oklahoma schools

Oklahoma’s so-called critical race theory ban could soon have its day in court.

The ACLU and Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of a group of students and educators against the state of Oklahoma over the state’s controversial critical race theory ban.

The suit calls on the state to stop censoring teaching about race in classrooms.

File photo

Oklahoma teachers continue to be on the front lines of the pandemic, and it’s stressing them out.

Pixnio

Lower standardized test scores amid the pandemic have Oklahoma lawmakers’ attention, but using them to compare districts or even schools may not be possible.

Less than one-fourth of students are proficient in math or English language arts, and scores in 2021 were down across the board from 2019. Standardized tests were not administered in 2020.

Rep. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon) said during an interim study this week she’s concerned but noted lawmakers value public education.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/albertogp123/

For the first time since the pandemic began, Oklahoma students, parents and educators have results from statewide assessments available.

The State Board of Education on Thursday signed off on a nearly $3.3 billion dollar fiscal year 2023 budget request for Oklahoma’s public schools.

Oct. 1 is the deadline for the spending plan to be submitted to lawmakers and the governor, and the Oklahoma State Department of Education is responsible for submitting a budget it believes will meet the needs of the state's K–12 students.

"While it is often challenging to project what those needs will be two years in advance, the following budget is a step in the right direction," said OSDE Legislative Analyst Nat Barrack.

Courtesy

A nonprofit working with Tulsa Public Schools to expand access to after-school programs is urging organizations to apply for funding ahead of a Friday deadline.

The Opportunity Project is helping TPS administer federal virus relief funding it was awarded for an expanded learning initiative. They’re trying to bring learning experiences to thousands of students outside the classrooms, and organizations offering a wide range of programs can apply.

Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma state departments of health and education are rolling out optional but free in-school testing to screen for COVID-19.

Testing supplies are being covered by a federal grant. Deputy State Health Commissioner Keith Reed said as of last week, 40 of the state’s 500-plus districts had opted in, and kits are already being distributed, though he acknowledged school started a month ago.

Chris Polansky / KWGS News

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor has appealed a state judge’s temporary injunction that prohibits the state from banning mask mandates in public schools.

The appeal, filed Thursday, cited the state’s sovereign immunity and argued that the law passed earlier this year by the Legislature is constitutional.

Roland Leach / U.S. Air Force

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge on Wednesday said she will temporarily block a state law banning public school mask mandates, but students or their parents can opt out of the requirement if they choose.

Judge Natalie Mai said she will issue a temporary injunction that will go into effect next week when she issues a written order detailing her ruling. Mai said she is blocking the law because it applies only to public, not private, schools and that schools adopting a mask mandate must provide an option for parents or students to opt out of the requirement.

Tulsa Public Schools

Updated Aug. 30, 2:10 p.m.  

The Education Department announced Monday that it’s investigating five Republican-led states, including Oklahoma, that have banned mask requirements in schools, saying the policies could amount to discrimination against students with disabilities or health conditions.

Hall-Estill

The Oklahoma Attorney General said Thursday his office will move as quickly as it can to block public school mask requirements that are in violation of a state law enacted this year.

Attorney General John O’Connor said legal action could come as soon as next week.

"I think we'll probably have to ask for injunctive relief early in the lawsuit so that the schools have guidance. My basic position is that we can trust the parents. Somehow, we've sort of abandoned the notion that the parents are in the best position to protect their kids," O'Connor said.

Stitt Criticizes School, Biden Over Masking

Aug 20, 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is criticizing both a northeast Oklahoma school district that adopted a mask mandate and President Joe Biden over comments that the state’s school mask mandate ban may violate a coronavirus aid package for schools.

The Republican governor and state Attorney General John O’Connor released a joint statement Thursday criticizing the Hulbert school district for its mask requirement.

Roland Leach / U.S. Air Force

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Just 61 of about 30,000 Oklahoma City public school students have opted out of a newly adopted mask requirement, a district spokeswoman said Wednesday, while Santa Fe South charter school reported no opt-outs among its approximately 3,600 students.

Both districts announced masking policies last week with opt-out options for reasons such as medical or religious restrictions.

Northeast Oklahoma District Closes Due To COVID

Aug 18, 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A small school district in northeastern Oklahoma said Tuesday it is closing due to positive COVID-19 tests among students and staff, just as major hospitals in the state warned they are overwhelmed due to a surge in infections driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

Chelsea Public School, a district of about 750 students about 40 miles northeast of Tulsa, announced its closure on social media.

OKC Public Charter School Plans To Defy Mask Ban

Aug 11, 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The superintendent of a public charter school in Oklahoma City said Wednesday that students and staff must begin wearing masks indoors, defying a new state law that prohibits such a mandate.

Superintendent Chris Brewster at Santa Fe South Schools, a 3,500-student, pre-K through 12 district in south Oklahoma City, also said in a letter on the district’s website that he is exploring the possibility of requiring a vaccine for employment at the school.

Preliminary state test results from the 2020–2021 school year are now in.

Those tests were suspended for the 2019–2020 year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Scores for students in grades three through eight are available through a secure online portal, okparentportal.emetric.net.

Parents need their students’ 10-digit state testing number to log in. Parents who need their children's testing numbers should contact the student's school.

American Rescue Plan funds will provide a boost to the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s long-delayed plan to hire 1,000 school counselors.

American Academy of Pediatrics

As the end of session approaches, Oklahoma Republican lawmakers are pushing to ban COVID vaccination requirements for students from pre-K through university.

The state health department said last month individual governing boards may have authority to issue such requirements, but a statewide one would not happen. 

Oklahoma House of Representatives

The Oklahoma House on Monday advanced major pieces of legislation dealing with charter schools.

Oklahoma House Republicans are calling for a common education funding increase next fiscal year that would make up for cuts this year driven by the COVID-19 pandemic — and then some. 

"I think we are a top-10 state in how we’ve managed our money and are able to actually put as much money back into education this year. The House’s position is to put around $140 million back into common ed. So, I think that is just a tremendous feat," House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Education Chair Mark McBride (R-Moore) said in a video the caucus posted to its Facebook page.

Pixnio

Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill late Friday similar to ones Republicans across the country are pushing as bans on critical race theory in their states’ schools.

House Bill 1775 bans Oklahoma teachers from teaching concepts like one race or sex is inherently superior to another, or that anyone should feel any form of psychological distress based on their race or sex. 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An investigation into a virtual charter school that has grown to become the largest public school in Oklahoma has been delayed due to inadequate transparency with public funds and a lack of cooperation by some employees, the state’s multicounty grand jury said in a report issued Thursday.

The grand jury said it issued the interim report into Epic Charter Schools, even though the investigation is ongoing, because parents and policymakers need to know about their concerns.

Robby Korth / StateImpact Oklahoma

The coronavirus has thrown each individual’s education into chaos. And Oklahoma teachers, students and administrators are trying to bring order back into students’ lives.

But billions of dollars from the federal government should give schools the opportunity to work at mitigating learning loss.

Oklahoma’s State Department of Education announced Monday the start of a new multiyear initiative to best leverage those monies called Ready Together Oklahoma.

It will begin this summer, State Superintendent for Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said.

Epic Schools

Epic Charter Schools’ governing board voted shortly after midnight Wednesday to reform its controversial learning fund.

Starting in July, the details of the fund will be available for public inspection for the first time.

The learning fund gives up to $1,000 to students who are enrolled in the school for educational purposes. In the previous five years, it’s accrued almost $80 million.

Oklahoma Watch

Several Tulsa-area school boards voted Monday to let their districts' attorneys challenge the State Board of Education's decision to give charter schools an equal share of state funding.

In a five-hour special meeting on Friday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education voted to keep an indigenous-led charter school on probation and to place an Oklahoma City district on probation.

The board could have terminated Sovereign Community School’s contract, but they praised operations director Stacie Thrasher and founding board member Kyla Molina for working to improve its governance and solve financial problems.

Serge Melki

Oklahoma Republican lawmakers again resurrect a controversial bill that appeared done for the session.

Sen. David Bullard (R-Durant) in committee on Tuesday amended a House bill on emergency plans for athletics events to bring back a Senate bill to ban the teaching of "divisive concepts," a push back against analyzing issues like systemic racism.

Governor's office

Gov. Kevin Stitt wasted no time in signing bills to implement major education policy reforms he asked for in February during his state of the state address.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 2078 and Senate Bill 783 on Wednesday. Stitt signed the bills hours later.

The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association dismissed an announcing crew from the girls state basketball tournament after one of them used a racial slur toward a team during an online broadcast.

Tulsa Airport

Next week is spring break, and Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart has some advice for families who may be considering getting out of town.

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