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education

Jeff Raymond / Oklahoma Watch

Lawmakers are right back where they started after a much-anticipated vote to pass one of the largest tax increases in state history fell short in the state House.

Despite business luminaries and hundreds of educators filling the Capitol in support of the Step Up Oklahoma Plan, the revenue-raising proposal only received 63 votes, which was 13 votes shy of passing the constitutionally required three-fourths threshold for revenue-raising bills.

Storme Jones / KGOU

When Gov. Mary Fallin addressed lawmakers in her first State of the State speech in 2011, she implored them to fix a $600 million hole in the state budget. Seven years later, in her final State of the State address, the legislature is faced with a similar task: filling an estimated $425 million gap in the budget.

 

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

At least 60 private schools receiving tax-credit scholarships have been given three months to comply with a state law that prohibits discriminating against applicants based on disability.

The Opportunity Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit that last year collected $5.1 million in donations to help pay students’ tuition at private schools across the state, says schools that don’t comply will be removed from the program.

Superintendent of Blanchard Public Schools, Jim Beckham, says if schools used property taxes for teacher pay, there’d be big inequities from district to district.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmakers have butted heads for years over how to increase funding for education, but one recurring idea has been to give schools more flexibility in spending the money they already have.

 

A new bill filed by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, is the most recent attempt to do this.

elementary school library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

With the start of the 2018 legislative session eight days away, lawmakers have submitted a flurry of proposals related to education.

They range from the expected — proposed salary boosts and other financial compensation for teachers — to the unexpected, like bills to allow schools to sell and place ads on school buses and to permit students to apply their own sunscreen.

The intent of many other proposals is still unknown, as many education-related bills were submitted as “shell bills,” written with no substantive text and to be amended later.

Low Pay No. 1 Reason Oklahoma Teachers Quit, Survey Says

Jan 23, 2018
Oklahoma State Department of Education

The State Department of Education surveyed thousands of former teachers about why they left the profession, and what it would take to get them back. The survey results, released Monday, suggest most quit because of low pay.

Oklahoma Watch

Private schools in Oklahoma that offer tax-credit tuition scholarships are required to have admission policies that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin or disability.

But a check of websites for more than 80 participating private schools by Oklahoma Watch found that just seven post policies saying they won’t discriminate in admissions against children with disabilities.

Several schools are explicit about reserving the right to reject students whose disabilities the schools say they are unable to accommodate.

Preschool teacher, Irene Castell, works on counting with a small group of kids.
Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Kids are scattered around the preschool classroom at Zarrow International School in Tulsa. It’s loud and chaotic, but it’s organized. Some students paint pictures; others write out the letters of the alphabet. The small group sitting around teacher Irene Castell is learning to count and compare numbers.


Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group of about 20 parents asked Oklahoma City Public School Board members on Monday to kick former OKC Mayor Kirk Humphreys off the board of a local charter school.

Humphreys recently equated homosexuality to pedophilia while on a Sunday morning talk show, and many John Rex Charter School parents feel his comments were homophobic, and disqualify him from serving on the charter’s board of directors.

Mickey Thompson, founder and director of Restore Oklahoma Now, leaves the attorney general's office after filing paperwork for State Question 795.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mickey Thompson has a manila envelope tucked under his arm as he walks towards the Oklahoma Capitol. If the paperwork doesn’t start a fight, it almost certainly will add fuel to one.

Inside the envelope is the handiwork of about 10 people over a couple of months that could clear a path for Oklahoma voters to do something most lawmakers won’t consider: Enact broad tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

Shala Marshall, the 2016-17 Jenks Public Schools Teacher of the Year and a finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, assists her students in AP Spanish class. Fewer Oklahoma schools offer world language classes, and most that offer advanced classes are l
Sherman Merchant / Jenks Public Schools

A fourth of high schools across the state have eliminated world language classes over a decade, erasing the chances for thousands of students to acquire skills that could better prepare them for college and the job market.

The number of high schools without a single world language class has nearly quadrupled, from 39 in 2006 to 149 in 2016, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data collected by the state Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. That means a third of Oklahoma high schools now don’t offer a single course.

StateImpact Oklahoma: A Look at 2018

Dec 28, 2017
StateImpact reporters preview the key health, education, energy and environment issues they'll be tracking in 2018.
StateImpact Oklahoma

2017 is wrapping up, but the growing group of reporters at StateImpact is following important  policy issues that will carry on into the new year.

Senior Reporter and Managing Editor Joe Wertz brought the StateImpact team into the studio for a preview of their coverage in the year to come. Here are some excerpts from the conversation:

Health

Joe Wertz: Give me the big picture for the new year.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group led by a long-time energy industry leader wants Oklahoma voters to approve an increase in taxes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

Currently, taxes on oil and gas production are discounted for the first three years making the effective tax rate somewhere around 3.2 percent. Mickey Thompson with Restore Oklahoma Now on Wednesday filed the paperwork for State Question 795 to increase that rate to 7 percent across-the-board.

And The Rest / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

When Moore Public School Superintendent Robert Romines asked some of his high school students what the district could do better, they told him they needed more help with mental health.

“I was a bit shocked,” Romines says.

More and more of Oklahoma’s teenagers are dealing with mental illness, and the increase has caught a few school administrators off guard.

lockers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The state’s largest virtual charter school reported staggering growth for 2017-18, adding more than 4,000 students to its roster, according to the latest enrollment data.

Epic Charter Schools enrolled 13,158 students as of Oct. 1. That makes Epic the 11th largest “district” by size, slightly larger than Jenks Public Schools, which enrolled more than 12,000 students, data from the Oklahoma Department of Education shows.

Across the country, universities are being criticized over issues of money: from how they spend their endowments, to how they raise tuition, to how they award financial aid.
Michael Schiller / Reveal

It’s no secret that college is getting more expensive – or that America’s student debt has erupted into a full-on crisis. But it’s not just loans that are putting pressure on Americans seeking an education. As this week’s episode explains, students face a variety of obstacles, from rising tuition rates to hard-line immigration laws.

Dustyn Rappe / Oklahoma Watch

A controversial practice of shutting children alone in small closet-like rooms to control their behavior has led Oklahoma parents to withdraw their children from school, seek police intervention and take legal action.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Education leaders in Oklahoma say Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order on school consolidation oversimplified a very complicated issue.

The November 21 order directs school districts that don’t spend at least 60 percent of their budget on instruction to consolidate administrative staff with other districts. A strict interpretation of this rule would force most Oklahoma school districts to cut an administrator, or a support staff person, and then find a way to split that cost with a neighboring district.

Nomin Ujiyediin / KGOU

Siddhesh Wagh wants to get married, but he’s worried federal tax reform will get in the way. The fifth-year doctoral student in the math department at the University of Oklahoma makes about $16,000 in exchange for ten months of teaching a year. It’s enough to get by, but saving is still a struggle, even with the university waiving about $12,000 of his tuition costs.

Matt Whittington, of Edmond, enrolled in Epic Charter Schools because the flexibility of online classes fit with his commitment to gymnastics. The family made special efforts to ensure that the arrangement worked.
Michael Willmus / Oklahoma Watch

Virtual charter schools stand to receive the largest share of local tax funding if a lawsuit by a pro-charter-school group is successful.

That gain could occur despite the fact that virtual schools have fewer expenses than brick-and mortar ones, with few or no buildings to purchase and no transportation to provide.

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