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Morning Bell: Setbacks and victories for teachers union

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Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president, gives a press conference during the fifth day of a walkout by Oklahoma teachers at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 6, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman
Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president, gives a press conference during the fifth day of a walkout by Oklahoma teachers at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 6, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Good Monday morning. The Morning Bell will take a week-long break following today's edition. Let's call is a post-walkout retreat. Look for the newsletter to return on Tuesday, May 1. 

The state's largest teachers union showed its power and limitations during the walkout. During the walkout, the Oklahoma Education Association said its membership had grown for the first time in years, yet it received a flood of criticism from teachers who felt the walkout had ended prematurely.

"They had claimed that 70 percent of their members said that the walkout should end," said Kristen O'Dell, a middle school teacher from Tulsa. "Well, I am a member (of OEA) and I checked my email and I talked to a lot of people and none of us got a survey."

The OEA was also able to rack up one of its biggest political victories after a recent string of setbacks at the ballot. 

You can read my story on the walkout's impact on the Oklahoma Education Association here

OKC rejects Native American charter school

Supporters of a proposed charter school serving indigenous students plan to take their application to the state Board of Education, following a second rejection by Oklahoma City Public Schools.

“We are really frustrated that we couldn't come to an agreement with the district ... but it never felt like the district wanted to find that common ground," said Phil Gover, who is leading an effort to launch the Sovereign Community School.

Proposed charter schools can apply to a local school district and appeal a rejection before it can bring its application to the state board.

Lawmakers say needs differ for rural, urban schools

Even as they presented unified calls for increased funding, rural and urban educators had starkly different ideas of how to accomplish it, lawmakers said, reported

Teachers were allied in their calls for increased pay, additional classroom spending and reduced class sizes. Still, some lawmakers said they couldn't help but notice some stark disagreement and mixed messages about how to solve those issues.

And as the walkout continued with little apparent legislative action, lawmakers said the divide appeared to be heightened by educators' geographical and socioeconomic differences.

"The last two weeks, we almost had a civil war between the urban and the rural teachers," said state Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, a retired teacher and vice chair of his chamber's education committee. "Your rural teachers, your rural superintendents began to realize this is turning into a battle of survival, and I don't think they anticipated this."

Tulsa graduation rates increase

Ninety-two more Tulsa seniors walked across a stage in a cap and gown during the 2016-17 school year than the year before, which boosted the Tulsa Public Schools graduation rate by 4.4 percent, reports the Tulsa World

Graduations rates went up last year at all but two TPS high schools. Several schools saw double-digit percentage point increases. Several, McLain and Webster, have seen graduation rates increase by about 25 percent in a four-year span. While the rates continue to improve — the district average went from 72.5 percent to 76.9 percent — TPS is still below the national average of 83 percent.

Dyslexia symposium planned

Payne Education Center, a nonprofit teacher training and dyslexia advocacy center, will host a Reading Instruction Matters symposium from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday at TBS Factoring Service, 7800 NW 85 Terrace. The cost is $100.

The symposium is for parents, educators, diagnostic professionals and others interested in learning more about dyslexia and effective reading instruction. Presenters are leaders in their fields who will offer expertise from the varying perspectives of grassroots advocacy, special education, higher education and scientific research as it relates to reading instruction.

Related Photos
Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president, gives a press conference during the fifth day of a walkout by Oklahoma teachers at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 6, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president, gives a press conference during the fifth day of a walkout by Oklahoma teachers at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 6, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-n_6acaf756bbabdc725ae2330fb4a921a4.jpg" alt="Photo - Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president, gives a press conference during the fifth day of a walkout by Oklahoma teachers at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 6, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman" title="Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president, gives a press conference during the fifth day of a walkout by Oklahoma teachers at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 6, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association president, gives a press conference during the fifth day of a walkout by Oklahoma teachers at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 6, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, 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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