All articles by Gene Perry

OK PolicyCast: Episode 5

by | August 29th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

radio micWe’re back from vacation, rested and ready to share the most important Oklahoma news and analysis. This week, we discuss a recent book by journalist Amanda Ripley, “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got that Way.” The book looks at what countries with the highest performing education systems are doing right, and Oklahoma plays a prominent role in the story. We also talk about the loss of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver, new details on the investigation of a botched execution, numbers of the week, and more.

You can download the episode here or play it in your browser:

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Two Takes: The Smartest Kids in the World

by and | August 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (1)

smartestkidsEarly next month, the education advocacy group Stand for Children Oklahoma is hosting a lunch with keynote speaker Amanda Ripley, a journalist and author of the recent non-fiction book, “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.” Ripley’s book looks at how the US education system compares to Finland, South Korea, and Poland — three countries where students excel on an international test of critical thinking skills. In this comparison, Oklahoma plays a prominent role.

Today on the blog, we present two takes on the book. The first essay, by Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Policy Director Gene Perry, discusses how Ripley’s findings show that Oklahoma may be getting the schools we really want. The second essay, by education writer and former teacher John Thompson, argues that Ripley’s book leaves out a deeper understanding of school reform in Oklahoma.

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In The Know: Texas to withhold botched execution autopsy details after Oklahoma intervenes

by and | August 28th, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Texas officials have agreed to keep secret certain records pertaining to the autopsy of Clayton Lockett, who died following Oklahoma’s botched execution attempt. Oklahoma officials requested even more autopsy records be kept from the public, but the Texas attorney general said the state would only shield those that could identify the pharmacy that supplied the lethal injection drugs. The Tulsa couple who successfully challenged Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to use the case to decide the issue for the entire nation. On the OK Policy Blog, Camille Landry shares a story of a youth caught in Oklahoma’s school to prison pipeline.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column debunks the perception that Oklahoma is providing welfare checks to large numbers of adults who should be working. The State Board of Education approved the formation of a steering committee to recommend a process for developing new academic standards to replace Common Core. Ten school employees from across the state were flagged in a recent check as illegally working without a valid certificate. Oklahoma Watch reported that the teacher shortage in Oklahoma has led to an explosion in the number of teachers given emergency classroom certification, meaning more districts are relying on teachers to teach subjects they are not fully trained for.

Seven landowners in Canadian and Kingfisher counties filed a class-action lawsuit this week to prevent wind turbines from being built near their homes. A Northern Michigan judge is expected to issue a ruling on whether Chesapeake Energy should stand trial on racketeering charges that accuse it of leasing land to thwart competitors and then canceling the deals when the competition ended. Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate — already one of the lowest in the nation among large cities — improved in July, as did the rates in more than two-thirds of the state’s counties.

The Number of the Day is Percentage of Oklahoma children who have witnessed domestic violence in their home, the highest rate in the nation. In today’s Policy Note, FiveThirtyEight discusses how the federal government’s recent expansion of housing vouchers has dramatically reduced homelessness among veterans.

continue reading In The Know: Texas to withhold botched execution autopsy details after Oklahoma intervenes

In The Know: Cox wins Democratic runoff over Deskin in state superintendent’s race

by and | August 27th, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Peggs Superintendent John Cox defeated Freda Deskin in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff for state superintendent. Cox will face Joy Hofmeister in the general election. The okeducationtruths blog and blogger Brett Dickerson discussed the big issues at play in Oklahoma’s superintendent race.

School choice advocate Chuck Strohm defeated Jenks school board member Melissa Abdo in the runoff for House District 69, after an outside group poured $30,000 into the race with ads saying Abdo’s support for education funding was a call for a tax increase. OETA reported on how “dark money” spent by groups that don’t disclose their donors is shaping Oklahoma politics.

Veteran prosecutor Steve Kunzweiler defeated state Rep. Fred Jordan in the race for Tulsa County District Attorney. State Sen. Connie Johnson defeated perennial candidate Jim Rogers in a runoff to determine the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Johnson will face U.S. Rep. James Lankford in the general election. Republican Steve Russell and Democrat Al McCaffrey won their respective runoffs and will face each other for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Lankford. You can see all state runoff election results here. OU political scientist Dr. Keith Gaddie questioned the cost of primary runoffs in Oklahoma and suggested a better alternative. 

Despite the legislature’s vote to abolish Common Core in Oklahoma, about half of the school districts in the state are keeping the standards. Alex Public Schools Superintendent Jason James wrote that teacher shortages are the number one problem facing Oklahoma schools. Two elected officials in Rogers County who were targeted by a multicounty grand jury investigation that yielded no indictments are suing the Rogers County Sheriff. The Tulsa Police Department’s Gilcrease Division was ordered by the chief to remove from its building a donation bucket for embattled Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson.

The Oklahoman examined the debate over what’s behind the huge increase of earthquakes in the state. State officials announced a $100 million initiative to improve safety at railroad crossings, funded by federal dollars and the sale of the Sooner Sub rail line. The Number of the Day is the direct spending by out-of-state and international travelers in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, entrepreneur Nick Hanauer wrote that America cannot sustain its current levels of inequality without a serious backlash or a police state.

continue reading In The Know: Cox wins Democratic runoff over Deskin in state superintendent’s race

In The Know: Oklahoma schools begin academic year with more than 800 teacher vacancies

by and | August 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

A new survey found Oklahoma public schools are still grappling with more than 800 teaching vacancies for the 2014-15 academic year. With the new school year beginning today, Tulsa Public Schools is still deciding where to send 600 3rd graders after reading testing results.  Oklahoma students taking the ACT exceeded the national average in meeting English and reading benchmarks, but they fell behind in math and science. Gloria Torres has become the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Oklahoma City school board. A new kind of partnership with three proposed charter schools in Tulsa could require a state attorney general’s opinion or change in law. An Oklahoma City substitute teacher shared his experience in an essay for This Land Press.

A federal indictment alleges that a Tulsa gang distributed $10 million worth of cocaine from Mexican cartels, murdered at least one witness, ran a dog-fighting ring and had a vast network of co-conspirators, including a former NFL player. Fifty-two members and associates of the gang were charged with 238 criminal offenses. Despite a decline in overall violent and property crime in Oklahoma over the past two years, the number of reported rapes has soared.  A second woman has joined a lawsuit against an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper accused of rape.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman out-raised GOP incumbent Mary Fallin during the most recent state Ethics Commission filing period. The Oklahoma Democratic Party has asked for an investigation into alleged ethics violations by Gov. Mary Fallin, over her involvement in two public service announcements that began airing in August. An Oklahoma tea party leader convicted of felony blackmail for sending a threatening email to a state lawmaker was sentenced Tuesday to pay a $1,000 fine. The two Democrats still in the race for state schools superintendent took in close to $300,000 each through Aug. 11.

Oklahoma’s Teachers’ Retirement System investments grew 22.4 percent last fiscal year, performing among the top 1 percent in the country. A lawsuit against the state Department of Mental Health alleges that the agency buried an investigation into a drug rehab facility where 3 patients died because they did not want to get involved with litigation involving the Church of Scientology. The Lost Ogle reported that  David Stanley Chrysler Jeep Dodge was hit with a record $350,000 fine for airing deceptive and misleading commercials.

Federal funding has been utilized to open a new health clinic in Afton for low-income patients. Tulsa’s sales-tax returns for July and August came in 1.9 percent over the same period last year and 3.6 percent above budget estimates. While a growing chorus of scientific research has linked Oklahoma’s spike in earthquake activity to oil and gas industry disposal wells, a new study suggests such artificial earthquakes are less intense than naturally occurring ones.

The Number of the Day is the total acres of farmland in Oklahoma, comprising 77% of all land in the state. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News reports that as more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma schools begin academic year with more than 800 teacher vacancies

In The Know: Tax credits hinder Oklahoma’s budget projections

by and | August 19th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

State officials are concerned that Oklahoma is handing out millions of dollars in tax credits a year, but the state lacks basic information to predict their budget impact. As the political dust settles on third grade reading, the OK Policy Blog examined how the modified law is playing out in schools. In Tulsa, 9 more kids passed the reading test at the end of the summer and will advance to the 4th grade. Superintendent Keith Ballard is recommending Tulsa Public Schools partner with three new charter school operators.

Former lieutenant governor Jari Askins has been named interim executive director of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board. A lawsuit filed in federal court Monday alleges that the University of Tulsa failed to protect a student from one of its prominent basketball players who has a history of facing sexual assault allegations. The Tulsa World examined the various policies Oklahoma universities have in place to educate students about the dangers of sexual violence on campus and to deal with reports of assault. A new USDA report estimates that middle-income parents of babies born last year will pay about $245,340 for the child to reach legal adulthood.

Early voting for the Aug. 26 runoff election starts Thursday, and voters have until Wednesday to request an absentee ballot for the runoff. Patients of at least one Oklahoma medical center had their personal information stolen in a data breach affecting 4.5 million patients nationwide. Oklahoma City is partnering with Langston University’s Goat Research Extension Program to turn a small herd of goats loose along the canal between Northwest Expressway and Wilshire Boulevard to keep weeds and brush in check. Wind energy developers in the northeast corner of the state are facing opposition from both environmentalists and oil interests.

The Ethics Commission will seek additional public comment regarding whether its Financial Disclosure Statements will be made available online and, if so, what information they will contain. The Office of Juvenile Affairs may need to consider shutting down some juvenile facilities next fiscal year if the Legislature does not increase its appropriations. Members of the Alcoholic Beverage and Laws Enforcement Commission were informed Friday that federal funds intended as reimbursement for the agency were diverted to satisfy another Oklahoma state agency’s debt. Tulsa is conducting a study on barriers to fair and equal housing opportunities in the city.

Activists in Oklahoma City last week celebrated the second anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – a program that allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to be protected from deportation. Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma expect each campus will have about 2,000 students from other countries for the fall semester. The Washington Post examined how Oklahoma’s increase in immigration is connected to the state’s strong economy. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s unemployment rate in July, up slightly from June’s unemployment rate.

continue reading In The Know: Tax credits hinder Oklahoma’s budget projections

In The Know: Arrival of jail inmates puts most Oklahoma prisons over capacity

by and | August 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections’ effort to shift thousands of state prisoners out of county jails has resulted in nearly two-thirds of state prisons being over capacity. In response, the agency is proposing to increase the capacity rating of prisons to include temporary beds. Tulsa-area educators responded positively to gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman’s latest education proposal to create a commission of state educators at all levels to develop and oversee educational standards. The latest episode of the OK PolicyCast shares highlights from a panel of education leaders at the 2014 Summer Policy Institute.

Hundreds of Oklahomans lined up overnight to get free medical care at an event run by Rural Area Medical Oklahoma. The Stillwater News Press discussed emails showing Governor Fallin’s administration appears to have made health care policy decisions based on politics, without considering how to help struggling Oklahomans. The Oklahoman argued that talking about mental health issues needs to become routine in Oklahoma, and and a Q&A by Jaclyn Cosgrove looks at what it’s like to suffer a mental health crisis.

The Oklahoma Ethics Commission accepted an $11,000 settlement agreement with state Rep. Seneca Scott for violations of ethics rules. Though state revenue collections were up in July, officials are expecting a drop in August due to large number of amended returns that are claiming bigger tax refunds. The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is reporting more kids suffering from hunger. A $3.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help provide after-school tutoring and other programs at 13 high-poverty schools in Oklahoma. The City of Norman is considering a half-cent sales tax increase to fund $171 million in quality of life projects.

State officials and a former Narconon Arrowhead executive have been called to testify before a multicounty grand jury that is investigating the drug rehabilitation facility operated by the Church of Scientology. After years of revisions to laws concerning Oklahoma sex offenders, there is still confusion over the offender registry. The organizer of an effort to legalize medical marijuana in Oklahoma said it likely won’t be included on the November ballot because advocates won’t be able to collect enough petition signatures ahead of the deadline. As climate scientists predict hotter, dryer summers and more intense drought in the coming decades, state and local leaders in Oklahoma are trying to get residents to think differently about how they use water.

The Number of the Day is the average mortgage debt in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s policy note, The Crime Report discusses why ‘Shock and Awe’ policing with military hardware fails to protect public safety.

continue reading In The Know: Arrival of jail inmates puts most Oklahoma prisons over capacity

OK PolicyCast: Episode 4

by | August 15th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)
How are Oklahoma educators like the common grackle? Listen to find out!

How are Oklahoma educators like the common grackle? Listen to find out!

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Today’s episode shares highlights from the education panel at the 2014 Summer Policy Institute. Guests include Jenks Principal Rob Miller, Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr, Booker T. Washington high school teacer Dr. Anthony Marshall, and OU professor and education researcher Dr. Curt Adams.

You can download the episode here or play it in your browser:

Public Radio Tulsa has also provided the full audio from many of the Summer Policy Institute panels.

Summer Policy Institute education panelists featured in today's podcast.

Summer Policy Institute education panelists featured in today’s podcast.

More on stories referenced in this episode:

In The Know: Fallin supports medicinal use of cannabidiol oil from marijuana

by and | August 14th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Gov. Mary Fallin will ask state lawmakers to support legalization of cannabidiol, a medicine extracted from marijuana to treat seizure disorders, on a medically supervised, trial-only basis. She continues to oppose decriminalizing the drug or allowing use of medical marijuana more broadly. See the Governor’s statement here. OK Policy previously showed that Oklahoma’s marijuana laws are among the harshest in the nation. A former Oklahoma City doctor was sentenced to eight years in prison for over-prescribing pain and anxiety medications that killed eight of his patients. The OK Policy Blog discussed what’s behind recent large drops in tobacco tax revenue

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority board voted to approve a new “health home” model established by the Affordable Care Act to provide integrated care for Oklahomans with serious mental illnesses. Tulsa World reporter Wayne Greene speculated about what may have been behind Governor Fallin’s refusal to release emails related to her health care policy decisions until recently. Governor Fallin declined a request from Oklahoma labor leaders to ask for the resignation of the three members of the Workers Compensation Commission. The first month of fiscal year 2015 saw state general revenue collections significantly exceed last year and the estimate for this year.

In the coming school year, Moore Public Schools will reopen a newly rebuilt Plaza Towers Elementary School following the 2013 tornado that killed seven students. An Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School faces an uncertain future due to unclear language in the bill that created it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $112,000 to the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma to administer the tribe’s environmental programs. OG&E filed an application to increase utility rates 15 percent by 2019 to pay for upgrades to meet national emissions standards and replace an aging Mustang natural gas plant. 

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses the legacy of Henry Bellmon, Oklahoma’s first Republican Governor. A federal judge has scheduled a hearing for next month in a lawsuit filed by a group of death row inmates over Oklahoma’s execution procedures. The Norman City Council voted 5-4 to approve a zoning change that will allow a new Walmart Supercenter. The vote came at a meeting that lasted nearly 7 hours with numerous residents protesting against the Supercenter.

A year and a half long study by consultants hired by the City of Tulsa found that city employees are paid 5 to 10 percent below average of comparable workers in the private and public sector. Officials with the Oklahoma Arts Council and many others pleaded with lawmakers to keep the Arts Council as an independent agency. The Number of the Day is the average household income in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, The New Republic examines how political changes in Alabama and other Southern states are rolling back gains of the Civil Rights movement.

continue reading In The Know: Fallin supports medicinal use of cannabidiol oil from marijuana

In The Know: Oklahoma schools could see mid-year teacher layoffs

by and | August 13th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Mid-year teacher layoffs are a possibility if Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver is rejected by the U.S. Department of Education. The Oklahoma State Department of Education has requested a one-year extension of its flexibility waiver, but there is no timeline for when a decision will be made. Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller is one of six finalists for 2015 National Principal of the Year from the National Association of Secondary School Principals. You can find Miller’s blog here and listen to his remarks on an education panel at OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute.

Phillips 66 will be giving $1.7 million to Bartlesville Public Schools to create new innovative laboratories on three school campuses to support science, technology, engineering and math classes and research projects. OK Policy is accepting applications for our paid fall internships and our 2014-2015 research fellowships. An over-capacity crowd came out to attend a forum in Norman with a New York activist who said it was possible for the city to put a moratorium on fracking in city limits. Oklahoma City residents soon will weigh in on a proposed water rate increase that would see utility bills climb by 17 percent to promote conservation while funding $2.1 billion in work needed to support projected population growth.

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suspected suicide, Oklahoma’s mental health commissioner Teri White spoke about what to do if you think someone is contemplating suicide. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Oklahoma babies are breast-fed at some of the lowest rates in the nation. The Cherokee Nation increased its operating budget by more than $4 million, to help cover health costs, increase employment and assist with emergency housing for citizens.

Officials with the medical examiner’s office say they are one step closer to reaccreditation with the hiring of two new staff members. This Land previously examined the severe problems at the Medical Examiner that caused it to lose accreditation.  A court decision on whether Tulsa County will have to pay the attorney fees of couples who sued the county to overturn a ban on same-sex marriages was delayed pending an appeal to the US Supreme Court. Among the emails withheld by Governor Fallin, citing a need to protect the “deliberative process” for policy decisions, was a political analysis of state Senate races filled with pointed criticisms of some candidates. Despite the release of the emails, the Lost Ogle blog and the ACLU will continue to pursue a lawsuit against the governor to avoid a precedent that governors can hide records using “executive privilege.”

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans reporting no physical activity. In today’s Policy Note, education researcher Amanda Ripley discusses a growing movement to improve schools by making it harder to become a teacher.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma schools could see mid-year teacher layoffs

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