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In The Know Archives

In The Know: School Choice Measures Are Back, and in a Big Way

by | January 20th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Four days left to register: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

School Choice Measures Are Back, and in a Big Way: One of the most hotly debated education issues — school choice — is again on the agenda of the state Legislature. Three, nearly identical bills filed Thursday by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, seek to create an education savings account system; Loveless is calling each bill the “Oklahoma Parental Empowerment Act of 2017.” Unlike traditional vouchers, which can only be applied to tuition, an education savings account allows families to choose from a list of qualifying expenses beyond tuition to include textbooks, tutoring, online courses and extracurricular activities [Oklahoma Watch]. 

Student enrollment at public schools in Oklahoma increases in 2016: The number of students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools rose in 2016, increasing by more than 1,000 from the previous school year. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, 693,710 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of the school year, an increase of 1,040 over the 2015 total of 692,670 and 27,560 more than in 2011 [KJRH]. White students are now a minority in Oklahoma public schools [NewsOK]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Senator David Holt files bills to fund $10,000 teacher pay raise: Senator David Holt (R) District 30 said he’s heard all the excuses. “People saying, well, how are we going to do it? I just don’t see how we can get it done. You know, it’s a tough budget year,” Holt said. But, he said the 12 bills he just filed prove getting teachers a pay raise can be done. “What I came forward with today was a billion dollars worth of revenue options,” Holt said [KFOR].

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In The Know: Women’s march planned in Oklahoma, Washington

by | January 19th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Five days left to register: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Women’s march planned in Oklahoma, Washington: Oklahomans are expected to rally Saturday as part of a larger network of marches taking place across the country following Donald Trump’s inauguration. “We can no longer complain on Facebook, and here is a chance to actually do something,” said Lindsey Kanaly, an Oklahoma City attorney who is helping to organize the Women’s March on Oklahoma at the state Capitol [NewsOK].

Oklahoma AG and EPA Pick Pruitt Stalled Pollution Lawsuit After Contributions From Poultry Industry: President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, walked back a legal fight to clean up rivers polluted by chicken manure after accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions linked to the poultry industry, campaign and court records show [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Senate Democrats had a lot of questions for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Wednesday [Tulsa World].

Senator Wants Virtual Schools Accountable for Student Attendance: Virtual charter schools would be required to track and report student attendance —something the schools aren’t currently tasked with doing — under a law proposed by an Oklahoma senator. Oklahoma has five virtual charter schools, enrolling a combined 13,225 students. Two schools reported 100 percent attendance last year, drawing questions and criticism from education advocates [Oklahoma Watch].

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In The Know: Disabled Oklahomans could lose daycare if DHS can’t get supplemental funding

by | January 18th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Six days left to register: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Disabled Oklahomans could lose daycare if DHS can’t get supplemental funding: Staff at the Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled are on pins and needles waiting for the new Oklahoma legislative session to begin. Lawmakers will have to consider whether they can give supplemental funding to the Department of Human Services, otherwise the disabled adults who depend on state money to attend the Foundation’s daycare program, could lose that opportunity [KOKH].

State budget needs far exceed state revenues: After two weeks of public budget hearings by the state House of Representatives, it’s pretty clear that something is going to have to give. Agencies are lining up for more money, but the state has less of it to appropriate. State agencies haven’t been shy in their budget requests. The Corrections Department asked for a $1.16 billion budget increase to cover the cost of pay raises for workers, critical repair costs for decrepit prison infrastructure and construction of two new medium-security prisons [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Deadline this week for proposals at Oklahoma Capitol: Oklahoma lawmakers have until Thursday to submit legislation that can be heard this year, and some are working down to the wire. By Monday, just 291 House and Senate bills were filed and available online. In a typical year, there are well more than a thousand bills proposed to amend, add to or repeal state laws. That total doesn’t include joint resolutions, which can carry the force of law like bills, and other simple resolutions that only proclaim the House or Senate’s opinion on an issue [NewsOK].

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In The Know: After massive fines, Alfa Laval in Broken Arrow got taxpayer cash

by | January 17th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

After massive fines, Alfa Laval in Broken Arrow got taxpayer cash: Oklahoma paid more than half a million dollars to a company after federal regulators levied a massive fine for workplace hazards, records show. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Alfa Laval nearly $500,000 for dozens of serious workplace safety violations at its Broken Arrow site, including five repeat offenses. The fines were issued in May 2015 and the amount was eventually lowered to $348,500 in a settlement agreement. Then last year, the company claimed more than $500,000 through Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program, a state-run incentive that supports companies that expand or move here [NewsOK].

States can offer a lesson as GOP proposes deep cut taxes: President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans who have pledged to cut federal taxes to boost the economy might consider looking first at lessons learned in GOP-controlled states that adopted similar strategies, only to see growth falter and budget gaps widen. The situation is worrisome enough in Kansas, Oklahoma and Indiana that lawmakers are now debating whether to reverse course and raise taxes. And political leaders in states that have seen expanded Republican control, such as Arkansas and Iowa, are signaling caution about any new tax-cut proposals [Associated Press]. Two-thirds of states are facing budget challenges this year [Associated Press].

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s E.P.A. Pick, Backed Industry Donors Over Regulators: A legal fight to clean up tons of chicken manure fouling the waters of Oklahoma’s bucolic northeastern corner — much of it from neighboring Arkansas — was in full swing six years ago when the conservative lawyer Scott Pruitt took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general. His response: Put on the brakes. Rather than push for a federal judge to punish the companies by extracting perhaps tens of millions of dollars in damages, Oklahoma’s new chief law enforcement officer quietly negotiated a deal to simply study the problem further [New York Times].

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In The Know: Oklahoma House speaker endorses $6,000 teacher pay increase

by | January 13th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Oklahoma House speaker endorses $6,000 teacher pay increase: New House Speaker Charles McCall is endorsing a pay increase for Oklahoma teachers that would phase in a $6,000 pay raise during a three-year period. McCall said in a statement released Thursday that he believes House Republicans will support the bill by Broken Arrow Republican Michael Rogers, chairman of the House Public Education Committee. …McCall has said increasing teacher pay will be one of the caucus’ top priorities, but it’s not clear how lawmakers plan to pay for it [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmakers discuss teacher shortage at TPS legislative breakfast: A group of Oklahoma lawmakers at an annual Tulsa Public Schools legislative breakfast Thursday seemed stumped on solutions to the state’s teacher shortage, one asserting that legislators must find a way to provide funds for teacher pay raises and another saying they would lose that “funding battle.” The Tulsa-area legislators discussed the issue after hearing a presentation from TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist that included examples of the how the district has struggled to recruit and retain teachers on Oklahoma salaries [Tulsa World].

New license plate proposed to fund teacher recruitment efforts: No one is arguing whether an improved education system would better entice businesses to move into Oklahoma; they’re arguing how to pay for it. As education officials continue asking legislators for money for teacher salary increases, a handful think they might have more luck asking someone else. State Sen. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma City Republican, worked with the Oklahoma Department of Education to introduce a bill that would create a specialty license plate to pay for statewide teacher recruitment efforts [Journal Record].

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In The Know: Oklahoma public schools to be shorted nearly $10 million in state aid; trend looks to continue

by | January 12th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets. Click here to apply for a scholarship. 

Oklahoma public schools to be shorted nearly $10 million in state aid; trend looks to continue: School districts across the state are learning of the first state funding reduction of the fiscal year. The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent out a memo Wednesday ahead of Thursday payments to local schools that will be shorted by a total of $9.7 million, but there are indications the trend could continue. All but 37 school districts — whose local tax revenues are too high — receive state aid, the primary source of state funding for public schools [Tulsa World]. A year ago at this time, we were just beginning to learn the depths of our state’s revenue failure [okeducationtruths]. Oklahoma continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].

Criminal justice task force says it can save the state nearly $2 billion: Gov. Mary Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force expects to announce later this week recommendations it says will save the state almost $2 billion over the next 10 years. Details are sketchy, but initiatives nationally and in Oklahoma suggest that the recommendations are likely to include sentencing modification and changes to the pardon and parole process. “It’s been interesting to be exposed to some of the data,” Jennifer Chance, Fallin’s general counsel and a task force member, said Wednesday. “It’s been shocking — I mean jaw-dropping shocking.” [Tulsa World] Even with positive and important criminal justice reforms passing in the Legislature and in the ballot box this year, Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster [OK Policy].

Oklahoma finance officials say revenue continuing to lag behind projections: Oklahoma finance officials say collections by the state’s main operating fund are continuing to trail projections, setting up the possibility of a budget hole even deeper than first predicted. Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger released figures on Wednesday showing collections to the state’s General Revenue Fund missed December’s monthly estimate by more than 12 percent [KFOR]. This is the third straight year of sizable shortfalls [OK Policy]. 

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In The Know: Oklahoma Medicaid agency seeks $200 million funding boost

by | January 11th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets. Click here to apply for a scholarship. 

Today In The News

Oklahoma Medicaid agency seeks $200 million funding boost: The agency that oversees Medicaid in Oklahoma is requesting an additional $200 million, mostly to maintain its current level of health care services for low-income residents, the agency’s new leader told state lawmakers on Tuesday. Becky Pasternik-Ikard, the new chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, outlined her agency’s budget during a hearing Tuesday before the House Appropriations and Budget Committee [Associated Press].

DHS budget crisis could leave hundreds without care: The Department of Human Services is begging the state legislature to give them more money to make it to the end of the fiscal year. If they don’t, thousands of people will be left on their own, many children, the elderly or the disabled. Tuesday we met David. He loves cars. And thanks to dedicated therapists, he’s living on his own. “[They’re] no longer stuck away where people can’t see them,” says Sally Allen, Human Resources Manager for Center State Community Service [KTUL].

House investigation of sexual harassment claims expanded to include Fourkiller, chairman announces: A special committee that will look into the settlement of a wrongful termination claim will expand its investigation to examine all sexual harassment complaints filed against sitting lawmakers, including Rep. Will Fourkiller, the panel’s chairman said Tuesday. “I haven’t a clue what this is about,” Fourkiller, D-Stilwell, said. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, asked the House Rules Committee to investigate a sexual harassment and wrongful termination claim against Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa [Tulsa World].

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In The Know: Oklahoma DHS seeks $42M cash infusion to prevent furloughs, rate cuts

by | January 10th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets. Click here to apply for a scholarship. 

Today In The News

Oklahoma DHS seeks $42M cash infusion to prevent furloughs, rate cuts: The director of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services says the agency could be forced to furlough workers or cut provider rates if it doesn’t receive an infusion of more than $42 million before the current fiscal year ends in June. DHS Director Ed Lake presented his agency’s budget request to lawmakers on Monday, urging them to pass a supplemental appropriation bill after they reconvene next month [Associated Press].

Oklahoma revenue slumps two years in a row: Revenue to Oklahoma’s government contracted for the second calendar year in a row, according to figures released by Treasurer Ken Miller. The continued downturn in state receipts is blamed on a less active oil and gas sector, but the treasury has shown positive signs from that industry over the past three months. On Monday, Miller said one silver lining of the data pouring into his office is that December tax collections from energy production rose more than 4 percent over the same month last year [NewsOK].

Answering the call: Oklahoma continues effort to recruit foster parents: Ashley Kehl kept a watchful eye on her foster daughter as the little girl bounded back and forth from her bedroom to the living room, carrying book after book, her small feet pattering against the hardwood floor. As the 2-year-old girl flipped through the pages of a “Wizard of Oz” book, she paused at a picture of the Cowardly Lion [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Hundreds of Oklahoma state employees get salary increases over $5,000

by | January 9th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Hundreds of Oklahoma state employees get salary increases over $5,000: Hundreds of state employees got pay increases of $5,000 or more in 2016 even as Oklahoma faced historic budget problems. Information provided by the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services showed 554 increases in this category totaling just over $5 million. The hikes came as appropriations to most state agencies were cut amid a $1.3 billion budget hole created by an oil industry downturn, tax cuts and generous tax credits to industry [NewsOK].

8 key facts about Oklahoma’s budget: “The budget is not just a collection of numbers, but an expression of our values and aspirations.” This quote by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is an important starting point when we think about the state budget. Like a family that acts out its values when deciding how much to spend on things like saving for retirement, investing in education and activities for children, or paying for basic needs like food, shelter, and health care, the state of Oklahoma expresses our values through the budget for core public services like education, public health and safety, and infrastructure [Together Oklahoma].

Oklahoma’s education system is in 47th place and falling further behind: While our elected officials have been busy getting grades for schools and school districts, someone else was evaluating the state’s performance, and it’s pretty bad. The annual Quality Counts report card of state education systems puts Oklahoma in 47th place among the 50 states and District of Columbia. By consistent inadequate funding of public schools, the state of Oklahoma isn’t providing the opportunity for its next generation to succeed, and the results are apparent in academic performance and any other legitimate measure of education achievement [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

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In The Know: Why Oklahoma and Other Red States Might Pump Up Gasoline Taxes to Fill Budget Holes

by | January 6th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Why Oklahoma and Other Red States Might Pump Up Gasoline Taxes to Fill Budget Holes: Oklahoma lawmakers are staring into a budget hole that’s nearly $900 million deep — and they might not be able to cut their way out of it. Legislators are considering tax increases to help fund state government, and one idea is gaining traction: Hiking taxes on gasoline and diesel. State taxes on motor fuel haven’t been touched since 1987  [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Another idea worth considering is to adopt a temporary gas tax increase that only stays in effect as long as gas prices are low [OK Policy].

Oklahoma House takes a deep dive into department budgets: This year, the entire Oklahoma House of Representatives is taking on the budget in a new way. For the first six days of the session, the five largest state departments will present their budget proposals to the entire House. Wednesday, the Department of Education started the process with a day-long session dedicated to presentations from State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and her staff in the morning and questions from representatives in the afternoon [Norman Transcript]. State Transportation Department Director Mike Patterson explained his budget needs to a couple dozen representatives in the House chambers [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster: Even with positive and important criminal justice reforms passing in the Legislature and in the ballot box this year, the Oklahoma prison population is on track to grow by 25 percent – about 7,200 inmates – in the next ten years. Unless we do something to prevent this growth, it will cost nearly $2 billion in new prison construction and operating costs in that time [OK Policy].

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