Emily Wendler

Emily Wendler was the education reporter at KOSU and StateImpact Oklahoma from February 2015 to February 2019.

While studying Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism with an emphasis on agriculture at the University of Montana, a professor introduced her to radio and she fell in love.

The Cincinnati native 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.

Ways to Connect

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Two years ago, the Oklahoma State Board of Education for the first time exercised its authority to approve a rural charter school.

The decision was contentious. A local school board had already denied the charter’s application twice, saying it was incomplete and there wasn’t enough support for the school.

The State Board overturned the local board’s decision, which left some wondering who’s really in control of their community.

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

A new report from the Oklahoma State Department of Education shows 30,000 teachers have left the profession over the past six years.

The report seeks to explain what’s driving the state’s persistent teacher shortage while offering the agency’s recommendations on how to stem it.

ok.gov

Gov. Kevin Stitt stood before the Oklahoma legislature to deliver his first State of the State address Monday. He outlined key pieces of his executive budget for fiscal year 2020. The legislature will craft its own budget during the 2019 legislative session.

Executive Power

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Wanette School District is nestled in a rural stretch of Oklahoma about 30 miles southeast of Norman.

For a long time, high school juniors and seniors had a dedicated art teacher who taught class five days a week. They would paint, sketch and learn ceramics. That all changed five years ago after budget cuts forced district officials to eliminate the class.

Now, instead of creating art every day, high school students have the option of learning about its history online. Very few do.

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Twenty-nineteen means a new governor for Oklahoma and a fresh class of state legislators — nearly 40 percent of whom have zero political experience. It’s a new year, but the state government’s slate hasn’t been wiped clean.

Here’s a roundup of some of the biggest policy issues on deck for the upcoming year and legislative session.

Energy & Environment

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Gathering Place in Tulsa is the rare local park that’s made national headlines.

The $465 million project opened in September, transforming 66 acres alongside the Arkansas River into a theme park-like space. It was built mostly through private donations and is free to the public.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

It’s about 9 p.m. in Coweta, a rural town south east of Tulsa.

The election results are still trickling in as Cyndi Ralston, a second-grade teacher -turned Democratic political candidate, steps on to the stage in the small event space where she’s having her watch party.

Framed by red, white and blue balloons, Ralston tells the crowd of about 30 supporters why she decided to run for the House District 12 seat.

“I ran this year so that no teacher would have to walkout again,” she said. “I ran this year so that no family would have to lose their insurance again.”

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Update: 11:18 p.m.

Republican Kevin Stitt has defeated Democrat Drew Edmondson and Libertarian Chris Powell to become Oklahoma's next governor. The Tulsa businessman is a political newcomer who largely campaigned on his business background.

With nearly 89 percent of the vote tallied, Stitt leads Edmondson as the top vote-getter by a margin of 54.7 percent to 41.9 percent.

Oklahoma educators Sherrie Conley and Steve Jarman each remember the exact moment they decided to run for office.

It was April 2, the first day of that state's teacher walkout, and thousands of educators had swarmed the Capitol in Oklahoma City, demanding more school funding and higher wages.

Oklahoma State Department of Education

The State Department of Education is asking lawmakers to increase education funding by a total of $440 million next year.

Included in the agency’s budget proposal for the 2019-2020 public school year is a request for an additional $273 million to help school districts hire more teachers and reduce class sizes.

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