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education

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

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister went to Washington on Wednesday to testify before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education.

Last year President Obama signed a replacement for the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which starts in the 2016/2017 school year.

Lawmakers wanted to know what teachers and administrators need from the U.S. Department of Education as the law goes into effect, and Hofmeister said local control is key.

Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, says there's “virtually no chance” Oklahoma teachers will see a pay raise this legislative session.

On Monday, Governor Mary Fallin proposed a $3,000 raise for teachers when she unveiled her executive budget during her State of the State address.

Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address before Monday's joint session of the Oklahoma House and Senate.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin proposed bold changes to Oklahoma's budget, the criminal justice system, and said she wants lawmakers to get behind a $3,000 pay raise for teachers during her 2016 State of the State address.

The $900 million-and-counting budget shortfall lawmakers will have to deal with hangs over everything this session, but Fallin remained optimistic even as she cited a two-year, 70 percent drop in oil prices that's affected state revenue.

"We can do it," the governor repeated.

Karen Burston, of Oklahoma City, is tearful as she talks about what she believes is the discrimination she and her son have faced at Sequoyah Elementary School. Burston’s son is in a special education program.
Victor Henderson / Oklahoma Watch

A federal civil rights agency has opened its fourth investigation into Oklahoma City Public Schools, this time focused on claims that school officials discriminated against special education students.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights said the newest investigation, filed on Dec. 3, examines whether the district applied different treatment, exclusion or denial of benefits to students with disabilities.

student in a classroom using a laptop computer
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The State Board of Education signed off on Oklahoma’s new English Language Arts and Math standards during Thursday’s meeting. They now await the approval of state lawmakers.

The Board was tasked with creating new math and English standards after the Oklahoma legislature repealed the Common Core curriculum in 2014.

The new standards were created by a group of Oklahoma educators from school districts across the state, and higher education. They were revised four times, before approval.

backpacks
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Four stories that were trending or generated discussion online or on KGOU’s social media platforms during the past week.

Teachers and education supporters rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City in March 2015, asking for better pay.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

State. Sen. David Holt is proposing $10,000 teacher pay raises over the next few years, and says it’s possible without raising taxes.

His plan is three-pronged. School districts would be consolidated and excess money would go to teacher pay. All revenue growth after fiscal year 2017 would go directly to raises, and the state would find another $200 million by reforming tax credits.

Holt said legislators have a moral obligation to raise pay, and help solve the teacher shortage.

Daryl Gandy teaches at US Grant High School in Oklahoma City.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

 

Daryl Gandy walks through the halls of Ulysses S. Grant High School in south Oklahoma City.

“We have 1,800 kids in this school that was built for 1,250,” Gandy said. “We have about 30 teachers, myself included, that don’t have a classroom.”

As Gandy strolls through the school cafeteria, he points outside to a white, nondescript building with a long metal ramp.

“These are our portables,” Gandy said. “We call it the trailer park. We have about 10 classrooms out here. This helps some of our overcrowding situation but it definitely didn’t fix it.”

Jason McMullen teaching a math class at Har-ber High School in Springdale, Arkansas.
Emily Wendler / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Jason McMullen taught in Oklahoma for 12 years before he finally decided to move to Arkansas. When he left, his salary was $41,000. His wife was a teacher too, and earned less.  

"It just got to a point where it’s hard to buy a house," McMullen said. "It’s hard to pay bills, it’s hard to raise kids."

After all their bills were paid each month, McMullen says he and his wife had about $250 left for groceries and other living expenses.

"I just could not financially afford to stay any longer," McMullen said.

Truman Elementary School library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma’s Supreme Court ruled that a proposal for a one-cent sales tax to fund education may go on the ballot for a statewide vote. The court’s decision on Tuesday struck down a challenge by OCPA Impact, who argued the initiative embraced more than one subject and therefore violated the state constitution.

The proposal contains seven sections. They include:

  1. The creation of the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.

lockers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Another $19 million could be cut from Oklahoma’s public schools as early as next month, potentially raising the total mid-year revenue reduction to $66 million.

The additional cut would fall on top of $47 million in cuts enacted last week by the state Board of Education, acting on advice from state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

Tulsa Community College freshman Zoey Radcliffe, center, looks at her notes while preparing for a final in her remedial math course. Thousands of Oklahomans take remedial college courses each year to relearn content they should have learned in high school
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

Each year, thousands of Oklahoma students graduate from high school with the understanding that they are fully ready to pursue a college degree.

They have passed end-of-instruction exams in math, science, English and social studies. Many earned A’s or B’s in classes.

When they don their caps and gowns, nearly nine out of 10 of them will be handed a diploma certifying they meet Oklahoma’s “College Preparatory/Work Ready Curriculum Standards.”

high school library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Due to Oklahoma’s revenue failure, the state Board of Education was mandated to cut expenses to K-12 education by $47 million. At a special board meeting held Thursday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said these cuts could seriously impact some school districts.

“We do anticipate that some school districts will have a very hard time remaining open,” she said.

Joy Hofmeister, superintendent of public instruction, listens to a question from the audience during the "Oklahoma Watch-Out" forum on March 3.
Ilea Shutler / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma budget writers will likely face a $900 million shortfall for the next fiscal year, and declining revenue could force mid-year cuts to current agency appropriations.

But the state's top schools administrator is requesting an additional $78 million for next year's education budget.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says the Department of Education will need an additional $47 million to keep up with student population growth, and an additional $30 million for health care benefits for teachers, which are mandated by law.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid
Oklahoma State Senate

A bill in the Oklahoma Senate could reduce the number of school district administrators in the state by moving to a county-based superintendent system.

eCapitol reports that Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) filed the measure after an interim study earlier this year. Oklahoma has 77 counties and 521 school districts.

According to Anderson, the state could save up to $40 million dollars if the state uses the county model.

Once In Place, Sales Tax Breaks Nearly Impossible To Touch

Dec 12, 2015
money
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Buried deep in the Oklahoma tax code is a sales tax exemption for railroad spikes. Once it got hammered into place, it never budged.

The tax break was created in 1993 for the benefit of one spike manufacturer, Wellington Industries, so it would relocate from Texas to Sand Springs. Tax code reformers later targeted it for review, but it survived. Oklahoma Tax Commission officials said they weren’t able to calculate how much it costs the state today.

Truman Elementary School library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Education officials around the state are praising Congress for approving the Every Student Succeeds Act that President Obama signed into law Thursday after it passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister the law will give Oklahoma education stakeholders the authority and responsibility over their schools they have long sought. Hofmeister also says the new law will strengthen Oklahoma’s control over teacher evaluations, assessments, and accountability.

Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit attached to Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion 4th Marines (BLT 1/4) and Combat Logistics Battalion 15 (CLB-15) stand at “parade rest” during a 235th United States Marine Corps birthday ceremony.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Russell / U.S. Naval Forces, 7th Fleet Public Affairs

After serving in the U.S. military, many veterans use the benefits afforded under the GI Bill to pay for school. The opportunity to have education paid for is a major draw for some, but the military isn’t a good fit for everyone.

Jared Kuntz joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2008 after trying a few different majors at the University of Oklahoma, and firefighter training, hoping he would find a career. Then the 2008 recession hit, the job prospects disappeared and the military seemed like his best option.

Few Regulations For Oklahoma Home-schoolers

Nov 30, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been significantly edited. Several uncorroborated claims were included in the original news piece and they have been removed. We deeply regret these claims were published in the original story prior to verification, specifically, a former homeschool student’s claim that she never finished algebra, her curriculum changed frequently, and her implication that she did not attend class for the required number of days. We regret these claims were in the original story and take responsibility for their inclusion.

OCPA Impact's Dave Bond answers reporters' questions during a November 12, 2015 press conference outside the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

A conservative advocacy group is challenging University of Oklahoma President David Boren's plan to fund education through a one cent sales tax increase.

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs Impact filed a formal protest with the State Supreme Court Thursday, saying Boren's petition is unconstitutional.

OCPA Impact is accusing Boren's group of logrolling four different subjects in to one petition-- and says that violates the Oklahoma Constitution's single subject rule.

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