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Will this be Oklahoma’s next education reform controversy?

by | April 28th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (3)

A recent pattern in Oklahoma education policy has been major education reforms passed in earlier years becoming highly controversial just as they are about to go into effect. A strong pushback from parents and educators has led to the rollback or modification of numerous reforms, from Common Core Standards to 3rd grade retention, A-F school grades, and end-of-instruction exams.

Another way to put it is that many of yesterday’s solutions have become today’s problems. Now another major reform is scheduled to be implemented next year, but lawmakers are working to head it off before this solution turns into the next problem.

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House bill threatens Oklahoma’s Promise

by | April 27th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (3)

In today’s economy, a college education is more important for finding a good job and earning a decent income. Yet for children of low- and moderate-income families, the cost of higher education can be a substantial barrier to enrolling in and completing college. Over the past two decades, the Oklahoma’s Promise financial aid program has been the key for thousands of students to get a college degree – but legislation being considered this session could put the program out of reach for many students.

Oklahoma’s Promise, also known as the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, or OHLAP, is an early commitment financial aid program that covers tuition for students with family income below $50,000 at the time of application. Students must apply prior to the start of the 11th grade and complete a series of requirements before graduating from high school. Once enrolled in college, students must maintain a minimum GPA and follow behavioral guidelines.

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Uncertain future for third grade reading reforms

by | April 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

One year ago, parents and educators organized a powerful campaign to amend a state law that would have automatically retained thousands of 3rd-grade children who failed a standardized reading test. In response, the Legislature passed a bill temporarily revising the law, and then  mustered the two-thirds super-majority needed to overturn the Governor’s veto of the bill. This year, a strong effort is underway to make last year’s fix permanent – but the supporters of automatic retention are not giving up.

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Mr. Chips goes to Oklahoma City (Guest post: John Waldron)

by | April 9th, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (5)

John Waldron

John Waldron is a history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School. His earlier contribution to the OK Policy Blog is “The public education crunch goes from bad to worse.”

On March 30 I took a group of teachers and students to Oklahoma City for the Brighter Future Education Rally sponsored by the Oklahoma PTA.  It wasn’t my first rodeo. As a public school teacher, I have attended at least four rallies over the last fifteen years, including last year’s record-breaking gathering of 30,000 outside the capitol building. But this was my first attempt to go inside and talk directly to the people who write the legislation and budget for our public schools. It was an eye-opening experience.

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What needs to happen after the education rally (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | April 3rd, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (2)

Education-RallySteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

This week put the focus on public schools — at least that was the intention of several thousand teachers and other education supporters who rallied at the Capitol Monday.  Last year’s rally did not seem to produce much in terms of results.  Education supporters should be in the effort for the long term, but I’m not sure what success would look like for the rally this year.  At the least, supporters will demonstrate that they are still around and still unhappy with the status quo.  But in a year with a shortage of funds and few substantive proposals to rally around it’s going to be hard to produce any tangible victories.

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Don’t ban bilingual education (Guest post: Shannon Guss and Ryan Gentzler)

by | March 31st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)
Photo by Texas A&M University

Photo by Texas A&M University

Shannon Guss is the Educare Project Director at the Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) at the University of Oklahoma  – Tulsa. Ryan Gentzler is a Research Associate at ECEI and an OK Policy Research Fellow.

With two bills from 2011 and again this year with SB 522, Oklahoma legislators have proposed to ban bilingual education in Oklahoma. These bills would have dramatically expanded the impact of State Question 751, which established English as the official language of the state. Although the bills failed both this year and in 2011, we should be troubled by these repeated attempts to ban a proven, effective method for educating students.

For all students, and especially those in early childhood (birth to eight years of age), a large and growing body of evidence shows that learning two languages offers a wide array of enduring benefits. Dr. Linda Espinosa, the keynote speaker at the Early Childhood Leadership Institute at OU-Tulsa in 2008 and 2009, completed a synthesis of research on the subject that highlights cognitive, academic, and social benefits of learning two languages from an early age. Below, we summarize some of the most important takeaways from her 2013 report.

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Fact Check: Would school consolidation boost Oklahoma teacher salaries?

by | March 24th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (7)

truth-o-meterIn a recent press release, Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) made some claims about how much Oklahoma might be able to improve teacher salaries through school consolidation. He said, “The state of Oregon has the exact same population as Oklahoma but more students and yet has only 200 school districts. I don’t find it a coincidence that their average teacher pay is $12,000 more than Oklahoma’s.”

Sen. Loveless is right that it’s not a coincidence, but he’s missed the mark on the reason why.

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Oklahoma Legislature has a funny way of supporting education

by | March 19th, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (3)

spitballIn February, the Oklahoma House approved a bill (HB 1749) that would ban payroll deductions for membership dues to any organization that conducts collective bargaining on behalf of public employees. This week the bill was narrowly approved by a Senate committee, and it could come before the full Senate by next week.

HB 1749 would prevent teachers, school bus drivers, janitors, cafeteria workers, and other school employees who voluntarily choose to be union members from using payroll deduction to pay their union dues. That’s a benefit that these workers have had for decades. It’s something they can also choose to do for charitable contributions, such as the United Way, or for payments to credit unions and insurance companies.

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This new school meals program helps high-poverty kids and schools

by | March 11th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty | Comments (0)
Photo by Bread for the World used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by Bread for the World used under a Creative Commons license

Last spring, we reported on a powerful new tool to fight hunger in high-poverty schools. Community Eligibility, part of 2010’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, allows certain high-poverty schools, groups of schools, or school districts to offer breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge. Recently, we with talked the Nutrition Services Directors at Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) and Shawnee Public Schools (SPS), to hear about their first year of community eligibility.

Oklahoma City Public Schools adopted community eligibility in 51 of 79 of it schools, which means that 26,000 of 44,000 students in the district receive breakfast and lunch every day, free of charge. Shawnee Public Schools has adopted community eligibility in 5 of 7 schools. In both districts, the vast majority of affected students are in elementary school, when nutrition experts say that healthy meals are crucial to physical and neurological development.

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Education vies for funding down the road

by | March 4th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (1)

school-children-roadHow do you boost support for education in a year when the state faces a massive budget shortfall? Several bills to provide teacher pay raises have gained initial committee approval, but these bills are unlikely to make it into law given the grim budget situation. The best chance for success for education advocates seems to be a proposal by House Speaker Pro Tem Lee Denney (R-Cushing) that provides a multi-year $600 million increase in education funding, but not for another three years. Yet even this proposal is far from a sure thing.

HB 1682 creates the Securing Education Excellence Fund. The bill is designed to increase funding for common education by $59.7 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2019. The funding increase would come from income tax revenue that is take off-the-top before legislators appropriate budgets for other state services.

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