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Celebrating big progress toward hunger-free schools

Late this summer, just as parents started to wonder precisely where they’d put that school supplies list, Tulsa Public Schools announced that all elementary schools in the district would serve free breakfast and lunch to all students in the coming school year. Tulsa is able to provide these meals using federal funding through the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP

This is great news for Tulsa Public Schools and kids. Community Eligibility Provision drives down administrative burdens, better equips kids to learn, and ends the stigma sometimes attached to free school meals. Participation has so far been very low in Oklahoma, but bringing in TPS’s 24,000 elementary students will increase the number of students participating in Oklahoma in the 2016-2017 school year by more than one-third, from 66,000 to 90,000.

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New report looks into why state education systems are falling behind the world (Capitol Updates)

by | August 19th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

no-time-to-lose

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

There’s a published story last week by eCapitol reporter Christie Southern about an education study released by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The 2-year study of education in various countries by a bipartisan panel of legislators and staff from 28 states alarmingly finds that “according to the latest data, out of the 65 countries, the U.S. placed 24th in reading, 36th in math and 28th in science. Another report, which looked at millennials in the workplace, placed the U.S. last in problem solving, according to NCSL.”

NCSL is a bipartisan national organization of state legislators and legislative staff that exists to help states develop sound governing policies by providing information and ideas through research and discussion. One of the members of the panel studying education was our own Sen. John Ford (R-Bartlesville), Chair of the Senate Education Committee for the past several years.

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‘Robbing Peter to pay Peter’ (Capitol Updates)

by | August 12th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

robberSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

An interesting debate has developed on whether the $140.8 million that was withheld from state services in FY-16 should now be viewed as “one-time” money if it is spent on a teacher pay raise as suggested by the governor. Those opposed to Governor Fallin’s proposal for a special session have called it one-time money. The governor says it is not one-time money because the revenue was actually received last year, and there’s no reason to assume the $140.8 million will not come in again this year. It was impounded last year because the Director of OMES determined the action would be prudent to protect against overspending. The governor says if the money is re-allocated to a teacher pay raise a new $140.8 million will be available to continue the pay raise when it is received in the following year.

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Stars not aligned to accomplish much in special session (Capitol Updates)

by | August 5th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education, Taxes | Comments (0)

chaotic road signs

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

One has to wonder where Governor Fallin is headed with the announcement that she is considering a special session of the legislature. The purpose of the session would be to give a pay raise to teachers using the funds that were withheld from all state agencies, including schools, due to an anticipated revenue failure. In addition, the governor said “other funds” could be made available. Since about every bookkeeping maneuver available was used to deal with this year’s shortfall, presumably the “other funds” would come from some sort of tax increase.

It’s pretty difficult to imagine a tax increase that couldn’t pass during the regular session now passing with an election looming in about 100 days. The only way I can see it happening would be to re-litigate some of the compromises legislators were unwilling to make only two months ago. The Democrats wanted Medicaid expansion or repealing the recent tax cut in exchange for supporting the cigarette tax. Are the Republicans more likely now to give on those issues or to offer some other compromise that would attract Democratic support on a tax proposal?

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Oklahoma needs to rethink school suspensions

by | August 1st, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)

African American teenaged student holding question mark signTara Grigson is an OK Policy intern. She is a psychology and Spanish major at the University of Tulsa and previously worked as a Mission Impact Intern at YWCA Tulsa.

In June, the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights released a new report on equity and opportunity gaps in public schools. This report shows that nationally, black students are more than twice as likely to be arrested for school-related offenses as white students and nearly four times as likely to be suspended. The disparity goes as far back as pre-school, where the youngest black students are more than three times as likely to be suspended.

Oklahoma’s statistics are similarly jarring. During the 2011-2012 school year in Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS), almost two-thirds of black secondary students were suspended at some point during the year. The problem is not limited to Oklahoma City; it exists statewide. In 2011-2012, black elementary school students in Oklahoma were suspended at a rate more than three times the state average. The suspension rate for black high school students was more than twice the state average. Perhaps most shocking, the suspension rate of black elementary school students (9.21 percent) was greater than the rate for white high school students (7.65 percent).

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SQ 779 and the limits of direct democracy (Capitol Updates)

by | July 29th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education, Taxes | Comments (1)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court this past week ruled against OCPA Impact, the group that had challenged State Question 779, the penny sales tax for education, in an attempt to keep it off the general election ballot in November. The court ruled that the challenge was untimely because it challenged the “gist” of the question—the language that appears on the ballot—and the challenge should have been made before the initiative petition was circulated.

The court did, however, change the language of the “gist” to make it more clear where the money is actually going. The one-cent increase in the sales tax will generate $615 million per year in state revenue beginning July 1, 2017 and guarantee public school teachers a $5,000 per year raise. Of the new revenue, 69.5 percent will be allocated to public schools, 19.25 percent to public higher education and 3.25 percent to career tech education. There’s also language in the measure to prevent the legislature from “supplanting” education dollars, which means allocating the new revenue as directed but removing funding from past revenue sources that would otherwise have gone to education.

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Cuts to alternative education will come back to haunt us

by | July 27th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (2)

street schoolNothing is as critical to a young person’s future prospects as a high school diploma. Decades of research shows that those who drop out of high school are at significantly higher risk of being unemployed, living in poverty, and serving time in prison.

Over the past two decades, Oklahoma has been a national leader for alternative education programs that keep at-risk students in school and help them to graduate. Despite this proven success, education funding cuts have now slashed support for alternative education in half and are leaving our most at-risk students without the support they need for educational success.

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What the new federal education law means for Oklahoma (part 2)

by | July 13th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)

Children With BooksKylie Thomas is an OK Policy intern and a Master’s student in economics at American University. She previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

This post is part two of a two-part series which explains the new federal education law that replaces the No Child Left Behind Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Part one looked at ESSA’s effects on accountability and standards. This part examines ESSA’s effects on testing and teachers.

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What the new federal education law means for Oklahoma (part 1)

by | June 30th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (3)

studentsKylie Thomas is an OK Policy intern and a Master’s student in economics at American University. She previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era is finally coming to an end, and a new era of education policy is being ushered in with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015 after passing the U.S. House and Senate with bipartisan support. The Act reauthorizes and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and goes into full effect at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. The last reauthorization of ESEA was the passage of NCLB in 2001. 

This post is part one of a two-part series which discusses what ESSA does and how it will affect Oklahoma. Part one will look at ESSA’s effects on accountability and standards, and part two will examine ESSA’s effects on testing and teachers.

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Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session

The 2016 session began with some high hopes and grave concerns given the state’s massive budget shortfall. Prior to session, OK Policy laid out our top priorities in the areas of budget and taxes, health care, education, criminal justice, economic opportunity, and voting and elections. A few of our priorities met with success, many did not, and there were more than a few surprises along the way.  Here’s our staff’s recap of the major highs and lows of the 2016 session in the issue areas in which we were most deeply engaged.

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