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.

Oklahoma's new academic standards
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

School starts Monday for Oklahoma City Public Schools, and many more districts across the state will begin classes in the coming weeks. With the new year comes new academic standards, but the teacher training on these new standards may be compromised by tight school budgets.

“With the current budget situation, I’m not going to lie, our professional development budget was one of the first things that they cut,” said Shannon Thompson, the Dean of Academics for Moore Public Schools.

Kevin McDonald, Edmond Memorial High School English teacher, directs the percussion session of the band during a practice in Edmond, Okla., on Thursday.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

State officials are considering what to do with $140.8 million dollars cut from state agencies in the middle of Fiscal Year 2016, but can now be spent. The money is available because General Revenue Fund reductions required by FY 2016’s midyear revenue failure were deeper than necessary.

Gov. Mary Fallin says she is considering using the money to fund teacher pay raises.

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Aurora Lora proposes a revised KIPP charter school expansion plan during a July 18, 2016 board meeting.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

After months of debate, board members of Oklahoma City Public Schools voted to expand KIPP Charter Schools at Monday night’s meeting. But the expansion will not go as originally planned.

KIPP currently runs a middle school out of F.D. Moon Academy, and has been fighting to extend its rigorous academic model within the district. The charter school proposed starting an elementary school in Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary and hoped to share space with Douglass High School as well. However, Superintendent Aurora Lora says a task force will do more research to decide the locations.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building.
Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma City Public Schools released a more detailed breakdown of its massive budget cuts Thursday afternoon, showing specifically how cuts could affect students this school year.

The district’s fine arts budget will be slashed by 50 percent. The entire library media budget will be eliminated, which will impact the purchase of new resources for all schools. The elementary school budget will be reduced by $10 per student – from $25 to $15 – affecting funds for classroom supplies and other needs.

You can normally find Shawn Sheehan teaching math and special education in Norman, Oklahoma, just south of Oklahoma City. But school's out for the summer and instead, he's knocking on doors.

One-by-one he's asking voters in the state's central Senate District 15 to cast their vote for him. He's running unopposed in today's primary as an Independent, and after the polls close he'll know his Republican opponent.

Students from Classen School of Advanced Studies, an Oklahoma City high school, wave as they are recognized in the gallery of the Oklahoma House in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 18, 2016. The students were at the state Capitol to protest budget cuts.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

Parents, students, and educators are rallying at the state Capitol Wednesday because of dissatisfaction with Oklahoma’s $6.8 billion budget deal. They want to see more money go to education.

test with a pencil
shinealight / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Lawmakers are considering a measure that would significantly reduce school testing. The House passed a bill Monday that eliminates all tests that are not federally mandated. That includes five tests in the lower grades, and the seven end-of-instruction exams high schoolers take to graduate.

Students from the Classen School of Advanced Studies march from their school to the Capitol on May 18, 2016 in protest of state budget cuts.
Rachel Hubbard / The Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

For the second time this week Oklahoma City Public Schools students protested budget cuts to their education, but this time they marched all the way to the state Capitol.

empty classroom
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Updated May 18, 5:20 p.m.

Two bills regarding a teacher pay raise in the Oklahoma House were apparently a mistake. The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel reported the bills were not intended to be added to Tuesday’s Appropriations and Budget Committee agenda.

Oklahoma City Public Schools Associate Superintendent Aurora Lora waits on Board of Education members to emerge from executive session during an April 25, 2016 meeting.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Oklahoma City Public Schools will end classes two days early this year. The final day for students will be Wednesday, May 25.

Updated 8:31 a.m.

The Board of Education voted 4-2 during a Wednesday breakfast meeting at the Faculty House in Oklahoma City to end the school year two days early as part of a cost-saving measure.

Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Students in Oklahoma City Public Schools are upset with the budget cuts their district is facing, and many walked out of school Monday in protest.

About 600 students at U.S. Grant High School rallied in the parking lot and chanted, “No ifs, no buts, no budget cuts” in protest of the district slashing $30 million from the budget. Protests also broke out at several other campuses.

"We don’t want budget cuts," senior Christopher Black said. "We want more funding to our education; to the future of America."

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

A controversial method for evaluating teachers in the state may soon be eliminated.

Lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday making the practice of measuring a teacher's performance through student test scores and how they've improved over time optional, rather than mandatory.

The House gave final approval to that bill on an 80-to-zero vote. The author, state Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, says the legislation pushes the evaluation process back to the district level where it should be.

Interim Superintendent Aurora Lora talks with reporters Tuesday about the latest cuts to Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Oklahoma City Public Schools announced another $10 million in budget cuts on Tuesday. 

Interim superintendent Aurora Lora presented a long list of things that will be eliminated or changed in order to achieve these cost reductions:

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister testifies February 10 before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.
Edworkforce Committee / Flickr (Public Domain)

State officials are telling schools to brace for one more round of cuts before summer.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister told districts $13 to 17 million will be cut from school funding in the next month.

"This is really going to be gut-wrenching for districts to receive this news at this time at such a truly large amount of money,” Hofmeister said.

That will affect schools' abilities to pay their bills, and may force them to dip into any savings they may have. Hofmeister blamed the cuts on lower-than-expected gross production tax revenue.

University of Oklahoma president and former governor and U.S. Senator David Boren during a press conference Thursday as his group delivers 300,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office.
YesFor779 / Twitter

Oklahoma voters will decide whether or not raise sales taxes by a penny to fund education this fall.

State Question 779 will raise about $615 million for $5,000 teacher pay raises, among other education initiatives. University of Oklahoma president David Boren has been leading the charge for the penny sales tax. The grassroots effort Oklahoma’s Children – Our Future had 90 days to get 124,000 petition signatures to get the question on the November ballot. They delivered 300,000 to Secretary of State Chris Benge’s office Thursday – more than a month before the deadline.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building.
Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma City Public Schools has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Education to address the disproportionate discipline of black students in the district.

Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Shawn Sheehan accepts the award during a ceremony at the Oklahoma State Fair Park in August 2015.
Oklahoma State Department of Education / Facebook

The three-day filing period opened Wednesday morning for candidates running for state and federal office. More than two dozen educators are considering politics as the state continues to deal with deep cuts to public schools. An unofficial head count shows about 30 teachers running for office.

Don Wentroth said he simply wants a better learning environment for students.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister testifies Wednesday before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.
Edworkforce Committee / Flickr (Public Domain)

Oklahoma’s new academic standards passed through the legislature Monday, and are now officially in effect.

It’s been a long road for the new math and English curriculum.

Lawmakers repealed the Common Core version in 2014, and mandated the Oklahoma State Department of Education write new ones.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Wednesday it will cut 208 teaching positions next year. District officials are attributing the move to what they're calling a catastrophic budget crisis.

Superintendent Rob Neu says he's not sure which teachers will be affected just yet.

"It is my hope that all 208 will be through natural attrition, whether it be retirement, or people leaving the profession, or transferring," Neu said.

Truman Elementary School library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The House and Senate each passed their respective versions of legislation dealing with proposed academic standards in math and English language arts Monday.

There was heated discussion at the state Capitol, and both bills require more work.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, debated relentlessly to pass the standards as they are so that they could be implemented as quickly as possible. He says time is of the essence.

But House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said there are a few mistakes within them that need to be addressed first.

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