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PM NewsBrief: May 16, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Tuesday, May 16, 2023.

Education Funding Stalemate Ends

After a months-long standoff, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislative leaders are celebrating a deal on education funding. The plan increases recurring funds in the annual education budget by $625 million.

Here’s how it breaks down: $500 million is going into the funding formula, and much of that is aimed at getting more money to rural schools.

Teachers and other certified staff will see a $3,000-$6,000 raise depending on years of experience, and teachers will also get six weeks of paid maternity leave.

The remaining $125 million of added recurring funds will go to the Redbud fund, which largely benefits rural districts and is for buildings and infrastructure improvements.

"We hear you, teachers. We need you to stay in the classroom," said Edmond Sen. Adam Pugh, who shepherded much of the Senate’s package. "Moms and dads, we want you to find the right education experience so that your children can thrive. And we hope that this great investment in education will allow that to happen."

A couple of other measures also made the cut: a $10 million, three-year reading proficiency program and $150 million three-year school safety and security pilot program.

Oklahoma City Apple Retail Union Begins Contract Negotiations With Apple

Months after winning their union election, the Oklahoma City Apple Retail Union is beginning contract negotiations with the corporation.

After successfully becoming the second Apple store in the country to join the Communications Workers of America last October, the Oklahoma City Apple Retail Union began its contract negotiations with the corporation on Monday.

This follows the CWA filing an unfair labor practice charge against Apple with the National Labor Relations Board last month after they say an Oklahoma City employee was illegally fired without union representation.

Union members will meet with Apple for two days of bargaining a month. According to a Bloomberg Law analysis from 2022, signing a union contract can take around two years to complete.

Despite Recent Rain, Drought Persists In Driest Areas

The next chance for widespread rain comes in Thursday and Friday, and includes areas of the state that are dealing with drought.

Just about everything northwest of a line that stretches roughly from Altus to Miami is in some stage of drought right now. The worst of it is in the panhandle. Unfortunately, that’s not the part of the state that’s been getting drenched for the last few days.

Oklahoma Mesonet measurements show most of central and eastern Oklahoma received between 1 and 6 inches of rain over the last week. That was enough to put huge swaths of the state under a days-long flood watch.

The panhandle and northwestern corner got some rain too, but it was less than an inch over the whole week.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows about 60% of the state is in drought. That could change when a new report comes out later this week.

Mona Lee Brock Memorial

The late Mona Lee Brock was known for her work supporting struggling farmers through the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. She also had an impact on mental health services for farmers and ranchers.

Brock became a suicide intervention counselor for farmers in the 1980s when she and her husband noticed a need in their community after losing their Lincoln County farm.

The CDC says farmers and ranchers are almost twice as likely to die by suicide in the U.S. compared to people in other occupations.

“Mental health in our rural areas and our farming community, people were taught not to express your feelings, not to ask for help and there's just certain times in people's lives that that's not enough,” said Scott Blubaugh, president of the American Farmers and Ranchers Cooperative.

At a recent event, farmers and ranchers who were helped by Brock shared how she impacted them and how they help others today.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Food, and Forestry and the farmers and ranchers group honored Brock with a bronze sculpture and display case of mementos.

You can see it in ODAFF’s building by the State Capitol.

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