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State Department of Education

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State Department of Education

Oklahoma school districts are nearing time to welcome students back for classes. The pressure is building for students to return to the classroom, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a reevaluation of teaching methods and how to keep students, staff and teachers safe. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister discussed the critical issues involved and how Oklahoma schools are planning to operate during the fall with KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley.

Libby Osburn teaches a gifted and talented class at Cherokee Elementary School in Tahlequah.
Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

Most states don't discover gifted Native American students but Oklahoma has been able to buck that trend.

Did Lobbying Efforts Influence Spending On School Panic Button?

Aug 2, 2019
The Rave Mobile Safety app features a large "active shooter" button at the top and other buttons for reporting emergencies such as a fire or medical emergency.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A $3 million taxpayer-funded program will soon give schools across the state access to a relatively untested “panic button” app that can alert authorities and staff if there is an active shooter, fire or emergency in the school.

A graph showing the growth in the student population and decline in teacher population.
Oklahoma State Department of Education

The State Department of Education is asking lawmakers to increase education funding by a total of $440 million next year.

Included in the agency’s budget proposal for the 2019-2020 public school year is a request for an additional $273 million to help school districts hire more teachers and reduce class sizes.

elementary school library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The Oklahoma State Department of Education has asked for $15 million to implement a system lawmakers passed last year that would help retain highly effective teachers.

The Legislature didn't have the funds to pay for the so-called “Iowa model” as part of House Bill 3114. The Education Department asked for the money Thursday as part of its budget request for Fiscal Year 2018.

lockers
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The State Board of Education released the newest A-through-F school report cards at Thursday’s board meeting.

Overall, grades were down this year. This year’s tally included 196 A’s, 455 B’s, 582 C’s, 319 D’s and 213 F’s. By contrast, in 2015, schools earned 212 A’s, 497 B’s, 536 C’s, 333 D’s and 183 F’s.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said she isn’t sure why there's a dip, and said it would be irresponsible to make a guess, but her department will start digging through the data looking for answers.

classroom floor
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Oklahoma leads the nation in education cuts based on per pupil spending, and those cuts are nearly double those of the next-closest state.

A report out last week by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows Oklahoma's per-pupil funding fell by nearly 27 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2017.

School buses are parked at the Oklahoma City Public Schools Operations Center in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs / The Journal Record

For 22 years, the state miscalculated how much property tax should go back to local school districts. That means hundreds of campuses lost money over that time period, while the rest got more than they deserved.

Some Oklahoma school districts are now going after millions of dollars they say were applied the wrong way, The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports:

What Budget Drama’s End May Mean For Key State Services

May 23, 2015
State Reps. Elise Hall (far right) and Katie Henke (center) applaud as the state House adjourns sine die Friday afternoon.
M. Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

The 55th session of the Oklahoma Legislature adjourned for the year late Friday afternoon, quietly ending four months’ worth of fighting over money, morals and museums.

For most of the session, a shadow hung over everything: a $611 million budget hole. 

Lawmakers chose to adjourn the session a week early, just days after they wrapped up work on the state’s $7.2 billion budget.

The budget cut funding to career and technology education, higher education and transportation. At the same time, more funds were steered to mental health services, public safety and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Even with budget hikes, however, key agencies said they would likely have to cut spending.

In a move that surprised many, the Legislature approved a $25 million bond issue for the beleaguered American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City and a second $25 million bond issue for a museum of popular culture in Tulsa.

Lawmakers also debated issues such as same-sex marriage.

The shrinking pool of money available for appropriation quickly became the session’s central theme.

In February, after the Board of Equalization certified a funding estimate millions below the 2014 prediction, lawmakers went into damage-control mode. They warned agency heads little money would be available for next year.

“We’ve been telling them all session there would be cuts,” said Rep. Dennis Casey, R-Morrison, vice-chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

By May, agency directors were convinced.

Joy Hofmeister, superintendent of public instruction, listens to a question from the audience during the "Oklahoma Watch-Out" forum on March 3.
Ilea Shutler / Oklahoma Watch

Updated 11:06 a.m.

Oklahoma's state schools superintendent says a 4 percent cut in the Department of Education's budget would reduce funding for the state's public schools by $100 million next year.

Superintendent Joy Hofmeister outlined her agency's budget request Wednesday for members of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. Lawmakers must deal with a budget shortfall of $611 million as they work to craft a budget for state government for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

timlewisnm / Flickr Creative Commons

A trio of experts in education standards will deliver presentations to a steering committee responsible for helping develop new academic standards in Oklahoma.

The steering committee was formed after the Legislature repealed Common Core. The hearing is delayed by a few hours due to Monday morning's winter storm.

Provided / Gov. Mary Fallin's Office

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has named Natalie Shirley secretary of education and workforce development.

Shirley has been president of Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City since 2011 and is the first female president in the OSU system. Fallin named her to the cabinet secretary's post Thursday and she will begin serving in the position on Monday.

Fallin says one of her top priorities for 2015 is to increase educational attainment in Oklahoma and that Shirley will lead the way for providing the skills people need to get a good job.

Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma State Schools Superintendent
Provided

Oklahoma schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has fired three key members of her predecessor's staff during her first week in the office.

The Oklahoman reports Hofmeister declined comment on the terminations of Education Department employees Joel Robison, Richard Caram and Marsha Thompson.

Caram and Thompson, three-year employees of the department, confirmed they were fired Friday. Robison, the former chief of staff, told The Associated Press Saturday he was also fired.

State Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi speaks about the federal government's denial of an NCLB waiver extension.
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma's school's superintendent says miscalculations in the state's school funding formula since 1992 will soon cause a number of mid-year adjustments worth millions of dollars.

The Tulsa World reported Friday a Ponca City school official had noted that a state law caps agricultural and commercial personal property taxes at 11 percent. State Superintendent Janet Barresi said the cap has not been in place.

Board of Education Reacts To Oversight In School District Funding

Dec 18, 2014
Wesley Fryer / Flickr Creative Commons

State education officials have rediscovered a law more than 20 years old which affects the way millions of dollars in current and future fiscal year funds will be distributed to the state's school districts. 

The formula for midterm adjustments, she said, accounts for ad valorem tax revenues. In that factoring, the state law enacted in 1990 to take effect in 1992 mandates that agricultural and commercial personal property taxes should be capped at 11 percent. The statute also notes that the Oklahoma Tax Commission will provide that data to the Department of Education.

Lee Elementary School pre-kindergarten teacher Victoria Tsaras gets active with her students, dancing to “What Does the Fox Say?”
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

The number of students in Oklahoma public schools increased for the 2014-15 school year, keeping in line with a steady, long-term trend. 

Total enrollment for 2014 in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade is 688,300 students, an increase of 6,722 over last year's total of 681,578. From 2010 through 2014, enrollment grew by 28,685.

Democratic superintendent canddiate John Cox and Republican nominee Joy Hofmeister exchange words during an Oct. 19, 2014 debate at the Norman Depot.
Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU

The two candidates for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction met for a debate Sunday afternoon in Norman.

Both Democrat John Cox and Republican Joy Hofmeister said they oppose the A-F grading system for public schools, and mentioned their dislike of the Common Core. Cox said he wants to see new education standards created by the state.

Chancellor for Higher Education Glen Johnson
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education

The State Board of Education unveiled and approved the membership of the standard’s creation steering committee Thursday despite State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s attempt to amend the motion.

The steering committee will oversee the standards creation process approved earlier this summer after the repeal of Common Core standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts.

timlewisnm / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma may ask beleaguered test vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill to come back months after firing the company for a second consecutive year of testing troubles.

amboo who? / Flickr.com

More than one quarter of Oklahoma's public schools received a grade of F or D on annual report cards released by the state Department of Education.

The State Board of Education gave final approval Wednesday to the letter grades, which are being posted on the department's website.

The report shows 16 percent of Oklahoma schools received A grades, 26 percent received a B, 28 percent got a C, 17 percent a D, and 11 percent received an F. Nearly 30 schools, or 2 percent, did not receive a letter grade.

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