By November 4, 2016 Uncategorized 6 Comments

There was a collective sigh of relief from OU football fans Thursday night after the Sooners escaped from Ames, Iowa with a surprisingly close 34-24 victory over the Big 12 bottom-dwelling Iowa State Cyclones Dust Devils, who fell to 1-8 on the season.

Folks in Norman were a little nervous in the days leading up to this contest. If you hadn’t heard the news from earlier in the week, there is a serious running back shortage at the University of Oklahoma.

Samaje Perine’s lingering leg injury, coupled with Joe Mixon’s one-game suspension, left OU coaches with only one scholarship running back (Abdul Adams) on their roster. Redshirt freshman Rodney Anderson suffered a season-ending neck injury in August. Fifth-year senior Daniel Brooks retired due to concussions soon after.

However, it was not Adams who shouldered most of the ball-carrying responsibilities Thursday night. Instead, the Sooners showcased fullback Dimitri Flowers, who had not carried the football in three seasons. Flowers rushed 22 times for 115 yards against the Cyclones.

So, the obvious conclusion is that OU really doesn’t really have a running back shortage after all.

In fact, I am certain Coach Bob is now rethinking his whole offensive scheme for the remainder of the season to keep Flowers on the field and Perine and Mixon on the bench, right?

Why wouldn’t he? Flowers hasn’t run the ball in three years and got 115 yards. Imagine how good he’ll be after a few more weeks in the starting lineup.

Uhh, don’t panic Sooner fans. Stoops is thinking no such thing.

We know that Coach Stoops is always going to put his best running backs on the field IF those players are available. Perine and Mixon will be back as quickly as possible.

Bob wants to win football games and he understands he has a better chance of winning when his best players are playing. But even if his top pick is not available, he will always have someone on the field to run the ball.

Like Coach Stoops, Oklahoma’s school principals and HR directors also want to recruit and “play” the best teachers we can. We want our kids to win and understand that they have a better chance of “winning” if they are led by a highly qualified, skilled educator. But even if our top pick is not available, we will have someone in the classroom to teach our students.

This is why the recent Op-Ed by Byron Schlomach and Baylee Butler in this week’s Tulsa World misses the mark.

In the article, Schlomach and Butler, both writers with the conservative leaning 1889 Policy Institute (an Oklahoma-based non-profit 501c3) imply that the so-called teacher shortage is just an illusion perpetrated by the education establishment to siphon even more money from the public coffers.

They use “evidence” from a study done by the Oklahoma State Regents of Higher Education that predicted that we should only have a shortage of 260 teachers statewide. If we claim to have more than that, it just means we’re lying.

They also examined the nearly 2,100 emergency certifications granted from January 2015 through September 2016 and assert that the large majority were granted to individuals subject-qualified by their majors. In other words, these folks have subject knowledge and thus are well qualified to be teachers.

We know better. Some teachers with alternative or emergency certifications do a great job. Many others struggle and leave the classroom after just a few years.

Anyhow, Schlomach and Butler essentially ask how can we justify a teacher shortage (and thus a need for higher education funding) as long as we are able to find warm bodies to fill our classrooms?

They conclude the article this way (emphasis mine):

Anecdotes about teachers “Gone to Texas” are just that — anecdotes. There are also anecdotes of well-qualified teachers willing to teach in Oklahoma for the prevailing salaries who have had a difficult time finding a job. Anecdotes do not support the notion of a teacher shortage.

But then, none of the evidence supports the notion of a teacher shortage. Instead, the evidence leads one to conclude that the teacher shortage is a clever and effective narrative told repeatedly in order to elicit demands for more funding in public education. More funding might or might not be needed, but it certainly is not needed to solve a non-existent teacher shortage.

As Abraham Lincoln put it so eloquently, ‘You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.’ It’s time Oklahomans closely examined the claims of a teacher shortage. There is no doubt that they would find the evidence as wanting as we did.

Pretty swell, huh?

What Schlomach and Butler fail to recognize is that discussions about teacher shortages are as much to do about QUALITY as QUANTITY.

As a school principal, if I only have two candidates to interview for an open mathematics or special education position – unless both are just awful – I’m picking ONE of them.

It also goes without saying that the more appropriately certified, qualified candidates from which I can choose, my chances of landing a great one go up.

The same goes for recruiting high quality running backs.

The reality is we are losing hundreds of great teachers to surrounding states because these states pay significantly more than Oklahoma. That’s not anecdotal.

Ask almost any school administrator in our state and can give you specific names. It will only get worse if SQ779 fails to pass and nothing is done to address the very real pay gap between Oklahoma and surrounding states.

A few final thoughts.

If the OU Sooners were offering great running backs only a 80% scholarship and Texas was giving 100%, what do you think would happen to recruitment? Why would recruiting teachers be any different?

If Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon had both been available to play last night at Iowa State, would Coach Stoops have played one of them instead of Dmitri Flowers? If yes, do you think the game would have been as close as it was?

Schools are better when their classrooms are filled with great teachers. Yet, we will almost always have a teacher in the classroom … because we have to.  Or, we will have much larger classes or fewer course offerings.

Don’t we want to do better?

If you want to compete for the best football players , or scientists, or salesmen, or architects, or teachers, you have to be willing to offer a competitive wage. It’s just the way the world works for most things.

Until we recognize this, Oklahoma will have a shortage of HIGH-QUALITY educators from which to choose.

There’s nothing anecdotal about that.

This Post Has Been Viewed 333 Times

Share this: