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The Morning Bell: Targeting hunger in new school plan

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Students enjoy lunches at Eugene Field Elementary School on Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
Students enjoy lunches at Eugene Field Elementary School on Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

Good Thursday morning. Many of you might be sitting down to breakfast right now, but for thousands of children across the state, their only meals today might come at school. 

With nearly 23 percent of children facing food insecurity, Oklahoma education leaders have made tackling hunger one of the goals in a new school plan recently submitted for final review. 

While Oklahoma's plan centers mostly on strategies to increase academic performance and college and career readiness, combating student hunger is outlined as an initiative, with the specific goal of more than doubling the number of students who receive free meals at school.

"It relieves the stigma of the child going into the lunch room and someone knowing if they are on free or reduced lunch," said Kim Hall, the food service director at Muskogee Public Schools, which uses federal funds to offer free meals to all students. "There are also no free or reduced (meal) applications that have to be taken anymore."

I recently wrote about the state's new school plan and its goal to combat hunger, which you can read here

--CHARTER LAWSUIT: Oklahoma City Public Schools may have to cut staff, close schools and redistribute resources if a charter school group successfully sues the state for a share of the district's local tax money, according to a court filing.

The Oklahoman's Tim Willert reported Wednesday on OKCPS joining in on a lawsuit that has a state charter school association suing the state Board of Education for more money. 

"We felt the need to intervene because there is a possibility that, if the association's arguments are accepted, it would have a negative financial impact on the district," said Brandon Carey, general counsel for the district.

My thoughts: Tulsa and OKC schools jumped in on the lawsuit this week citing a sense of urgency because of rumors the state board had a potential settlement in place with the charter school association, possibly agreeing to it as early as today. However, after speaking with several people with knowledge of the board's workings, I have not heard any details of a settlement being discussed or offered. In fact, I continue to wonder what a settlement would even look like considering it would require the board to reinterpret state statute concerning school funding. 

--TEACHER PAY RAISE REMAINS ELUSIVE: The inability of the Oklahoma House of Representatives to a pass a budget plan that would have funded a $3,000 teacher pay raise was called “disheartening” and “tragic” by teachers, school administrators and elected officials on Wednesday, reported the Tulsa World

“It is tragic that there is not yet a solution to avoid catastrophic cuts in services that help our most vulnerable citizens,” Hofmeister said in a statement. “The individuals affected here are families and children in our communities and in our classrooms. These services are absolutely critical, and I pray that our leaders can find consensus for a stabilizing solution.”

More on the special session: Frustration and debate continued at the state Capitol on Wednesday, including an exchange of words that wouldn't be tolerated in most classrooms. The Oklahoman has the latest special session updates. 

--ARTS EDUCATION: SP3 is an initiative "aimed at strengthening arts education," and Oklahoma is one of 10 states selected for the program and receiving funding and technical assistance "toward designing and reaching individual state team objectives." The SP3 was discussed Wednesday at a conference in Enid, reports the Enid News & Eagle

"Before we started we were trying to get an idea of the arts education landscape in the state. We knew there were pockets of great excellence in our state, but we also knew there were a lot of gaps," said Jennifer Allen-Barron, with Oklahoma Arts Council.

--NORTHEAST ACADEMY: Two days after about 150 students protested conditions at Northeast Academy for Health Sciences and Engineering, the school's principal was removed with little explanation. Sue Starr was placed on leave Wednesday.

That does it for today's newsletter. Have a great Thursday! 

Related Photos
Students enjoy lunches at Eugene Field Elementary School on Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

Students enjoy lunches at Eugene Field Elementary School on Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-42d4be2f76b206f19bb0978fc7d7d66c.jpg" alt="Photo - Students enjoy lunches at Eugene Field Elementary School on Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman" title="Students enjoy lunches at Eugene Field Elementary School on Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Students enjoy lunches at Eugene Field Elementary School on Thursday, Sep. 28, 2017. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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