The Weekly Wonk September 14, 2014

by | September 14th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | 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.

This week on the OK Policy Blog, a post in our Neglected Oklahoma series described hunger in Oklahoma. We followed up on the situation of the unaccompanied children from Central America who had been housed at Fort Sill and the labyrinthine removal proceedings they are encountering. We’ve written about the children before. 

We explained that Oklahoma legislators selected which public employees will receive raises this year with little input from the agencies involved, creating a disjointed system wherein some workers receiving raises and some who won’t occupy very similar positions.

At the community forum “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, Executive Director David Blatt spoke about how schools are still segregated by race and income. The Tulsa World wrote about the forum here. On this week’s PolicyCast, we discussed important headlines and announced an upcoming event series aimed at boosting citizen enrollment in Oklahoma. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

In his Journal Record column, Blatt explained how, contrary to popular prediction, the Affordable Care Act is working. Blatt was quoted in an MSNBC article on the increasing practice of levying court fines and fees to fund municipal budgets, and of imposing jail time if offenders are unable to pay.

The Okemah News Leader cited OK Policy in a discussion on raising the tipped wage. In our Editorial of the Week, the Tulsa World argues that Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma deserves a second look.

Quote of the week:

“Gov. Mary Fallin rejected Medicaid expansion funding under the Affordable Care Act in 2012. When she made that announcement, she cited fiscal reasons — the state couldn’t afford the potential costs. But two years later, we have to wonder how much longer the state can afford not to accept the money.”

- The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board, pointing out that as a result of Fallin’s decision to reject federal funds, the state will turn away $900 million in Medicaid funding in 2016 and $8.6 billion from 2013 to 2022. (Source:http://bit.ly/1urmQA1)

See previous Quotes of the Day here.

Numbers of the day:

  • 76% – Households in Oklahoma that were smoke free in 2010-2011, up from 39 percent in 1991-1992.
  • $17,274.47 – Average cost of attendance for an Oklahoma resident, on campus, full-time student at the state’s research universities, FY 2015.
  • $23,330 – Average mortgage debt in Oklahoma in 2013.
  • 46th – Oklahoma’s ranking for the well-being of girls in the state according to Girl Scouts of America. Factors considered included physical health and safety, economic well-being, education, emotional health and extracurricular activities.

  • $115,969 – Median home price in Oklahoma in 2013.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

What we’re reading:

OK PolicyCast: Episode 7

by | September 12th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

radio micIn this week’s OK PolicyCast, we talk about a new event series aimed at growing citizen involvement across Oklahoma. We also discuss controversy over militarized police in Oklahoma, and a private firm that has been training police officers to seize cash from drivers at highway stops, even though they have not been charged with a crime.

We also talk about a push to increase the tipped minimum wage for Oklahoma service workers, a new study on wage theft, and how rising court fees are feeding Oklahoma’s incarceration crisis, as well as what the City of Tulsa is doing to prepare for climate change and attract millenials.

You can download the podcast here or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Oklahoma schools receive “F” grade from US Chamber

by | September 12th, 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.

The US Chamber of Commerce assigned gave Oklahoma schools an overall “F” grade in a report measuring educational effectiveness. Oklahoma schools received failing grades in the areas of academic achievement; academic achievement of low-income and minority students; and return on investment. The report is available here. Speaking at a community forum on “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, Executive Director David Blatt discussed race, poverty, and segregation in Tulsa schools.

A new report commissioned by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board found that 1 in 5 Oklahoma jobs are supported by the oil and natural gas industry. Last year, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate reached a record low, although it remains above the national average and infant mortality remains much higher for racial and ethnic minorities than for white babies. The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board called for the state to reconsider its rejection of Medicaid expansion and the infusion of federal funds that would come with it. We’ve noted before that rejecting the funds means a massive tax transfer to Washington.

The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board applauded the state’s move toward “performance-based budgeting,” which takes past performance into account when determining a budget item’s funding. Oklahoma State University and Stillwater have implemented employee wellness programs in an effort to reduce health care spending on preventable conditions, and say that the efforts are paying off. A planned “Cherokee Outlets” development is estimated to bring 1,000 permanent jobs to Catoosa.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is suing for access records from a intelligence networking website hosted by the Logan County sheriff’s office. The ACLU contends that the website, which allows law enforcement to share information about American motorists, is used to “track the activities of thousands of American citizens without their knowledge or consent.” You can read the ACLU’s statement here. Drought in southeast Oklahoma has the city of Duncan scrambling to locate new sources of water. Estimates say that the city’s primary water source, Lake Waurika, could be too depleted to use by 2016.

ABC News reported that a number of cities, including Tulsa, are quietly preparing for climate change in the name of “disaster preparedness” by limiting development in future flood zones and looking into infrastructure that can handle increased storm runoff. The Number of the Day is the median home price in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute assesses the impact of wage theft.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma schools receive “F” grade from US Chamber

Schools, housing, & poverty: Thoughts on segregation in Tulsa

by | September 11th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

This is an edited version of remarks made to a community form hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice on “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” held September 4, 2014. All statistics, along with their sources, are compiled in this spreadsheet.

segregation-protest-public-domain-e1357376046603

In a 1974 paper in the American Journal of Sociology, two scholars examined data on segregation in public elementary schools. They looked at schools in 60 cities, just before the start of serious efforts by the federal government to enforce the desegregation of public schools in the South. The researchers used a statistical measure called the dissimilarity index to look at how segregated or integrated the schools were in each city.

Not surprisingly, the research found most US school systems were strongly segregated. On the index where 0 represents perfect integration and 100 represents perfect segregation, the average score for the 60 cities was 79 percent.  The scores ranged from a low of 39 in Sacramento to a high of 97 in two cities – Tulsa and Oklahoma City. We’ve clearly had a lot of ground to make up over the past 40 years.

continue reading Schools, housing, & poverty: Thoughts on segregation in Tulsa

In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

by | September 11th, 2014 | 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.

Chesapeake Energy will face trial in Michigan on charges of felony racketeering and using false pretenses related to its land-leasing practices, a state judge has ruled. State Rep. Steve Vaughn (R-Ponca City) said he was considering new rules governing oil and gas wastewater disposal wells due to concerns about water pollution caused by the wells. A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that a Texas insurance executive promised to pay former Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher’s legal bills in exchange for Fisher’s “non-cooperation” with a state investigation into his business activities. The lawsuit also alleges that the executive spent ten of thousands to support current Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s election bid.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column shared the latest evidence that Obamacare is working to expand health coverage and slow the growth of health care costs. Two Norman high schools ranked in the top 1 percent in a list by Newsweek of the best high schools in America. The Oklahoma School Security Institute and Homeland Security have launched an emergency tip line, hoping it will prevent school shootings before they happen. A Tulsa non-profit is launching an effort to connect foster families with children attending particular Tulsa schools. MSNBC reported on the growing trend of hiking court fees in Oklahoma and other states to make up for state budget cuts, resulting in those who can’t afford to pay being sent to jail. On the OK Policy Blog, Camille Landry shared stories from the numerous Oklahomans struggling with hunger.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke about race and inequality at a University of Tulsa event for students and faculty. Sotomayor also visited Booker T. Washington High School and will talk to law students at Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma Thursday and Friday. Several more religious and social justice groups denounced anti-Muslim comments made by a state legislator, but Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, said he is standing by his statement that people should be wary of those who say they are “Muslim American.” 

The Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce’s OneVoice consortium, which includes about 60 chambers of commerce, local governments and public and private institutions, released its legislative priorities for 2014. Top priorities include preserving and expanding education funding and preserving and expanding Insure Oklahoma to cover the uninsured. You can see the full OneVoice agenda here. Oklahomans concerned about the placement of wind farms and how a new state law on rooftop solar panels will work can attend two meetings Thursday at the Corporation Commission in Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking for the well-being of girls in the state by a Girl Scouts of America report. In today’s Policy Note, CNN reports on how the campaign for paid sick leave for all workers is picking up steam in cities and states throughout the country. Oklahoma is one of a few states that have banned local governments from requiring paid sick leave.

continue reading In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

Hunger all around (Neglected Oklahoma)

by | September 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (0)

empty pantryCamille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

Hunger is all around me:

At a pool in a suburban park on a steamy Oklahoma summer afternoon: “I used to love summer,” one mom said, “but I’ll be glad when school starts.” “Tired of having them underfoot already?” I asked. “Not really. It’s just a struggle to feed them when school is out. They get breakfast and lunch at school. In the summer I have to pay for child care while I work, plus the two extra meals each day. I can’t scrimp on daycare so I have to cut back on food.”

continue reading Hunger all around (Neglected Oklahoma)

In The Know: Oklahoma ranks third in rate of women killed by men

by | September 10th, 2014 | 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.

Oklahoma again ranked third for the rate at which men killed women, according to a new study released by the Violence Policy Center. The ACLU of Oklahoma asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to nullify a lower court’s decision that Gov. Fallin could use “deliberative process privilege” to withhold records from the public.

A Ponca City legislator hosted an interim study for constituents concerned that oil and gas drilling activities have contaminated water wells or caused wells to go dry. Representatives from the Oklahoma Geological Survey provided the Corporation Commission with an update on their study of the state’s ongoing earthquake swarm.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn criticized the practice of making military equipment available to state and local law enforcement agencies. The Oklahoma City Council is considering new ridesharing regulations in response to services like Uber that compete with taxi cabs.

The OK Policy Blog reports on where the children previously held at Ft. Sill are now and what their futures look like. The Number of the Day is the average mortgage debt in Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, Fivethirtyeight.com examined state variation in a new report on food insecurity across the country.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma ranks third in rate of women killed by men

The kids are out of Fort Sill. Now what?

by | September 9th, 2014 | Posted in Immigration | Comments (1)
immigration-court

Image via Kids In Need of Defense.

At the end of July, we published a blog post debunking some myths about the unaccompanied children housed at Fort Sill in Lawton. Now that the temporary shelter there has been closed and the children have all been relocated, we talked with the TU College of Law’s Professor Elizabeth McCormick (who spoke about this issue at OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute) about where the children are now and what their futures look like. We summarized her responses.

continue reading The kids are out of Fort Sill. Now what?

In The Know: OKC legislator proposes to raise subminimum wage

by | September 9th, 2014 | 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.

State Rep. Mike Shelton (D-Oklahoma City) said he intends to introduce legislation next year that would raise the subminimum wage for service-sector employees whose meager salaries are supplemented with tips. The OK Policy Blog discussed how the Legislature picked winners and losers when deciding which state employees got a raise this year. The Oklahoma Transportation Commission adopted a $6.3 billion, eight-year work plan for Oklahoma’s highways and bridges, including replacing the bridge between Lexington and Purcell that was shut down for months after cracks were discovered.

Oklahoma’s Corrections Director said the agency plans to complete an overhaul of the state’s execution protocol and a “major reconstruction” of the death chamber before the state’s next scheduled execution in November. The State Supreme Court upheld a one-year suspension of an OU football player who had been accused of sexual assault. The student’s suspension had previously been thrown out by a Cleveland County judge. Grand River Dam Authority directors publicly endorsed Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan, despite a sexual harassment complaint against him that was settled for $223,000.

The Noble Public Schools superintendent was fired after she gained national attention for referring to some girls at the school as “skanks” and making them bend over to see if their skirts were too short. Overcrowding is a growing problem at south side Oklahoma City schools, and officials have added 52 portable classrooms at a cost of nearly $3 million. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to review a decades-old telephone case tainted by corruption at the Corporation Commission.

Oklahoma and 16 other states urged the U.S. Supreme Court to use cases from Oklahoma and Utah to resolve the issue of whether states can ban same-sex marriage. Oklahoma and nine other states have requested help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate a virus that has sent hundreds of children to hospitals in Missouri. The Number of the Day is the average cost of attendance for an Oklahoma resident, on campus, full-time student at the state’s research universities. In today’s Policy Note, the Moneybox blog discusses how a series of fast food walkouts around the country have been successful at spearheading a broader living wage movement.

continue reading In The Know: OKC legislator proposes to raise subminimum wage

Raise your hand if you got a raise

by | September 8th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

old one dollarFor some 12,000 state employees, the long wait for a pay raise has finally ended. Legislation passed this last session provided selected workers a raise of 6.25 percent or more, effective July 1 (or in the case of state troopers, January 1). But with legislators appropriating significantly less than what an expert study recommended to move the state towards more competitive compensation, a majority of state employees were left out of this year’s pay raise plan.

Legislators also decided to pick and choose which positions received raises without much input from the agencies involved. This ad hoc process left out some workers who are in very similar positions to those who received raises. While the raises were a welcome start, many Oklahoma’s public employee compensation still has many gaps in what we need to attract and maintain enough qualified workers.

continue reading Raise your hand if you got a raise

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