Emily Wendler

StateImpact Oklahoma

Emily Wendler joined KOSU in February 2015, following graduate school at the University of Montana.

While studying Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism with an emphasis on agriculture, a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love.

The Cincinnati native has since reported for KBGA, University of Montana’s college radio station, and Montana’s PBS Newsbrief. She was a finalist in a national in-depth radio reporting competition for an investigatory piece she produced on campus rape. She also produced in-depth reports on wind energy and local food for Montana Public Radio.

She is very excited to be working in Oklahoma City, and you can hear her work on all things from education to agriculture right here on KOSU.

Ways to Connect

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When Moore Public Schools Superintendent Robert Romines asked some of his high school students what the district could do better, they told him they needed more help with mental health.

“I was a bit shocked,” Romines says.

More and more of Oklahoma’s teenagers are dealing with mental illness, and the increase has caught a few school administrators off guard.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Education leaders in Oklahoma say Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order on school consolidation oversimplified a very complicated issue.

The November 21 order directs school districts that don’t spend at least 60 percent of their budget on instruction to consolidate administrative staff with other districts. A strict interpretation of this rule would force most Oklahoma school districts to cut an administrator, or a support staff person, and then find a way to split that cost with a neighboring district.

CENTER ON BUDGET AND POLICY PRIORITIES

A new report shows Oklahoma's per-pupil education funding has dropped more over the last decade than any other state.

The report says Oklahoma’s per-pupil school funding has decreased by 28 percent since 2008. In other words: the state is spending about $1,000 dollars, per-child, less than it did 10 years ago.

Governor Mary Fallin issued an executive order Tuesday directing the State Board of Education to consolidate some school district administrations.

First, Fallin wants the State Board of Education to compile a list of school districts that spend less than 60 percent of their budget on classroom instruction.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

The wind blows strong and steady in Calumet, a small town about 40 miles west of Oklahoma City.

It’s the wind that’s prompted companies to build turbines here. A natural gas company also built a plant nearby.

In northeastern Oklahoma, Google built a large data center in Pryor. And the city of Cushing is flanked by fields of large steel tanks that hold millions of barrels of oil.

These industries bring in abundant property tax revenue for nearby schools — enough that 37 districts don’t receive any funding from the state.

A bill that moves approximately $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund to the state’s mental health agency is now heading to the governor's desk. It's the first bill to pass both chambers since the special legislative session began six weeks ago.

House Bill 1081X allocates $23.3 million from the fund to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The Oklahoma Senate is trying to break a stalemate between House Republicans and Democrats. On Thursday, the Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, urging House leaders to include in their budget plans a tax increase on oil and gas production.

The Senate resolution called for a hike in the gross production tax from 2 to 4 percent during a well’s first 36 months of production.

Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, is confident his chamber could reach the required three-fourths majority to pass the tax package.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

On the playground at Chattanooga Elementary School some kids are pretending to be pirates, a few boys are climbing on a baseball dugout, and another group is belting out the words to various pop songs as they wriggle across the monkey bars.

This is the students’ third 15-minute recess of the day, and they’ll get one more before the end of the school day in the tiny southwestern Oklahoma town of about 450.

Added up: That’s an hour of recess a day — double what these kids got two years ago, and double what most kids in America get.

Soon-to-be-released statewide test scores are expected to be much lower than they were in the past, but top education officials say the drop is due to a more difficult grading system, not poor-performing students.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister says the state has a new way of measuring student proficiency.

“This has been a time of recalibrating,” she said in an interview after a press conference held with reporters to explain the declining scores.

 

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Polls suggest this is one of the the most politically divided moments in American history. There are now tip sheets on how to survive Thanksgiving without disowning your family, and the comment sections of online news articles are full of vitriol.

Schools are not immune to the tension, but not everyone thinks that’s a bad thing.

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