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The Morning Bell: Complaint over student prayer

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The budget showdown at the state Capitol might be coming to a close, but it's likely to include significant cuts. 

A bill that would reduce overall state spending by $60 million over the last seven months of this budget year was approved by the House yesterday. The Senate is expected to take it up tomorrow. 

The bill doesn't make additional cuts to public schools, but it would have an impact on students by way of reductions to several health agencies and other children and family services. 

"We are setting Oklahoma up for failure that will take many years to undo the damage we have done to our state's image," Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday.

--OSBI takes over investigation of alleged rape by instrumentation involving Bixby High School students, reports the Tulsa World

--SCHOOL THREAT: Quinton Public Schools increased security on campus Wednesday after receiving a gun threat, reports the McAlester News Capital

Authorities were notified Tuesday when a student threatened to “shoot up the school” and was later removed, but the school requested increased security for Wednesday.

“We took extra precautions by doing a bag check to make sure everything was clear of weapons and doing patrols,” Quinton Police Chief Jack Denny said. “But the school is as secure as it was three days ago because they always lock their doors.”

--COMPLAINT OVER PRAYER: Norman Public Schools is investigating a complaint by a student’s parent regarding a Norman High School assistant football coach leading players in prayer prior to a game this month, reports the Norman Transcript

The complaint was sent to Karen L. Long, a Tulsa-based attorney who represents NPS, by Christopher Line of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin nonprofit that seeks to “protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.”

--LACK OF TEACHER PAY RAISE: State superintendent Joy Hofmeister described the Oklahoma legislature’s failure to fund a teacher pay raise as “very disappointing," reports the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

“Unfortunately it seems as though time is running out, and the legislature is likely going to include cuts to services that absolutely don’t need to be cut, and that’s a concern,” Hofmeister said in an interview following a public meeting in Bartlesville.

Speaking of teacher pay...

Last week was one year since voters rejected a sales tax-funded teacher pay raise, which had many lawmakers promising to make it a priority in 2017. 

"The people have told us now for several years this is one of their priorities and I'm frustrated that we haven't come up with a plan to fund a teacher pay raise," Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, told The Oklahoman.

--THE GIFT OF SHOES: A first-year teaching assistant at Tulsa's Sequoyah Elementary School bought each of her students a new pair of shoes for Christmas

“At the beginning of the school year, there was a little girl and her shoes- they were her only pair,” Bethany Martin told KJRH. “I saw that she wore them every day and eventually her toes just were sticking through them. I asked the teacher and I asked the parents if it would be OK if I went out and bought her a pair of shoes. I did that over the weekend and I was able to give them to her on Monday.”

She created a GoFundMe account, which raised more than $1,000 in three days. After that, Martin decided to dream bigger and buy shoes for all 600 children in the school.

That's it for today's Morning Bell. Got a story idea or question? Send an email to bfelder@oklahoman.com. 

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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