Oklahoma education

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Oklahoma has, in recent years, gained national attention as a center for earthquakes. But a different kind of seismic shift hit the Sooner State this week—one of the political variety.

As The Tulsa World reports, this spring when Oklahoma’s teachers went on strike, they were dismissed and mocked by many of the state’s Republican officials. This, despite the fact that Oklahoma’s per-student spending has decreased by almost 25% in the past 10 years.

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Oklahoma schools are closed again today for an eighth straight school day, as teachers continue to protest low teacher pay and skimpy funding. CNN reported yesterday that the teacher movement is “gaining momentum.”

One group of teachers walked the 100 miles from Tulsa to the capitol in Oklahoma City, to draw attention to their plight.

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The state of Oklahoma has had a crazy few days.

First, the most powerful Oklahoman in the Federal Government, EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, faced mounting outrage over his use of taxpayer dollars to pay for first-class flights and a 24-hour security detail. The secretary also rented a private room from an energy lobbyist in the nation’s capital, for far below market value.

And then there were the state’s teachers, who walked out of schools across Oklahoma in protest of low pay and ten years’ worth of poor funding for education.

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A week ahead of their potential walk out, Oklahoma teachers have taken to posting pay stubs on the internet to show what they believed to be egregious financial treatment on behalf of the state.

As KFOR reports, the average starting salary for a teacher in Oklahoma is just over $31,000 a year, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

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The arrival of spring break didn’t stop teachers in Oklahoma from pursuing their quest for higher pay.

As KFOR reports, this week many teachers traded in their vacations to instead visit the state capitol, in hopes of convincing Oklahoma lawmakers to raise their compensation and staving off a statewide walkout on April 2nd.

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West Virginia teachers had a big win this week after state legislators met demands for a 5% increase for all educators and school administrators statewide.

Now, the next battleground in the teacher pay debate looks to be the state of Oklahoma.

As The Oklahoman reports, state lawmakers have three weeks to approve $800 million in additional public school funding, including money for teacher pay raises, or educators across the state are going to walk off the job.

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The Oklahoma Legislature’s plan to fix the state budget failed spectacularly this week, sending lawmakers scrambling to defend themselves from widespread criticism.

The Step Up Oklahoma plan had seemed to many like it held promise.

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News of Oklahoma’s struggling public education system has now reached London, where the legendary news magazine The Economist published an analysis this week of the state’s pervasive and seemingly insurmountable school funding issues.

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Over the past decade, language classes have been disappearing from Oklahoma public schools, reports Oklahoma Watch.

As of last year, a quarter of high schools across the state had eliminated world language classes altogether. The result: hundreds of graduating classes filled with students who’ve missed out on a key component that could better prepare them for college and higher earnings in the job market.

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Last year in Oklahoma, the number of school districts that had gone to four-day school weeks nearly doubled.

As KFOR reports, 20 percent of public schools in Oklahoma are now only open four days a week, due to a crippling budget crisis in the state. Some officials in the state have said they think four-day weeks are a good idea, because of all the money it frees up in the budget.

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Oklahoma’s school districts got an early Christmas present this week, as it was announced that districts statewide would receive a $2 million grant.

As KOKH reports, the donation is being provided by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board. The grant will go toward educating Oklahoma students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, better known as the STEM subjects.

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Oklahoma schools are still using a controversial punishment technique for special needs children, and the method has caused some parents to pull their kids out of school. Many of these same parents have been led to call the police or take legal action.

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Oklahoma has once again been ranked first in the nation when it comes to slashing funding for education.

As KOSU reports, over the past decade Oklahoma has cut school funding more per-pupil than any other state. According to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, since 2008, the amount of funding available per pupil in Oklahoma has dropped by almost 30 percent.

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Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin recently signed an executive order declaring that all school districts that spend less than 60% of their budgets on instruction should be consolidated, reports The Oklahoman.

Put more simply, a school district must be spending six out of every ten dollars to pay teachers. If not, the district will be forced to combine with a nearby district, or share budgets, maintenance, equipment, and other employees like janitors and counselors.

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Oklahoma teacher Teresa Danks recently made national news when she began panhandling beside the highway to raise money for school supplies.

On average, American teachers spend $500 a year of their own money on school supplies for their students, but that number can be much higher in states like cash-strapped Oklahoma. American teachers are currently eligible for a small tax break of $250, to reimburse themselves.

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A charter school association in Oklahoma has brought a lawsuit against the state, in hopes of diverting more revenue away from traditional public schools and into charter school coffers.

As The Tulsa World reports, the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association's lawsuit hopes to do what similar suits in Colorado and Florida have achieved: sharing local tax money equally among district and charter schools.

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A new federal education law will give Oklahoma more freedom and responsibility when it comes to fixing its failing schools, reports StateImpact.

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The Oklahoma Education Department has released a new plan to address the ongoing woes of the state’s education system, reports Oklahoma Watch.

The goals of the plan include reducing the state’s recent reliance on emergency certified teachers and raising the state’s high school graduation rate to 90 percent. The plan will also try to ease hunger in schools, and force underfunded public schools that have gone to a four-day school week to fix their calendars.

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It’s no secret that Oklahoma is facing as major teacher crisis. But, as Oklahoma Watch reports, within that larger crisis is another problem. The state suffers from an increasingly dwindling pool of special education teachers.

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Oklahoma’s woes are now so dire that the state is making news in the United Kingdom. Last week, the British newspaper The Guardian published an article about Oklahoma, asking the question “Can anyone fix this failing state?”

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Oklahoma has now set a record for the number of emergency-certified teachers its hired this year. The state has been experiencing a statewide shortage of teachers, largely due to low teacher salaries and the problem of educators moving to other states for better pay and benefits.

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Tensions over the condition of public education in Oklahoma continue to grow more strained.

As The Oklahoman reports, the Oklahoma City Public School System is considering suing the state Legislature. Leaders of the largest school district in the state say the Legislature has consistently failed in its constitutional and moral responsibilities to the children of Oklahoma.

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Over the past two months, the State of Oklahoma has approved almost 900 emergency teaching certificates.

As The Tulsa World reports, many classrooms in Oklahoma have yet to find teachers and droves of educators have moved to Texas and elsewhere, in search of better pay.

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Foster kids in Oklahoma will soon receive state funding to attend private school, if they choose to do so.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, in the past state funding for private schools has been given to disabled or special-needs students. But this is the first time that funding has expanded to include foster children.

The idea behind the change is to allow foster kids who have experienced trauma to tailor their education to their needs.

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One Oklahoma teacher has now turned to panhandling to pay for necessary items for her classroom.

Oklahoma teachers will be returning to work in a few weeks, and that means they’ll have to get their classrooms ready. But, in cash-strapped Oklahoma, this can be an even bigger challenge than in other states.

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The State of Oklahoma has drawn repeated criticism recently for leading the nation in funding cuts to K-12 public schools.

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The teacher crisis in Oklahoma doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, reports The Oklahoman.

Last year, Oklahoma was forced to certify 1,100 emergency teachers to plug unfilled jobs due to low pay and teachers moving out of state. This year, the state Board of Education has already approved 224 more emergency certificates. Emergency teachers are hired without the traditional training expected of a public-school teacher. These last-minute stop-gap educators are forced to learn on the job.

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Oklahoma will soon make its statewide reading test more difficult, and the change could result in more students being forced to repeat the third grade.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the important, high-stakes test is already difficult for some. Last year, 12 percent of Oklahoma third graders received a grade of “unsatisfactory.”

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For decades, Oklahoma public schools have been struggling to retain principals. Last year 73 percent of Oklahoma’s 1,900 principals had held their positions for five years or less.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the constant turnover of principals costs Oklahoma districts thousands of dollars a year.

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Dallas school districts have been actively recruiting Oklahoma teachers.

As KFOR reports, Dallas ISD is holding interviews in Oklahoma City this week to try to convince some of the state’s most qualified teachers to head to Texas, where pay and benefits are significantly better than in the Sooner State.

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