Governor Stitt Calls on State Employees to Substitute Amid COVID Surge
Governor Kevin Stitt issued an executive order on Tuesday that he believes will help Oklahoma schools stay open amid the COVID-19 surge that has drained public school resources and forced districts throughout the state to close or shift to virtual learning.
The order authorizes state agencies to allow employees to substitute teach while retaining their current salary and benefits.
Stitt held a press conference on Tuesday to announce the executive order and emphasized that keeping schools open is a priority for his administration.
“I've said from the beginning that our students deserve an in-person education and our schools need to stay open. The state has a responsibility to do what we can to help make that happen, which is why I have signed this executive order to help schools suffering from staffing shortages,” said Stitt. “I appreciate schools and teachers that are doing everything they can to provide in-person learning for their students, as well as the business community for stepping up.”
Under this authorization, state employees will need to pass a background check and complete any training required by the district in which they’re volunteering.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister issued a statement in which she agreed that in-person learning is best for Oklahoma students, but said the action was insufficient to address school needs.
“We all agree it is best for schools to be open, and I appreciate that the governor has finally recognized this crisis. But we need caring, equipped teachers in classrooms and for the focus to be on learning. This gesture is a cup of water on a raging fire,” Hofmeister said.
Hofmeister suggested in her statement that Stitt could take immediate action to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state and alleviate the burden on schools and hospitals.
“With the stroke of a pen, the governor could untie the hands of schools to mitigate spread and allow hospitals to increase capacity. The governor could immediately deploy the national guard to assist with school transportation and food services using millions of COVID relief dollars already in hand,” Hofmeister said. “As the State Superintendent, I ask the governor to take meaningful action now."
Marlow Public Schools Superintendent George Coffman said that Marlow faculty, staff, administrators, and parents are prioritizing in-person education for the district.
“We’re working hard to stay open,” Coffman said. “I believe Governor Stitt is trying to help.”
As of press time, no state employees had contacted Marlow schools to volunteer.
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