Debunking myths about migrant children at Ft. Sill

by and | July 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

As most Oklahomans have heard and seen on the news, there are currently between 1,000 and 1,500 migrant children being housed in dormitories on Fort Sill, an Army base in southwestern Oklahoma near Lawton (among other places across the country). The vast majority are from three Central American countries: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The response by federal agencies has been swift and represents a coordinated effort between agencies with very different missions and mandates – from the U.S. Border Patrol, the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the U.S. Military to Health and Human Services (HHS). The children are currently being cared for by the Administration for Children and Families (a division of HHS) with the assistance of countless volunteers working on behalf of churches and charities.

These children’s entry into the U.S. and into Oklahoma has sparked a large amount of commentary and speculation about their situation. In the hopes of providing some clarity for Oklahomans interested in these developments, this post responds to some common misconceptions about who they are, why they came, and what’s being done.

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In The Know: Fallin starts petition to close facility housing child immigrants

by and | July 22nd, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Gov. Mary Fallin’s re-election campaign launched an online petition calling for the closure of the facility housing child immigrants at Fort Sill. The petition criticized President Obama for meeting the “transportation, education and health care of illegal immigrants, even as Washington ignores the very real needs of American citizens.” The American Mental Health Counselors Association estimates that 122,000 Oklahoma with mental health issues are being denied care because Governor Fallin has refused federal funding to expand Medicaid for Oklahomans. The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs Executive Director said the agency is operating a dangerously low staffing levels due to state budget cuts.

Nearly 1 in 4 Oklahoma children live in poverty and the number of children living in high-poverty areas has more than doubled since 2000, according to a national study released Tuesday. Oklahoma City Public Schools is among 60 of the nation’s largest districts throwing their support behind a presidential initiative meant to ensure more students of color are succeeding academically. Two elementary schools in the Oklahoma City district are facing critical teacher shortages as the start of school draws near. Teachers say they repeal of Common Core Standards won’t greatly affect their teaching methods, but some expressed concern that tests will be less rigorous. The OK Policy Blog examined a new initiative that is seeking  to coordinate the thousands of people working to improve education in Tulsa.

NewsOK examined challenges faced by grandparents who are the primary caretakers of their grandchildren. Oklahoma Watch examined why Moore has not received federal storm damage prevention aid, even as other cities in Oklahoma at less risk for storms are receiving aid. Residents in north Tulsa are unsure where they will get affordable groceries after the impending closure of the area’s only grocery store.

The Number of the Day is the number of women in the Oklahoma legislature out of 149 legislators. In today’s Policy Note, Vox discusses the evidence that expanding Medicaid coverage has improved lifelong health by improving care for pregnant mothers.

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Initiative seeks to bring together the puzzle pieces for improving Tulsa schools

by | July 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)
Rebecca Hollis

Rebecca Hollis

This post is by Rebecca Hollis, who is working with OK Policy during the summer as a Southern Education Leadership Initiative Fellow. Rebecca attends Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH and is part of the Philosophy, Politics, and the Public Honors Program. She previously contributed a post about community schools in Oklahoma

With over 300 early childhood education providers, fifteen independent school districts, ten four-year colleges, one community college, and more than one hundred education-related nonprofits in the greater Tulsa area, the task of educating students involves a huge number of individuals and institutions. Yet for all these efforts, we don’t have a good idea of who is doing what, or what programs are showing the best results. This disconnect is what Jeff Edmonson, Managing Director of the StriveTogether Network, has called “program rich but system poor.” To ensure students have access to quality education at all levels of their academic career, all of the pieces of this puzzle must come together.

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s ban on gay marriage ruled unconstitutional

by and | July 21st, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS.. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

A federal appeals court struck down Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional, though the ban remains pending an expected appeal of the decision. You can read the full decision here. Governor Fallin released a statement condemning the decision. A new poll by Rasmussen finds the Oklahoma governor’s race between Mary Fallin and Joe Dorman is within the margin of error. Dorman said Oklahoma should accept federal dollars to expand Medicaid program to cover low-income Oklahomans. The Tulsa World shared the colorful history of runoff elections in Oklahoma.

Speaking at the annual Oklahoma PTA conference, Gov. Fallin seemed to back off her position for relying on one high-stakes reading test to determine whether a third-grader should move on to fourth grade. Hundreds of Oklahoma City students are participating in a summer reading academy to try to pass the reading test before a new school year begins. The tiny Panola School District may close its doors after 102 years due to a budget shortfall. A Tulsa World op-ed discusses how Tulsa Community College is getting national recognition for a program that provides free tuition and fees for all Tulsa County students who graduate high school with at least a 2.0 grade point average.  The University of Oklahoma College of Education is offering a new program to forgive student debt for graduates who stay in Oklahoma and enter high-need teaching areas.

The Tulsa World reported that the state Workers Compensation Commission repeatedly discussed budget decisions in meetings that the public was not allowed to attend, a possible violation of the Open Meetings Act. Upcoming community meetings in Tulsa and Oklahoma will make a case for extending foster care to age 21. The Oklahoman editorial board argued that Oklahoma still has a long way to go on corrections reform. The Tulsa County Jail and Sheriff Stanley Glanz are facing multiple lawsuits alleging extreme neglect, abuse, and needless death of inmates.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol has seen a significant increase in the number of applicants, which department officials attribute to a pay increase and reduced education requirements approved this legislative session. The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs is cutting funding for Community Intervention Centers by about $610,000, which law enforcement officials said will take police officers off the streets to take care of juveniles in custody.

A consumer survey found Oklahomans have a better view of the economy than neighboring states Arkansas and Missouri, but all three states trail the national average. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined to 4.5% in June and is down a whole percentage point from this time last year. The 2014 Farm Bill is contributing $26.4 million in federal funds to assess and rehabilitate dams in Oklahoma. A study examining oil and gas wastewater wells in Oklahoma found that certain wells may be able to trigger earthquakes as far away as 21 miles. About 300 residents of Boise City in the Oklahoma Panhandle came to a town meeting to discuss a dozen members of a fundamentalist Mormon group settling in the town.

The Number of the Day is the number of beginning farmers in Oklahoma in 2012, down about 26 percent from 2002. In today’s Policy Note, Al Jazeera America looks at the growing criminalization of homelessness in American cities.

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The Weekly Wonk July 20, 2014

by | July 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week on the OK Policy blog, we explored whether term limits really changed how long Oklahoma legislators served. We explained how despite Governor Fallin’s attempt to shift the blame to President Obama, the real reason behind state Medicaid cuts is Oklahoma leaders’ mismanagement of the state budget.

A guest post warned of the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a secretive organization that connects corporate lobbyists with state legislators. An upcoming series of Community Meetings in Oklahoma City and Tulsa will explore extending foster care in Oklahoma to age 21.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt explained how tax cuts in Kansas were intended to boost the economy but have had the opposite effect. RH Reality Check linked to OK Policy resources to argue that health care access and accepting federal funds to expand health coverage will be key issues in the state’s gubernatorial race. 

In our Editorial of the Week, an advisory board member for a hospital in Creek County wrote that Oklahoma’s refusal to accept Medicaid funds could force rural hospitals to close their doors.

Quote of the Week

“They start with the mentality of seeing employees as assets to be maximized.”

- Zaynep Ton of MIT’s Sloan School of Management, on retailers such as QuikTrip, Trader Joe’s and Costco Wholesale that are paying workers living wages. Such retailers consistently report better operational efficiency, better customer service, and better sales than their low-wage competitors (Source: http://bit.ly/1zDQV1z)

See previous Quotes of the Day here.

Numbers of the Day

  • 57 minutes – Average time patients with broken bones had to wait before receiving pain medication in Oklahoma emergency rooms.
  • 2,700,990 tons – Total tonnage processed by the Port of Catoosa in 2013.
  • 17 – Number of journalists reporting  full-time from the Oklahoma statehouse. Oklahoma ranks 15th nationwide.
  • 6 – Number of Oklahoma high schools with a dropout rate above 40 percent for the Class of 2012.
  • 9 percent – Percentage decline in Oklahoma’s teen birth rate from 2012 to 2013.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

What We’re Reading

Community meetings in OKC and Tulsa will look at extending foster care to age 21

by | July 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

road to independenceYoung people who age out of foster care face significant challenges transitioning to adulthood on their own. More than 40 percent of young adults who leave foster care become homeless or are in an unstable living situation at least once by age 23. Many have been homeless multiple times.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Service’s Road to Independence Network is hosting community meetings in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to explore addressing the problem by extending the foster care age in Oklahoma from 18 to 21. Dr. Mark Courtney of the University of Chicago will speak at the meeting in favor of the extension.

continue reading Community meetings in OKC and Tulsa will look at extending foster care to age 21

In The Know: State Attorney General dismisses death-row inmates’ concerns

by | July 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office said Thursday that death-row inmates’ concerns about the risk of cruel and unusual pain and suffering during executions by lethal injection are unfounded. A group of 21 death-row inmates had filed the lawsuit following the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in late April. An editorial in The Oklahoman argues that although the state Supreme Court has upheld a bill repealing Common Core in Oklahoma, the bill itself is nonetheless flawed because it grants state lawmakers the authority to write new educational standards. State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi has expressed concern that the two-year time frame given to develop new educational standards might not be enough.

A guest post on the OK Policy blog warns against the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Oklahoma, a secretive organization that connects corporate lobbyists with state lawmakers. The state Workers’ Compensation Commission approved its budget on Thursday, which includes the termination of 16 employees. The teen birth rate in Tulsa dropped by 20 percent between 2012 and 2013, outstripping the state’s overall drop of 9 percent. Advocates credit the evidence-based, comprehensive sex education available in Tulsa County. KGOU explained why a coalition of 18 Oklahoma counties planning to build a pipeline to pump water from southeastern Oklahoma fell apart. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board has announced forthcoming in-depth water studies in three of Oklahoma’s most water-challenged regions to address potential supply issues.

A Senate panel has approved funding for all seven AWACS planes at Tinker Air Force Base. The Department of Defense had previously planned to retire the planes to save money. A task force dedicated to figuring out funding for dams on the Arkansas River has suggested creating a trust fund for the dams supported by sales or property taxes. Officials say that badly-needed repairs on the state Capitol building could begin by the end of the year. A new federal earthquake map places parts of Oklahoma in the top-two hazard zones. State agriculture officials say the ongoing drought, a late spring freeze and late spring rains have produced the worst wheat crop in nearly half a century.

The Number of the Day is the percentage decline in Oklahoma’s teen birth rate between 2012 and 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg View examines the concept of participatory budgeting, in which citizens have a hand in allocating resources.

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Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma (Guest Post: J.C. Moore)

by | July 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (2)

business_moneyJ.C. Moore is a retired science teacher, a member of the the American Geophysical Union, and co-founder of OKcitizensfirst.org.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a great influence on our state politics, but many Oklahomans have heard little about the organization. On the surface,  ALEC is an organization made up of corporations and state-level elected officials which meets three times a year to write “model legislation” for states. Officials can then take the model legislation back to their state for consideration. That sounds like a good process, except that what goes on under the surface of ALEC is kept secret.

In May of 2013, ALEC met in Oklahoma City. While corporate representatives from ALEC met with our legislators, a group of citizens protested across the street. The protesters, as well as members of the press, had been barred from attending by security guards. The agenda of the meeting was secret and an elaborate drop box system was created to avoid FOIA requests. Now, over a year later, there is still little known about the meeting or its influence on our legislators.

continue reading Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma (Guest Post: J.C. Moore)

In The Know: Fallin’s office says Barresi not being considered for secretary of education

by and | July 17th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Governor Fallin’s office denied a rumor that the Governor is considering outgoing State Superintendent Janet Barresi for her Secretary of Education. A Jenks school administrator said the district is not scrambling to adopt a new set of standards after the repeal of Common Core, because they will continue using their own Continuum of Standards. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how huge tax cuts in Kansas have opened a deep budget hole while not showing any signs of boosting the economy. On the OK Policy Blog, we look at the data to see whether term limits have actually changed how long legislators serve in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma prosecutors accused the Pardon and Parole Board of having an anti-victim and anti-district attorney bias, but they also appealed to legislative leaders and Governor Fallin to increase funding for the agency. Oklahoma City police said they continue to be overburdened with transporting psychiatric patients across the state because Oklahoma has not funded enough mental health beds. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Colbert said that dozens of bills introduced in the state Legislature this year would have had a “lethal and devastating” effect on Oklahoma’s judiciary if enacted into law. 

State Rep. Fred Jordan asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to get involved in the race for Tulsa County District Attorney. Another candidate for the DA position, Steve Kunzweiler, has challenge Rep. Jordan’s candidacy based on a constitutional ban on lawmakers being elected to any office in which the pay had been increased during the lawmaker’s term. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control said they continue to oppose a state question to legalize marijuana but are preparing for its possible passage.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt said some state agencies are concerned about potential legal complications from unaccompanied children being housed at Fort Sill, in light of a state law banning the use of state money to provide services to people who enter the country illegally. Federal officials have previously said few if any of the children at Fort Sill will wind up in Oklahoma. Minors appearing in immigration courts without attorneys are deported 90 percent of the time while those with lawyers are removed at a rate of 54 percent, according to an analysis released Tuesday by a New York-based nonprofit. A group of TU law students have joined the “Immigration Rights Project” to help represent the children at Fort Sill.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahoma high schools had a dropout rate above 40 percent for the Class of 2012. In today’s Policy Note, CNN Money discusses how the prosperity of the American middle class has fallen below Japan, Canada, Australia and much of Western Europe, even as a few very wealthy Americans skew the average wealth upwards.

continue reading In The Know: Fallin’s office says Barresi not being considered for secretary of education

Did term limits really change how long Oklahoma legislators serve?

by | July 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (0)
Gene Stipe, who served 53 years in the Oklahoma Legislature (1948-54, 1956-2003)

Gene Stipe, who served 53 years in the Oklahoma Legislature (1948-54, 1956-2003)

*This post has been updated to correct errors in the original version, noted by *

In September 1990, Oklahoma voters, by an overwhelming margin, approved State Question 632 which limited service in the Oklahoma legislature to no more than twelve years in the House of Representatives and Senate combined. The new term limits took effect in *1992 and did not apply to time already served. The first group of legislators subject to SQ 632 hit their term limits in 2004 (for House members and Senators elected in 1992) and in 2006 (for Senators elected in 1994).

Oklahoma political observers are in near unanimous agreement that term limits have had profound and far-ranging effects on the Oklahoma legislature. In the view of many journalists, legislative and agency staffers, and lobbyists, today’s legislators are significantly less experienced than were their predecessors. Short legislative careers are taken to mean that legislators are less familiar with policy issues, agency operations, public finances, and the legislative process itself.  With less time to rise through the ranks to leadership, term-limited legislators are often seen as more overtly ambitious and more beholden to lobbyists than in pre-term limit days. 

Yet is it really the case that term limits have brought about the sweeping changes that are often attributed to them?

continue reading Did term limits really change how long Oklahoma legislators serve?