The Morning Bell: So long, 2017
Good Friday morning!
This is the final Morning Bell of 2017, a year made up of continued financial and staffing challenges for Oklahoma schools, while also stories of triumph and success. I'll have a look at the year in public education in Sunday's Oklahoman.
But here are some of the big #oklaed stories from the past year, not necessarily in a particular order:
An Oklahoma charter school group is suing the state Board of Education over inequities in how charters are funded in comparison with traditional public schools. This lawsuit will carry over into the new year. Speaking of charters, Oklahoma will receive $16.5 million in federal funds to open and expand dozens of charter schools across the state.
Oklahoma's public schools started the 2017-18 school year with 536 teacher vacancies and at least half of the state's districts have said they will increase class sizes in response to a shortage of certified teachers.
In its third annual district survey, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association put out more numbers on what many educators have called a crisis when it comes to finding traditionally trained teachers to fill classroom positions and it showed most districts say teacher hiring is getting worse.
Nonwhite students now outnumber white students in Oklahoma public schools, according to the latest enrollment figures released from the state Department of Education.
2017 was a year that also saw a teacher elected to the Legislature, the state adopted a new plan for assessing schools, the state Board of Education approved two "rural" charter schools and the announced end of DACA has created panic in some schools and communities. Read more in Sunday's newspaper.
Looking ahead to 2018
KOSU's Emily Wendler recently discussed what she expected to the big education issues of 2018: "School funding and that can be split into two things: Teacher pay and school budgets. It’s been talked about for years by lawmakers and the state superintendent, but even the governor is really ramping up her rhetoric — on teacher pay, especially. She recently crashed a teacher recruitment fair that was being put on in an Oklahoma hotel by a bunch of Dallas schools."
Listen to the entire segment here.
John Rex parents seek to oust Humphreys
Former Oklahoma City mayor Kirk Humphreys is facing pressure to resign from the board of the downtown charter school he helped create but has said he has no plans to do so. A group of parents leading the call for his removal said they feel even more strongly following a private meeting with Humphreys last week when they said he threatened to take funds with him should he leave. You can read more here.
Settlement in Tulsa school bus assault
Tulsa Public Schools has agreed to a $35,000 settlement in a civil suit filed by the victim of an alleged 2015 student-on-student sexual assault on a TPS bus, reports Samuel Hardiman of the Tulsa World.
The settlement still needs to be approved by a federal judge. TPS and the Tulsa School Board admit no wrongdoing in the joint motion for settlement and have denied any liability in court filings.
The incidents in question occurred on a TPS school bus in February 2015 and at McKinley Elementary School over the ensuing months, the lawsuit says. The school district and school board’s response was negligent and breached a duty of care, the suit claimed. No criminal charges arose from the incidents.
Feds want more info on OK's school plan
The U.S. Department of Education has requested additional details and clarifications before giving Oklahoma's new school plan final federal approval.
In a letter sent last week, the U.S. Department of Education asked for further information on more than a few dozen specific elements of Oklahoma's plan, including how the state plans to track student growth among various student sub groups, how struggling schools exit an improvement plan and the process for how English language proficiency is measured at the school level.