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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

When the Oklahoma Legislature passed HB 1010XX in March, it was the first time lawmakers had increased state taxes in 28 years. Both the House and the Senate applauded themselves.

The governor acted swiftly to sign the bill, and at first, it seemed like a reason for school leaders to celebrate. They had been begging lawmakers to increase teacher pay for years, and it finally happened.


Blake Sonne, the lawyer representing Professional Oklahoma Educators, talks with reporters after presenting oral arguments before the State Supreme Court.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday over the legality of a petition to overturn new state taxes.

The petition, which is being circulated by an anti-tax group called Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, seeks to overturn HB1010xx, a $430 million tax package lawmakers passed this year.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Deborah Gist cried as she stepped across the small stage in front the Oklahoma State Capitol. The Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools and a group of educators had just finished a 110-mile walk from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to highlight their fight for more school funding.


Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

George Wang, a senior at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, recently made a discovery that disrupts a fundamental theory in chemistry.


Jacob McCleland / KGOU

After nine days of rallying at the state capitol, union leaders say the Oklahoma teacher walkout is over.

The president of the Oklahoma Education Association, Alicia Priest, said on Thursday that despite thousands of people calling on lawmakers to increase school funding, educators have seen no significant legislative movement since last Friday.

She said the union polled its members, and a majority doubted that continuing the walkout would result in more money for schools.

Updated 5:09 p.m.

The state's largest teachers union have announced the Oklahoma teacher walkout is over.

In a press conference this afternoon, Oklahoma Education Association president Alicia Priest said some schools and teachers may continue to walk, but that is up to them and their school boards.

Priest declared the walkout a victory, saying teachers had secured an additional half a billion dollars for public education, but Senate leaders refused to do more this year, and that was the reason for calling things off.

When Evan Taylor heard that Oklahoma teachers planned to walkout, he converted his small Tulsa church into a "glorified daycare" furnished with board games, crafts and a movies to keep kids entertained.

As Oklahoma's teacher walkout enters its eighth day, the union leading it has a new demand to end it.

Oklahoma Education Association is now saying lawmakers just need to raise another $50 million in revenue for the state budget, and they'll send educators back to school.

Katherine Bishop, OEA Vice President, says it's up to lawmakers to find the money. She doesn't care whether it comes from a wind tax or a repeal of the capital gains exemption, she just wants to see the legislature raise another $50 million to shore up the state budget.

Updated 2:09 p.m.

It's day six of the Oklahoma teacher walkout and some students miss being in school. Administrators at Wilson Elementary in Oklahoma City arranged a play date so kids could see their friends and their teachers. StateImpact’s Emily Wendler was there.

Updated 10:05 a.m.

All this week schools across Oklahoma were closed as public school teachers rallied at the state Capitol for better pay and more money for the classroom.

After 10 years of budget cuts and some of the lowest teacher wages in the nation, teachers say they've had enough.

Pay in Oklahoma has been so low, in fact, that districts often suffer from severe teacher shortages — many talented educators have left Oklahoma for better pay elsewhere. Some estimates put the number of teachers who have left near 2,000.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma teacher walkout and educators’ demands for more school funding dominates the news. It’s unclear if lawmakers are willing to meet those demands and quell daily protests. One lingering question: If schools get more money, what happens to other state agencies and workers who need funding, too?

Oklahoma’s state Capitol has been a madhouse all week. Teachers pack the rotunda early, and by 9 a.m. the chants are loud enough to echo through the tunnels underneath the building.

Update 4:22 p.m.

The state’s largest teachers union says the teacher walkout will continue next week despite the Senate passing two revenue-raising measures today. The Oklahoma Education Association also laid out new demands it says lawmakers must meet for teachers to return to the classroom.

Oklahoma teachers continued to rally Wednesday at the state capitol, the third day of a planned teacher walkout. Educators filled the capitol to capacity, urging lawmakers to hear their demands for more education funding.

The Oklahoma Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, wants more money for the classroom and it identified legislation they think would achieve that. One is a bill allowing ball and dice games in casinos, another would repeal some capital gains exemptions.

Updated 7:11 p.m.

As House members were preparing to adjourn, Republican Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols announced that he had just been notified by the state Senate that they would hear House Bill 1013XX on Thursday. 

Updated 10:32 p.m.

Schools across Oklahoma closed for a second day, as teachers continue to rally for more education funding.

Packed the inside the Capitol building – thousands of people chanted “What do we want? Funding! When do we want it? Now.”

State lawmakers approved a teacher pay raise last week, but educators say this rally is about getting more money for the classroom.

Updated 5:25 p.m.

Public schools from every corner of the state closed their doors today as teachers walked out of the classroom and marched at the Oklahoma capitol to protest years of cuts to education funding.

Last week, Governor Mary Fallin signed the first statewide tax increase in nearly 30 years to give teachers a roughly $6,100 raise. The nearly $450 million deal increased taxes on cigarettes, fuel and oil and gas production in hopes of heading off the teacher walkout.

Gov. Mary Fallin signs a teacher pay raise into law on Thursday, March 29, 2018.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Governor Mary Fallin signed a teacher pay raise into law on Thursday, giving educators their first state-funded salary boost in 10 years. On average, they’ll get about $6,000, but many of them are still walking out of their classrooms on Monday.

Mark Webb, a science teacher at Mustang High School, is one of them. He says he appreciates the pay raise but he still wants more money for the classroom.

Teachers, parents and students at a March 2018 education rally in downtown Tulsa.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

After months of gridlock and failed deal-making, the Oklahoma House and Senate have passed a nearly $450 million tax package designed to fund raises for teachers and avoid statewide school closures.

Gov. Mary Fallin said she’ll sign the tax package, which fell short of teachers’ demands. Educators still plan to march at the Capitol April 2 to pressure lawmakers to spend more on schools and public employees and continue a debate that has highlighted growing gaps and frustrations over taxes and government.

 

President of the Oklahoma Education Association, Alicia Priest, says teachers are frustrated with lawmakers for not doing their jobs.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

In the first public press conference since talk of a statewide teacher walkout began, the largest Oklahoma teachers union laid out its demands for the state legislature.

The demands include:

Oklahoma teachers rallied in support of the Step Up Oklahoma plan on February 12, 2018. The plan would have provided $5,000 teacher pay raises, but failed in the House.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The state’s largest teachers union, the Oklahoma Education Association, says it will announce the details of a statewide teacher walkout on Thursday.

Alicia Priest, the president of the OEA, says years of failed attempts by the legislature to increase education funding and teacher pay have forced the organization to consider the walkout.

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