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

Emily Wendler / KOSU

A rural Oklahoma school board recently chose not to approve a charter school in their district. But the State Board of Education exercised authority given to them in a new law and overrode that rural board’s decision. This is the first time this has happened, and it’s got some people wondering—who’s really in charge?

In 2015 Oklahoma lawmakers passed Senate Bill 782, which allowed rural school districts to start charter schools. Prior to this only large, urban school districts could have charters.

oksenate.gov

Oklahoma Senator Rob Standridge (R-Norman) chose not to push forward with a controversial school choice bill on Wednesday.

Standridge told committee members that he wanted to lay his Education Savings Account bill over until next year. But says he'll keep discussing and working on the issue in the mean time.

Education Savings Accounts—or school vouchers— are controversial because they allow parents to use state tax dollars towards private school tuition if they feel their child's needs aren’t being met in the public school.

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization declared a revenue failure for the current fiscal year, which will result in mid-year appropriations cuts to state agencies.

State agencies will receive across board cuts of 0.7 percent between March and June of this year. In total, agencies will be cut by $34.6 million.

Preston Doerflinger, the Director and Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology, said the situation is dire and more revenue is needed.

oksenate.gov

A Oklahoma Senate subcommittee passed seven bills about teacher pay on Wednesday, each one providing a different solution to the teacher pay problem.

Some of the bills propose $1,000 raises, others $10,000. Some provide funding mechanisms, while others do not.

Senator J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) says this is just the beginning of the conversation. He says the legislature knows raising teacher pay is the right thing to do and they've just got to figure out the right way to do it.

With a nearly $900 million budget shortfall, Oklahoma lawmakers want accountability for every penny. But within the coffers of private charter school management companies are millions of dollars that lawmakers can't see. 

Senator Jason Smalley wants to know exactly how much schools are spending on administration. He filed a bill to find out, because right now he said it’s not clear.

“Are all the individuals that should be classified as administration costs, actually being reported as that?” he asked. “I think that’s what the greater conversation is.”

Emily Wendler / KOSU

There is a debate nationwide over the effectiveness of online education, and Oklahoma isn’t immune to it. Here, enrollment in virtual schools is booming, but the schools are performing poorly. There are also questions about the companies that run these schools and their financial practices.

Opponents to online education say the state should stop supporting virtual schools until there’s more information about them. But, others say they are vital to certain types of students. 

Throughout middle school, Toby Carter’s teachers struggled to keep him challenged.

David Bitton / Oklahoma Watch

The State Department of Education is introducing a new math class for high schoolers that's aimed at reducing the need for math remediation in college.

Almost 40 percent of Oklahoma college freshman have to take a remedial math class for which they receive no credit, and the state Department of Education estimates this costs students and families millions of dollars.  

The new College Career Math Ready class, available next school year, will help kids brush up on their skills before college, and will hopefully save them time and money. 

oksenate.gov

Governor Mary Fallin stressed the need for teacher pay raises in her State of the State address on Monday, and has allocated $60 million toward $1,000 teacher salary bumps in her proposed budget.

But still, legislative leaders like Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz were hesitant to guarantee it would get done this year.

“Oh I think it’s going to be one of the main areas of discussion,” Schulz said, “And I think we will leave this session in May with a framework in place to put a teacher plan on the table moving forward.”

Every year, lawmakers file hundreds of education bills that have the potential to change the way schools operate. Some would implement minor tweaks, but others—like Education Savings Account legislation—are much more controversial.

In this list, we’ve tried to focus on the legislation that affects the bigger picture, and also the legislation that represents larger debates in the state.  

GENERAL INTEREST

The State Board of Education approved a new charter school in Seminole, Oklahoma on Thursday.

This makes the school one of the first rural charter schools in the state. It also makes this school one of the first charters to be approved, and sponsored by, the State Board of Education.

Charter schools are typically run and approved by local school boards, but the Seminole Public School Board of Education had denied this charter application twice, saying it was incomplete.

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