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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.


Eric Haynes of Ada, Okla., says poorly maintained roads and sidewalks are among the biggest issues his community faces.
Caroline Halter / KGOU

Oklahoma voters will pick their primary candidates on June 26 and weigh in on a state question about legalizing medical marijuana. The political heat will build through the summer with high-profile endorsements, big-money ad blitzes and campaign promises.

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.

Josh Edelson / AP Images

Patients in Oklahoma will pay one of the highest tax rates for medical marijuana among the 30 states that currently offer it if State Question 788 is approved by voters this month, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis.

National Weather Service

Marvin Haworth walks through a house frame that’s under construction in the Seiter Farms development in Moore, Oklahoma.

“You see these hurricane clips right there? You see one at every rafter in the house. They’re all tied to the wall, so that rafter cannot be pulled loose from the wall,” Haworth says as he points toward the connection between the frame’s walls and roof.

Proposal Would Expand Unproven Concept: Online-Only Alternative Schools

May 25, 2018
Creative Commons CC0 / Pixnio

The state’s largest virtual charter school wants to open an alternative high school for at-risk students, saying the school will better address the needs of struggling students who already attend or will enroll in its regular online school.

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.


Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

For the first time ever, students can attend an Oklahoma private school part-time yet have most or all of the tuition paid by scholarships funded through a state tax-credit program.

The scholarship program, promoted by school-choice advocates, is typically used to subsidize tuition costs for full-time students at private schools.

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.


Teacher Shortage Forces Schools To Rely On Aides, Assistants

May 8, 2018
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Nancy Novosad has spent the last 27 years surrounded by students in Yukon classrooms, but she’s not a teacher.

She alternates between helping the teacher and helping the students. Novosad wipes noses, applies bandages, plans arts and crafts activities, opens milk cartons, leads story time, and packs and unpacks backpacks. She also passes out papers, explains assignments, takes students to the restroom and reinforces lessons taught by Elizabeth Wilson, a pre-K teacher at Ranchwood Elementary School.

Breaking Down The Impact Of The 2018 Legislative Session

May 8, 2018
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The curtain fell Thursday night on the 2018 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, leaving indelible memories of chanting crowds and heated rhetoric.

This spring’s session – as well as the concurrent special session that carried over from last year – was dominated by the teacher walkout and the intense debate over tax increases to pay for teacher raises and to boost public education funding.

But lawmakers’ actions went well beyond those critical issues.

Oklahoma Teachers Move Science Lessons Outside And Away From Textbooks

Apr 26, 2018
Zoe Travers / StateImpact Oklahoma

The state’s market for engineering and technology jobs is growing, but the test scores of Oklahoma students lag behind national averages on science and math test scores. Researchers say one way to fix this gap is training science educators to do more than teach the facts — and to think beyond the textbook.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

One of the most iconic images of the teacher walkout and the cuts to education funding that drove the movement was of tattered, duct-taped, antiquated textbooks.

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.

Oklahoma State Department of Education

The education advocacy that fueled the teacher walkout also led to a surge of candidates filing for office, including a few surprises in the race for state superintendent.

Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of instruction, drew four opponents.

Hofmeister, 53, will face two Republican challengers in the June primary: Linda Murphy, of Edmond, and Will Farrell, of Tulsa. Murphy, 66, is a public policy consultant who twice ran against Sandy Garrett for state superintendent. Farrell, 32, is a student at Oklahoma State University and a legal assistant at a Tulsa law firm.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The end of the widespread teacher walkout doesn’t mean questions surrounding Oklahoma’s education funding are settled.

Voters will head to the polls this November to chose Oklahoma’s next governor and elect a large swath of the Legislature. But it’s a pair of proposed state questions, which may or may not ultimately appear on the ballot, that could decide if teachers lose recently approved raises or possibly receive further pay increases.

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.

Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma students lost ground in reading proficiency in the past two years, erasing gains they had made in 2015, newly released data from the “Nation’s Report Card” show.

Nationally, students’ reading scores held steady.

The decline was significant and could raise questions about the efficacy of the state’s third-grade retention policy. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister attributed 2015 gains to the policy.

Hofmeister said Tuesday the results were “deeply concerning.”

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A Catholic priest is accused of sexual misconduct on the campus of St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee and former students and faculty have questioned whether officials at the now-shuttered college failed to properly investigate complaints.

Two women have filed a lawsuit against the university, which closed and filed bankruptcy in December, and St. Gregory’s Abbey, where the priest resides.

Trevor Brown / Oklahoma Watch

For the fifth time since Oklahoma teachers left their classrooms, House Republicans refused to hear a bill that would end a lucrative tax break for high earners and potentially bring an end to the one-week-old teacher walkout.

Eliminating the capital gains tax deduction – something that largely benefits the wealthy – would free up $100 million or more a year that could be used for education and to shore up the state budget. A state-commissioned consulting group last year recommended the tax break be repealed.

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