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The Morning Bell: Effort underway to encourage political engagement among educators

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The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is launching a new initiative – “Chalk the Vote” – to communicate directly with teachers about policies that impact children and education professionals. 

In a Thursday release, the OICA said it was seeking a “block captain” in every school building in Oklahoma. The block captains will receive and share policy updates regarding legislation, relevant state agency rules, nonpartisan electoral information regarding voter engagement and advocacy tools to help teachers engage with lawmakers. The goal is to maximize information, voting and political participation in Oklahoma’s education community.

Chalk the Vote is co-chaired by two former teachers, Claudia Swisher and Sharon Pyeatt, both from Norman.

Budget plan includes teacher pay raise

A group of Oklahoma business and civic leaders proposed a budget solution Thursday that would increase state revenues, fund $5,000 teacher pay raises and alter the structure of state and county government.

The proposal calls for raising gross production, motor fuel and cigarette taxes, while eliminating certain individual income tax deductions and loopholes. It also calls for creating an office to ferret out waste in state government.

The business leaders said their willingness to support the proposed revenue hikes is directly tied to lawmakers' willingness to vote for $5,000 teacher pay increases and embrace 10 reforms to the structure of state and county government, many of which also would require the public's approval through votes on constitutional amendments.

Some reactions to the plan...

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister: "I want to commend the business and community leaders who have stepped up during a difficult time to help solve our state's budget crisis and fund a long-overdue teacher pay raise. I am greatly encouraged by their efforts, and I thank them for caring enough about public education to pursue solutions. Their engagement should give parents and teachers hope for a more promising future."

Sterling Zearley, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said "parts of the plan are good for the state," but the organization would not endorse any proposal that does not specifically provide for a significant pay raise for state employees in fiscal year 2019.

Wyandotte bus fleet destroyed in fire

A Wyandotte Schools bus fleet was destroyed by fire late Wednesday night, confirmed Wyandotte Fire Chief Jodi Francisco.

The fire destroyed 10 of the district's 15 school buses, as well as one school truck. The cost of replacing the fleet and bus barn will be about $1 million, said Wyandotte Superintendent Troy Gray.

Teacher throws desks

An Edison Preparatory School teacher threw multiple desks in a classroom this week during an apparent outburst, according to a video of the incident posted on social media that was obtained by the Tulsa World.

“Get out now. … Don’t come back,” the male teacher said to what appeared to be a male student. After the student left, the teacher threw two desks and yelled “Is that what I’m supposed to do?”

Humphreys plans to change role on John Rex board

Kirk Humphreys will remain on the John Rex Charter Elementary School Board, The Oklahoman reported

At a special meeting of the board scheduled for Monday night, Humphreys will be seated as a voting board member by Oklahoma City Quality Schools, a nonprofit with six voting members, according to a meeting agenda.

Humphreys, who resigned from the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents on Jan. 3, is no longer eligible to serve on the John Rex board as one of two nonvoting members appointed by the university because he is no longer an OU employee, officer or regent, said attorney Laura Holmes, acting general counsel for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Age-Friendly City competition

Middle school students will be competing in the Regional Finals of the Future City Competition at Oklahoma Christian University’s Gaylord Center Jan. 13, reports the Edmond Sun

DiscoverE’s Future City Competition is a non-profit educational program that asks middle-school students to imagine, design and build cities of the future. Sixteen teams of middle school students from Oklahoma have created future cities in large tabletop models. They present and defend their cities to judges at the competition.

Have a great weekend!

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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