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In The Know: Group formed to fight Oklahoma pension overhauls

by | November 21st, 2013 | Posted in 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.

Today you should know that groups representing public school teachers, firefighters and prison workers are forming a coalition to resist dramatic changes to state worker pensions. Oklahoma’s reluctance to enforce coal mining regulations could lead to a federal intervention. The Oklahoma editorial board praised efforts to provide some mental health treatment at the Midwest City jail.

The OK Policy Blog and David Blatt’s Journal Record column explained why Oklahoma’s new third-grade reading law could block a huge number of special ed student from advancing to fourth grade. Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Clark Jolley and Senate Education Chairman Sen. John Ford responded that it was not their intent to hinder the progress of students with learning disabilities.

The Oklahoma Gazette examined the relationship between poverty and student performance in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed what research has found about how poverty affects schools. Kurt Hochenauer wrote that we shouldn’t forget Oklahoma’s A-F grading system follows huge cuts to education funding by the state.

Superintendent Barresi promised that Oklahoma students will be given “tryout” questions instead of full field tests as the state prepares for Common Core. KJRH reported that Oklahoma’s new school safety law is confusing to districts and has no mechanism of enforcement.

The Number of the Day is the value of food and agricultural exports shipped through Oklahoma’s Port of Catoosa. In today’s Policy Note, a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that the uninsured rate for American children continues to fall because states are working with the federal government to provide coverage.

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New third-grade reading law could block thousands of special ed student from advancing to fourth grade

by | November 20th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (7)

readingA major change in Oklahoma’s education system is about to kick in. Under new provisions of the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), third-grade students who do not attain a satisfactory score on a state standardized  reading test will be retained in third grade at the start of the next school year, unless they meet limited criteria for an exemption. While the new law will have far-ranging impacts for schoolchildren and schools, for special education students with learning disabilities, the impact of RSA may be especially great.

As we discussed earlier this year in a detailed issue brief produced with CAP Tulsa, more than 5,300 third graders in 2012, or 11 percent of those taking statewide tests, scored unsatisfactory for reading. Our brief estimated that the new retention mandate could increase the number of students retained by 2,200 – 3,000 students statewide in 2014, depending on how much reading scores improve and the number of students who qualify for exemptions.

While various populations are at high risk for retention, special education students who are on an IEP, or Individualized Education Program, may be affected most greatly. In 2012, 7,645 third-graders taking statewide reading tests – or 16 percent – were IEP students, according to State Department of Education data. Until this year, students on IEPs could take either the standard reading assessment, the OCCT, or a less demanding alternative test known as the OMAAP (Oklahoma Modified Alternative Assessment Program).  Of the 3,786 IEP students taking the OMAAP, only 7 percent of students scored unsatisfactory. But among the 3,859 IEP students taking the OCCT, a full 25 percent received a score of unsatisfactory.

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In The Know: Officials says state employees’ salary-to-benefit ratio ‘out of whack’

by | November 20th, 2013 | 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.

Today you should know that a House committee was told that the state of Oklahoma’s employee compensation system is “out of whack” with too much compensation as benefits and not enough into salaries. A consultant told the committee that state employee salaries trail market salaries by an average of more than 20 percent. Amid a dispute over hundreds of thousands in tobacco tax revenue, the Comanche Nation filed a federal lawsuit against the state and Gov. Mary Fallin. 

State Rep. Mike Reynolds blasted proposed changes to lobbyist reporting and registration, conflict of interest and financial disclosure rules. Mustang High School is considering offering four Bible courses using a curriculum developed by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green. Blueprints for an ongoing renovation project appear to call for the creation of a chapel inside the Oklahoma Capitol. A manslaughter trial has begun for a Del City police officer who shot and killed an 18-year-old who was running away after a high-speed chase. 

United Way of Enid and Northwest Oklahoma announced a fundraising drive to expand early childhood education. Katrina vanden Heuvel writes in the Washington Post that Oklahoma is schooling the nation on early education. The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature proposed to boost funding for senior meal programs with a 50 cents increase for auto tag renewals.

 The Number of the Day is how many working age Oklahoma have pre-existing conditions and were before the Affordable Care Act frequently denied insurance coverage. In today’s Policy Note, the New Yorker finds that in states with working online marketplaces and cooperative state leaders, the Affordable Care Act is proving very popular.

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In The Know: We don’t know if the Quality Jobs program is paying off

by | November 19th, 2013 | 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.

Today you should know that the Oklahoma Department of Commerce refused to reveal how they calculated that the Quality Jobs Program is paying off for the state, as independent researchers found the program has had little effect on economic growth. The Thoughts regarding #OklaED blog explained how statements defending A-F grades by Governor Fallin and Superintendent Barresi contradict what the state Department of Education’s website says about A-F. The okeducationtruths blog fact-checked a candidate forum speech by Superintendent Barresi.

Oklahoma Watch examines Oklahoma’s struggle to find enough mental health professionals as the Affordable Care Act greatly expands mental health coverage. The Tulsa World discussed why Oklahoma Medicaid needs another $150 million just to stay even. The Ada News discussed a push by legislators to impose term limits on the state Supreme Court.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans who enrolled in a 4-year college or university in 2005 that had graduated as of 2011. In today’s Policy Note, The American Prospect examined a promising new policy for helping low-income families save for emergencies that is being bottled up in the US House of Representatives.

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We don’t know if the Quality Jobs Program is paying off (Guest post: Mark Lash)

by | November 18th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Economy | Comments (2)
Photo by flickr user Images_of_Money used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by flickr user Images_of_Money used under a Creative Commons license.

Mark Lash is a retired federal employee who follows Oklahoma policymaking, tries to understand it, and sometime even writes about it. See Mark’s previous post about the Quality Jobs Program here.

Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program began in 1993 and has paid “incentives” of over $877 million to a variety of companies since that time. In FY 2013 alone, it paid out $78.9 million.

The law requires the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to evaluate whether the benefits of the Quality Jobs payments outweigh this cost. As reported by the Oklahoman, they claim the program has resulted in a net benefit of $24 million to the state over three years.

I was interested to know how they determined that net benefit, so I contacted the Commerce Department. After the exchange of a number of emails, the department’s Public Information Officer Donald Hackler provided me with his final answer:

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency needs $150 million in new funds

by | November 18th, 2013 | 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.

Today you should know that the state’s Medicaid program will need nearly $150 million in new funds just to continue providing current services. Insurance companies will not sell earthquake coverage to Oklahoma homeowners for 30 to 60 days after a quake due to the likelihood of aftershocks in the area. The Duncan Banner examined how OK Policy’s CountySTATS 2013 fact sheets provide a snapshot to compare counties across Oklahoma. You can view all of the fact sheets here.

The Tulsa Mental Health Association is expanding statewide and launching a new push to reduce suicides in Oklahoma. Purcell Public Schools principals voiced more complaints about Oklahoma’s A-F grading system for schools, which they said is arbitrarily shifting benchmarks and delaying the release of data that they need to improve. Tax specialist Michelle Cantrell wrote in the Tulsa World about Oklahoma’s increasingly complex legal struggles as it tries to deny the reality of same-sex marriages.

The Number of the Day is how many people voted in a bond election over almost $1 million in school improvements for Crutcho Public Schools. In today’s Policy Note, Ezra Klein puts complaints about how the Affordable Care Act is changing health insurance into context of the complete disaster that is the status quo.

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Weekly Wonk November 17, 2013

by | November 17th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy, Weekly Wonk | 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 Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know. 

This week, we updated CountySTATS 2013, a powerful tool for learning about your county that displays summary data and statistics for each of the state’s counties with a two-page fact-sheet. On our blog, OK Policy analyst Gene Perry examined the debate surrounding A-F grades and whether schools can overcome the effects of poverty; we’ve written about the A-F grading system before. We also concluded a two-part series on the state of women in  Oklahoma by discussing the health of women and families; the first post, which covered economic security and leadership, can be read here

In his Journal Record column, OK Policy director David Blatt argues that October’s low revenue collections are an alarm bell for next year’s budget. The Oklahoman and Tulsa World quoted Blatt in an article on Oklahoma’s rate of enrollment in the federal healthcare marketplace. Covering State Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s announcement that he would be seeking reelection, the Muskogee Phoenix cited OK Policy’s press release regarding statements made by the Insurance Commissioner earlier this fall.  OK Policy analyst Kate Richey appeared on OETA to discuss the low grade Oklahoma received in the Center for American Progress’s state-by-state report on the status of women. 

Numbers of the Day

  • $7,480 – Average annual cost of infant daycare in Oklahoma – $1,331 more than the cost of a year of tuition and fees at a public college or university in 2013
  • 208 – Average NAEP reading score for Oklahoma 4th Graders who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, 22 points below the average score for wealthier kids
  • $44.7 million – Decrease in Oklahoma General Revenue collections compared to this time last year, a drop of 2.5 percent
  • 2,412 – Number of Oklahomans determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid/CHIP while filling out an application on healthcare.gov in October
  • $2.94 – The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Oklahoma – 2nd cheapest in the U.S.

Policy Notes

  • States rejecting Medicaid expansion are harming their biggest cities, according to The Atlantic. 
  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that states that cut education funding often cut income tax rates simultaneously, reducing revenue that might have gone to schools. 
  • A map from Frontline illustrates the geography of child homelessness
  • A new report from the Center for American Progress discusses the school-readiness gap and preschool benefits for children of color.
  • On the OK Policy blog, we break down the health of Oklahoma’s women and families.

In The Know: Commission urges lawmakers to address pension funding

by | November 15th, 2013 | 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.

Today you should know that members of the Oklahoma State Pension Commission discussed reforms to address public pensions’ unfunded liabilities.  Oklahoma Policy Institute has previously explained why alarming rhetoric obscures the real progress the state has made in recent years to put our public pensions on sound footing. 

The CEO of the state’s Medicaid agency asked for $149 million in additional funding, said Gov. Mary Fallin and state lawmakers now seem more interested in Medicaid reform.  Objecting parties debated the new workers comp law in front of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Researchers that panned the states A-F school grading system spoke publicly for the first time before a committee of concerned parents.  Midwest City wants to divert people with mental health issues from their jail and start a program to help connect them with mental health services.

The Number of the Day is the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in Oklahoma – 2nd cheapest in the U.S.  In today’s Policy Note, the second installment of OKPolicy’s look at new research on the status of women in the state.  

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The State of Oklahoma Women (Part Two): Healthy women, healthy families

by | November 14th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

woman in painThis post is the second of a two-part series on the state of women in Oklahoma based on the Center for American Progress’s report “The State of Women in America: A 50-State Analysis of How Women are Faring Across the Nation. (Click here for Part 1). Oklahoma ranked 48th out of 50 overall based on three categories: economic security, leadership, and the health of women and families. The state’s scores for women’s economic security and leadership weren’t terrible, but Oklahoma’s ranking for health of women and families – 50th out of 50 – pushed the state’s overall ranking downward. This post discusses the health of women and families and posits options going forward.

It’s not that Oklahoma was the absolute worst by all of the health indicators – it typically wasn’t – but that no other state consistently did as badly as Oklahoma. While eight other states reported higher infant mortality statistics than Oklahoma (Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio, Delaware, Indiana, and Louisiana), none of those same states were the two who outranked Oklahoma for maternal mortality (Michigan and Georgia). And none of those ten states were the single state that had more women per OB-GYN (Pennsylvania).

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In The Know: Drive to put more storm shelters in schools turning into political fight

by | November 14th, 2013 | 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.

Today you should know that a petition drive to fund storm shelters in every public school in Oklahoma is turning into a political fight over the franchise tax. A total of 6,905 applications were completed by Oklahomans on the federal health insurance marketplace in October, with 346 taking the next step to sign up for coverage. The Waurika superintendent is questioning the validity of state A-F grades for schools, even though his district did well.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column and the Oklahoman editorial board discussed the threat that Oklahoma will face a state budget shortfall this year. A judge refused to postpone former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich’s bribery trial. The chairman of the Oklahoma Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee says he’s looking for ways to stop increases in unemployment taxes that employers pay by restricting who is eligible for benefits.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans have been determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid/CHIP while filling out an application on healthcare.gov. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress discusses why early childhood education is vital for closing the school readiness gap for children of color.

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