Emily Wendler

Reporter

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

About exactly a year ago we brought you the story of Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma's 2016 Teacher of the Year.

At the time, he and about 40 other educators were running for office in the state, wanting to make a change because, as Sheehan puts it, lawmakers weren't prioritizing education. Funding for schools in the state has been cut tremendously over the past decade and teachers in Oklahoma are some of the lowest paid in the country.

okcps.org

The Oklahoma City Public School Board of Education meeting was packed with angry community members on Monday night.

Many people in the crowd felt the district was being dishonest about a proposal to close a local elementary school.

Last Wednesday, OKCPS administrators released information about their proposal to close North Highlands Elementary in northeast Oklahoma City, just five days before the school board was set to vote on it.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Residents of Oklahoma City will soon be asked if they support raising their own income tax, in order to increase funding for city schools.

Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid, along with other concerned community members, announced this morning they will soon circulate two initiative petitions.

Each petition will seek a 0.25% increase in the income tax rate. If the group gathers enough petition signatures, the measures will go to a vote of the people in a special election.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

The promise of a teacher pay raise seemed real this year, like lawmakers were actually going to get it done. But, they didn’t. And so, once again, some teachers are packing their bags in search of more money elsewhere. However, one teacher is asking them to stay in Oklahoma, and keep fighting.

This year’s legislative session began with high hopes of a teacher pay raise.

Governor Mary Fallin stressed the need for one in her February State of the State speech, and lawmakers put multiple pay raise plans on the table.

LLUDO / FLICKR (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Oklahoma Senate passed a proposed state budget out of their chamber on Wednesday night, by a vote of 33 to 13.

Many Senate Republicans—like Mike Schulz—applauded themselves for holding 16 state agencies flat, and only cutting the rest by about four percent, given the circumstances.

"I just want to take this opportunity to thank this chamber.. Senator David, Senator Fields, all the sub-appropriations chairs, who have been diligently been working towards a solution for this budget for many, many months now."

In a late-night committee meeting on Monday, lawmakers passed a measure that raises the gross production tax rate from one percent to four percent, but only on a small, select group of oil wells.

Rep. Kevin Wallace (R-Wellston), who is carrying House Bill 2429, says it will bring about $95 million in to the state. The bill would only affect about 5,790 wells drilled between July 2011 and July 2015.

The state’s budget uncertainty is making it difficult for schools to plan for next year. The deadline for districts to discontinue a teacher’s contract has already passed.

Shawn Hime with the Oklahoma State School Board Association says, on the other hand, if a district needs to hire more people, they don’t want to wait too long.

About 100 protesters were at the Oklahoma State Capitol this weekend, urging lawmakers to raise taxes on oil and gas companies in order to fix the state’s budget.

One protester, Kara Joy McKee, says Oklahoma is in a crisis, and it’s only fair that oil companies do their part to help.

"Our schools are going to four day schools, we’re having to close rural hospitals and nursing homes, it’s not time to let one industry set their tax rate any longer."

Educators have criticized Oklahoma’s A Through F Report Card for years saying the way it grades schools is unfair. The State Department of Education finally overhauled it, but some groups call the new plan racist, and they’re threatening to sue the Department of Education if parts of the new Report Card aren’t changed.

A school’s grade is based on a couple different things. One of which is whether students are meeting certain academic targets.

U.S. Department of Education

Oklahoma's third grade reading test is a high stakes test.

If a child fails it, and they don't meet a certain exception, they get held back.

However, for the past couple of years, lawmakers have allowed parents and teachers to consider other academic performance data when determining whether or not to retain a kid who failed the test.

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