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Morning Bell: Judge says pay raise repeal effort is 'sloppy'

Good Tuesday morning. When it comes to a petition being circulated to repeal tax hikes for teacher pay raises, Chief Justice Douglas L. Combs said, "At best, to me, this is sloppy. And at worst, it's intentionally misleading. It's deceptive."

Those comments were made Monday as the Oklahoma Supreme Court justices heard challenges to a petition being circulated by Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite!, a group backed by former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, which wants to repeal the tax package to fund teacher pay raises. The tax package was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in March. 

The Oklahoman's Chris Casteel has complete coverage in today's newspaper and the Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on the challenges, both of which were lodged by education-related groups and individuals.

The petition: Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! has until July 18 to collect about 42,000 signatures to place repeal of the tax bill on a statewide ballot.

Court decision: If the court were to rule that the referendum process wasn't appropriate for a revenue bill to fund teachers, that would kill the effort in its tracks. If the court ruled in the second challenge that the petition itself was flawed, an amended petition could be submitted. 

Charter leader denies allegations of grade-tampering

Rodney Clark, the suspended superintendent of Langston Hughes Academy for Arts and Technology, denied Monday that any grade-tampering took place at the charter school, reports the Tulsa World

He attributed the allegations against him and others to pushback from some school employees who didn’t agree with the grading system, and he highlighted a recent deposition from Langston Hughes’ board president, Carmen Pettie, that he and his attorney, Jim Goodwin, claim show that she doesn’t know how grades were entered at the school as the reason the allegations were made.

Clark, his wife and two other staff members have been suspended since April after the allegations of grade-tampering were made. The state Department of Education is investigating the matter.

OKCPS suspension rates remain high for black students

While Oklahoma City schools have significantly reduced the number of students it suspends each year, the disproportionate suspension rate of black students remains high.

Oklahoma City Public Schools issued 40 percent fewer suspensions during the 2016-17 school year, compared to four years earlier. District leaders expect that overall number to be down again when statistics from the most recent school year are released later this summer.

However, of the 3,382 students suspended during the 2016-17 school year, 44 percent were black, despite the fact that black students make up just 24 percent of district enrollment.

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

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 ›

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