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Education

When President Obama took office in January 2009, the country was on edge, the economy in free-fall. The federal education law, known as No Child Left Behind, was also in need of an update after earning the ire of teachers, parents and politicians alike. In short, there was much to do.

In time, that update would come, but President Obama's education legacy begins, oddly enough, with his plan to bolster the faltering economy.

Race To The Top

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Once again this year, President Obama hailed the nation's high school graduation rate as it reached another record high — a whopping 83 percent.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a dispute that advocates describe as the most important case involving public school special education in three decades.

At issue is whether federal law requires public schools to provide more than the bare minimum in special services for children with disabilities. With millions of children qualifying for these services, the court's ruling could have a profound effect.

lockers
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The Oklahoma State Department of Education will invest $2 million dollars in career development programs over the next three years. The money comes from a grant funded by JPMorgan Chase.

 

The U.S. economy is projected to produce millions of high-skill, well-paying jobs over the next decade, but more and more kids are graduating from high school unprepared for college or a career.

 

So JPMorgan Chase is pumping $20 million dollars into 10 states to change that. Oklahoma is one of those states.

On campuses today almost every educational interaction leaves digital traces. Assignments and feedback are given through online portals; debates and discussions happen via learning management systems as well as in classrooms, cafes and dorm rooms.

Those and other digital crumbs give technologists the opportunities to examine the processes, practices and goals of higher education in ways that were largely impossible a decade or so ago.

President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos speaks during a rally at DeltaPlex Arena, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Mich.
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Betsy DeVos, who is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, has given millions in campaign contributions to politicians across the country.

Some of that fiscal muscle trickled into Oklahoma during the last election cycle through a pro-school-choice “Super PAC” that, notably, opposed so-called “teachers’ caucus” candidates in many instances. (The caucus arose out of many educators’ frustration over what they view as low education funding levels and teacher pay.)

The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, the billionaire philanthropist who is President-elect Donald Trump's choice for secretary of education, has been delayed for almost a week.

DeVos' hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but late on Monday night, the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions announced it had been delayed until Jan. 17, next Tuesday.

Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities were among the biggest losers in last year’s budget battle.

Lawmakers cut the state’s higher education budget by $153.4 million, or nearly 16 percent, as part of the Legislature’s work to close a $1.3 billion shortfall during the 2016 session. This led to tuition increases, elimination of degree programs and layoffs across the system.

He didn't have long. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. was confirmed by the Senate in March 2016 after President Obama's long-serving secretary, Arne Duncan, stepped down at the end of 2015. No matter the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, King knew that Obama would be out in a year and replaced by a president who, regardless of party, would almost certainly replace him.

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Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Lawmakers will take another stab at increasing teacher salaries, will attempt to stymie four-day school weeks and try to eliminate the end-of-year exam in U.S. history.

With the filing deadline on Jan. 19, bills have been streaming in, including many related to common education. Additional bills could surface later because of exceptions to the deadline and shell bills whose language is often replaced mid-session.

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Michelle Obama used her last official White House speech to deliver a passionate pep talk to the nation's young people, especially immigrants, Muslims and others who might feel slighted by the incoming Trump administration.

"Do not ever let anyone make you feel like you don't matter," the first lady said, "or like you don't have a place in our American story, because you do."

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