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Morning Bell: Senate passes teacher pay raise

Christian Coleman. 
Christian Coleman. 

Good Thursday morning! 

The Oklahoma Senate voted Wednesday night to approve a $474 million tax package that includes a pay raise for teachers, estimated to be around $6,000.

Attention now turns to educators and the state's largest teachers union, which has threatened a teachers strike next week unless lawmakers passed over $800 million in new spending, including a $10,000 teacher pay raise. 

The Oklahoma Education Association praised the Senate vote but said more was needed. 

“There is still work to do to get this Legislature to invest more in our classrooms," OEA President Alicia Priest said in a statement. "That work will continue Monday when educators descend on the Capitol.”

A rally of teachers at the Capitol on Monday seems certain. Beyond that? It isn't clear. 

OKCPS teachers can work during a walkout

Oklahoma City Public Schools will allow teachers to work if they don't want to demonstrate at the Capitol during the first four days of a walkout, The Oklahoman has learned.

Acting Superintendent Rebecca Kaye, in an email sent to teachers Wednesday, said the district is giving them options of taking union leave to be at the Capitol, taking personal or unpaid leave to stay home, or coming in to school.

"It is up to teachers to determine which of these options is the best for them, but we did not want to put anyone in the position of not getting paid if they chose not to participate in the action at the State Capitol and do not have personal business leave available," Kaye stated in the email.

While the focus has been on the showdown between teachers and lawmakers, what about the kids?

“I think students play a major part in this because we are affected, too,” said Christian Coleman, a senior at Millwood High School. “Students are the first in line to see the struggles that the teachers actually face and students are strong advocates for teachers.

I wrote today about the perspective of some students who say the current fight over teacher pay and funding is about their future. 

“It’s not only about teachers, it’s our education,” said Anna Antuono, a senior at Lone Grove High School. 

Teaching grants taken away

For a decade the federal government has offered grants — worth up to $4,000 a year — to standout college students who agree to teach subjects like math or science at lower-income schools.

But a new government study obtained by NPR suggests that thousands of teachers had their grants taken away and converted to loans, sometimes for minor errors in paperwork. That's despite the fact they were meeting the program's teaching requirements.

"Without any notice, [my grant] was suddenly a loan, and interest was already accruing on it," says Maggie Webb, who teaches eighth grade math in Chelsea, Mass. "So, my $4,000 grant was now costing me $5,000."

You can listen to that story here

Edmond track coach accused of pointing weapon at motorists

A volunteer track coach at Edmond Memorial High School was arrested Tuesday, accused of pointing a BB gun at another motorist on the Broadway Extension.

Marcus Alexander Maxey, 27, was being held in the Oklahoma County jail on a complaint of pointing a firearm. His bail was set at $4,000.

Maxey was hired as a paid volunteer track coach at Edmond Memorial High School on Jan. 9, Edmond schools spokeswoman Susan Parks-Schlepp said.

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Have a great day. 

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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 ›