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In The Know: Nearly one-third of Oklahoma school districts now on a four-day school week

by | September 19th, 2016 | 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

Nearly one-third of Oklahoma school districts now on a four-day school week: About a month into the school year, the jury is still out regarding a move to a four-day week at two area districts that made the change this year. Although leaders at Wagoner and Catoosa school districts say the transition to the new schedule has been smooth, they agree that it is too early to tell what total savings will be and whether academics will be affected [Tulsa World]. Four-day school weeks could leave thousands of Oklahoma kids hungry [OK Policy].

Opponent says education tax proposal aims to return Oklahoma to its ‘Dark Ages’: An opponent of State Question 779 threw another chip on the table Friday. Jonathan Small of the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs told a local Republican gathering the 1 percent education sales-tax proposal is a political ploy calculated to give the state’s GOP leadership a “black eye” and send the state “back to the Dark Ages of Oklahoma.” State Senator Brian Crain (R-Tulsa) disagreed with Small, saying the tax proposal is the only practical solution to a “crisis” in school funding [Tulsa World]. See OK Policy’s guide to SQ 779 and Oklahoma’s other 2016 state questions here.

Office of Juvenile Affairs hopes to reverse decline in budget: The Board of Juvenile Affairs approved a request Friday to ask the Oklahoma Legislature to increase the agency’s budget in hopes of reversing a gradual funding reduction over the last several years. The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs budget for the current fiscal year is $92 million, significantly lower than the $112 million the agency received in the 2010 fiscal year. Executive Director Steve Buck told the board that for the department to provide youthful offenders in the state with adequate education and treatment to avoid a life of crime in adulthood, an increase in its budget will need to happen [NewsOK].

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The Weekly Wonk: The intersection of hunger and health, education outlaws, and more

by | September 18th, 2016 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know. Because there was no Weekly Wonk last week, this edition contains information from the last two weeks. 

This Week from OK Policy

A guest post from Effie Craven, State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, examined the intersection of hunger and health. The latest post in Camille Landry’s Neglected Oklahoma series told the story of Oklahomans looking for a better education in public schools outside their home districts. Executive Director David Blatt noted that public supports are doing exactly what they’re supposed to in his Journal Record column. In his Capitol Updates, Steve Lewis highlighted the Oklahoma House races to watch in November

We released our guide to this year’s Oklahoma state questions. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler previewed the next round of criminal justice reforms. Blatt wrote in his Journal Record column that Tulsa Public Schools’ decision to adopt a program allowing free breakfast and lunch for all elementary students is a clear win for schools and students. Policy Director Gene Perry examined new Census data showing that Oklahoma has improved on poverty and uninsured rates but still lags behind the nation

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More Oklahoma House races to watch this November (Capitol Updates)

by | September 16th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (1)

oklahoma_governor_election_results_by_county_2014-svgSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

Last week I reviewed 10 House races that will be interesting to follow. As I said then, it’s hard to know if these races are actually competitive without in-depth analysis, but I think they are at least worth some attention for people who want to follow the legislature. This week we’ll look at 11 more House races. Keep in mind there may be others that are worth following, too.

HD 42 is being vacated by Rep. Lisa Billy (R-Purcell) due to term limits. The Republican candidate is Tim Downing who is an attorney in the office of Attorney General Scott Pruitt. Downing is also a minister and lists in his background working “two years for Jay Sekulow and the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) on issues including opposition to Shariah law, defending Israel, opposing Obamacare, defending religious freedoms, protecting unborn children, fighting for military chaplains and defending traditional marriage.” The Democratic candidate is Liz George, a Blanchard native who graduated from OCU Law School with top honors and says she is running “because I feel compelled to take action to support our community and ensure our future success. I can no longer sit back and watch the current elected officials destroy public education, our economy, and the health and welfare of our neighbors and children.”

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In The Know: New Census data shows Oklahoma improves on poverty and uninsured rates but still lags behind nation

by | September 16th, 2016 | 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

New Census data shows Oklahoma improves on poverty and uninsured rates but still lags behind nation: New Census data shows Oklahoma made some progress in reducing the percentage of families living in poverty in 2015. In 2014, nearly one out of six Oklahomans (16.6 percent) were making less than the poverty line ($24,000 a year for a family of four) before taxes. In 2015, about 13,000 fewer Oklahomans were living below the poverty line, dropping our state’s poverty rate to 16.1 percent. The official poverty rate for the United States as a whole fell even more, from 15.5 percent in 2014 to 14.7 percent in 2015. These improvements widened the gap between the percentage of Oklahomans and the percentage of all Americans living in poverty [OK Policy].

Oil downturn continues to slow Oklahoma’s economy: Low oil prices and the oil industry slowdown continue to create financial challenges in Oklahoma and nine other oil-dependent states, according to a report released Wednesday by Moody’s Investors Service. The report looked at direct revenue effects including production taxes and revenues, indirect revenue effects such as industry spending cutbacks and layoffs, and the ability of the state to adapt to the ongoing challenges. Moody’s rates Oklahoma’s credit as Aa2, which is the company’s third-highest rating. Moody’s gives the state a negative outlook, largely because of the likely effects of oil prices on the state economy [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City Council opposes “right-to-farm”: The Oklahoma City Council declared people should vote against State Question 777, the “right-to-farm” measure on the Nov. 8 ballot. The council voted 6-2 Tuesday for a resolution that asserts passage of SQ 777 could threaten the city’s ability to promote residents’ health, safety and welfare. Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher said he was concerned the proposed constitutional amendment would adversely affect access to clean, safe drinking water [NewsOK]. Learn more about SQ 777 and the six other questions on Oklahoma ballots this year with OK Policy’s State Question Guide.

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New Census data shows Oklahoma improves on poverty and uninsured rates but still lags behind nation

by | September 15th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

New Census data shows Oklahoma made some progress in reducing the percentage of families living in poverty in 2015. In 2014, nearly one out of six Oklahomans (16.6 percent) were making less than the poverty line ($24,000 a year for a family of four) before taxes. In 2015, about 13,000 fewer Oklahomans were living below the poverty line, dropping our state’s poverty rate to 16.1 percent.

The official poverty rate for the United States as a whole fell even more, from 15.5 percent in 2014 to 14.7 percent in 2015. These improvements widened the gap between the percentage of Oklahomans and the percentage of all Americans living in poverty.

poverty-2008-2015

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In The Know: Oklahoma’s rate of uninsured continues to decline

by | September 15th, 2016 | 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

Study: Oklahoma’s rate of uninsured continues to decline: A new federal study shows the number of Oklahomans without health insurance has fallen by 6 percent since 2010, but the state still has one of the highest percentages of uninsured residents in the country. The study released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau shows 13.9 percent of Oklahomans went uninsured in 2015, down from 18.9 percent in 2010. The decline means an additional 192,000 Oklahomans received health insurance coverage over the five-year period [Associated Press].

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister urges caution for schools’ use of newly released state dollars: School districts across Oklahoma will learn this week what their share of $40 million returned from the state’s excessive budget cuts will be. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is urging caution amid still-tenuous economic conditions. The money, which could be available to schools across the state by mid-October, is from the fiscal year that ended June 30 [Tulsa World].

Prosperity Policy: A win for schools and students: Recently I wrote about the decision by some 150 Oklahoma school districts to move to four-day school weeks as a consequence of the state’s misguided tax cuts and the resulting budget shortfalls. One fewer day at school is especially troubling for the hundreds of thousands of children whose only reliable and nutritious meals each day may be provided through the schools’ free and reduced lunch and breakfast program. There is, however, also good news about school nutrition [David Blatt / Journal Record]. The Community Eligibility Provision can help make Oklahoma schools hunger-free [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Companies Can’t Set Own Rules For Injured Workers, Okla. Court Says

by | September 14th, 2016 | 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

Companies Can’t Set Own Rules For Injured Workers, Okla. Court Says: A national campaign to rewrite state laws and allow businesses to decide how to care for their injured workers suffered a significant setback Tuesday when the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that Oklahoma’s version of the law is unconstitutional. The 2013 legislation gave Oklahoma employers the ability to “opt out” of the state workers’ compensation system and write their own plans, setting the terms for what injuries were covered, which doctors workers could see, how workers were compensated and how disputes were handled [ProPublica].

Director Joe Allbaugh wants 5 percent across-the-board raises for DOC staff: Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said Tuesday he wants to make securing a 5 percent raise for all DOC staff a top priority during the next legislative session. He said he will seek the raise for all employees across the board, calling it “unacceptable” that nearly 40 percent of DOC employees haven’t received a raise in 10 years. Starting wages for correctional officers are typically about $2,200 per month before taxes [Tulsa World]. Since 2000, the inmate population in Oklahoma public prisons has grown by over 26 percent, while the correctional officer workforce has declined by 25 percent [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Still Mulling Execution Protocols, Ensuring Delays: Oklahoma, a state with one of the busiest death chambers in the country over the last three decades, will have at least a two-year delay in lethal injections after the governing board of its prison system declined to consider new execution procedures on Tuesday. At its regular meeting in Taft, the Board of Corrections did not take up new execution protocols that Attorney General Scott Pruitt wants in place before executions can resume [Associated Press]. Read our fact sheet on SQ 776, which would affirm the death penalty in the Oklahoma constitution.

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What to expect in the next round of criminal justice reforms

by | September 13th, 2016 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (1)

In June, Governor Fallin announced the formation of the Oklahoma Justice Task Force, a group that will bring together a wide range of stakeholders to study the criminal justice system and propose legislation aimed at reducing Oklahoma’s high and growing incarceration rate and all of the problems that come with it. If this sounds familiar, it’s because last summer, she established the Justice Reform Steering Committee, a one-year effort with similar stakeholders and nearly identical goals.

The Steering Committee’s recommendations were turned into several successful bills that reduced mandatory minimums, gave prosecutors more discretion to seek reduced sentences, and raised the felony theft threshold for property crimes. While these were good first steps toward a less punitive justice system, Fallin recognizes that more needs to be done. Here’s what we can expect from Fallin’s justice reform efforts in the coming year.

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In The Know: Oklahoma, EPA Shutter 32 Wells in New Earthquake-Prone Area

by | September 13th, 2016 | 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

Oklahoma, EPA Shutter 32 Wells in New Earthquake-Prone Area: State and federal regulators say 32 disposal wells in northeastern Oklahoma must shut down because they are too near a newly discovered fault line that produced the state’s strongest earthquake on record. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission said Monday that 27 wells under its jurisdiction would cease operations, along with five wells in Osage County, which is covered by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules [Associated Press].

Your guide to this year’s Oklahoma state questions: Today we published a series of fact sheets on each of the state questions on Oklahoma ballots this year. In addition to state and national races, voters will decide seven state questions on topics including the death penalty, regulation of agriculture, a sales tax for education, criminal justice reform, the use of public resources for religious purposes, and alcohol law reform. Each fact sheet includes a brief summary of the state question, background information, what supporters and opponents are saying, and the language that will be on Oklahoma ballots [OK Policy]. The fact sheets are available here.

Gov. Fallin To Pitch Ideas To New Legislators If Teacher Raise Vote Fails: If a ballot initiative to raise the sales tax to fund teacher raises fails, the governor said she’ll pitch her same ideas to new legislators. On Nov. 8, voters will be asked to vote on State Question 779, which would increase the sales tax by 1 percent to raise an estimated $615 million for education. Of that, $378 million would be used to fund teacher raises; $125 million would be used for higher education; $50 million for grants; another $50 million for early childhood programs and $20 million for vocation and technology education [News9].

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Your guide to this year’s Oklahoma state questions

by | September 12th, 2016 | Posted in Blog | Comments (1)

sq-fact-sheetsToday we published a series of fact sheets on each of the state questions on Oklahoma ballots this year. In addition to state and national races, voters will decide seven state questions on topics including the death penalty, regulation of agriculture, a sales tax for education, criminal justice reform, the use of public resources for religious purposes, and alcohol law reform.

Each fact sheet includes a brief summary of the state question, background information, what supporters and opponents are saying, and the language that will be on Oklahoma ballots. The fact sheets also include a list of links to other resources, such as media coverage and the websites of campaigns for and against the state question. We’ll continue to update and add to these links as we get closer to election day.

Let us know if you have any questions about this resource or suggestions for what we can add to help inform Oklahomans about the important decisions they’ll be making on November 8!

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