Although the school year has come to a close, Oklahoma still features plenty of education news worth your attention.
The State Auditor & Inspector’s Office was recently granted access to financial records for Epic Youth Services by an Oklahoma County District Court judge following months of litigation. Meanwhile, two school districts will ask voters to approve school bond propositions during Oklahoma’s June 8 special election.
The following recap includes a collection of recent education headlines from reporters around the state.
Auditor wins access to Epic Youth Service’s financial records
Oklahoma County District Court Judge Natalie Mai has ordered the educational management organization Epic Youth Services to provide all financial records related to Epic Charter School’s student learning fund to State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd’s office.
The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger reported that the lost court battle to keep these financial records private comes after Epic Youth Services has also lost its management contract with Epic Charter Schools.
State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd had issued subpoenas to receive Epic Youth Service’s financial records, however the private school management company, which is owned by Epic co-founders Ben Harris and David Chaney, had claimed that as a private company their financial records should not be publicly revealed.
An investigative audit released by the State Auditor & Inspector’s Office in October alleged that Epic owes the state $8.9 million and that Epic Youth Services has received $79.3 million in state money for Epic’s student learning fund, along with $45.9 million in management fees, between FY 2015 and FY 2020.
Claims about HB 1775 fact checked
House Bill 1775 was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt this legislative session. One of the year’s most controversial measures between Democrats and Republicans, the bill prohibits courses from including certain concepts and instructs Oklahoma educators on how to teach history and race.
The bill also prohibits any requirement for college students in the state to take mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling.
The Frontier recently fact checked criticisms from public officials and claims about the potential impact of the bill, including a claim that Oklahoma City Community College has cancelled classes discussing race in response to the legislation.
Tulsa Public Schools drops charter funding lawsuit
The Tulsa World’s Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton reported this week that the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education unanimously voted to dismiss its lawsuit in Tulsa County District Court against the State Board of Education.
The lawsuit was filed by TPS following the State Board of Education’s March 25 vote that aimed to settle a 2017 lawsuit with the Oklahoma Public Charter Schools Association by providing more equalized funding between public charter schools and traditional brick-and-mortar public school districts.
During a subsequent meeting May 24, the state board approved a motion to rescind that March resolution owing to the Oklahoma Legislature’s passage of SB 229, called the Redbud Scholarship Act.
SB 229 was introduced to address the concerns of the OPCSA lawsuit and will provide marijuana-related tax revenue for brick-and-mortar charter schools and traditional public school districts that currently receive less local aide.
The OPCSA filed a voluntary motion to dismiss the original 2017 lawsuit on Friday, May 28.
Posted up at the ESC for a special meeting of @TulsaSchools' BOE. Agenda is here: https://t.co/k0O2fLBBBU
— Lenzy KB (@LenzyKB) June 2, 2021
‘Oklahoma Schools Counselor Corps’ to provide additional mental health resources
During a State Board of Education meeting in May, Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister announced that the State Department of Education will use $35 million of pandemic federal relief money from the American Rescue Plan to develop the “Oklahoma Schools Counselor Corps.”
The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise’s Kim Archer reported that this funding allocation will allow school districts to hire more counselors, licensed school-based mental health professionals, social workers and recreational therapists.
“Oklahoma schools have long needed more school counselors and that need is more urgent than ever in the wake of this pandemic,” Hofmeister said in a statement. “We have made progress in reducing the student-to-school counselor ratio over the past few years, but this initiative marks a dramatic improvement.”
Pretty amazing what our research found a year or so ago. #OklaEd has more than 700 certified counselors among our pool of 43,000 teachers. Many left counselor positions due to school budget cuts/teacher shortage. Now, here’s $35M to reinstate 300 as counselors again.
— Joy Hofmeister (@joy4ok) June 1, 2021
June 8 special election includes school bond issues
Tulsa Public Schools and Navajo Public Schools will each hold school bond propositions on the June 8 special election ballot.
TPS will ask voters to approve four bond propositions totaling $414 million during Tuesday’s special election.
Proposition 1 is for a $166.7 million bond proposal that would go toward school safety improvements. Proposition 2 totals $90.7 million to be used for student and classroom technology. Proposition 3 will provide $17.3 million for transportation, and Proposition 4 asks for $139.3 million to go toward learning materials and programs.
A much smaller district in Jackson County, Navajo Public Schools will ask voters to approve a bond issue worth $465,000 to purchase new vehicles for student transportation.
Oklahoma education tweets of the week
Oklahoma Law Forbids K-12 Vaccine Requirements; Experts Call Move Political Symbolism, But Not Without Risk @The74 https://t.co/uy5eTad1h3
— Jennifer Palmer (@jpalmerOKC) June 3, 2021
"It is my job to point people to this story & to help raise a generation of kids that grow up saying, 'I didn't know about this. What else do I not know? Who benefits?' The aim of education is to raise critical thinkers that think that way." #oklaed https://t.co/xR8AH7dgf7
— OK State Dept of Ed (@oksde) June 1, 2021
Need a book? Snack? Meal? Our Book and Snack Mobile just finished its first week out in the community this summer providing books, snacks, and meals to kids. We're back at it next week. We hope to see you soon! #ChieftainStrong #oklaed
Schedule: https://t.co/EHItHWgshU pic.twitter.com/RzlZYb2zfT
— Sapulpa Public Schools (@SapulpaDistrict) June 3, 2021