education

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.

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