public schools

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Amarillo voters last week approved a massive $100 million bond proposal benefitting the Amarillo Independent School District. In response, AISD officials announced an aggressive construction schedule to spend the money on a wide variety of school repairs and renovations.

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Oklahoma teacher Teresa Danks recently made national news when she began panhandling beside the highway to raise money for school supplies.

On average, American teachers spend $500 a year of their own money on school supplies for their students, but that number can be much higher in states like cash-strapped Oklahoma. American teachers are currently eligible for a small tax break of $250, to reimburse themselves.

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A charter school association in Oklahoma has brought a lawsuit against the state, in hopes of diverting more revenue away from traditional public schools and into charter school coffers.

As The Tulsa World reports, the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association's lawsuit hopes to do what similar suits in Colorado and Florida have achieved: sharing local tax money equally among district and charter schools.

Kansas lawmakers soon will start work to determine their response to a ruling by the state’s Supreme Court that found K-12 public school funding unconstitutional.

Republicans and Democrats on a key legislative panel decided the matter is too urgent to wait until the 2018 legislative session starts in January.

They voted Monday to create an 11-member committee that will meet for three days before then. Its task will be to kick-start efforts that must be done by an April 30 deadline.

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Over the past 10 years, American schools have been slowly decreasing the amount of recess time for students. The reduction in playtime is part of an effort to make more time for students to prepare for standardized tests.

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A study released yesterday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation has found that black and Hispanic children in Texas have significantly more barriers to success than white and Asian students. These barriers include poverty, health care availability, and access to a good education.

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Researchers in Texas recently spent a year watching low income Hispanic kids engage with a new kind of classroom environment.

In this new method, kids are given much more freedom to decide who to work with and which projects to initiate, and they’re allowed to ask questions without raising their hands. The result? The kids scored 30 points higher on tests than students in traditional classes.

Seems like cause for change, right? Not so fast.

Last week the state lost again at the Kansas Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that Kansas is underfunding its public schools, with repercussions for academically struggling children across the state — and especially for students and taxpayers who live in resource-poor school districts. 

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A new federal education law will give Oklahoma more freedom and responsibility when it comes to fixing its failing schools, reports StateImpact.

Kansas education officials did little to promote a public comment period for a school accountability plan designed to steer the state through 2030 and guide nearly $2 billion in federal spending.

While some states that publicized town halls and launched online surveys for their plans collected comments by the thousands, Kansas officials didn’t use such tools nor issue news releases or social media posts about the state’s public comment period.

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The Oklahoma Education Department has released a new plan to address the ongoing woes of the state’s education system, reports Oklahoma Watch.

The goals of the plan include reducing the state’s recent reliance on emergency certified teachers and raising the state’s high school graduation rate to 90 percent. The plan will also try to ease hunger in schools, and force underfunded public schools that have gone to a four-day school week to fix their calendars.

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The Amarillo Independent School District has taken up the question of whether to rename Robert E. Lee elementary, on the city’s north side.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the AISD Board of Trustees will meet with attorneys today to consider whether it might be time for a change.

Kansas is setting aspirations for much higher math and reading competency among the class of 2030 — today’s kindergartners — in a long-term accountability plan for its public schools.

Kansas officials submitted the accountability blueprint Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Education. It does not include language promoting controversial school choice concepts that Gov. Sam Brownback’s office advocated for, according to staff at the state education department.

Kansas continues to face a teacher shortage, with schools reporting 440 vacancies this school year.

Those empty jobs worry educators because they force schools into workarounds, such as larger class sizes or long-term substitutes. They can also reduce class offerings and lessen support for special-education students.

Janet Waugh represents Kansas City, Kansas on the State Board of Education. She calls the situation heart breaking.

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Tensions over the condition of public education in Oklahoma continue to grow more strained.

As The Oklahoman reports, the Oklahoma City Public School System is considering suing the state Legislature. Leaders of the largest school district in the state say the Legislature has consistently failed in its constitutional and moral responsibilities to the children of Oklahoma.

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Many Texas Panhandle students will return to school this week.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, most school districts in the Panhandle have chosen to return from summer earlier this year, preceding by a week and a half the state-mandated start date of Aug. 28. Canyon ISD and four of the five Amarillo school districts will begin on Wednesday.

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Rural school enrollment is on the decline in Oklahoma—and funding to rural communities is going down with it.

As The Tulsa World reports, small towns like the ones in Western Oklahoma receive a set amount of state funding per pupil. That means, when fewer students enroll, the schools and communities suffer.

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One Oklahoma teacher has now turned to panhandling to pay for necessary items for her classroom.

Oklahoma teachers will be returning to work in a few weeks, and that means they’ll have to get their classrooms ready. But, in cash-strapped Oklahoma, this can be an even bigger challenge than in other states.

A new math class being piloted by dozens of high schools across Kansas seeks to save students stress, time and money when they reach college.

Currently, about one-third of students who continue to two- and four-year colleges in Kansas don’t score high enough on placement tests to enroll directly in college algebra, a class most need in order to graduate.

Instead, they work their way up through remedial classes, a process that can take multiple semesters.

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Texas ranks 41st among states when it comes to child educational achievement. That’s nothing new; Texas has hovered near the bottom in this category for years.

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The teacher crisis in Oklahoma doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, reports The Oklahoman.

Last year, Oklahoma was forced to certify 1,100 emergency teachers to plug unfilled jobs due to low pay and teachers moving out of state. This year, the state Board of Education has already approved 224 more emergency certificates. Emergency teachers are hired without the traditional training expected of a public-school teacher. These last-minute stop-gap educators are forced to learn on the job.

Dustyn Rappe / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma will soon make its statewide reading test more difficult, and the change could result in more students being forced to repeat the third grade.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the important, high-stakes test is already difficult for some. Last year, 12 percent of Oklahoma third graders received a grade of “unsatisfactory.”

Eben McCue / StateImpact Oklahoma

For decades, the oil and gas industry has been promoting the benefits of fossil fuels in America’s public-school classrooms.

As StateImpact Oklahoma reports, companies like BP and Shell have spent millions of dollars on K-12 curricula, speakers, and after-school programs, all designed to paint oil, gas, and coal in a rosy light.

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Colorado schools will soon get funding to voluntarily test for lead in their drinking water.

As The Denver Post reports, House Bill 1306 received bipartisan backing and plenty of support from school and health officials. Lead in drinking water can lead to long-term health problems in children.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the measure into law last week.

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The Amarillo Independent School District voted this week to give all Amarillo public school teachers a $1,500 raise, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

The Amarillo Independent School District Board of Trustees voted for the raises unanimously, 6-0. The plan gives raises to all AISD employees, not just teachers, and it comes with a price tag of over $5 million.

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Low teacher pay in Oklahoma has led to a high-profile defection. This week Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year announced he’s moving to Texas.

Shawn Sheehan currently teaches special education in Norman, and in addition to winning the award last year he was also a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.

Sheehan says he loves teaching, and wouldn’t want to do anything else, but he just can’t do it in Oklahoma anymore. As a result, he and his wife have accepted positions in Texas, where teachers are paid at much higher rates.

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Lawmakers in Texas are fed up with educators having sex with students.

The number of teachers having inappropriate relationships with their students has been rising, and State Sen. Paul Bettencourt has even called the problem a “statewide plague.”

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Some High Plains states are proposing bills that would allow climate change denial to be taught in public schools, under the rubric of “academic freedom,” reports Vice.

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A Texas teacher and Army veteran is taking on what he calls state-endorsed shaming at public-school cafeteria counters.

As WFAA reports, Kelvin Holt says he became concerned when he saw a cafeteria worker admonish a child who didn’t have enough money to pay for her meal, then tossing the food out and giving the child a lesser substitute.

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This week the Texas House Public Education Committee heard testimony on a bill that would decrease the number of standardized tests faced by students in the Lone Star State.

At first blush, the idea seems like it might carry broad support among Texas educators. But, as The Texas Tribune reports, teacher opinions on the idea actually constitute a mixed bag.

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