Connect with us

Oklahoma

Ryan Walters announces signing bonuses for rural Oklahoma teachers, despite past controversy

Published

on

Ryan Walters announces signing bonuses for rural Oklahoma teachers, despite past controversy


The Oklahoma State Department of Education announced it will offer another round of signing bonuses to attract teachers to rural schools. Meanwhile, the agency is reportedly negotiating a settlement agreement with two teachers it paid previous bonuses to in error.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters said on Monday his agency will offer signing bonuses of $15,000 to $25,000 to secondary math and science teachers who agree to work in a public school in rural Oklahoma for the next school year.

A similar signing bonus program from the agency lured more than 500 certified educators back to Oklahoma schools last year, but it stirred significant controversy and attracted scrutiny from lawmakers when a few teachers were later told to return the money they had been paid.

“I am thrilled to continue bringing in highly qualified teachers to Oklahoma classrooms,” Walters said in a statement. “Oklahoma is a great place to live and work, and we are making it easier than ever for teachers to come to our great state and have an enormous impact on our young people.”

Advertisement

Eligible teachers cannot have taught in an Oklahoma public school in the 2023-24 school year. They must have a teaching certification for secondary math or science and be hired to teach in a rural school for the 2024-25 year.

The agency provided a list of 384 schools that fit the definition of a rural locale, according to criteria from the National Center for Education Statistics. One school on the list no longer exists, Sovereign Community School.

The Education Department called the program the “most successful teacher recruitment effort in state history.”

The agency awarded bonuses last year to a handful of teachers who didn’t meet the criteria and, months later, demanded they repay. Walters informed the state Legislature his agency also had mistakenly underpaid other recipients.

Two of the teachers who were told to repay their bonuses, Kay Bojorquez and Kristina Stadelman, sued the department and Walters in Oklahoma County District Court, alleging breach of contract and defamation.

Advertisement

Their attorney, Mark Hammons, said they have reached a tentative settlement with the Education Department and intend to finalize it this week.

Both teachers were approved for the program and received bonuses of $50,000 in October and November. In January, they received letters from the agency, informing them they never actually qualified and owed the full $50,000 back.

More than $20,000 of each bonus was withheld for taxes, and Bojorquez, of Osage County, and Stadelman, of Oklahoma County, had spent the rest of the money before the Education Department demanded they return it, according to their lawsuit.

Walters said the errant bonuses were the result of the teachers putting “misinformation” in their applications. That statement was defamatory, Bojorquez and Stadelman said. The teachers asked a judge to order Walters to pay them at least $75,000 each for defamation.

The Education Department and Walters have since countersued the teachers, asking for the full bonuses to be returned plus the cost of attorney fees. The agency said Bojorquez and Stadelman, by applying for and accepting the bonuses, represented that they hadn’t taught in an Oklahoma public school the previous year when, in fact, they had.

Advertisement

The two teachers said they truthfully reported their work history. They contend the situation was caused by the agency’s “own alleged negligence or malfeasance in giving such approval.”

“It would be financially impossible for the plaintiff to repay the signing bonus,” their lawsuit states.

Oklahoma Voice is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oklahoma Voice maintains editorial independence.





Source link

Advertisement

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signs 2025 fiscal year budget

Published

on

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signs 2025 fiscal year budget


OKLAHOMA CITY (KSWO) – Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed the 2025 fiscal year budget today, June 12.

The overall budget authorizes $12.47 billion in state spending for the fiscal year.

“This was the most transparent budget process in state history, and that is something to be proud of,” Stitt said. “Every Oklahoman had the opportunity to have a front row seat to the negotiations that took place and to see how their tax dollars were spent. The state has taken a step forward today, but our work is unfinished. I will continue to fight for more tax cuts and keeping a lid on the growth in government in Oklahoma.”

Many have called this year’s budget process the most transparent in state history.

Advertisement

“As Speaker McCall and Pro Tem Treat wrap up their final year in office, I want to commend them on their efforts to leave a legacy of transparency,” Stitt said. “I look forward to working with their successors and expanding on those relationships and the progress made this year.”

During negotiations, members of the Democratic Party continued a call for a more bipartisan approach. They also claimed this year’s budget does not do enough to meet the needs of Oklahomans.

“A flat budget does not create solutions to the growing challenges we face,” Sen. Kay Floyd said. “A bipartisan budget would have provided more funding for our schools, health and mental health care, and other critical services, putting people over politics.”



Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Oklahoma

Recent Oklahoma State Teams That Would’ve Made a 12-Team Playoff

Published

on

Recent Oklahoma State Teams That Would’ve Made a 12-Team Playoff


Oklahoma State has been one of the best programs in college football, but a playoff spot has eluded the Cowboys.

Since the College Football Playoff was introduced in the 2014 season, OSU has come close but has never made the top four of the final rankings. As the CFP expands to 12 teams next season, the chance of making a playoff spot has never been higher for the Cowboys.

Although OSU has been on the outside looking in, the past decade has seen some of the best teams in school history. Although some of those teams were left out of a four-team playoff, some would have had no issues making a 12-team field.

Recent OSU teams that would have made a 12-team playoff:

Advertisement

Perhaps the closest any OSU team has been to the College Football Playoff, OSU was No. 5 going into the Big 12 Championship and a win might have pushed the Cowboys into the top four. However, Dezmon Jackson’s dive for the goal line left the Cowboys inches away from glory and resulted in a trip to the Fiesta Bowl, where they beat No. 5 Notre Dame.

As one of the best defenses in the country, Jim Knowles’ group helped the Cowboys have one of their best seasons in the Mike Gundy era. Meanwhile, Spencer Sanders and Jaylen Warren headlined a diverse OSU offense.

In a hypothetical 12-team playoff, OSU would have traveled to Ole Miss for a first-round matchup.

READ MORE: OSU Football: Does the Big 12 Need Divisions Again?

After a tumultuous start to the season that included a loss to Central Michigan, OSU went on a seven-game winning streak heading into Bedlam. Although OSU lost in the de facto Big 12 Championship, it still managed a 10-win season with an Alamo Bowl victory against Colorado.

Advertisement

Mason Rudolph, James Washington and Justice Hill led the Cowboys’ electric offense throughout the season. In a 12-team field, OSU would have been the last team in and traveled to play Ohio State in the first round.

Although some teams were playoff-caliber in 2015 and 2017, injuries and disappointing losses also derailed the Cowboys’ hopes of making a 12-team playoff. But in 2024, OSU will have its best opportunity yet to flip the script and make it to the biggest stage of the college football postseason.

READ MORE: On This Date: OSU Baseball Clinches Trip to 2016 College World Series

Want to join the discussion? Like AllPokes on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on all the latest Cowboys news. You can also meet the team behind the coverage.





Source link

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s early voting for primary election begins Thursday

Published

on

Oklahoma’s early voting for primary election begins Thursday


OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma’s primary election early voting begins Thursday.

On the ballot will be races for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate and the state House. The Corporation Commissioner race, also on the ballot, will be the only state-wide election.

In the U.S. House elections, three of the five races will see challengers to incumbents. One of the more wholy contested is District 4, where U.S. Rep. Tom Cole is campaigning for re-election against Paul Bondar, who has made headlines over questions about his residency. Both are Republicans. Other Republicans in the race are Andrew Hayes, Nick Hankins and Rick Whitebear Harris.

Of the 26 races for the state Senate, 10 incumbents face primary challengers. Incumbents in 23 House races face primary challengers.

Advertisement

Several races in the state House and Senate have open seats because their current officeholders are terming out. Lawmakers are limited to 12 years.

Several candidates face no challenger in the primary, but will have an opponent in the Nov. 5 general election.

State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax said he doesn’t have a prediction for what this year’s early voting turnout will look like.

“In-person absentee voting, aka ‘early voting,’ for the primary election starts Thursday, so we don’t know what that will be like yet,” Ziriax said in a statement.

However, Ziriax pointed to the March presidential preferential primary as a point of comparison.

Advertisement

Republicans had an increase of about 25% in the presidential preferential primary from 2020 to 2024 for in-person absentee voting. Democrats had a decrease of about 72% from 2020 to 2024. Libertarians had 17 votes cast in 2024 after not having a race in 2020.

Oklahoma is a closed-party state, meaning voters may only cast a ballot for their registered party. The Democratic party, however, is allowing independents to vote in its primary.

Early voting is open Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Election Day – June 18 – polls will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The primary runoff election will be held Aug. 27.

Identity must be shown with photo identification, a county election board voter identification card or an affidavit with provisional ballot.

Advertisement

Voters can cast ballots at their designated early voting locations.





Source link

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Trending