OKLAHOMA CITY (OBV) – An Oklahoma bill that adjusts scholarship eligibility requirements to enable more students to become teachers was signed into law.
Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 2559, written by Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, and Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee.
HB 2559 not only renames the Oklahoma Future Teacher Scholarship and Employment Incentive Program to the Inspired to Teach Program, it also allows homeschooled students and individuals who earned a General Educational Development (GED) certification to apply for the scholarship, in addition to Oklahoma high school graduates, for whom the scholarship was already available.
The bill also modifies the “full-time student” definition to make the scholarship available to more prospective teachers. Full-time students are now defined as students “enrolled in 12 or more semester credits toward teacher education degree requirements; undergraduate students who are interning or student teaching in lieu of credit hours; or those who have an approved reasonable accommodation due to a documented disability,” an Oklahoma House of Representatives news release states.
“We are doing everything possible to address the teacher shortage that is affecting Oklahoma public schools as it is those across the nation,” McBride said. “Having a qualified teacher in the classroom is the best way to ensure students succeed in school and once they graduate. These scholarships will help us attract more future teachers, which in turn will benefit our students and our communities.”
The original future teacher scholarship legislation was passed last year. Nearly 2,000 students have since applied for those scholarships. Twenty-three Oklahoma educator preparation programs have reported a 53.28 percent increase in enrollments from fall 2022 to spring 2023, according to House officials.
The legislation provides up to $1,000 each academic year for up to three years for full-time students who accumulate less than 90 credit hours in an Oklahoma teacher preparation degree program, as well as $2,500 scholarships for students who have more than 90 credit hours until a $5,500 maximum is reached.
“We’re thrilled with how successful this program has been in its first year of attracting more students to pursue a teaching degree, and we want to keep that momentum going,” Pemberton said. “We want to help every student who has a desire to teach to have that opportunity, and expanding this scholarship will help us accomplish that and get more teachers into our classrooms.”
McBride said it’s his hope more funding will be added to the scholarship program through the general appropriation’s bill for Fiscal Year 2024, which starts July 1.