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COVID-19 pandemic recovery, culture wars, book bans and virtual charter schools are a few of the education topics that made big headlines in 2022.
Here’s a look back at five of the most important education stories Oklahoma Watch covered this year.
• Book Ban Disputes Roiled These Oklahoma Communities. Here’s What Happened. Library book challenges were one of several culture war issues that schools were dealing with this year. Coordinated social media efforts by conservative groups spread these disputes far, wide and at lightning speed.
• Epic Co-Founders, Former CFO Arrested on Embezzlement, Racketeering Charges. After a yearslong investigation by law enforcement, the co-founders and chief financial officer of Epic Charter Schools are facing criminal charges. Investigators say the three men siphoned public funds into a private business and spent millions on lobbying, political donations and personal purchases.
• Stitt Gave Families $8 Million For School Supplies in the Pandemic; They Bought Christmas Trees, Gaming Consoles and Hundreds of TVs. In a joint investigation with The Frontier, we found lax oversight of a federal COVID-19 relief program allowed hundreds of thousands of dollars to be spent on non-educational items. And the governor’s plans for the second round of funds have still not been announced.
• Analysis: How Stitt, Walters Victories Could Impact Education. 2022 was a big election year. Gov. Kevin Stitt won a second term, and his pick for superintendent of public instruction, Ryan Walters, was elected.
• All States Lost Ground on Nation’s Report Card. Oklahoma Slipped More Than Most. The pandemic’s negative impact on student learning was significant, as state and national test results show. Virtual schooling just didn’t work for many students, and the stress and trauma from illness and death compounded students’ and teachers’ difficulties.
As the year comes to a close (this will be the last Education Watch of 2022), I just want to say thank you for reading! What stories should I be covering in 2023? I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from you via email or direct message.
— Jennifer Palmer
- Schools are being hit by a “triple-demic” of flu, RSV and COVID-19, but teachers say they don’t feel like they can stay home when sick. [The 19th]
- Western Heights Public School district is turning over a new leaf after its board accepted the resignation of three former board members and approved a settlement with its former superintendent. [NonDoc]
- Rapidly growing and increasingly influential conservative groups have gone beyond just challenging books and are funding the campaigns of school board candidates to drive restricted school book access. [The New York Times]
New on Oklahoma Watch
Long Story Short: Has OKC Reached a Turning Point With the Homeless?
Ari Fife reports on the Oklahoma City council’s withdrawal, in the wake of public outrage, of two proposed ordinances that would have outlawed homeless encampments. Also: Whitney Bryen on a mental health survey and Lionel Ramos on Medicaid expansion. [Read more]
OKC Police’s Crowd-Sourced Effort Exploits Accused
The department’s Crime Stopper Facebook posts frequently feature nonviolent offenses and phrasing that imply guilt before an investigation is completed. Critics say the posts bully the accused and can impede justice. Other state law enforcement agencies differ in their approach. [Read more]
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