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Interactive: What the jobs are in Oklahoma

by | August 17th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Education, Financial Security | Comments (1)

Politicians love to talk about jobs. Promoting job creation is a go-to justification in many of Oklahoma’s policy decisions, whether it’s to extend tax breaks for oil companies or ban local minimum wage and paid sick leave laws.

However, aside from talking about job creation in very broad strokes, we don’t hear much discussion about what the jobs actually are in Oklahoma. That’s not for lack of data. Quarterly economic surveys by the U.S. Census give us a detailed portrait of where Oklahomans are working and what they earn by industry. These numbers may correct some popular misconceptions about Oklahoma’s economy.

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Thorny questions on the role of law enforcement in schools (Capitol Updates)

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 sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

You can probably look for some attention to the issue of school discipline next session in the wake of a lawsuit filed in Kentucky after a “school resource officer” handcuffed an 8-year old, 52-pound boy.  The handcuffs were too big for the boy’s wrists so the officer handcuffed him around the biceps.  In the video of the incident that went viral the officer looks to weigh at least 200 pounds.  The boy, diagnosed with ADHD, was unruly in the classroom.  The principal’s office called in the officer after the teacher’s efforts to “deescalate” the situation failed and the boy tried to leave the principal’s office.  The officer took the boy to the restroom where the boy “elbowed” the officer.  Kentucky school regulations prohibit restraining students in a public school unless the “students’ behavior poses an imminent danger of physical harm to self or others.”  The officer’s boss, the county sheriff, defended the officer’s actions.

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Oklahoma has a tragic history when it comes to Indian education. Here’s how we’re turning it around.

by | August 3rd, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (2)

Bah-He-Toya-Mah is an OK Policy summer intern. She has a political science degree from Oklahoma City University and is completing postgraduate studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Tribal Administration and Governance program. Prior to OK Policy she worked at her tribe, The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma. She has interned with the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education in Washington D.C.

Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania (c. 1900)

Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania (c. 1900)

When President Obama visited our state recently, his first stop was the Choctaw Nation in southeast Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation covers some of the poorest parts of the state – where 32.3 percent of children live in poverty and unemployment rates are well above the rest of the state. Because of the serious economic struggles of the region and the strong partner that the federal government has in the Choctaw Nation, the area has been included in the first round of President Obama’s Promise Zones, where local and federal resources will be concentrated to improve human development and well-being.

Part of the Choctaw Nation Promise Zone initiative is an intensive summer school program for 4-year-olds to third graders, including both American Indian and non-American Indian children. It will be a new test of the U.S. government’s ability to partner with a tribe to improve education for all children. That partnership builds on Oklahoma’s recent successes with Indian Education. We have become a good model for the nation as a whole of how to begin overcoming our tragic history of using education in ways that damaged American Indian communities and culture.

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New charter schools take on thorny challenge of educating troubled youth (Capitol Updates)

by | July 31st, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

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 sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

For many years kids in our juvenile institutions have received their schooling from the school district in which the institution is located. The districts continued to receive the state allocation of funding for the students and signed a contract with the institutions to provide teachers and other educational necessities to provide the kids with an education. I’m not expert enough to know how well this has worked. But recently the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) sought and got legislation that allowed it to create its own charter school for kids incarcerated at the two juvenile institutions for delinquents and juvenile offenders. The schools have just begun their new operation. The idea looks promising.

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Why Oklahoma’s attempt to ban teacher payroll deductions may not be enforceable (Capitol Updates)

by | June 19th, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | 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 sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

There’s an interesting legal battle brewing over whether HB 1749 by Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole) and Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Tulsa) can actually be enforced once it goes into effect on November 1st.  A law firm that represents a majority of the school districts in the state is advising the districts that the law was written in such a way as to make it unenforceable.  The legal department of the Oklahoma Education Association, the state’s largest teacher association, apparently agrees.

HB 1749 is the new law that prohibits school districts from withholding payroll deductions for membership dues of organizations that collectively bargain with the districts under federal law.  The law was passed on the theory that the state shouldn’t assist organizations that represent their members in bargaining with the districts for better salaries, benefits or employment conditions.  Current state law, which was not repealed in the new law, provides that “School districts shall make payroll deductions for either or both professional organization dues and political contributions upon the request of any school employee and shall transmit deducted funds to the organization designated by the school district employee.”

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Where are they now? Bills we followed this session (Part 1)

by | June 16th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Education | Comments (0)

This year’s Legislative session began with promising ideas for reforms in the areas of criminal justice, elections, and tax credits, as well as a continuation of the debate over modifying past years’ education reforms. Before long, it became clear that lawmakers’ most difficult task would be dealing with a large budget shortfall due to a fall in gas prices, the multiplication of tax cuts and tax breaks, and increasing off-the-top transfers of revenue.

Here we provide a run-down of many of the key bills we followed and how they fared. As the first of a two-part series, this post examines this year’s most important education and criminal justice bills.

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Flat funding still means cuts for Oklahoma’s core services

by | June 9th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education, Healthcare | Comments (0)

In crafting a budget in the face of a large drop in available revenue, lawmakers this year made a sincere effort to minimize cuts to key agencies in the areas of education, health, and safety. Whereas most agencies took cuts of 0.25 to 7 percent, the Department of Education received flat funding, and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Department of Corrections, Department of Human Services and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services received modest funding increases.

Yet even these agencies weren’t funded enough to keep up existing services when faced with growing caseloads and enrollment, rising costs, reduced funding from other sources, and other factors. As a result, most will need to make cuts to next year’s budget.

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Will this be Oklahoma’s next education reform controversy?

by | April 28th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (3)

A recent pattern in Oklahoma education policy has been major education reforms passed in earlier years becoming highly controversial just as they are about to go into effect. A strong pushback from parents and educators has led to the rollback or modification of numerous reforms, from Common Core Standards to 3rd grade retention, A-F school grades, and end-of-instruction exams.

Another way to put it is that many of yesterday’s solutions have become today’s problems. Now another major reform is scheduled to be implemented next year, but lawmakers are working to head it off before this solution turns into the next problem.

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House bill threatens Oklahoma’s Promise

by | April 27th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (3)

In today’s economy, a college education is more important for finding a good job and earning a decent income. Yet for children of low- and moderate-income families, the cost of higher education can be a substantial barrier to enrolling in and completing college. Over the past two decades, the Oklahoma’s Promise financial aid program has been the key for thousands of students to get a college degree – but legislation being considered this session could put the program out of reach for many students.

Oklahoma’s Promise, also known as the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, or OHLAP, is an early commitment financial aid program that covers tuition for students with family income below $50,000 at the time of application. Students must apply prior to the start of the 11th grade and complete a series of requirements before graduating from high school. Once enrolled in college, students must maintain a minimum GPA and follow behavioral guidelines.

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Uncertain future for third grade reading reforms

by | April 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

One year ago, parents and educators organized a powerful campaign to amend a state law that would have automatically retained thousands of 3rd-grade children who failed a standardized reading test. In response, the Legislature passed a bill temporarily revising the law, and then  mustered the two-thirds super-majority needed to overturn the Governor’s veto of the bill. This year, a strong effort is underway to make last year’s fix permanent – but the supporters of automatic retention are not giving up.

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