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AM NewsBrief: Feb. 15, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

Statewide Virtual Charter Board hears cases for and against a taxpayer-funded Catholic school

The Statewide Virtual Charter Board heard cases for and against a taxpayer-funded Catholic school at its meeting Tuesday. StateImpact’s Beth Wallis reports the presentation from the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City was met with opposition from proponents of keeping church and state separate.

BW: At the meeting, Board President Robert Franklin questioned the mandatory nature of religious instruction:

RF: Is there a required religious indoctrination type of course that’s embedded into an elementary or a middle school or a high school course of matriculation, or is that something that a student chooses to - how does that work?

AOC: In the Catholic schools, the Catholic faith is a required course all the way, all the way through.

BW: And public commenters pushed back on the proposal. Here’s Sherri Brown from the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee:

SB: St. Isidore’s application makes it clear that they intend to function the same as a fully private Catholic school without compromising any of their religious beliefs in setting policy. Will LGBTQ+ students or their families be excluded? Will students who become pregnant be expelled? What will happen to students who misbehave? Will they be expelled without due process?

BW: The board can’t vote to accept or deny the application until its next meeting in March at the earliest. For StateImpact, I’m Beth Wallis.

Bills aimed at retaining and recruiting Oklahoma teachers

With enrollment in Oklahoma teaching programs dwindling, the state is struggling to helm its classrooms with traditionally certified educators. OPMX's Graycen Wheeler reports on two bills aimed at retaining and recruiting Oklahoma teachers.

GW: Representatives Mark McBride of Moore and Rhonda Baker of Yukon are the authors of House Bill 2559. It would expand eligibility for an existing scholarship that gives education students up to $5500 to teach in Oklahoma after they graduate.

MCBRIDE: We have over 2,000 people currently that have applied for the scholarship since July. So it's pretty large. It's working.”

GW: McBride and Baker also authored House Bill 2558, which would give teachers who receive their National Board Certification a $5000 annual bonus rather than the existing $1100 salary bump. Both bills have passed the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee for Education. In Oklahoma City, I’m Graycen Wheeler.

Oklahoma City Council Results

Valentine’s Day was also election day for many Oklahomans. KGOU’s Logan Layden has the results from city council races in the OKC metro.

LL: In Oklahoma City, Mark Stonecipher was reelected in Ward 8. JoBeth Hamon was able to keep her seat in Ward 6 over challenger Marek Cornett in a race that got pretty contentious. Ward 5 will be decided in an April runoff. There were a couple of interesting races for the Norman City Council. In Ward 5 there will be a runoff between incumbent Rarchar Tortorello and Michael Nash, who are both against turnpike expansion in the Norman area. There was a legal question over whether Ward 3 Councilman Kelly Lynn could continue to serve in that role after an appointment as a judge. But he lost his reelection bid, bringing an end to that controversy. In Oklahoma City, I’m Logan Layden.

Bond proposals pass in Norman, Stillwater and Mustang

Voters across Oklahoma also considered a number of school bond proposals yesterday. In Mustang, Norman and Stillwater, they approved them overwhelmingly. In Norman, the package will pay for a new football stadium for Norman North and renovations at Norman High’s stadium. In Mustang and Stillwater, students will get new classrooms and other facilities. Passage means bond issues are very popular in the communities that approve them. In Oklahoma 60 percent of voters must approve a local school bond issue for it to pass.

Thousands of Oklahomans to lose Medicaid coverage

The federal government is rolling back some Medicaid policies that kept hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans covered throughout the pandemic. StateImpact’s Catherine Sweeney reports SoonerCare officials are working to avoid coverage gaps.

CS: In early 2020, the federal government created a policy that allowed anyone who enrolled in Medicaid during the pandemic to stay on it, even if they’ve lost eligibility - usually by getting a raise or new job that makes their income too high. That policy stops at the end of March. Secretary of Health Kevin Corbett says that’s going to mean a big drop in enrollment.

KC: At this point in time, about 300,000 individuals by our estimation are no longer eligible.

CS: That’s of the 1.3 million currently enrolled. The state is going to phase these people out of the program instead of suddenly dropping them. Corbett says many of the adults who lost eligibility already have traditional health insurance, so they’ll be the first to lose that coverage. Next will be adults who haven’t been using their benefits. Some have lost eligibility because of paperwork issues, so the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is urging members to get in touch and ensure their documents are up to date. For StateImpact, I’m Catherine Sweeney.

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