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Morning Bell: Budget cuts headed for schools

Good Wednesday morning. Winter weather had many schools across the state dismiss early on Tuesday and some school districts are closed today, including Edmond and Oklahoma City. Here's a complete list of closures

Spending cuts would hit schools

Spending cuts for the current fiscal year that are racing through the Legislature include $16.2 million from the Oklahoma State Department of Education, reports the Tulsa World. That would mean $15.35 million less in state aid, the primary source of state funding for local schools.

Also the $755,000 that would be slashed from the Oklahoma Public School Activities budget, often referred to as “education line items,” had been budgeted for direct services to students.

"Despite the best efforts of all those who supported the Step Up plan, Oklahoma must now absorb the consequences of a budget hole in the last four months of the fiscal year,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. “This is an unconscionable situation but a grim reality our schools know all too well. We stand with those who continue to fight for a competitive public education for all kids."

In January, Gov. Mary Fallin said she would veto a budget that didn't include a teacher pay raise. 

The next fiscal year budget will include a $167.8 million shortfall, according to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. According to The Oklahoman's Dale Denwalt, that amount is considerably less than recent years when shortfall estimates ticked toward, and eventually past, $1 billion.

Would teachers strike over pay?

If Oklahoma teachers decide to walk out of classrooms in protest of low salaries and stagnant school funding, there has to be a clear idea of what it would take to return to work, said the leader of the state's largest teachers union.

“One of the first things that you have to have is a re-entry strategy,” said David DuVall, executive director of the Oklahoma Education Association, which has nearly 40,000 statewide members. “If you have a clearly defined goal that you are trying to achieve, such as passage of House Bill 1017 in 1990, then the win is easy: the Legislature acts on that bill.”

Bullet-resistant school supplies 

Global orders for bullet-resistant school supplies have been coming in “fast and furious” to a Lowell manufacturer since the Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. — the latest in a seemingly endless cycle of rampage assaults on campuses across the country. (Boston Herald)

Interim superintendent focused on 'moving the ball forward'

“My job right now is to just keep moving the ball forward and to make sure that we’re all doing all the things that we promised that we were going to do," said Rebecca Kaye, who took over as acting superintendent for Oklahoma City Public Schools three weeks ago. In an interview with News9, Kaye said she's working on improving communication within the district. 

Edison principal to be transferred

Tulsa Public Schools will replace Edison Preparatory School Principal Dixie Speer and transfer her to another school, the district said Tuesday afternoon.

"Based on all of the feedback we have received, Principal Speer and I have determined that a leadership change would be a healthy step at this time," Superintendent Deborah Gist said in a letter to parents.

The Tulsa World reports that the move comes after weeks of tumult at the high-performing school. Hundreds of students walked out of class last week to protest teacher turnover and deteriorating conditions at the school. Parents, students and teachers delivered a broad critique of Speer and the district at a Tulsa school board meeting two weeks ago.

Chickasha audit to take place

The Grady County Election Board has certified a petition from residents of Chickasha, asking the state auditor and inspector to investigate the finances of the local school district, reports KGOU. According to a statement from State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones’ office, the audit is expected to begin in four to six months.

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Stay warm!

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 ›