KGOU

Emily Wendler

In graduate school at the University of Montana, Emily Wendler focused on Environmental Science and Natural Resource reporting with an emphasis on agriculture. About halfway through her Master’s program a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love. She has since reported for KBGA, the University of Montana’s college radio station and Montana’s PBS Newsbrief. She was a finalist in a national in-depth radio reporting competition for an investigatory piece she produced on campus rape. She also produced in-depth reports on wind energy and local food for Montana Public Radio. She is very excited to be working in Oklahoma City, and you can hear her work on all things from education to agriculture right here on KOSU.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

For some low-income children in Oklahoma, summer does not mean vacation and playtime — It means being hungry. The lunch and breakfast these kids receive at school is no longer readily available, so they often go without — or they eat junk food. And while Oklahoma has summer food programs to combat this, there are roadblocks for many children.

General Electric's new Oil and Gas Technology Center in Oklahoma City.
Victor A. Pozadas

A new report from the Brookings Institution says Oklahoma City is positioned for growth. It says the city has a solid layer of infrastructure that is essential for development — and diversifying the economy. But there’s a threat to this development, and that’s a potentially weak workforce. Some researchers say local officials need to ensure schools provide the training innovative companies need. And they need to be doing it now.

lockers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

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.

Joy Hofmeister, superintendent of public instruction, listens to a question from the audience during the "Oklahoma Watch-Out" forum on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.
Ilea Shutler / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s state superintendent is asking legislators to give schools more money next year. Joy Hofmeister is requesting an increase of $220 million in funding, despite a projected budget shortfall.

On Wednesday, Hofmeister made her case for the additional funds to Oklahoma House members ahead of the legislative session that begins next month. She told lawmakers the additional money is essential to keep up with a growing student population and increased health care costs. She also says schools desperately need new textbooks, and new teachers need more professional development.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister listens as researchers present the new A-F school report card system , December 15, 2016.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The way Oklahoma's A-F report cards are calculated may soon change. 

The State Board of Education approved a new grading system Thursday, and it will now go before the Legislature for final approval.

The new system, set to go in to effect for the 2017-2018 school year, proposes using a single letter grade with no pluses or minuses. However, the overall report card will be presented like a dashboard, with seven different criteria adding up to one score.

Principals in the Oklahoma City Public School district are not pleased with their new superintendent, Aurora Lora, and have concerns about some of the changes she is making. They also contend that over the past two years district administrators have created a very negative climate throughout the schools. 

Epic Virtual Charter School has been operating in Oklahoma since 2011, and just opened a new location in Orange County, California a few months ago. However, local superintendents in the O.C. area already want Epic shut down.

Officials from the Anaheim Union High School District and Anaheim Elementary School District have filed a lawsuit against the Orange County Board of Education for approving Epic’s charter in November 2015, despite staff recommendations not to. They say the charter was approved illegally and in violation of California’s Charter School Act.

Two Oklahoma City Community College employees have resigned amid an investigation into academic fraud at the school.

In August, an OCCC employee told authorities that her supervisor was altering test scores and enrollment information, which would reflect inflated numbers in order to gain money for state and federal grants.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks to a student during a Monday evening town hall meeting in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma State Department of Education / Twitter

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is asking Oklahomans for input as she creates a strategic education plan for Oklahoma schools.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, ultimately rolls back the federal government’s footprint in state education policy. However, the law requires each state to submit a plan for academic goals and school accountability in order to receive federal funding.

Capitol Hill Elementary School in south Oklahoma City.
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Aurora Lora thanked voters yesterday for approving a $180 million bond issue.

"You know, it's been really wonderful. My phone was dinging all night with people just reaching out saying they're so happy for the school district,” Lora said during a news conference. “And for the teachers and students, just so that we're going to be able to address the issues that we've got, and really get focused on academics now.”

A supporter of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at the Oklahoma Republican Party's watch party at Main Event in Oklahoma City
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

There were few surprises at the national level as Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly chose Republican nominee Donald Trump to become the 45th president of the United States.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister speaks during the Teacher of the Year Ceremony in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister pleaded not guilty Friday morning to two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony, as well as charges of campaign contributions by a prohibited corporation, and violating limits on campaign contributions to candidates.

Updated Nov. 4, 11:13 a.m.

Hofmeister appeared in an Oklahoma County courtroom. She was also booked and released from the Oklahoma County Jail shortly after 9:30 a.m.. A preliminary hearing was set for December 13.

Original Post

lockers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The State Board of Education released the newest A-through-F school report cards at Thursday’s board meeting.

Overall, grades were down this year. This year’s tally included 196 A’s, 455 B’s, 582 C’s, 319 D’s and 213 F’s. By contrast, in 2015, schools earned 212 A’s, 497 B’s, 536 C’s, 333 D’s and 183 F’s.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said she isn’t sure why there's a dip, and said it would be irresponsible to make a guess, but her department will start digging through the data looking for answers.

Ryan LaCroix / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Just over a year ago—under the dark of night—a Ten Commandments monument was removed from the state Capitol grounds.

State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Tulsa, paid for it. Gov. Mary Fallin supported it. But its placement prompted a public debate—and ultimately a lawsuit—that forced its removal.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it had to come down and based their decision on a section of the Oklahoma Constitution—Article 2, Section 5—that says public money and property may not be used to benefit religion.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The state question that proposes raising Oklahoma’s sales tax one percent to pay for $5,000 raises for teachers could cause issues for city governments that also rely on sales taxes to pay for streets, fire stations, and other municipal projects.

Two University of Oklahoma economists – Cynthia Rogers and Gregory Burge – looked to past sales tax increases to see how municipalities were affected. They analyzed the impact of four previous Oklahoma state sales tax increases (in 1984, 1984, 1987 and 1990) on the timing of municipal sales tax rate changes.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building.
Oklahoma Watch

Data presented at Oklahoma City Public Schools' Monday board meeting show many of the district’s academic goals for the year were not met. 

The goals were set last year during the Great Conversation, which was a series of community meetings where parents and school staff produced goals for the district. They also agreed on specific skills they wanted each child to leave school with.

empty classroom
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma teachers haven’t received a statewide pay raise in eight years. But this November, voters will have a chance to boost teacher pay if they approve State Question 779.

It would fund the raises through a one percent sales tax. Education advocates say this could prevent teachers from fleeing the state, or the profession for better paying jobs. But opponents argue the proposal would create an entirely different set of problems.

The Department of Education released statewide student assessment scores at Thursday’s State Board of Education meeting and the results show an overall upward trend of improvement. But a slight one. 

Overall, Oklahoma students are performing better at reading than they are in math. On average, 70 percent of third through eighth-grade students are proficient in reading, and 65 percent of students are scoring proficient in math.

Gloria Torres, Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, District 6.
Oklahoma City Public Schools

The president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the American Federation of Teachers is calling on an Oklahoma City Public School Board member to temporarily resign.

During Monday night's OKCPS board meeting, Ed Allen said Gloria Torres should step down over accusations she may have been involved in enrollment fraud at Oklahoma City Community College.

“I think it is appropriate – if any board member is under investigation for criminal conduct – that board member should not participate in any board activity until cleared by the investigation," Allen said.

Monta Johnson, a fifth-grade teacher at Adams Elementary School, passes out books to her class in Oklahoma City on August 3, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Oklahoma City Public School Board members approved a $180 million bond proposal at a special board meeting on Tuesday. The bond will not increase taxes, and instead extends a bond that is set to expire.

Superintendent Aurora Lora said Oklahoma City Public Schools has dire basic needs throughout the district, and the new bond will address transportation, technology, and building maintenance issues.

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