education

classroom floor
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The state Department of Education released Oklahoma’s annual A-F report cards Thursday, and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says the school accountability system is deeply flawed, and a waste of money.

Proponents hoped it would motivate schools to improve, but it's been a contentious issue since it went into effect three years ago.

Search The Report Cards By County, District, Or School

Oklahoma Watch Executive Editor David Fritze, House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) and House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) during an Oct. 20, 2015 panel discussion in Oklahoma City.
Patrick Roberts / KGOU

House Speaker Jeff Hickman says he expects next year's state budget gap to be even higher than the $611 million shortfall lawmakers faced when crafting the spending plan for fiscal year 2016.

The Republican from Fairview expects it could be as high as $700-800 million.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren is proposing a statewide sales tax for education.
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s proposed penny sales tax for education reflects a fundamental shift in the way the state is paying for public schools, higher education and other services.

Economists interviewed by Oklahoma Watch expressed concern about reducing the state’s reliance on income taxes and increasing its dependence on sales taxes to finance essential state functions.

classroom floor
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Two of the three experts brought in to help Oklahoma create new academic standards say numerous flaws in the third draft show Oklahoma will likely fall short of creating the best standards in the nation.

The flaws highlight the monumental challenge lawmakers gave to the state Education Department to write new standards, but also clash with the rhetoric that surrounded the process at the start.

Education Sales Tax Used In Other States

Oct 4, 2015

Several states have proposed or approved sales tax increases to support education similar to a proposal in the works in Oklahoma, and the results have varied.

In some cases, the sales tax hikes have remained in place for years, expanding or preserving education spending. In another case, a tax hike was repealed by voters, and a second tax ran into legal trouble.

Iowa, Arizona, Idaho, Florida and Georgia are among the states that implemented sales tax increases similar to the one proposed by University of Oklahoma President David Boren.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren, shown here during a 2015 press conference, is calling for a statewide penny sales tax for education.
Ben Fenwick / Oklahoma Watch

A proposed penny sales tax increase would cost medium-income Oklahomans about $262 a year and raise $608 million annually to finance public schools and higher education, a new data analysis shows.

The bottom 20 percent of Oklahoman households would chip in $90 a year, and the top 1 percent would pay $1,691, the study says.

Penny Education Tax In Other States

a school classroom with empty chairs
comedy_nose / Flickr Creative Commons

For the third year in a row, Oklahoma will not give a standardized writing test next spring that counts toward a student’s score or a school’s letter grade.

That means the state is paying a vendor at least tens of thousands of dollars for a test that yields no results.

An Aug. 24 bulletin from the state Department of Education addressed to school district test coordinators says the writing exam will only be a field test, which is used to create test questions for the following school year.

Toby Carter, 14, goes to school from home. This is his first year at the Oklahoma Virtual Charter Academy.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exhcange

There is a debate nationwide over the effectiveness of online education, and Oklahoma isn’t immune to it. Here, enrollment in virtual schools is booming, but the schools are performing poorly. There are also questions about the companies that run these schools and their financial practices.

Opponents to online education say the state should stop supporting virtual schools until there’s more information about them. But, others say they are vital to certain types of students. 

Throughout middle school, Toby Carter’s teachers struggled to keep him challenged.

Josh Gwartney, principal of the early childhood center at Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools, displays the paddle available to be used on students.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

More than a dozen names are inked onto the wooden paddle tucked behind Principal Josh Gwartney’s desk.

Each name memorializes a child who was given a swatting in Chouteau-Mazie Public Schools, located about 25 miles east of Tulsa.

Gwartney, who leads the early childhood center, said the paddle is rarely used on the center’s pre-kindergarten through second-grade students, and only with their parents’ permission. Paddling also is used in the district’s elementary, middle and high schools.

Michael Lockhoff plays with his daughter in their backyard in Tulsa. The Lockhoffs struggled last year, when she was 6, to work with schools to meet their child's educational and emotional needs.
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

An Oklahoma Watch investigation finds that across the state, special education students are being paddled, suspended and expelled at higher rates than those of other students.

Students with physical and mental disabilities in Oklahoma are bearing much of the brunt of classroom discipline, government data show.

They're more likely than their peers to be suspended, expelled, arrested, handcuffed or paddled.

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