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All articles by Carly Putnam

In The Know: As Cities in Oklahoma Woo Innovative Industries, Researchers Say Schools Are a Weak Link

by | July 7th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

As Cities in Oklahoma Woo Innovative Industries, Researchers Say Schools Are a Weak Link: A new report from the Brookings Institution says Oklahoma City is positioned for growth. It says the city has a solid layer of infrastructure essential for development — and diversifying the economy. But there’s a threat to this development, and that’s a potentially weak workforce. Some researchers say local officials need to ensure schools provide the training innovative companies need. And they need to be doing it now [StateImpact Oklahoma]. The full report is available here.

Louisiana’s criminal justice reforms will reduce its prison population: For nearly 20 years, Louisiana has held an unwanted title: the top state incarcerator in the country that imprisons a greater share of its citizens than any other. The competition often hasn’t even been particularly close, with Louisiana keeping well over 800 residents out of every 100,000 behind bars—nearly 1% of its people. In most recent years, no other state has topped 700. But Louisiana will soon relinquish this crown. Sometime in the next year or so, experts expect the title to pass to Oklahoma, where in recent years the incarceration rate has skyrocketed (and which, not coincidentally, locks up a greater share of women than any other state) [The Economist]. In Oklahoma’s Legislative session, a suite of criminal justice reform bills  easily passed their votes until they met a buzz saw in the House Judiciary-Criminal Justice and Corrections committee led by Rep. Scott Biggs, a vocal opponent of reform [OK Policy].

Legislative cuts to mean reduction in child abuse prevention: In the latest round of budget cuts, Oklahoma will drop about $100,000 out of a program designed to lower rates of child abuse. The Oklahoma State Department of Health sponsors a handful of home visitation programs, where nurses and other professionals teach pregnant women and their families the ins and outs of infant care. “They work with moms and other family members in looking at how to respond in relation to normal developmental milestones: when it’s good to start potty training, when it’s good to start weaning,” said Tina Johnson, the department’s deputy commissioner for community and family health service [Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: As Cities in Oklahoma Woo Innovative Industries, Researchers Say Schools Are a Weak Link

In The Know: Lawmakers’ familiar foe joins Oklahoma Supreme Court tax challenges

by | July 6th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Lawmakers’ familiar foe joins Oklahoma Supreme Court tax challenges: Jerry Fent, who has a history of suing the state over fiscal matters, has lodged his support for two lawsuits targeting new taxes and fees. In both cases, he filed an entry of appearance for support — a simple two-page document that informs the court that he agrees with the original petitions and is not accepting payment. He did not include his own brief or arguments. Fent joined tobacco companies that are challenging a $1.50 fee on cigarette packs, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson, who is seeking to strike down three new laws that include a sales tax on automobile purchases [NewsOK]. The budget is sitting on shaky constitutional foundations [OK Policy].

With budget uncertainty, schools tighten spending plans: As the state waits to see whether the Oklahoma Supreme Court will rule against several measures that are slated to add $370 million to the state’s coffers, school superintendents said they’re tightening their belts in anticipation. Like most other government organizations in Oklahoma, school districts must solidify their budgets when the new fiscal year begins on July 1. For districts, that means deciding whether to hire more teachers, whether to make infrastructure investments and how many courses to offer [Journal Record]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: Leading in the wrong direction: For years, Oklahoma has led the nation in cuts to state aid funding of pre-K through 12th-grade schools. Oklahoma has cut state aid per student 26.9 percent since 2008. That’s almost twice as much as the next worst state, Alabama. The results are clear. Many of our best teachers are leaving for other states, nearly one in five school districts are going to four-day weeks, class sizes are growing, and arts, athletics, and STEM programs are being cut. These problems have gotten attention in state and national media – so much that Gov. Mary Fallin says she is having trouble convincing businesses to come to Oklahoma because of them [Gene Perry / Journal Record].

continue reading In The Know: Lawmakers’ familiar foe joins Oklahoma Supreme Court tax challenges

Watch This: A True Medicaid Story

by | July 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare, Watch This | Comments (0)

Joshua Proffitt is a college student at East Georgia State College. He’s made the Dean’s List with a 3.5 GPA, wants to work in radio broadcasting, and has a remarkable ability to predict NASCAR results, earning him the nickname, “The Proffitt.” In five years, Joshua wants to work for a sports radio network.

Joshua also has cerebral palsy. Through Medicaid, Joshua gets daily in-home care from attendants who help with everything from dressing and brushing Joshua’s teeth to taking him to college and taking notes for him. In this video by the  Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Joshua, his parents, and a caregiver describe how Medicaid has made Joshua’s accomplishments possible — and how deep cuts to Medicaid in the Congressional GOP health care bill would jeopardize Joshua’s life and his dreams.

continue reading Watch This: A True Medicaid Story

In The Know: Oklahoma’s Board of Equalization Certifies Budget As It Faces Mounting Legal Battle

by | June 29th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Oklahoma’s Board of Equalization Certifies Budget As It Faces Mounting Legal Battle: The state’s recently approved $6.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2018 is facing multiple legal challenges, another lawsuit was filed Wednesday, but that didn’t keep the State Board of Equalization from certifying the spending plan. The new fiscal year begins on Saturday. Gov. Mary Fallin already signed the budget into law, but certification by the Board of Equalization is also required. Generally, approval by the board (comprised of six statewide elected officials — the governor, lieutenant-governor, attorney general, treasurer, superintendent of instruction, and state auditor — plus the secretary of agriculture) is a given [NewsOn6]. Next year’s budget starts over $400 million in the hole [OK Policy].

Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate files new court challenge to tax bills: Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court Wednesday to block Saturday’s scheduled implementation of a new sales tax on vehicle purchases. Richardson wants collection of the tax blocked until the court can rule on his constitutional challenge to the tax and two other new revenue-raising laws. Richardson filed his Supreme Court lawsuit challenging the new laws Wednesday. He had announced his intention to challenge the laws in a Tulsa news conference last week [NewsOK].

Disability advocates voice concerns about health care bill: As a television in the room broadcast news of protests around the country, nine disability advocates entered the downtown Oklahoma City office of U.S. Sen. James Lankford on Wednesday afternoon. Once inside, they took turns telling the stories of their disabilities and the hardships they face. Those hardships will be dramatically worsened, they said, if Lankford and 49 other senators approve a Senate health care overhaul [NewsOK]. The Senate Republican health plan would require people to pay more for worse coverage, wreck the health care safety net, and deliver a massive tax cut to corporations and the wealthy [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma’s Board of Equalization Certifies Budget As It Faces Mounting Legal Battle

In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin says state budget woes not indicative of economic climate

by | June 28th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Correction: Yesterday’s In The Know incorrectly identified Wanda Felty as the parent of a child currently on the DDSD waiting list. We regret the error.

Today In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin says state budget woes not indicative of economic climate: Gov. Mary Fallin spent 32 minutes Tuesday assuring a Tulsa Regional Chamber luncheon that Oklahoma’s economy is performing better than recent state revenue failures might suggest. Investment is up, Fallin said. Businesses are expanding. The labor force is growing. Which raises the question: If the economy is doing so well, why isn’t tax revenue keeping pace? That, really, was Fallin’s point. Or one of them [Tulsa World]. Next year’s budget starts over $400 million in the hole [OK Policy].

Second verse, only worse: What the Senate Republican health care plan would mean for Oklahoma: Last week, Senate Republicans emerged from secret negotiations to unveil their version of a major health care bill. Those expecting that the Senate would produce a better health plan than the House are likely underwhelmed by the Senate’s efforts. The Senate Republican health plan (the Better Care Reconciliation Plan, or BCRA) would require Americans purchasing private insurance on the individual marketplace to pay substantially more for worse health coverage. It would also undercut the American health care safety net, nearly doubling the uninsured rate, while delivering a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy [OK Policy]. Facing intransigent Republican opposition, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, on Tuesday delayed a vote on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act [The New York Times].

As Criminal Justice Laws Take Effect, Uncertainty Surrounds Bigger Changes: Later this week, criminal justice measures approved by Oklahoma voters in November will take effect, testing predictions that fewer people will go to prison and taxpayers will ultimately save millions of dollars. But even before those laws kick in July 1, questions swirl as to whether they will be undermined in part by local prosecutors or a lack of funds and won’t fully achieve their stated purpose. Even if they succeed – by keeping thousands of nonviolent offenders from becoming felons – advocates for change acknowledge it won’t be enough to halt the state’s rising tide of incarceration [Oklahoma Watch]. SQ 780 should save Oklahoma millions next year [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin says state budget woes not indicative of economic climate

Second verse, only worse: What the Senate Republican health care plan would mean for Oklahoma

by | June 27th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Last week, Senate Republicans emerged from secret negotiations to unveil their version of a major health care bill. Those expecting that the Senate would produce a better health plan than the House are likely underwhelmed by the Senate’s efforts. The Senate Republican health plan (the Better Care Reconciliation Plan, or BCRA) would require Americans purchasing private insurance on the individual marketplace to pay substantially more for worse health coverage. It would also undercut the American health care safety net, nearly doubling the uninsured rate, while delivering a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.

The Affordable Care Act has provided popular new consumer protections to all Americans and extended health coverage to tens of millions who couldn’t get it before. Nevertheless, many Oklahomans remain unsatisfied with high premiums and deductibles, as well as limited insurer participation on the individual marketplace. However, rather than fix these issues, the Senate bill would make them worse. Here’s how.

continue reading Second verse, only worse: What the Senate Republican health care plan would mean for Oklahoma

In The Know: State teacher shortage ‘getting worse,’ superintendent says, as 224 more emergency certificates issued

by | June 23rd, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

State teacher shortage ‘getting worse,’ superintendent says, as 224 more emergency certificates issued: Public schools’ reliance on under-qualified teachers shows no signs of letting up at the dawn of a new fiscal year. The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday morning approved 224 more emergency certificates for the month of July. Those are provisional licenses that allow individuals to be employed as classroom teachers before they complete the education or training requirements for regular or alternative certification [Tulsa World]. In 2015, we argued that the evidence of the teacher shortage crisis facing Oklahoma was “overwhelming and undeniable” [OK Policy].

Education advocates plan initiative, seeking voters’ approval for income tax for schools: Faith, education and elected leaders on Thursday announced an initiative petition drive, with the goal of winning voters’ approval for a local income tax for public schools in Oklahoma City. Education advocates hope Oklahoma City voters will favor a pair of temporary 0.25 percent income tax hikes to address a “crisis” in public schools, with the aim of paying teacher bonuses and reducing class sizes [OK Policy]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Lankford ‘a solid undecided’ on Republican health care bill: Oklahoma’s U.S. senators said they were still reviewing the GOP health care bill unveiled Thursday before deciding how they would vote on the measure. “Congress should pass a bill that provides a smooth transition from the Affordable Care Act to a better system that provides more affordable coverage options for everyone, with the goal in mind of doing no harm to current enrollees as the transition occurs,” said U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. Lankford did not say whether the GOP bill would achieve that goal [NewsOK]. Senate Republicans on Thursday revealed the Better Care Reconciliation Act, their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill asks low- and middle-income Americans to spend significantly more for less coverage [Vox]. The Senate health care plan released today makes even deeper cuts to Medicaid than the version that passed the House. Besides deep funding cuts, this would fundamentally change the nature of Medicaid by ending its responsiveness to the economy and slashing the safety need when it’s needed most, as we explained in February [OK Policy].

continue reading In The Know: State teacher shortage ‘getting worse,’ superintendent says, as 224 more emergency certificates issued

Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall

by | June 20th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Most Americans (nearly 90 percent of people over at 65) want to stay in their homes as long as possible as they get older. For people with disabilities, staying in one’s home represents decades of hard-fought court battles against forced institutionalization. For both seniors and people with disabilities, in-home care is vastly less expensive than a residential nursing facility, and in-home care usually means better health outcomes. In-home care is a win for all, from individuals needing the care to their families, friends, and communities.

Still, many people cannot afford to be cared for inside their homes without help from public services. For Oklahoma’s low-income seniors and people with disabilities, access to those in-home supports may be financed by Medicaid through the state’s Department of Human Services. But with the state now facing another year of flat budgets amid rising costs, those services are at risk. Despite warnings from DHS director Ed Lake that DHS needed $733 million to maintain services, and that their budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable,” the Legislature gave DHS just shy of $700 million for SFY 2018. This appropriation of about 5 percent less than the agency needs to stay whole is going to mean more cuts — and in-home care services appear to be on the chopping block.

continue reading Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall

In The Know: A School That Provides The One Constant In Homeless Children’s Lives

by | June 20th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

A School That Provides The One Constant In Homeless Children’s Lives: On the last day of school, the fifth grade students at Positive Tomorrows perform last-minute rehearsals for the inaugural “Classy Awards.” Teachers, parents and mentors file into the classroom through a doorway pasted with dangling gold stars, along a red paper carpet. While similar scenes play out in classrooms across the country, this particular group of fifth-graders has a more uncertain future than most. Positive Tomorrows is a small, privately funded school in the heart of Oklahoma City, designed to meet the needs of homeless children [NPR].

Some key Oklahoma lawmakers missed the most votes this session: Some key lawmakers missed the most votes during the legislative session that ended May 26. Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, led the House in missed votes. Osborn, who chairs the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, missed 25 percent of the floor and committee votes. …Lawmakers had $878 million less to spend in crafting a fiscal year 2018 budget. Her counterpart in the Senate also ranked high in the upper chamber for missed votes [Tulsa World].

After end of session, Capitol restoration accelerates: In five years, schmoozing and demonstrating in the Oklahoma Capitol’s rotunda will be more comfortable. “For the first time in the building’s history, we’re going to heat and cool the rotunda,” said Capitol Project Manager Trait Thompson. The final product might be a few years out, but crews will soon be starting the work on the fifth floor that will prevent heavy air-conditioning units from falling through the ceiling. They’ll insert steel support beams above five House of Representatives offices [Journal Record]. As Oklahoma nears the centennial of the state Capitol’s construction on June 30, there are several events marking the historic date [NewsOK]. 

continue reading In The Know: A School That Provides The One Constant In Homeless Children’s Lives

In The Know: Final toll on Oklahoma school budgets for FY 2017: $54 million less to spend

by | June 16th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Final toll on Oklahoma school budgets for FY 2017: $54 million less to spend: With final state aid payments out Thursday, local school leaders throughout Oklahoma finally have a clear picture of their finances for the fiscal year ending June 30. Stronger revenue collections at the close of the fiscal year helped reduce the impact of shortfalls in previous months, but Oklahoma schools still saw their payments from the state reduced by $4 million for June. All told, schools received $54 million less than what the Legislature initially appropriated for fiscal year 2017, said Matt Holder, deputy state superintendent of finance and federal programs [Tulsa World]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Oil’s pipeline to America’s schools: Jennifer Merritt’s first-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Pryor, Oklahoma, were in for a treat. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, the students gathered in late November for story time with two special guests, state Rep. Tom Gann and state Sen. Marty Quinn. Dressed in suits, the Republican lawmakers read aloud from “Petro Pete’s Big Bad Dream,” a parable in which a Bob the Builder lookalike awakens to find his toothbrush, hardhat and even the tires on his bike missing. Abandoned by the school bus, Pete walks to Petroville Elementary in his pajamas [Center for Public Integrity].

Scott Pruitt used two government email addresses in his last job. He told Congress he used one. Five months after first appearing in front of Congress in pursuit of the job of Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt may need to clarify his congressional testimony yet again. Pruitt appears to have used two government email addresses while serving as attorney general of Oklahoma — despite telling the Senate that he used only one government email address during his time in that office. Pruitt is not the only member of President Trump’s Cabinet to be probed for inconsistencies in their confirmation testimony [Washington Post].

continue reading In The Know: Final toll on Oklahoma school budgets for FY 2017: $54 million less to spend

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