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In The Know: School storm shelter proponents ask state Supreme Court to review ballot language changes

by | October 21st, 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 supporters of an initiative to put storm shelters in Oklahoma schools filed a legal challenge with the state Supreme Court objecting to changes made to ballot language by the Attorney General.  Nonprofits and state agencies are relieved at the reopening of the government and playing catch up from time lost. 

A state legislator expressed concern that legislative action may be needed if placements are not found for 84 remaining residents of a state facility for the developmentally disabled slated for closure in April.  The trial of a former Oklahoma lawmaker accused of bribery is scheduled to begin today.

A 26-year-old man held on misdemeanor charges in the Garfield County Jail was found unresponsive in his cell and pronounced dead at the hospital.  The U.S. Geological Survey reported another small earthquake near Enid.  

Ranchers in northeast Oklahoma report someone has been shooting their livestock and leaving them for dead.  The Number of the Day is the average annual cost to incarcerate one person in Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, StateImpactOK explains how the greenhouse gas cases taken up by SCOTUS will affect Oklahoma.

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Weekly Wonk October 20, 2013

by | October 20th, 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.

OK Policy has released an Education Action Items brief detailing the state of education in Oklahoma and including several policy recommendations going forward; you can download the full brief here. OK Policy analyst Gene Perry was recently interviewed about cuts to education funding on OETA  and we’ve blogged about the topic. Previous Action Items installments made recommendations for tax reformcriminal justice, and health care policies. You can read the full series here.  We’ve added a new page on our website collecting information on resources on public pension issues.

On our blog, we announced two upcoming events of the Oklahoma chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network: a public forum on local development at OU on November 13th and a workshop for scholars on writing op-eds at TU on November 14th.  We are proud to announce our inaugural class of OK Policy research fellows.

In the Journal Record, OK Policy Director David Blatt argues that lawmakers have already made important changes to put our state pension system on a sound and sustainable footing and we should not proceed hastily to radically change pensions due to a crisis mentality. David was one of the guests last week on OETA’s Oklahoma Forum discussing widening income inequality. The Oklahoma Policy Institute is honored to be one of six recipients of the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Award during the annual Oklahoma Bar Association Diversity Conference on October 24th. 

Numbers of the Day

  • 2 – The number of states that farm more acres of land today than they did a decade ago – Oklahoma and North Dakota
  • 74.1 percent – The percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K in Oklahoma, 2nd most in the country behind Florida
  • 13.4 percent – Percentage of Oklahoma state legislators who are women — lower than every state except Louisiana and South Carolina
  • -7.5 percent – Average change in incomes among the bottom 20 percent of Oklahoma households over the last decade
  • 49.2% – Percentage of eligible voters who voted in Oklahoma in the 2012 election.

Policy Notes

  • Wonkblog reported on a debt ceiling extension proposed by House Republicans that would have incentivized refusal to reach agreement on bills to fund the government.
  • The New York Times’ Economix blog explains the effects of increased income inequality on political institutions.
  • Most fast food corporations and employers offering similarly low wages rely on public assistance to feed their employees, notes the Demos blog. 
  • Quartz discusses the shutdown’s various projected impacts on the US economy. 
  • Visualizations released by the US Census use self-reported data from the 2010 Census to map 22 different Latino populations from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America across the US

In The Know: A-F school grades changed multiple times since release

by | October 18th, 2013 | Posted in Blog | 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-F school grades sent to districts for their 10-day review have changed five or six times since their release Wednesday due to miscalculations by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Supporters of an initiative petition to put storm shelters in Oklahoma schools asked the state Supreme Court to throw out changes that Attorney General Scott Pruitt made to the ballot title.

State Treasurer Ken Miller accused pension reform critics of spreading misleading information. You can find links to reliable information on Oklahoma’s pension debate at our pension resources page. An advocate for domestic violence victims said violence against women is a principal cause of homelessness among women and children in Oklahoma.

StateImpact Oklahoma examined how wind farms are interfering with weather radar, and how the water infrastructure of small Oklahoma towns is breaking down. OK Policy announced our inaugural class of research fellows, five graduate students who are conducting promising research on public policy issues. The Oklahoma Bar Association is honoring OK Policy with the Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Diversity Award.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of eligible voters in Oklahoma who voted in the 2012 election. In today’s Policy Note, Atlantic Cities maps 22 different Latino populations across America.

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OK Policy announces inaugural class of Research Fellows

by | October 17th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Oklahoma Policy Institute is very pleased to announce the selection of five Oklahoma graduate students as the first class of OK Policy Research Fellows.

The 2013-14 Research Fellows are:

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In The Know: Analysis shows Oklahoma A-F Grades for schools don’t match school performance

by | October 17th, 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 an analysis by research at OU and OSU found that Oklahoma’s A-F school grading system doesn’t accurately reflect school performance and masks the performance of poor and minority students. You can read the full report here. The okeducationtruths blog reports that school grades have already be changed twice since they were released yesterday due to mistakes in the formula calculation.

A new OK Policy report outlines action items to boost Oklahoma schools and reduce the achievement gap. Former assistant state superintendent Jack Herron, who claims that superintendent Janet Barresi fired him after taking office, has kicked off a campaign for state superintendent. Congress voted to reopen the government and prevent default on America’s debts; every member of the Oklahoma delegation except Rep. Tom Cole voted to keep the government closed.

The number of abused and neglected children in state custody has jumped by more than 500 kids since July 1, outpacing DHS officials’ ability to find new foster homes and forcing more children into already overcrowded state shelters. A new report estimates that 144,480 low-income Oklahomans will be stuck in a “coverage crater” without access to health care because the state has refused to accept federal dollars for Medicaid.

The Tulsa Initiative Blog explains why the poverty rate by itself can give people the wrong idea about the true state of the war on poverty. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses why Oklahoma should not act with a crisis mentality on state pensions. NewsOK writes that lawmakers should not try to reduce the number of students eligible for Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships.

The Number of the Day is the average change in incomes among the bottom 20 percent of Oklahoma households over the last decade. In today’s Policy Note, Tim Fernholz discusses how the government shutdown cost the US economy $24 billion.

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Action Items for Oklahoma: Education

by | October 16th, 2013 | Posted in Education, Education, Featured Education | Comments (0)

This is the fourth of a seven part series by Oklahoma Policy Institute to propose public policy action items for the state of Oklahoma. These recommendations are aimed at improving the shared prosperity of all Oklahomans while maintaining a fiscally responsible state budget. Previous installments made recommendations for tax reform, criminal justice, and health care policies. Future installments will focus on energy, financial security, and jobs. You can read the full series here.

Download the full issue brief here.

action-items-educationEducating our children is Oklahoma’s biggest job. It’s the biggest in terms of dollars and cents, since common and higher education each year receive about half of all state appropriations. It’s also the biggest responsibility that we entrust to our state and local governments. Who we will be as a state and as a people in future decades is being decided right now in our schools.

Even so, Oklahoma provides fewer resources to common education compared to other states. Independent measures rank the state from 46th to 49th in per-pupil expenditures by public schools. Since the beginning of the recession, Oklahoma actually made the largest cuts in the nation to state aid funding per pupil, with state support dropping 22.8 percent, or $810 per student after inflation.

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In The Know: Justice Department may require Oklahoma County tax hike to fix jail conditions

by | October 16th, 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 Oklahoma County leaders have notified the U.S. Department of Justice that they’ve done all they can to improve conditions at the county jail without any new funding from a tax increase, but the jail still may not be up to standards. The Justice Department previously determined that jail inmates were receiving negligent medical care in unsafe conditions.

A new poll shows that Oklahomans overwhelmingly support the main provisions of the Senate-passed immigration reform bill, including a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Gov. Fallin ordered state agencies not to use any state money to temporarily fund federal programs during the ongoing partial government shutdown unless they’ve been guaranteed federal reimbursement. 

The Legislative Compensation Board voted 7-1 not to increase pay for state legislators. Gov. Fallin is expected to formally launch her 2014 reelection campaign this week. A new state law eliminating early voting Mondays will be in place for the Nov. 12 election.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma state legislators who are women — lower than every state except Louisiana and South Carolina. In today’s Policy Note, Demos discusses two new studies showing how multibillion dollar companies rely on public subsidies to feed their workforce.

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In The Know: Finance secretary warns of possible ‘flat budgets’ amid revenue decline

by | October 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 Oklahoma’s top finance official warned state agencies to prepare for flat budgets next year after a report showing state revenue collections trail those from the same time last year. Supporters of an initiative petition to create a $500 million bond issue to pay for school storm shelters are criticizing how Attorney General Scott Pruitt has rewritten the ballot language. The Oklahoman profiled a woman who has worked for decades to reform Oklahoma’s marijuana laws.

OETA examined how the continuing government shutdown is beginning to affect businesses and nonprofits in Oklahoma. Nearly 400 state employees at the Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Military Department could be furloughed this week because of the shutdown. Prior to the shutdown, Oklahoma Congressmen James Lankford and Tom Cole warned that it would damage the economy and would not succeed politically, but they voted for it anyway.

The Kansas Supreme Court is hearing arguments on whether large tax cuts passed in Kansas have unconstitutionally underfunded public schools. The Tulsa World writes that Oklahoma improve school funding until lawmakers believe they will pay a political price for not doing it. The Oklahoma Scholars Strategy Network is sponsoring a public forum on land use and economic growth, as well as a workshop on writing research-based op-eds.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state pre-K in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, economist Nancy Folbre discusses how the growth of inequality may be damaging our democratic political system. Tonight at Circle Cinema in Tulsa, you can join OK Policy for a screening of the documentary “Inequality for All” followed by a group discussion.

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Upcoming Events: Scholars Strategy Network sponors local development forum and writing workshop

by | October 14th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (2)

SSN-FBThe Oklahoma chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network is excited to be co-sponsoring two upcoming events.

On Wednesday, November 13th, Oklahoma SSN and the OU Economics Club will host a public forum, “Nurturing Local Economic Growth: What can we learn from people in the know?” The forum, which will run from 7:00 – 8:30 pm in Rm. 130 of Gould Hall on the OU Norman campus, will address competing approaches to land use policy by bringing together professionals with first-hand experience with land use and economic growth. Panelists will include Norman Mayor Cindy Simon Rosenthal, developer Richard McKown, and OU professors Gregory Burge and Stephen Ellis. Oklahoma SSN co-chair Dr. Cynthia Rogers will be the moderator. The event is free and open to the general public, and will be followed by a wine and dessert reception. Click here for the event flyer or visit the event Facebook page.

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In The Know: Teachers Retirement System director fired for granting unapproved severance packages

by | October 14th, 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 the sudden firing of James Wilbanks as executive director of the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System came after trustees discovered he had granted severance packages to a dozen employees without obtaining required approval from the director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services. Republican leaders in Oklahoma who have made major changes in recent years to the state’s pension systems say they plan to push next year to put an end to the traditional pension for new state workers. The OK Policy Blog explained why state pensions are not in a crisis that would justify radical changes.

Oklahoma’s Medicaid program will have $50 million less to serve low-income residents as the federal match drops due to the state’s improving economy. Oklahoma’s high number of veterans per capita pushed the state to the 20th most affected by the government’s shutdown. The food stamp program that provides assistance to thousands of low-income families was down statewide Saturday due to a power outage at a private contractor.

Two Jenks parents explained why parents are suing to prevent taxpayer money going to private school vouchers. Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, said he may push a bill to make it a felony for any student to assault a teacher, even if the teacher was not seriously hurt. Gov. Fallin has appointed Daniel Keating, an insurance company executive and the brother of former Gov. Frank Keating, to the State Board of Education.

The Tulsa World discussed how the state’s definition of violent crime changes from law to law. An Oklahoma appeals court has ruled in six cases that documents used by the Department of Public Safety to revoke driver’s licenses following DUI breath tests did not comply with state law, raising questions about thousands of past cases. The state Board of Health approved new paperwork required for girls under 18 seeking abortions in Oklahoma.

Governor Fallin names named Secretary of State Larry V. Parman to become her secretary of commerce. AEP-PSO will purchase 600 megawatts of wind energy from facilities being developed in northwestern Oklahoma. The Number of the Day is the number of states that farm more acres of land today than they did a decade ago. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog explains why Rep. James Lankford’s “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” is just another poison pill that would prevent the government from reopening.

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