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Morning Bell: Tulsa schools to focus on 'pervasive racial disparities'

Good Friday morning! Gov. Mary Fallin has approved a state question for the November ballot that many education groups are against. 

But first, Tulsa Public Schools is pledging to fix the systemic inequities that exist in the district and it will start by admitting that there’s a problem. 

The Tulsa World reports that the school board saw a draft of a resolution Tuesday that acknowledges that the city has a long history of racism and that “race continues to be the strongest predictor of success in our country.”

The resolution, if adopted in its current form, would pledge to correct “pervasive racial disparities” that “exist across key indicators of student success throughout Tulsa Public Schools, including discipline, reading proficiency, achievement, attendance, advanced course participation and graduation rates.”

The district’s plans for an equity resolution came shortly after the city of Tulsa released its Equality Indicators report, which showed disparities in housing, economic opportunity, health, education and other areas across the city.

 State Question 801

Lawmakers advanced legislation this year that created State Question 801. If adopted by voters this fall, local school districts could decide whether to use money from property taxes on things like teacher pay and other daily operational costs.

The Oklahoma Education Association has come out against the proposed change.

School building funds are obtained from ad valorem, or property taxes. State law limits how those funds can be spent, but lawmakers wanted to give some districts the ability to use excess funds elsewhere.

"I want those school districts to have the ability to utilize some of their ad valorem dollars for operating expenses," said state Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, during debate on the bill in March. "That does not mean they would not be also utilizing them for building or infrastructure costs, but this would allow them the flexibility to also utilize it for teacher salaries."

The Oklahoman's Dale Denwalt has more on SQ 801.

Tax-free weekend underway

Beginning today, and ending at midnight Sunday, Oklahomans will be able to shop for many items with a temporary exemption from sales tax.

The weekend comes at an opportune time for many back-to-school shoppers. Americans will spend a projected $82.8 billion on back-to-school shopping this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

“It's second to Black Friday,” OKC Outlets General Manager Jeannette Smith said. “It's very heavily trafficked, and right now our traffic is trending up so we are expecting more than last year.”

Lawton community mourns loss of longtime teacher

Students and faculty at Lawton High School are grieving the sudden passing of one of their teachers who died on Monday, reports the Lawton Constitution. Karen Beavers taught Journalism and participated in various school activities--including the teacher walkout at the state capitol where she helped in the push for teacher pay raises.

"It still hasn't quite hit me because I am here at LHS right now and I'm thinking she might just come by,” said Jacob Jardel, Beavers former student.

OKC school will tryout meditation room

Edgemere Elementary in Oklahoma City will use a meditation room as an alternative to the old forms of discipline, reports KFOR

Eldridge is a special education teacher at Edgemere Elementary. She said, sometimes, students act out or struggle in school because they don't know how to handle the cards they are dealt.

McAlester backpack drive planned for Saturday

A McAlester nonprofit has 1,000 backpacks along with other school supplies to give to students in grades pre-K through 12, all free of charge. A Back to School Bash is set for Saturday. Read more in the McAlester News-Capital. 

That does it for today's Morning Bell. Have a great weekend. See you Monday!

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 ›