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high school library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Dozens of Oklahoma school districts sued the State Department of Education Monday for allegedly miscalculating the education funding formula for 22 years.

The lawsuit filed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court says counties that use a commercial and agricultural personal property tax assessment ratio above 11 percent can keep the extra revenue for the local school district.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister delivers a speech during the 2015 EngageOK conference in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma State Department of Education / Facebook

The Oklahoma State Department of Education has canceled its annual summer conference because of looming budget cuts.

Thousands of teachers attended the 2015 event at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, and eCapitol’s Christie Southern reports it’s typically used as free professional development for teachers as an opportunity to review federal education requirements. This year teachers were also expected to discuss the new Oklahoma Academic Standards:

Alicia Priest is president of the Oklahoma Education Association based in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

Proposed changes to state law meant to give more financial control to school districts could make it harder to hire teachers.

Senate Bill 1187 by state Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, would let school districts opt out of the state-funded health insurance coverage, the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System, and the minimum salary schedule.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma City Public Schools announced Wednesday it will cut 208 teaching positions next year. District officials are attributing the move to what they're calling a catastrophic budget crisis.

Superintendent Rob Neu says he's not sure which teachers will be affected just yet.

"It is my hope that all 208 will be through natural attrition, whether it be retirement, or people leaving the profession, or transferring," Neu said.

Truman Elementary School library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The House and Senate each passed their respective versions of legislation dealing with proposed academic standards in math and English language arts Monday.

There was heated discussion at the state Capitol, and both bills require more work.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, debated relentlessly to pass the standards as they are so that they could be implemented as quickly as possible. He says time is of the essence.

But House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, said there are a few mistakes within them that need to be addressed first.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The state Senate Education Committee voted unanimously Monday to eliminate high school end-of-instruction tests. Oklahoma high schoolers currently have to pass 4 out of 7 high-stakes EOI exams to graduate.

Under Senate Bill 1170, these state-mandated tests would go away, and school districts could choose their own assessment, if it’s approved by the State Board of Education.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Night after night, state Sen. Josh Breechen of Coalgate has stayed up until midnight, answering impassioned emails and calls from parents worried about schools being consolidated.

Sen. John Ford of Bartlesville says more people are stopping him in Walmart and at church and Rotary Club meetings to unload their viewpoints on the issue.

empty classroom
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Two state officials are on different pages when it comes to chances that a dedicated education fund will fail this year.

Both agree, however, that additional education cuts are coming, partly because a separate fund likely will fail.

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

The 90-day window for supporters to gather more than 120,000 signatures in support of a sales tax increase for education officially opened Tuesday.

University of Oklahoma president David Boren is leading the drive to put the one cent sales tax on the ballot in November.

“Let the people decide what kind of state that we’re going to have for the future, what kind of state we’re going to have now,” Boren said during Tuesday’s press conference launching the petition.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma's House Common Education Committee narrowly approved a Republican-backed voucher program on Monday. The Education Savings Account program allows public money to be spent on students who attend private schools.

State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said during committee debate the bill creates school choice options that some families desperately need.

The halls of the state Capitol filled with residents Monday opposing the consolidation of rural schools.
Cynthia Santos / eCapitol

A highly-anticipated bill calling for low-performing elementary school districts to be annexed into more successful districts stalled in committee Monday.

Anne Fisher leads a remedial math study session at Tulsa Community College as students prepare for a final exam last December. TCC is among several universities and colleges in Oklahoma revamping remedial courses in math and English.
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

The warning directed at nine Tulsa Community College students last fall, heading into finals week, couldn’t have been clearer: Be ready for fractions – lots of fractions.

Numerators, denominators, decimal conversions – these were among the math expressions that students in professor Anne Fischer’s class should have learned in high school but didn’t. If they don’t master them, they won’t be able to earn an associate’s degree or pursue their major at a four-year college.

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.

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