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The Morning Bell: What about the oil tax ballot for teacher pay?

Good Friday morning. 

The leader of a proposed ballot question to fund a $4,000 teacher pay raise through a high tax on oil and gas production said "our initiative petition is alive and well."

A group called Restore Oklahoma Now is seeking to put State Question 795 on the November ballot, which would make a flat 7 percent tax for all oil and gas wells.

But oil and gas executives and the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association have challenged that effort in two separate filings made at the Oklahoma Supreme Court this month. 

“Our work continues to bring this issue of teacher pay directly to the voters of Oklahoma,” said Mickey Thompson, founder of Restore Oklahoma Now, Inc. “Big Oil wants total control, that’s no surprise. They don’t want Oklahomans to vote on ending their sweetheart 2 percent gross production tax rate, by far the lowest production tax in the nation."

In a release this week, Thompson said the passage of another tax increase proposal being backed by a group called Step Up Oklahoma wouldn't necessarily mean the end of his effort. 

Several education organizations have come out in support of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, which would raise oil and gas production tax rates. 

The Board of Education approved 66 new emergency teaching certificates on Thursday, bringing the school year to date total to 1,917.

The board also honored Jon Parker, director of Troops to Teachers, which has a goal of recruiting 70 service men and women in the classroom before the next school year. More about Troops to Teachers here

Southeast High School in OKC is back open today following repairs for a damaged gas line, which had caused classes to be canceled on Thursday. 

Farm to students

Jenks Public Schools has partnered with Local Farm OK to bring farm-fresh goods to families with a portion of the proceeds going back into Jenks Public Schools, reports the Tulsa World

The bags of fresh food, sort of a farmers market on wheels, were delivered recently to Jenks Southeast teachers and families. They came from Sage Farms near Glenpool.

“This is all about fresher local products,” said Ashley Neal of Local Farm OK. “These foods are picked at peak ripeness, so the nutritional value is higher.

District looks to tackle chronic absenteeism

At Pawhuska’s public school district, high school Principal Lauri Lee said that “it seems that all groups of students are affected by chronic absenteeism.”

Lee said that more than 15 percent of students in the district are chronically absent, and that number has increased in the past five years, reports the Pawhuska Journal-Capital

The district is working to ensure students stay in school and reduce chronic absenteeism by improving curriculum, increasing technology use, and enforcing truancy policies, said Lee.

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›