In The Know: State releases report of botched execution

by | September 5th, 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 state Department of Public Safety has released a report reviewing the botched, 43-minute execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29. The report cites errors in inserting the IV and a lack of training or backup equipment. You can read the full report here. Gov. Fallin has ordered that no executions will be carried out in Oklahoma until the Dept. of Corrections implements recommendations made in the report. The ACLU of Oklahoma released a statement in response to the report, calling it “partisan” and “superficial.”

The vice chairman of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is accusing state lawmakers of illegally taking $3 million from his agency’s revolving fund to balance the state budget. The chairman argues that the appropriation will leave the agency unable to meet its obligations. We’ve written about how funding grabs have created shortfalls for many state agencies before. The mayors of Tulsa and Oklahoma City are planning a campaign to push for municipal tax base diversification. Presently, municipalities are funded almost entirely through sales tax revenue, which the mayors argue is unreliable. Saint Francis Hospital opened a 150-bed patient tower and trauma center on Wednesday, the largest expansion in the hospital’s history. A new report ranks Oklahoma 7th-worst in the US for obesity. The report notes that Oklahoma is one of only two states that do not require schools to provide health education. Oklahoma’s scorecard is available here.

An event Thursday night examined segregation in Tulsa schools, 60 years after the Supreme Court ordered schools to desegregate. Executive Director David Blatt and others argued that Tulsa schools are now segregated by income rather than by race. A Teachers Matter forum held in Oklahoma City discussed ways to support and improve teaching in Oklahoma. Speakers included author and journalist Amanda Ripley, author of “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way,” which we recently reviewed on the OK Policy Blog. Oklahoma’s ACT math scores continue to lag behind the national average, although it is ahead or on par with the national averages in reading and science. A new teaching garden in a Tulsa elementary school will help students learn about healthy eating.

Gov. Fallin announced the creation of a Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity in response to increased earthquake activity in Oklahoma. The council will help connect researchers with policy makers and energy industry experts.  All 800 Walgreens Pharmacies in Oklahoma have installed time delay safes in an attempt to deter painkiller theft. We’ve discussed Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem before. The state and the Choctaw Nation have signed a vehicle tag compact, allowing Choctaw citizens to purchase Choctaw tags from state agencies. The Tulsa Jail is currently using goats to control weeds and overgrowth at the facility, and jail officials say that the goats seem to be having a calming effect on inmates as well.

StateImpact described how environmental protections for the state’s rivers have lead to economic development because pristine waterways attract tourism and fishing. Despite recent rains, drought conditions have worsened in western Oklahoma. The Number of the Day is how much real tax income in Oklahoma remains below the pre-recession peak. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post explains how America’s aging population is encountering infrastructure designed for for the young.

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In The Know: CAIR criticizes state lawmakers for anti-Muslim Facebook comments

by | September 4th, 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 leader of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Republican leaders to repudiate remarks made by state Rep. John Bennett, who posted on Facebook that “the Quran clearly states that non Muslims should be killed” and that Christians should “be wary of the individuals who claim to be ‘Muslim American.” Tulsa Public Schools found 41 teachers with lapsed state certificates in an audit done as a result of recent revelations that a top executive was employed during 2013-14 without proper credentials. The teachers have been placed on substitute teacher pay while they await certificate renewals.

Higher education officials are expected to vote next month on whether Oklahoma’s current academic standards ensure high school students are college- and career-ready upon graduation. The Oklahoman editorial board criticized the state Board of Education’s slow movement to create new standards to replace Common Core. On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed Oklahoma’s very low turnout for runoffs and suggest some better ways to decide multi-candidate elections. An Oklahoma City man has filed papers to start an initiative petition to end secret balloting in all elections in Oklahoma.

Gross revenue collections for August were up 7.5 percent from a year ago. Engineers will rappel down the sides of the state Capitol next week to the building’s facade for damage. The Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission, criticized earlier this summer for violations of the Open Meeting and Open Record acts, is seeking to hire a public relations consultant.

Labor Commissioner Mark Costello has asked the Secretary of State to determine if a plan to phase out PSO coal plants was implemented properly by the Department of Environmental Quality. Costello said if the plan wasn’t implemented properly, PSO might have to follow a costlier federal plan to control power plant emissions. A 1994 state law allowing people accused of dealing drugs to be held liable in civil lawsuits is unconstitutional, a Tulsa County judge has ruled.

The Number of the Day is the drop in Oklahoma’s voter registration rate from 2008 to 2012. In today’s Policy Note, Vox discusses how Arkansas is becoming poster child for the benefits of Obamacare.

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Time to off the runoff?

by | September 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (0)

Empty Voting BoothsDr. John Cox won a decisive victory in last week’s runoff election for the Democratic Party nomination for State Superintendent of Instruction, gaining 62.9 percent of the vote and beating challenger Dr. Freda Deskin by some 25,000 votes out of almost 96,000 cast.

It was a convincing victory, with one big caveat — the 60,377 votes received by Dr. Cox represented about 1 out of 15 (6.7 percent) of eligible Democratic voters. Turnout for the runoff race was down 42.8 percent from the initial primary, where Dr. Cox and Dr. Deskin led a field of four candidates. With turnout falling so dramatically, is it time for Oklahoma to consider a better way to decide multi-candidate elections?

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In The Know: Rep. Lankford says “flippant” calls to secure the border won’t solve immigration problem

by | September 3rd, 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.

After attending a delegation to Central American countries where extreme poverty and violence is driving thousands of people to the United States, Rep. James Lankford said that “flippant” calls to secure the U.S. border weren’t enough to solve a complicated problem. OK Policy previously debunked several myths that had emerged about the children fleeing Central America. The Republican runoff for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional district was decided with less than 5 percent of the district’s population voting. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis writes that with Oklahoma slashing funding for regulation of horse races, it may not be long before we see a doping or race-fixing scandal.

The loss of the state’s No Child Left Behind Act flexibility waiver could redirect $3.7 million in federal funding that Oklahoma City Public Schools spends on programs and services for low-performing schools. Missed class time means lower test scores for Oklahoma students, and large shares of students are missing class before taking a key national test, according to a new report released Tuesday. In an op-ed for The Oklahoman, the director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association wrote that Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has reached critical levels. A Tulsa World op-ed discussed an increasing trend of re-segregation in Tulsa schools.

For the second straight year, workers’ compensation loss costs used by insurers to determine rates for Oklahoma employers will show an overall decrease. An animal rights group is seeking an investigation of Oklahoma State University for possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act by university researchers. Oklahoma Watch has received a $30,000 grant to fund in-depth journalism and community forums on mental health in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is the total earthquake insurance premiums paid by Oklahomans in 2013, almost triple what Oklahomans paid in 2009. In today’s Policy Note, Pew Charitable Trusts discussed how even though the unemployment rate is declining, food stamp statistics suggest many Americans still are struggling to get by with part-time or low-paying jobs.

continue reading In The Know: Rep. Lankford says “flippant” calls to secure the border won’t solve immigration problem

Budget cuts not horsing around (Guest post by Steve Lewis)

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

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Photo by Filip Knežić.

Photo by Filip Knežić.

A recent article by Journal Record columnist Marie Price reported on a meeting of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission.  The OHRC was created when the people voted in pari-mutuel horse racing in 1982.  The story caught my attention because it seems to describe the condition of many state agencies.  OHRC officials were quoted as saying the agency’s funding has been slashed so much over the past several years that it is in danger of becoming unable to perform its mandated functions.  In FY 2008, the OHRC received an appropriation of almost $2.7 million.  The FY 2015 appropriation is about $1.97 million, a cut of over 25 percent. 

In addition the OHRC was among those agencies whose law enforcement personnel were given a 6.25 percent salary increase by the legislature without funding to pay for it, according to its Executive Director.  According to the article, pay hikes were covered by reducing overtime at race tracks, not filling two positions, canceling contracts and other steps.

continue reading Budget cuts not horsing around (Guest post by Steve Lewis)

In The Know: State election officials finalizing short list of state questions

by | September 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.

State election officials are finalizing a November ballot that will include only three state questions, all referred to voters by the Oklahoma Legislature. The Oklahoman shared a list of numerous state officials that will take office without opposition in the general election. Although Oklahoma’s statewide unemployment rate has remained among the lowest in the nation over the past year, tens of thousands remain “underemployed,” unable to find a full-time job.

The Tulsa World examined controversy around Oklahoma’s numerous business tax breaks and incentives, after it was revealed that Macy’s will receive about $21 million in state and local subsidies to build a distribution center in the Tulsa area. An OK Policy report previously raised questions about the oversight of the Quality Jobs Program, one of the largest business subsidies in the state. The Oklahoman reported on how the state’s education troubles are becoming an issue in the governor’s race. The okeducationtruths blog wrote that Oklahoma’s loss of its No Child Left Behind Waiver is a big deal that could lead to staff cuts at high-poverty schools. The latest episode of the OKPolicyCast discusses research on how Oklahoma education compares to some of the highest achieving countries.

Judges in at least two Oklahoma counties have said they will levy minimum $1,000 fines in all felony cases to fund their court budgets. Defense attorneys say the policy will end up filling jails with poor people who cannot afford to pay higher fines. The Oklahoma Corrections Department Director Robert Patton testified that the largest women’s prison in Oklahoma showed the highest rates of sexual assault in the nation largely because inmates were making accusations to get moved or get someone punished. His testimony came two days after a former guard was sentenced to 20 years in prison for first- and second-degree rape of female inmates. 

Records released last week show death-row inmate Clayton Lockett had toxic blood levels of a drug not included in Oklahoma’s execution protocol — and reference an execution chamber camera that corrections officials say doesn’t exist. The Tulsa World wrote that the documents reveal the state had no idea what was happening in the execution chamber.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker offered his State of the Nation address Saturday, delivering a message that the Cherokee Nation is not just surviving but thriving in northeastern Oklahoma 175 years after the Trail of Tears. The OETA Board of Directors discussed scenarios for a report requested by the Legislature on how they would operate without state funding. A “beetle ranch” near Ada is helping ease pressure on an endangered species which has had habitats disrupted by oil and gas drilling. A Labor Day editorial in the Tulsa World discussed how a half-century after the federal Fair Pay Act became law, the wage gulf between male and female workers remains unbridged.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking nationwide for the rate of African-Americans killed by law enforcement. In today’s Policy Note, Vox discusses why labor unions play a critical role in making capitalism work.

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OK PolicyCast: Episode 5

by | August 29th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

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

radio micWe’re back from vacation, rested and ready to share the most important Oklahoma news and analysis. This week, we discuss a recent book by journalist Amanda Ripley, “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got that Way.” The book looks at what countries with the highest performing education systems are doing right, and Oklahoma plays a prominent role in the story. We also talk about the loss of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver, new details on the investigation of a botched execution, numbers of the week, and more.

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

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In The Know: Oklahoma loses federal flexibility waiver after Common Core repeal

by | August 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.

The U.S. Department of Education denied Oklahoma’s request to extend a flexibility waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act, a decision that will place restrictions on nearly $30 million a year in federal funding for local school districts.

Newly released autopsy records from Oklahoma’s botched execution do not appear to support earlier DOC statements that Clayton Lockett’s vein collapsed or that he died from a heart attack; records show extensive bleeding near an IV site in the groin and that the doctor supervising the execution discovered the lethal drugs were leaking into tissue and not entering the vein.

In response to online testing failures that disrupted end-of-instruction exams for thousands of students, the state Education Department announced it will not use fifth- and eighth-grade writing scores in this year’s A-F report cards. Pennsylvania’s Governor accepted federal funds to expand Medicaid, becoming the 27th state and the 9th Republican governor to do so. 

A district court ruled Oklahoma’s use of public funds to send students with disabilities to religiously affiliated schools is unconstitutional. The OKPolicy Blog presented two takes on education reform in response to the book, “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.”

The Number of the Day is the year that the aquifer supplying water to Oklahoma City, Moore, and Norman is expected to be 50 percent depleted. In today’s Policy Note, the Brennan Center suggested broad reforms to how federal grants are administered to state and local law enforcement. 

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma loses federal flexibility waiver after Common Core repeal

Two Takes: The Smartest Kids in the World

by and | August 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (1)

smartestkidsEarly next month, the education advocacy group Stand for Children Oklahoma is hosting a lunch with keynote speaker Amanda Ripley, a journalist and author of the recent non-fiction book, “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.” Ripley’s book looks at how the US education system compares to Finland, South Korea, and Poland — three countries where students excel on an international test of critical thinking skills. In this comparison, Oklahoma plays a prominent role.

Today on the blog, we present two takes on the book. The first essay, by Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Policy Director Gene Perry, discusses how Ripley’s findings show that Oklahoma may be getting the schools we really want. The second essay, by education writer and former teacher John Thompson, argues that Ripley’s book leaves out a deeper understanding of school reform in Oklahoma.

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In The Know: Texas to withhold botched execution autopsy details after Oklahoma intervenes

by and | August 28th, 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.

Texas officials have agreed to keep secret certain records pertaining to the autopsy of Clayton Lockett, who died following Oklahoma’s botched execution attempt. Oklahoma officials requested even more autopsy records be kept from the public, but the Texas attorney general said the state would only shield those that could identify the pharmacy that supplied the lethal injection drugs. The Tulsa couple who successfully challenged Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to use the case to decide the issue for the entire nation. On the OK Policy Blog, Camille Landry shares a story of a youth caught in Oklahoma’s school to prison pipeline.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column debunks the perception that Oklahoma is providing welfare checks to large numbers of adults who should be working. The State Board of Education approved the formation of a steering committee to recommend a process for developing new academic standards to replace Common Core. Ten school employees from across the state were flagged in a recent check as illegally working without a valid certificate. Oklahoma Watch reported that the teacher shortage in Oklahoma has led to an explosion in the number of teachers given emergency classroom certification, meaning more districts are relying on teachers to teach subjects they are not fully trained for.

Seven landowners in Canadian and Kingfisher counties filed a class-action lawsuit this week to prevent wind turbines from being built near their homes. A Northern Michigan judge is expected to issue a ruling on whether Chesapeake Energy should stand trial on racketeering charges that accuse it of leasing land to thwart competitors and then canceling the deals when the competition ended. Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate — already one of the lowest in the nation among large cities — improved in July, as did the rates in more than two-thirds of the state’s counties.

The Number of the Day is Percentage of Oklahoma children who have witnessed domestic violence in their home, the highest rate in the nation. In today’s Policy Note, FiveThirtyEight discusses how the federal government’s recent expansion of housing vouchers has dramatically reduced homelessness among veterans.

continue reading In The Know: Texas to withhold botched execution autopsy details after Oklahoma intervenes

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