August 28, 2014

Will Appeal Ruling in Lawsuit Challenging Scholars
Will Appeal Ruling in Lawsuit Challenging Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities Attorney General Pruitt is appealing a ruling that invalidated a portion of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program on Thursday. The portion omitted allowed parents of children with disabilities to obtain scholarship money from local school districts to fund their child’s attendance of a school of their choosing. The district court judge ruled that funds from scholarship could not send students with disabilities to religiously affiliated schools. For now the scholarship remains unchanged pending appeal. “This scholarship program empowers parents of children with disabilities to obtain scholarship monies from the local school district to fund their child’s enrollment and attendance in a private school of their choosing,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “Prohibiting the use of Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship funds from being used to send students with disabilities to religiously affiliated schools would require the state to discriminate against those schools. That is highly troublesome and why we will appeal the ruling.” bk

August 28, 2014

Dallas ME rules Lockett was executed
The Texas medical examiner charged with conducting an independent autopsy of the body of Clayton Lockett ruled in June he died as a result of “judicial execution by lethal injection.” The autopsy and a series of related documents were released Thursday by the Department of Public Safety. Commissioner Mike Thompson was ordered by Gov. Mary Fallin to conduct an investigation into Lockett’s execution. Lockett’s was the first to two executions scheduled April 29 but the second was cancelled when his went awry. According to witnesses at the execution, Lockett mumbled, writhed and attempted to raise himself from the table to which he was strapped before the execution was stopped by Department of Corrections Director Robert Patton. “Our investigative team has concluded well over 100 interviews, collected evidence, reviewed reports and upon receipt of the autopsy report, will move into the final phase of completing a summary report of the findings. Investigators are currently finalizing recommendations in order to satisfy the requirements of (Fallin’s executive order),” Thompson said in a press release Thursday. The press conference to discuss the findings is planned for next week, according to the release. bk

August 28, 2014

$52.7 Million in Tobacco Trust Earnings Certified
“The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Board of Investors has certified $52.7 million in earnings for use in the coming year to fund prevention and reduction of tobacco use and other health issues”, which was announced by State Treasurer Ken Miller today. The board certified the annual earnings on Thursday. The certification reflects an increase of $13.6 million over the funds last year and is hopeful that this increase will ensure Oklahomans get the most benefit. Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutionally protected endowment funded by the tobacco settlement. Since voters approving the endowment back in 2000, more the $242 million in earnings have been certified by the Investors board. This helps to fund grants and programs to improve health. bk

August 28, 2014

Writing test scores to be left out of A-F report c
State Superintendent Janet Barresi announced Thursday the State Department of Education will not be counting certain fifth and eighth grade test scores in the calculation of this year’s A-F school report cards. Her decision comes after various school district leaders expressed concerns with the accuracy of those results after the testing disruptions that occurred during the testing period in spring. SDE said districts saw “many instances of across-the-board scores of the same numerical value from testing vendor CTB-McGraw Hill.” In what they say is “an over abundance of caution” the department will withhold writing scores from those two grades. bk

August 28, 2014

OETA makes tower deconstruction an opportunity
The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority plans to take advantage of the deconstructing of the tower in their “backyard” by turning it into an “educational opportunity.” A year and a half ago was when the news was given that Griffin Communications would be taking the tower down, a “business decision due to liability issues” according to OETA Executive Director of OETA, Dan Schiedel. “They haven’t been on it for a number of years,” said Schiedel. “They’ve actually been off the tower and up the road, where we are at now, for a number of years now.” That tower, American tower, is also shared with Channel 52. The transfer of from tower to tower actually has happened earlier than scheduled which will enable the deconstruction of the Griffin tower to begin next week. The disassembly is will continue for a month and a half to two months “depending on the crews and the weather” according to Schiedel. bk

August 27, 2014

Barresi updates Board of Ed on status of waiver
State Superintendent Janet Barresi told members of the State Board of Education Wednesday that Oklahoma could be facing stricter federal regulation if the state loses its extension of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). State Department of Education staff filed a request for extension of the flexibility waiver beyond the 2013-2014 school year earlier this month. The waiver is the Obama administration’s exemption from many of the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, which was first granted to Oklahoma in 2012. The waiver relieves Oklahoma from 13 federal regulations under NCLB. The waiver provides districts latitude to decide how best to fund programs meeting needs, Barresi said. If the U.S. Department of Education rejects the waiver, 20 percent of school districts’ Title I funds will have to go to school choice, Barresi said. Additionally, every Oklahoma student would need to score proficiently or meet an exemption in student performance testing. If that is not met, that school would be labeled as failing. bk