senior in high school this year who will need help paying for college,” she said.

Sadler Arts Academy teacher Cindy Ball said, “The $5,000 helped get my girls through college.”

Muskogee Public Schools has 37 national board certified teachers. MPS director of curriculum and instruction, Peggy Jones, said teachers must go through a rigorous process to become board certified.

“It is intense professional development,” Jones said. “It really puts a magnifying glass on what you’re teaching.”

Kerns said teachers must submit four portfolios, including two videos of them teaching in the classroom.

“You have to show how you communicate with parents, how you include all children when you teach.”

Schultz said she received $5,000 a year for the first seven years of her certification. Starting three years ago, “we got less and less.”

“But now it’s no money,” she said.

Alicia Rodgers, a reading specialist at Fort Gibson Early Learning Center said it took her nearly three years to prepare for National Board Certification tests. She said obtaining certification was more stringent than when she obtained her master’s degree.

“It makes you really evaluate and question everything,” Rodgers said. “You give a child a purpose for your teaching. ‘This is why I am trying to teach you this.’”

Rodgers, who teaches children individually and in small groups, said she has seen the difference her teaching has made in her students.

“You see a kid more engaged because your teaching is more relevant,” she said.

Kerns said money is a major motivation to seek national board certification. Yet, she said she would still seek certification if the stipend were $500, or nothing.

“We’re not whining about losing our stipend. It’s about a broken promise from the state,” Kerns said. “We’re going to teach no matter what.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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