teachers

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.

In an election that's largely not about education — polls and NPR's reporting says immigration and healthcare are two top issues — we wanted to focus on the places where education is influencing and mobilizing voters.

Here are our nine takeaways of what to watch:

1. Teachers are flexing their (political) muscles

With just days to go, both of the major teachers' unions have devoted their considerable resources to the election.

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.

You're reading NPR's weekly roundup of education news.

Education is a top issue in the midterms

From the 36 gubernatorial races to some key state congressional races, education will be a major issue on Election Day. We've reported previously on a record number of educators who are themselves running. There were teacher walkouts in six states this year. That issue alone has gotten people mobilized.

There's something else that's bringing education to the midterms: Betsy DeVos, the polarizing education secretary.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Public school teachers are watching closely as Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates promote and debate their plans for improving health care, tax policy and education.

Alberto Morejon is one of them.

Morejon is an 8th-grade teacher at Stillwater Public Schools largely credited with organizing the teacher walkout in April. He now runs a Facebook page with nearly 80,000 followers, many of them Oklahoma educators.

Hazel O'Neil

Andrea Brawdy, a special education teacher at James Griffith Intermediate School in Choctaw, Oklahoma, just received the first pay raise of her 12-year teaching career: $414 more per month.

Getting this raise was no small feat. Even after teachers around the state demanded a substantial pay increase, they still left their classrooms to take part in a two-week long teacher walkout at the Capitol building this April. They wanted to bring attention to their demands: better pay, better benefits, and better treatment of teachers.

This question came up again and again Tuesday during an at-times heated hearing of the Senate's education committee: Does the law allow schools to use federal money to arm teachers?

The federal money in question comes from Title IV of the big, k-12 federal education law known as The Every Student Succeeds Act. It's a billion-dollar pot intended for what the law calls "student support and academic enrichment."

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma education leaders say a state question designed to give districts more spending flexibility will do little to improve public schools’ financial difficulties.

State Question 801 would allow school leaders to spend money in their building fund — currently restricted for things like construction projects, maintenance and repairs, utilities, and custodians’ salaries — in new ways.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Every one of the six Republican incumbents who lost their primary runoff election Tuesday voted against a $450 million tax package to fund teacher pay raises earlier this year, a strong signal that education issues are a priority for voters — and a political movement emboldened by the 2018 teacher walkout could continue to be an influential force in the November election.

In House District 20 near Pauls Valley, voters ousted long-time incumbent Bobby Cleveland in favor of Sherrie Conley, an Oklahoma City Public School administrator, who won by just 66 votes.

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Oklahoma’s State Board of Education is set to approve a record-breaking number of emergency teaching certifications at its meeting Thursday, a strong indication a statewide teacher shortage is still growing.

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