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Answering the Call: Food Security among Military Service Members and Veterans (Guest post: Effie Craven)

by | November 11th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Effie Craven serves as the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Oklahoma Food Banks — the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma — where she advocates for programs and policies that promote access to nutritious foods and economic security for all Oklahomans.

One in six Oklahomans struggles with hunger, 25 percent of Oklahoma children are at risk of going to bed hungry at night, and 16 percent of our population live at or below the federal poverty line. These staggering figures highlight the critical problem of hunger in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, our military service members and veterans are not immune.

With more than 300,000 veterans in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Food Banks are deeply concerned that tens of thousands of our state’s former service members may be struggling with hunger. According to a study published in 2015, more than one in four Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nationwide reported being food insecure in the past year. A separate 2015 study found that 24 percent of veterans who have accessed care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA) reported being food insecure. Feeding America’s Hunger in America report included data on veteran and military status among food pantry clients across the nation for the first time in 2014. The study found that than 1 in 5 households served by the Feeding America food bank network reported having at least one member who has served in the U.S. military.

continue reading Answering the Call: Food Security among Military Service Members and Veterans (Guest post: Effie Craven)

What cuts to alternative education mean for individual lives. Lives such as mine. (Guest Post: Teara Firor)

by | November 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (2)

Teara Firor is a Tulsa-born social worker and parent of three children in the  public school system.

We hear a lot about the cuts to public programs that have been made in recent years as a result of the state’s endless budget crisis. Often a lot of numbers get tossed around, but we can lose sight of what the programs that are being cut mean for individual lives. Lives such as mine.

I attended Broken Arrow Academy from 2001 until I graduated in 2004. The BA Academy is one of over 250 alternative education programs that operate in the state to serve at-risk students. Prior to being accepted there, I was on the fast track to dropping out of high school entirely. I attended four different schools my freshman year. When I was in school, I ate lunch alone in the bathroom because I found the school of over 1,000 students overwhelming, and after so many transfers it became difficult to make friends.

My first day at Broken Arrow Academy was my first good day of school in years. As time progressed, I developed relationships with my teachers and school counselor. Those relationships helped me see school as a safe place and helped me continue to attend when things got rough.

continue reading What cuts to alternative education mean for individual lives. Lives such as mine. (Guest Post: Teara Firor)

When K-12 schools are underfunded… (Guest post: Elizabeth Smith)

by | October 31st, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (1)

sad student

Elizabeth Smith is the planning director for the Yale National Initiative at the University of Tulsa, a partnership between TU, Tulsa Public Schools, and Yale University to strengthen teaching in Tulsa schools.  She recently completed a Ph.D. in Public Policy, P-20 Education Policy.

The latest school funding numbers have been released, and, sadly, Oklahoma is once again the winner!  After inflation, our state’s general funding for K-12 education is 27 percent less per pupil than before the beginning of the 2008 recession, a higher percentage than any other state in the country.  This amounts to $211 less per student per year in each school.  As a parent, I care about school funding because I want my kids to have art and music programs and teachers who are treated like professionals and have access to the best resources to use in their classrooms.  As a higher education professional for the last 12 years, though, why does adequate funding for K-12 education matter to my work?

continue reading When K-12 schools are underfunded… (Guest post: Elizabeth Smith)

The dangerous hidden agenda behind State Question 776 (Guest Post: Sen. Connie Johnson)

by | October 26th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, State Questions | Comments (4)

Connie Johnson serves as Chair of the Say NO to SQ776 Campaign Committee. She was a State Senator representing District 48 in northeastern Oklahoma County from 2002-2014.

thinktwicelogoI’ve worked throughout Oklahoma these past few months to defeat State Question 776 as Chair of the Say No To SQ 776/Think Twice Oklahoma campaign. I know why its sponsors put it on the ballot. When you push the hot-button issue of the death penalty on average Oklahomans, most won’t think about any details, regardless of their opinion on the issue. Many think SQ 776 is an up or down question on capital punishment. It’s not. Instead, the authors are trying to dupe Oklahoma voters into putting the death penalty in Oklahoma above the law. That’s what makes SQ 776 so dangerous.

Proponents of SQ 776 seek to “protect” the death penalty by adding it into the Oklahoma constitution. What they really want to protect is death sentences, in case specific methods of execution are disallowed. This was already accomplished when the legislature also passed HB1879, allowing seamless changes to execution methods should one be disallowed or become impractical.

continue reading The dangerous hidden agenda behind State Question 776 (Guest Post: Sen. Connie Johnson)

Private school tax subsidy blurs the line between charitable gift and money laundering (Guest post: Carl Davis)

by | October 19th, 2016 | Posted in Education, Taxes | Comments (0)

Carl Davis is Research Director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that works on federal, state, and local tax policy issues.

When is a charitable contribution not a “donation” at all?  If a taxpayer manages to turn a profit on the deal, has anything altruistic actually occurred?  The clear answer is no.  But a new report from my organization, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, reveals that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not always see it that way, at least with regard to certain state-subsidized “gifts” that Oklahomans are making to private K-12 scholarship funds.

Tax incentives for charitable giving are common in the United States.  More than 30 states, including Oklahoma, allow a write-off for charitable donations. For an Oklahoma taxpayer who claims itemized deductions, this state incentive can reduce the cost of giving by up to 5 percent.

One particular type of giving, however, enjoys a much more generous government subsidy.  In 2011, Oklahoma decided to supercharge its charitable donation incentive for contributions to private K-12 scholarship funds.  Donors who pledge to contribute for two consecutive years now receive a tax credit equal to 75 percent of the amount donated.  When combined with the state’s ordinary charitable deduction (a practice prohibited in most states with these types of credits, but allowed in Oklahoma), the end result is a program that reimburses donors for up to 80 percent of their contribution. That incentive is 16 times more generous than the 5 percent match the state offers on gifts to churches, food pantries, and other charities.

continue reading Private school tax subsidy blurs the line between charitable gift and money laundering (Guest post: Carl Davis)

Judges on the Ballot in Oklahoma: What you need to know

by | October 18th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (5)
Photo by julochka / CC BY-NC 2.0

Photo by julochka / CC BY-NC 2.0

The original version of this post was authored by past OK Policy intern Forrest Farjadian. It was updated for 2016 by OK Policy intern Chelsea Fiedler.

Oklahoma is one of 39 states where voters have a role in selecting judges. On November 8, Oklahoma voters will decide whether to retain two Supreme Court justices, two Court of Criminal Appeals judges and three Court of Civil Appeals judges. Judicial elections usually don’t attract as much publicity as other races, so we’re taking a look at how judges are chosen, what’s at stake in the elections, and how you can learn about the candidates.

continue reading Judges on the Ballot in Oklahoma: What you need to know

At the intersection of hunger and health (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

by | September 6th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Effie Craven serves as the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, where she advocates for programs and policies that promote access to nutritious foods and economic security for all Oklahomans.

Photo by Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Photo by Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

In the food banking world, we frequently measure need in terms of “food insecurity.” Food insecurity is an economic condition describing a lack of adequate access to affordable, nutritious food. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, there are more than 650,000 food insecure people in Oklahoma — about 1 in 6 Oklahomans. At the same time, rates of chronic disease like hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease remain high, and Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest obesity rates in the nation.

Chronic disease and food insecurity are intricately linked and often lead to a vicious cycle. As limited income is stretched further by an illness and families are forced to make difficult choices, food is often the only part of a budget with any flexibility. Because healthy food is typically more expensive and has a shorter shelf-life than processed foods, families may opt for cheaper, longer-lasting but nutrition-deficient foods.

continue reading At the intersection of hunger and health (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

New research finds Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains (Guest Blog: Deborah Phillips and William Gormley)

by | September 1st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Deborah Phillips is Professor of Psychology and William Gormley is Professor of Government and Public Policy at Georgetown University. Their Tulsa-based research on early childhood education has appeared in the top scientific journals in their fields, in national media outlets, and was mentioned in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address.

In an era of high expectations of preschool education, new research finds that the Head Start program operated by Tulsa’s Community Action Program (CAP) has risen to the challenge.

Since the early 2000s, we have been following children who participate in Tulsa CAP Head Start and Tulsa Public School pre-K programs. We found that positive initial effects of the program on participants’ readiness for kindergarten persist into middle school in the form of higher math achievement test scores, less grade retention, and less chronic absenteeism as compared to children of the same age and backgrounds who did not participate in CAP Head start or in the Tulsa Public Schools pre-K program in 2005-06 when the study began. These results were strongest for girls, white and Hispanic children, and English Language Learners.

continue reading New research finds Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains (Guest Blog: Deborah Phillips and William Gormley)

The decade Oklahoma’s ag jobs vanished (Guest Post: Brian Ted Jones)

by | July 14th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Economy, State Questions | Comments (0)

Corporate-FarmingBrian Ted Jones is director of education for Kirkpatrick Foundation. Data on farm employment is from census records accessed through the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

Since 1990, the number of agricultural jobs in Oklahoma has declined by 77 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Census. This period of employment decline in the farming and ranching industry—once a pillar of the state’s job market—coincides with the expansion of corporate-industrial agriculture that began with the legalization of corporate agriculture in 1969 and accelerated with the arrival of concentrated swine and poultry production in the early 1990s.

Oklahoma is currently engaged in a heated debate over agriculture policy, as voters consider State Question 777, a controversial amendment to the state’s constitution that would provide members of the agriculture industry with a private right of action to challenge laws that restrict their technology and production practices. As director of education for Kirkpatrick Foundation, I’ve spent the last few months exploring the potential impact of SQ 777 on Oklahoma, which has led me to a deep study of Oklahoma’s agricultural economy going back to the territorial period.

continue reading The decade Oklahoma’s ag jobs vanished (Guest Post: Brian Ted Jones)

In its current form, Education Savings Accounts proposal would widen inequality (Guest post: John Lepine)

by | May 31st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (5)
John Lepine

John Lepine

John Lepine is an OK Policy Research Fellow. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Administration, Curriculum, and Supervision at the University of Oklahoma. He is also a reading specialist and English department chair at the McLain Magnet High School for Science & Technology and a research associate with the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy.

With budget cuts to public schools dominating recent headlines, the political wrangling in March over Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) seems long forgotten. Rep. Jason Nelson’s HB 2949 would have allowed payments to families with students who leave public schools. These families would receive a voucher for a portion of the funding that the state would have given their public school district, which could go towards private school tuition or homeschool expenses.

While HB 2949 stalled out this legislative session, it is likely that Oklahoma will see other proposals for school vouchers in the years to come. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman observed that due to the state budget crisis, “A lot of people that might be in favor of [ESAs] philosophically” withheld their support because the “environment [was] probably not conducive to, in their opinion, passing that bill.”

continue reading In its current form, Education Savings Accounts proposal would widen inequality (Guest post: John Lepine)

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