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Common Core repeal could put Oklahoma schools under more federal control

by | June 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

275px-No_Child_Left_Behind_ActWith the legislative session now adjourned, attention shifts to Governor Mary Fallin, who has 15 days from the day bills reach her desk to sign or veto legislation (she can also exercise a pocket veto by taking no action on a bill).  Her toughest decision, and the one generating the most attention, is over HB 3399, the bill aiming to repeal Common Core standards. While there is much at stake for Oklahoma’s education system in the bill, one of the most serious consequences is that Oklahoma could lost its waiver exempting the state from parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law.

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is the federal education bill passed by Congress in 2001 that requires schools show Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)* in student performance on standardized tests.  Schools that failed to meet AYP goals were subject to various improvement measures and sanctions. By 2014, every child in 3rd through 8th grade was expected to be testing on grade level in reading and math.

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In The Know: DHS to miss child welfare goal; needs more foster homes, lower caseloads

by | June 3rd, 2014 | 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that a monthly report on the progress of Oklahoma’s child welfare system confirms that Oklahoma is not meeting court-ordered goals. The system needs more foster homes, less use of emergency shelters for children 6 and older, and lower caseloads for its workers. OK Policy previously discussed how Oklahoma is falling short in efforts to fix the foster care system. The OK Policy Blog shared a few of the secrets buried in the state budget. The Oklahoman editorial board discussed how the Legislature has protected its own budget while pretending to take the same cuts as most state agencies.

The state Department of Transportation will start next fiscal year with $28.5 million less to spend due to budget cuts and funding changes last legislative session. Scott Meacham wrote in the Oklahoman that budget cuts will harm science, technology, and commercialization efforts in Oklahoma. Wind farms are set to collect nearly $12 million from a tax rebate program that has more than tripled in value in the past three years. Governor Mary Fallin has until June 25 to decide whether rules adopted by agencies over the past year will take effect after the Legislature failed to do so.

A host of schools across the state say their fifth- and eighth-grade writing test scores are deeply flawed, but state education officials are standing by the scores issued by controversial vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill. A lawsuit by Tulsa County and Bryan County against the state Department of Corrections alleges that DOC isn’t paying the true cost of keeping state inmates until there is room for them in prisons. Oklahoma health officials are launching a new initiative to boost child immunization rates in Bryan County. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved more than $166,000 in grants to pay for equipment and training for firefighters and emergency responders in Oklahoma. Possibly dozens of drunken-driving suspects were never charged because highway patrol troopers failed to turn in paperwork to prosecutors. Oklahoma County prosecutors have begun filing charges against those suspects months after their arrests.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans without consistent access to the Internet as of July 2011. In today’s Policy Note, a report by Demos examines why raising wages and improving schedules for women in the retail industry would benefit America.

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Games legislators play

by | June 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

truefalseIn the final days of session in May, the legislature approved SB 2127, the annual General Appropriations (GA) bill providing funding for most state agencies.  The press release issued by the Governor, House Speaker and Senate President claimed that the agreement reduces spending by $102.1 million, or 1.4 percent compared to the FY 2014 appropriated budget.

Given that the budget negotiators started with $188 million less of available revenue, limiting FY 2015 cuts to $102.1 million might seem like an accomplishment to be proud of. But under closer scrutiny this story doesn’t quite hold up, and neither do several other assertions made in the wake of the budget agreement. In this post we shed light at a few of the secrets buried in the budget.

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In The Know: Common Core repeal bill could violate state Constitution

by | June 2nd, 2014 | 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know National Association of State Boards of Education sent a letter to Governor Fallin arguing that the bill to repeal Common Core standards in Oklahoma violates the state constitution. By requiring any new education standards to be approved by the legislature, they say it violates the separation of powers that should go to the state Board of Education. Oklahoma educators expressed concern that starting the standards process over again would create chaos in schools.

The Oklahoman editorial board pointed out that a plan to schedule off the top funding increases for education based on a revenue trigger would have contradicted a tax cut based on revenue triggers, with no clear way to decide which takes priority. The education funding bill did not ultimately make it through the Legislature. Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that overhauls the pension system for most new state workers. OK Policy previously explained how this change could endanger existing pensions and increase Oklahoma’s unfunded liabilities.

The Panola School District in southeast Oklahoma may shut down if it can’t find a way to close a $256,000 budget shortfall by the end of June. Educators from all over the state say the writing test scores coming back from the CTB/McGraw-Hill testing vendor appear to be full of flaws. A new petition drive will kick off Wednesday for a state question to fund storm shelters in all Oklahoma schools. On June 4 in Tulsa and June 5 in Oklahoma City, the Red Dirt Rangers are hosting a release party for a single and music video produced by more than fifty Oklahoma musicians to raise awareness of Oklahoma’s dire health statistics and opportunities to gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved next year’s funding levels for Oklahoma college and universities that are largely unchanged from this year. Six universities across the state are aligning their coursework to make it easier for students to transfer between them while pursuing a degree. One month after a botched execution drew international attention, few public records have been released by the state and the Board of Corrections is preparing to discuss the matter in secret for a second time. In the weeks leading up to a botched execution, an Oklahoma assistant attorney general referred to defense attorneys’ warnings that the execution could go awry as “hysterical speculation,” records released to the Tulsa World show.

A campaign that seeks to house Oklahoma City’s chronically homeless population is showing results, with the city’s chronically homeless falling from 376 people last year to 260 this year. Vox previously discussed why it’s cheaper to give the homeless housing than to leave them on the streets. A new report ranks Oklahoma 47th in the nation for senior health, with low-income seniors reporting especially poor health. Garvin County in south-central Oklahoma is set to become the first public agency in the state to purchase a drone for firefighting and other emergency situations. An oil company seeking to build a disposal well in earthquake-prone Logan County was awarded a permit after agreeing to record additional pressure and volume measurements.

The Number of the Day is how many female students in Oklahoma took AP exams in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox shares six reasons teen birth rates are plummeting across the country.

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Weekly Wonk June 1, 2014

by | June 1st, 2014 | 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 KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

The application deadline for the Summer Policy Institute has been extended to June 2! Oklahoma college students are invited to join us for an exciting four-day event featuring speakers and panels on a variety of Oklahoma public policy issues. Click here to apply.

In guest posts on the OK Policy blog, former intern Matt Simmons argued that the death penalty fails a cost-benefit analysis, and an OK Policy Research Fellow, Breanca Thomas, wrote about the e-cigarette debate in Oklahoma. We urged the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers the state Medicaid program, not to raise copayments on generic prescription medication. We’ve written previously about the devastating impacts of the state budget shortfall on the Medicaid budget.

A group of 50 Oklahoma musicians are releasing a single and accompanying video to raise awareness of Oklahoma’s dire health status and in support of the state accepting federal funds to extend health coverage to low-income Oklahomans. The release parties for “Stand (Let Your Voices Be Heard)” will be on June 4th and June 5th in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, respectively. You can read more here about why Oklahoma should extend coverage.

In his Journal Record column this week, Executive Director David Blatt discussed how lawmakers caved to empty threats when they voted to make permanent a tax break for horizontal drilling. We’ve written before about why the tax break should have ended. Blatt was also quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about the tax break.

Numbers of the Day

  • 25  – Total number of mental health records Oklahoma has submitted since 1993 to an FBI database for gun purchase background checks.
  • 2.53 inches – Precipitation in Oklahoma from Jan-Mar this year, compared to a 6.32 inches 30-year average. It has been the 6th driest year since 1895.
  • $291.7 million – Total amount of one-time reserve funds used to avoid even deeper cuts in Oklahoma’s FY 2015 budget.
  • $110 million – Amount of combined federal and state funds distributed for disaster recovery in the year following the May 2013 Oklahoma tornado outbreak.

Policy Notes

  • Jared Bernstein discusses why a higher minimum wage should be understood as a labor standard like laws against child labor, discrimination, overtime without extra pay, and wage theft
  • Simply being poor can make you sick, writes The Atlantic.
  • The Pitch reports on a new criminal investigation of an online payday lender that is owned by the Miami Nation of Oklahoma.
  • MetroTrends discusses why only about one in four Americans eligible for housing assistance actually receives it.

More than 50 Oklahoma musicians release song to raise awareness of Affordable Care Act

by | May 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

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On June 4 in Tulsa and June 5 in Oklahoma City, the Red Dirt Rangers are hosting a release party for a single and music video produced by more than fifty Oklahoma musicians. The new song, “Stand (Let Your Voices Be Heard)”, aims to raise awareness of Oklahoma’s dire health statistics, opportunities to gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and the need for Oklahoma to accept federal funds to extend coverage further. The event will also raise money for the Red Dirt Relief Fund, which provides assistance for Oklahoma musicians facing a medical emergency without health insurance.

Because of Oklahoma’s decision not to extend health coverage to low-income Oklahomans, some 140,000 adults have been denied access to affordable health care. The few options available to the uninsured are vulnerable to state funding cuts, and the safety net designed to help them is shrinking.

The Tulsa event will be at 7pm, Wednesday, June 4 at the Woody Guthrie Center. The Oklahoma City events will be at 5:30pm, Thursday, June 5 at the Hart Building. The events are free and open to the public. Donations and all proceeds from sales of the song will go to the Red Dirt Relief Fund.

In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs Capitol repair measure

by | May 30th, 2014 | 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Gov. Fallin has signed a measure authorizing $120 million in bonds to repair Oklahoma’s crumbling Capitol. Exterior work is expected to begin this summer or fall. She also signed a bill (HB 2589) criminalizing trafficking large quantities of prescription drugs. Another  bill that would have required doctors to check an online database of patient behavior before filling prescriptions (SB 1820) did not advance this year, but the bill’s author is optimistic about its chances in the 2015 legislative session.  Click here for OK Policy’s fact sheet on prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma.

Gov. Fallin signed a bill (HB 1623) authorizing suicide awareness training in Oklahoma high schools.  StateImpact Oklahoma summarized the fates of bills they had followed during this legislative session. The Journal Record’s M. Scott Carter reviewed the legislative session via an A – F grading system. A guest post on the OK Policy blog discussed the debate around regulation of e-cigarettes. An editorial in The Oklahoman warned against provisions in the bill to repeal Common Core standards in Oklahoma that would give politicians more control over the crafting of all of the state’s academic standards. The New York Times described the backlash against Common Core in a number of states, including Oklahoma.

A national study ranked Oklahoma 17th nationwide for harmful power plant emissions, a slight improvement over last year’s ranking (16th). Three eighth-grade girls from Jenks won a regional award for their design of a do-it-yourself tornado shelter. They will advance to a national competition sponsored by the U.S. Army and the National Science Teachers Association. An anti-abortion bill signed by Gov. Fallin on Wednesday could force the closure of two of Oklahoma’s three clinics providing abortion services. Oklahoma remains remarkably untouched by a national measles outbreak, which has seen cases in neighboring states.

Oklahoma Watch reports that the state Department of Corrections has yet to release the execution log of Clayton Lockett, who died in a botched execution on April 29. Execution logs detail the week prior to a prisoner’s execution. A new Fresh Start program designed to reduce recidivism rates launched in March with more than 90 recently released Oklahoma inmates. The program is part of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative. Gov. Fallin is allowing a burn ban to expire in 36 counties due to recent rainfall, but StateImpact writes that the rain has only slightly alleviated Oklahoma’s drought.

The Number of the Day is the combined federal and state funds distributed for disaster recovery to victims of last May’s tornadoes. In today’s Policy Note, MetroTrends discusses why only about one in four Americans eligible for housing assistance actually receives it.

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The debate on e-cigarettes lights up (Guest Post: Breanca Thomas)

by | May 29th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (2)

Breanca Thomas is a PhD student in Health Promotion Sciences in the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and a 2013-14 OK Policy Research Fellow. She intends to pursue a research career focusing on effective methods of reducing health disparities among at-risk groups.

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Oklahoma leaders have been weighing e-cigarettes’ possible commercial and health benefits with their potentially harmful health effects. The caveat? Neither risks nor benefits of these products have clear evidence.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, have gained popularity nationally and especially in Oklahoma. E-cigarettes are devices that simulate smoking a traditional tobacco cigarette. The device contains liquid nicotine that is heated to produce a vapor similar to cigarette smoke.

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In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs controversial tax break for new oil and gas wells

by | May 29th, 2014 | 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that makes permanent a generous tax break for new oil and gas drilling. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses how lawmakers caved to bogus threats from drillers that they would leave the state without this tax break, despite wide acknowledgement that this wouldn’t happen. Lawyer Jerry Fent plans to challenge the drilling tax break and scheduled income tax cuts for violating the Oklahoma Constitution’s requirements for a revenue bill.

Clinics and hospitals who serve Medicaid patients are concerned that Oklahoma’s proposed cuts to provider reimbursements will hurt patients’ access to care. The OK Policy Blog discussed how Oklahoma is considering hiking fees on the state’s poorest and sickest citizens to help cover Medicaid’s budget shortfall. Oklahoma could have avoided these cuts and actually expanded coverage by accepting federal funds under the Affordable Care Act. The voter registration deadline is this Friday for Oklahomans to vote in the June 24 primary elections.

Despite objections from numerous Tulsans with disabilities, the Tulsa Transit authority approved fare increases and service cuts that would end late evening routes across Tulsa. A Save the Arts campaign is fighting city budget plans that could eliminate nearly all arts programs affiliated with the city of Tulsa. Gov. Fallin signed a bill that will allow the state to help Tinker Air Force Base with a $44 million purchase of land for a new aircraft maintenance facility. A proposal to issue up to $40 million in bonds to help build a new joint headquarters for state veterans and mental health agencies was shelved after protests from some veterans’ groups who didn’t want veterans to be so closely associated with mental health issues.

Gov. Fallin signed a bill that requires abortion clinics to have a physician with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital present when an abortion is performed. Oklahoma legislators’ attempt to derail new science education standards for Oklahoma failed because the House and Senate voted against the standards in different bills. A bill repealing Common Core standards in Oklahoma, which Governor Fallin has yet to sign, would give the Legislature more power to reject any education standards developed by the state Board of Education. Rose State College is offering a new Native American Studies program which includes a study abroad to Hawaii as comparative indigenous studies and internships with local tribes. Recent rains have helped Oklahoma farmers and ranchers to partially recover from the severe drought affecting the state.

The Number of the Day is the total amount of one-time reserve funds used to avoid even deeper cuts in Oklahoma’s FY 2015 budget. In today’s Policy Note, The Pitch reports on a new criminal investigation of an online payday lender that is owned by the Miami Nation of Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma could hike fees on the poorest and sickest citizens

by | May 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

copay_signsThis year’s state budget will be tough for most state services, but one of the biggest losers is Oklahomans who are insured through Medicaid. The FY2015 budget appropriates flat funding to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), which administers Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. However, flat funding from the state translates to an $85-$90 million shortfall, due to rising enrollment and declining federal matching funds.

Without the funding it needs to continue providing the same level of services, OHCA is looking at several options to make up the gap. Steep cuts in provider reimbursement rates of almost 8 percent appear inevitable. The agency is also looking at eliminating some adult dental services and requiring prior authorization for a variety of services, from controlled substance prescriptions to back surgeries.

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