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Pay better teachers more.

There are 5.5 million jobs open in the United States and many will go unfilled due to the lack of skilled workers in high-demand professions such as accounting, IT, medical and skilled trades.

There is no immediate solution to generate enough workers to fill these positions. But preparing our young people for the jobs of the future is paramount and will require education reform.

As reported Feb. 1 in The Wall Street Journal, Wisconsin is reinventing its educational system, rewarding teacher performance, increasing teacher salaries and improving student learning. Titled “Scott Walker's School Bonus,” the article explains how a 2011 Wisconsin law, known as Act 10, uniquely limits collective bargaining to only base wages while allowing local school districts to negotiate pay with individual teachers based on job performance criteria rather than years on the job and educational level.

Some districts like Green Bay chose to abandon union-based ideology and former compensation methodologies of distributing monies. Administrators decided to use the new law to reward top teacher productivity by measuring student success and metric-based outcomes.

Districts were given the freedom to cap salaries of low-performing teachers, which encourages them to quit or find jobs in other markets. The number of quality teachers doubled in these districts between 2012 and 2014 in comparison with the salary-schedule districts.

Better teachers gravitated to districts where they could negotiate their own pay while under-performing teachers migrated toward districts where salary scales were "old school" regulated. Importantly, the study found a 34 percent increase in the quality of teachers moving from schedule pay to individual-salary districts. Student math achievement rose significantly in the districts with the improved teacher workforce.

My challenge to Oklahoma legislators is let's use this type of legislation and work to give Oklahoma schools the ability to reward the best teachers, those who produce better results for our students. We need education reform and the time is now.

Funk is CEO and chairman of the board of Express Employment Professionals.

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