All articles by Guest

ABCs of School Finance (Guest Post: Lori Smith)

by | January 12th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (0)

school finance - appleLori Smith is the Chief Financial Officer for Edmond Public Schools. This post is excerpted from an Edmond Public School brochure, “20 Questions (and Answers) about School Finance”.

What is State Aid?

State Aid represents the funds that are appropriated by the State Legislature for school districts, and distributed by the State Department of Education through the “State Aid Formula.” 

State Aid is based primarily on student counts, with allowances made for various student characteristics represented as grade and categorical weights.

State Aid uses the higher of the current or two previous years’ student counts. Thus, if a district’s student count increases, the State Aid is adjusted in the current year. If a district’s student count decreases, the State Aid does not decrease for two years.

The State Aid calculated using these student counts is then reduced for local revenue collections by subtracting “chargeables.”

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Protecting Oklahoma’s most vulnerable infants (Guest Post: Cassidy Hamilton)

by | January 6th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Poverty, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

CassidyHamiltonCassidy Hamilton is one of four 2014-2015 OK Policy Research Fellows. Cassidy graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Economics and is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at the University of Oklahoma. She works as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Norman where she coordinates a tutoring program for at-risk students. Cassidy is interested in health and housing policy, economic development, community lending in low-income areas, and the interconnectedness of fiscal and monetary policy.

Infant mortality is the death of a child under one year of age, and the infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of those deaths per every 1,000 births (see chart below). According to the CDC, the IMR is an important measure because the mortality of a population’s infants can be indicative of broader factors affecting the health and well-being of the population at large. Beyond its importance as a public health measure, for families of babies who die before they reach their first birthday, infant mortality is an immeasurable personal tragedy.

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We must move from angst to action in the wake of Brown and Garner deaths (Guest post: Hannibal B. Johnson)

by | December 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (4)
Hannibal B. Johnson

Hannibal B. Johnson

Hannibal B. Johnson is a Harvard Law School graduate who teaches at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma. His several books include Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District, Black Wall Street, Up from the Ashes, and Acres of Aspiration. A version of this article originally appeared in the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce newsletter.

The shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson and the chokehold death of Eric Garner at the hands of the New York City Police Department officers added urgency to already-simmering frustrations over the perceived devaluation of black lives. The subsequent grand jury failures to indict the officers connected to these high-profile killings of unarmed black men by white police officers sparked a firestorm of protests. Some of these mostly-peaceful protests included ugly and unfortunate anarchic elements bent on violence and intent on stoking anti-police sentiment.

These events ratcheted-up the debate about the entirety of the criminal justice system as it relates to African American men. The Brown and Garner cases, different both geographically and factually, highlight the distance we must go to close the wide gap in perception about the role of race in the criminal justice system. Many white Americans view the existing system as fair and even-handed, while many black and brown Americans see it as haphazard at best, and often tilted against them.

continue reading We must move from angst to action in the wake of Brown and Garner deaths (Guest post: Hannibal B. Johnson)

Oklahoma school funding: Even worse than you thought (Guest post: Ryan Gentzler)

by | December 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (5)

Ryan Gentzler is an OK Policy Research Fellow, a Master of Public Administration student at the University of Oklahoma, and a Research Associate with the Early Childhood Education Institute.

In October, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published an update to its study of cuts to state aid to public K-12 schools since the recession, showing that Oklahoma has widened its lead in making the largest cuts in the nation. From 2008 to 2015, we’ve slashed state aid to schools by 23.6 percent, or $857 per student. But the situation is even worse than it appears at first glance. Oklahoma’s public schools are more dependent on state revenues than those in many other states. As a result, school funding in Oklahoma is more vulnerable to economic downturns and to fiscal decisions that erode the state’s revenue base.

continue reading Oklahoma school funding: Even worse than you thought (Guest post: Ryan Gentzler)

Supporting innovation in Oklahoma’s rural schools (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

by | December 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

rural schoolSarah Julian is the Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, a non-profit that provides support and resources to the state’s public schools.

Oklahoma’s public schools continue to face difficult financial challenges—this is neither new nor surprising. The state lags behind the nation in education funding, yet it currently allocates 50 percent of its budget to education. While efforts can and should be made to identify additional funding for Oklahoma’s public schools, it is incumbent on the state to also find ways to incentivize innovation in our public school system.

 In addition to the funding crisis, much attention has been given over the past few years to the difficulty American companies are experiencing in filling highly technical positions with qualified applicants. The numbers of graduates with knowledge in advanced levels of science, math and complex analysis just aren’t at the levels needed to support these companies’ requirements, and it puts them in the position of having to hire from an international pool.

continue reading Supporting innovation in Oklahoma’s rural schools (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

Multi-member districts: More choices, more voices (Guest Blog Post: Ryan Kiesel)

by | October 29th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (3)

kiesel-updated-300x200Ryan Kiesel is Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, as well as a former member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, alt-music aficionado and fierce truth-to-power speaker. Ryan‘s comments do not necessarily reflect the views of the ACLU of Oklahoma. This is one of a series of responses to OK Policy’s blog posts on Oklahoma’s “broken democracy”.

At a recent forum on the upcoming elections in Oklahoma, an audience member posed a question asking why substantive issues are non-existent in campaigns. In response, a member of the panel, a well-known and respected political consultant, blamed the voters. If the voters wanted to hear robust debates on the issues of the day, he claimed, then they would reject campaigns that are essentially copy-and-paste jobs.

That’s like owning an ice cream shop that only serves vanilla, and then being surprised to learn vanilla is your best seller.

The truth is voters make the choices they make because they have very few options at the ballot box. The current single-member district system of electing legislators creates a very strong disincentive to increasing those choices. It is time we reverse this incentive system, and that process begins with understanding the single-member majority system, killing it, and replacing it with a plan that encourages more voices and more choices for voters.

continue reading Multi-member districts: More choices, more voices (Guest Blog Post: Ryan Kiesel)

Oklahoma’s broken democracy hurts millennials (Guest Post: Nikki Hager)

by | October 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (2)
Nikki Hager

Nikki Hager

Nikki Hager, a senior Political Science and Economics major at the University of Tulsa,  is the Co-founder and President of the TU chapter of Common Sense Action. This is one of a series of responses to OK Policy’s blog posts on Oklahoma’s “broken democracy”.

Oklahoma democracy is indeed broken. Voter turnout remains abysmally low. Young people especially are largely left out of the political process. Politics are dominated not by innovation and compromise but by partisan gridlock and stagnation.

Not only did Oklahoma have the third lowest overall voter turnout in 2012, but at 27 percent, it also had the second lowest youth turnout. In contrast, Mississippi—the only state to perform worse than Oklahoma in general turnout—had the highest relative turnout of young voters at just over 68 percent.

Turnout in party primary elections is especially low in Oklahoma – in this year’s primary elections, less than 1 in 3 registered voters cast ballots in the first round of primaries, and in the run-offs, turnout was under 20 percent. In districts where one political party dominates, primaries are particularly important, as the winner of the primary often determines the winner of the general election. When voter turnout falls to extremely low levels, it makes it easy for small groups of committed groups to mobilize their members, often over-representing extremist and single-interest groups. Extremist voters lead to extremist politicians, leading to extremist policies, and threatening the viability of a government that relies on compromise.

continue reading Oklahoma’s broken democracy hurts millennials (Guest Post: Nikki Hager)

Ideas for improving representative democracy in Oklahoma (Guest Blog: Dr. Randal Burris)

by | October 27th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (3)
randal burris

Dr. Randal Burris

Dr. Randal Burris is a life-long Oklahoman, a graduate of Oklahoma State University, and a practicing veterinarian from Broken Arrow. This is one of a series of responses to OK Policy’s blog posts on Oklahoma’s “broken democracy”.

Thank you for this opportunity to voice my concerns about the issues raised by OK Policy.
 
In my opinion, a number of factors impact the declining participation of voters in the political process. Among these are:
  1.  Large monetary contributions from a small number of very wealthy individuals leaves the average person with a sense that his or her voice matters very little, and that elections are bought and sold by narrow special interests with little regard to the needs and wants of the electorate. Additionally, people such as myself, who have considered running for public office at either the State legislative or Congressional level, feel excluded from the process because we lack the “deep pockets” to adequately finance a campaign in today’s market.
  2.  The closed party primary system allows no voice for independents and for those whose party is not represented in an election. This results in large segments of the electorate becoming effectively disenfranchised, and a small percentage of party hard-liners determining the outcome of an election.
  3.  The rancorous, hyper-partisan tone of political discourse, that portrays opponents as not just wrong, but evil or less patriotic or “American” than oneself, results in the inability of people to work with those of the other party, or to even socialize with those of different political persuasions. The resultant fossilization of skewed perspectives regarding persons of different parties has led to refusals to cooperate in necessary legislation that both sides may agree is needed, but that neither will support simply because it was proposed by a member of the other party, or may “give that party a victory at the polls.”
  4.  Finally, the homogenization within each party has led to an intolerance of persons within one’s own party who might differ from the “party line” on one or more issues. We have seen Republicans referred to as “RINOs” (Republican In Name Only) by primary opponents and talk radio hosts. In my own case, I am a staunch Democrat, while also being Pro-Life. I would like to run for office, because I believe the Democratic Party better represents the education and economic needs of the majority of Oklahomans, but I don’t want to be attacked for my Pro-Life advocacy, and I am worried about where to secure the funding for a campaign, since I don’t fit the “standard Democrat Profile”.

continue reading Ideas for improving representative democracy in Oklahoma (Guest Blog: Dr. Randal Burris)

Exonerating the wrongly-convicted should be a shared priority (Guest Post: Lawrence Hellman)

by | October 23rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (0)

Lawrence K. Hellman is Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Oklahoma City University School of Law. He serves as executive director of The Oklahoma Innocence Project.

innocence projectIt is no longer contestable: innocent people sometimes get convicted of serious crimes. How often? No one knows. But this we do know: since 1989, more than 1,400 people have been released from prisons in America based on evidence of innocence. Twenty-eight of these exonerations occurred in Oklahoma, including 7 people who had been sentenced to death.

A peer-reviewed, statistically-validated study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that at least 4.1 percent of defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent. The percentage of wrongful convictions for non-capital offenses may be even higher.

More than 26,000 people are currently incarcerated in Oklahoma. If “only” 2 percent of them are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, more than 500 inmates deserve to be exonerated and returned to freedom.

continue reading Exonerating the wrongly-convicted should be a shared priority (Guest Post: Lawrence Hellman)

State Question 769: Allowing military guard and reserve members to hold elected office (Guest Post: David Dickerson)

by | October 13th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections, State Questions | Comments (4)
Oklahoma Air National Guard soldiers prepare to conduct search and rescue operations in Moore after the May 2013 tornado. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James.

Oklahoma Air National Guard conduct search and rescue operations after the Moore May 2013 tornado. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James.

David Dickerson is a retired military officer who served in the active component, Reserve, and National Guard. He now works as an advocate for veterans at the local, state, and national level.

During the last thirteen years of sustained war in Afghanistan and Iraq, National Guard and Reserve units and personnel have been deployed with unprecedented frequency to augment the active component forces. Thousands of Oklahoma’s National Guard and Reserve service members have served with distinction while having their “normal” lives disrupted. Some of those mobilized and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom also held elected and appointed offices in state and local governments.

continue reading State Question 769: Allowing military guard and reserve members to hold elected office (Guest Post: David Dickerson)

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