University of Oklahoma president David Boren signs a petition February 16, 2016 for a one cent sales tax proposal to fund education.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

A conservative advocacy group filed a legal challenge with the Oklahoma Supreme Court Thursday against a penny sales tax initiative that would be used to generate more money for Oklahoma’s public education system.

The legal filing by OCPA Impact contends the ballot title for the initiative and an explanatory statement, known as the gist, fail to describe important details, according to The Oklahoman’s Rick Green. It says the 1 percent tax would be in addition to other state sales and use taxes now in place:

Jason Stephenson teaches a class at Deer Creek High School in Edmond. Deer Creek’s allocation of money from motor vehicle collections doubled between fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Eight Oklahoma school districts are suing the state because of what they say is an unfair distribution model for Oklahoma's vehicle taxes.

classroom floor
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The number of third graders meeting minimum reading benchmarks has continued to tick upward in the three years since Oklahoma tied reading scores to advancement to the fourth grade, preliminary results from the state Department of Education show.

That raises the question of whether the controversial high-stakes exam is working by forcing schools and parents to ensure more third graders read better. The goal of the approach, which is used in other states, is to push students from a “learn to read” to a “read to learn” level by fourth grade.

With Robert Neu's departure, Associate Superintendent Aurora Lora has stepped into the superintendent's job on an interim basis.
Ilea Shutler / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma City Public Schools acknowledged Tuesday that acting superintendent Aurora Lora has been working for nearly two years without the required certification.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The elimination of end-of-course tests that Oklahoma public school students take each year will throw more uncertainty into the state’s efforts to develop a new system of measuring school performance.

The state’s much-criticized A through F report card system relies on students’ scores from standardized end-of-instruction exams, which were eliminated when the governor signed into law House Bill 3218 on Monday.

Mark Twain Elementary second grade teacher Elizabeth Clarke staples together work from two of her second-grade students in this 2013 photo.
Chase Cook / Oklahoma Watch

In South Dakota, one of two states with lower average teacher pay than Oklahoma, the Legislature in March approved a half-cent sales tax intended to boost salaries by thousands of dollars.

The other state, Mississippi, also is phasing in a teacher pay increase.

By contrast, when Oklahoma legislators adjourned Friday, they left ambitions of higher salaries for teachers unfulfilled. That means the state could find itself dead last in teacher pay soon unless more funding is generated.

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.

7 Takeaways From Tuesday’s Budget Deal

May 25, 2016
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

It will take a day or two for lawmakers to digest the details and assess the impact of the big budget deal unveiled Tuesday by Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders. But several immediate implications appeared clear.

Budget Cuts Were Reduced By About Two-Thirds.

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.

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:

Women represent less than a fifth of superintendents in Oklahoma. Stacey Butterfield, superintendent of Jenks Public Schools, followed her mother and grandmother into a career in education.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

The teachers in K-12 classrooms in Oklahoma and other states historically were mostly women. Their bosses — the principals and superintendents — were mostly men.

In two of those jobs, not much has changed.

Nearly eight in 10 certified public-school teachers in Oklahoma are female, a ratio unchanged in the past decade, according to state Department of Education data acquired by Oklahoma Watch.

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.