In The Know: Another 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children may be placed at U.S. military bases

by | July 11th, 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:

Yesterday, Fort Sill allowed a limited number of members of state and national media to tour its barracks, where over one thousand refugee children from Central America are being housed until they can be placed with family and sponsors. The average child stays at Fort Sill for 15 days before being placed. The White House has asked the Department of Defense for the authority to house another 5,000 children along side the 3,000 already housed on three bases. It is not yet clear if more children would be brought to Fort Sill.

Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman unveiled a proposal to better fund schools without costing taxpayers more money by diverting funds generated by the franchise tax. Dorman estimates his proposal would add an additional $50 per pupil. Franchise tax revenues currently go to the General Fund that supports most state agencies, including education. A guest post on the OK Policy blog introduced the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC), which helps supply schools with a variety of resources they would otherwise be unable to afford. A new report finds that four in five Oklahoma adults who receive publicly-funded mental health services are unemployed. State advocacy groups are calling for greater assistance from public officials in aiding those with mental illness to find jobs.

Over a year after tornadoes hit the town of Moore in late May, residents are still struggling with insurance companies, who some residents say are not settling fairly. A Tulsa mother who says her daughter’s severe epilepsy has been successfully treated with medical marijuana in Colorado is campaigning to make medical marijuana legal and accessible in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission expressed dismay that the legislature approved a $3 million withdrawal from the Commission’s revolving fund to balance this year’s state budget. The Commission receives no appropriations and was not consulted about the withdrawal. The City of Tulsa is considering partially automating its 911 service in an attempt to reduce wait times for callers. The automated system would direct callers to dispatchers from the specific emergency department needed. The Tulsa County Commissioner is calling to have a new city-county jail agreement in place by September. The city and county have previously disagreed on how much the city should be charged to hold an inmate in the county jail and how a ‘municipal inmate’ should be defined.

The state Department of Health has announced that the state’s first case of the West Nile virus this summer has been found. The virus is spread by mosquitoes and the highest-risk months are July through October. Thursday was Tulsa’s rainiest day of 2014 so far, with nearly two inches of rain recorded at Tulsa International Airport. Researchers from Oklahoma State University have received a $750,000 grant from NASA to develop a material that will protect astronauts from radiation while in space.

The Number of the Day is is the number of organ and tissue transplants in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, FiveThirtyEight argues that as economics and demographics of migration in America shift, immigration has changed much faster than the immigration debate.

continue reading In The Know: Another 5,000 unaccompanied immigrant children may be placed at U.S. military bases

Providing essential resources to schools without the financial burden (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

by | July 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

Sarah Julian is the Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC). On July 16, the OPSRC is hosting an open house for anyone who is interested in learning more about the organization. You can register at http://nwea.us/OkieEdOPSRC.

opsrcIt’s news to no one that our public schools face enormous challenges in virtually every area of operations, including finances.  Oklahoma education funding is among the lowest in the nation and yet mandates remain, leaving schools without the proper resources to support them. 

Smaller schools and districts feel this more intensely, as they don’t often have the funding to support full-time staff in key areas of administration and support services for teachers and students. Because of this, we often see school staff juggling multiple roles to the point where it affects instruction, burnout becomes widespread, and ultimately, students suffer. 

 This is where the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC) comes in.  OPSRC was created as a non-profit center with the goal of supporting small schools—both rural and public charters—across the state in several key areas: finance, legal, technology, communications, teaching & learning, and educational policy.

continue reading Providing essential resources to schools without the financial burden (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

In The Know: Oklahoma City sees surge in low-wage jobs

by and | July 10th, 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:

Average earnings in the Oklahoma City metro area dropped as a surge in low-wage jobs are replacing a shrinking number of jobs at the top end of wages. Governor Fallin’s top budget official Preston Doerflinger said he agrees with State Treasurer Ken Miller’s analysis of shortcomings in Oklahoma’s budget planning. Miller said the state has balanced the budget with one-time fixes, sometimes ignored the long-term consequences of a deal, misapplied a temporary windfall, shortchanged pension obligations and ignored financial checks and balances. The jobs of 16 state workers’ compensation system employees have been eliminated as Oklahoma continues the transition from a court-based workers’ compensation system to an administrative system.

Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, has asked for an interim study on the possibility of increasing the speed limit on the Turner Turnpike, but the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority director said the road would not be safe at a higher speed limit. The Tulsa World praised Tulsa Public Schools’ efforts to catch up the hundreds of third graders who did not pass a reading test. The principal of a school for homeless students in Oklahoma City wrote that third grade retention won’t solve the reading problem in Oklahoma without broader support for basic needs. Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham argued that Oklahoma does not provide adequate job protections for pregnant women and new parents.

Members of Tulsa’s faith community have scheduled a second meeting designed to help the children being housed at Fort Sill. A bipartisan group of business and policy leaders in Oklahoma said the migrant children crisis is further proof that the United States needs comprehensive immigration reformDavid Blatt’s Journal Record column and Carly Putnam on the OK Policy Blog discussed how a one-year extension of Insure Oklahoma still leaves hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans without coverage. OK Policy previously discussed how Insure Oklahoma can become a long-term solution for the uninsured if we accept federal funds to extend it.

The president of AARP Oklahoma praised a new state law that allows patients admitted to the hospital to designate a caregiver who will be informed of how to care for them when they go home. Senator Inhofe said a deal has been reached between the EPA and the Department of Defense that will allow local firefighters to continue receiving surplus military equipment. Oklahoma’s tourism and recreation department is considering selling or leasing three state parks in northeast Oklahoma to make up for budget cuts. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has begun a study of wind farms at the request of Senate leader Brian Bingman, who previously sought to put a moratorium on all new wind farms in east Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is the number of utility-scale wind turbines in Oklahoma as of 2013. In today’s Policy Note, a report by Good Jobs First examines what metro regions are doing to end job piracy, where companies play nearby communities off each other for escalating subsidies.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma City sees surge in low-wage jobs

Insure Oklahoma extended – but we could do so much more

by | July 9th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

InsureOklahoma_logoA rare bright spot in health care-related news came early last week with the announcement that Insure Oklahoma, a public-private partnership providing health insurance for some 18,500 low-income Oklahomans and their families, has been given permission by the federal government to continue operating for another year. 

The program had been expected to be discontinued at the end of 2013, with the understanding that the state would accept federal funds to extend health insurance coverage to all eligible low-income Oklahomans, thus negating the need for Insure Oklahoma.  But Oklahoma refused to accept the funds, and for the past two years, the state has negotiated extensions with the federal government. While heartening for those who would lose their insurance were Insure Oklahoma to expire, the current system of negotiated extensions isn’t sustainable. Here’s what’s going on:

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In The Know: Full Supreme Court to hear Common Core challenge

by and | July 9th, 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:

On July 15, the state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of a law that repealed Common Core education standards and allows the Legislature to change any new standards as it sees fit. State health officials expressed concern over money that was pulled from an account that pays for trauma care for Oklahomans who suffer serious injuries but can’t afford to pay for treatment. OK Policy previously discussed how revolving fund grabs by the Legislature is creating shortfalls for many state agencies and how clinics that provide care to the poorest uninsured Oklahomans are threatened by state budget cuts.

A new study shows Oklahoma ranked in last place in the country for state spending on prison health care from 2007 to 2011. Over those years, per inmate spending on health care dropped 17 percent even as the number of inmates age 55 or older grew to nearly 8 percent of the total prison population. The Oklahoman editorial board discussed a trend of college becoming less affordable in Oklahoma as shrinking state funding is replaced by tuition and fee increases.

On the OK Policy Blog, we shared information about the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition and an upcoming conference on ways to promote self-sufficiency and prosperity in Oklahoma’s Native communities. United Nations officials are pushing for the Central Americans fleeing to the United States, many of whom are being detained at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, to be protected as refugees displaced by armed conflict. Tulsa’s mail-processing plant is again being targeted for closure as part of a U.S. Postal Service consolidation plan to save money. It could close as soon as next year, and local mail would be delayed one to three days as it is hauled to Oklahoma City for sorting and then returned to Tulsa.

The Tulsa Area United Way announced $370,000 in funding for projects to end chronic homelessness, prevent teen pregnancy and elevate student achievement. The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department says budget cuts are forcing it to close Walnut Creek State Park in Osage County. The names of Democratic candidates will appear first on the ballot in November’s general election in Oklahoma. Ballot order is determined by a drawing held at the state Capitol.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans living in areas with concentrated poverty in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, Vox shares how the $3.7 billion would be spent that President Obama has requested to address the migrant children crisis.

continue reading In The Know: Full Supreme Court to hear Common Core challenge

Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition: Building self-sufficiency and prosperity (Guest Post: Christy Finsel)

by | July 8th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

ONACChristy Finsel is an enrolled tribal member of the Osage Nation and the Coordinator of the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition.  She has been engaged in asset building research and program design and implementation since 2003. 

Oklahoma is home to thirty-nine federally recognized tribes and their citizens.  Through Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, tribes and Native non-profits are administering innovative Native asset building programs such as financial education, credit builder workshops, Voluntary Income Tax Assistance sites, and entrepreneurship training programs.  Our partners also offer homeownership assistance and foreclosure prevention, emergency savings programs, matched savings accounts, and children’s savings account programs.  

History and Mission of ONAC

about_onac

ONAC staff and leadership team

Since 2007, the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, known as ONAC, has represented a consortium of Oklahoma tribes and partners interested in establishing asset-building initiatives and programs in Native communities.  ONAC has been coordinated and led by Native asset building practitioners.  The mission of our coalition is to build and support a network of Oklahoma Native people who are dedicated to increasing self-sufficiency and prosperity in their communities through the establishment of comprehensive financial education initiatives, Individual Development Accounts, and other asset-building strategies.  While we believe that individual assets are important, we also are interested in simultaneously building family and community assets.

continue reading Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition: Building self-sufficiency and prosperity (Guest Post: Christy Finsel)

In The Know: Federal highway funds to Oklahoma to be reduced beginning August 1st

by and | July 8th, 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 that federal reimbursements to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will be reduced beginning August 1 unless the Federal Highway Trust Fund receives an infusion of cash. The Trust Fund, which is an important source of funding for road infrastructure projects across the US, is running out of money because the gas tax has not been adjusted for inflation since 1993. A new law repealing Common Core standards has led to a tangle of legal challenges, regulation changes and financial costs that has injected uncertainty among Oklahoma school districts about the coming school year. Oklahoma agencies have $6.7 million less in funding than originally budgeted, after lawmakers’ attempt to divert money from Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships was revealed to be unconstitutional.

Al Jazeera reported on how the immigrant children being detained at Fort Sill are dividing the community of Lawton. The Regional Food Bank’s summer food program is feeding a record number of kids across 73 locations in central and western Oklahoma. Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts wrote a Tulsa World op-ed in support of a “Right On Crime” initiative to create more alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders in Oklahoma. State Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, hopes to use an interim study to push for DNA testing of anyone arrested or charged with a crime in Oklahoma. 

Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Chouteau, asked for Gov. Fallin and legislative leaders to call a special legislative session to block a strip club that he says is rumored to be coming to Mayes County. The Tulsa World wrote that an agreement to extend Insure Oklahoma for another year is only a first step towards making sure the thousands of working poor Oklahomans don’t go without coverage. OK Policy previously discussed how the Insure Oklahoma extension could pave the way to a longer term solution for Oklahoma’s uninsured.

Oklahoma officials have signed a confidentiality agreement with railroad companies to keep information about large crude oil shipments passing through Oklahoma on freight trains secret. The federal government ordered railroads to disclose the information to state authorities after several accidents and explosions involving rail shipments of Bakken oil, including one in Canada last year that killed 47 people. After several years of crippling drought, a wetter-than-average spring in southwest Oklahoma is bringing hope to farmers. NewsOK examined the runoff for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination between perennial candidate Jim Rogers and state Senator Constance Johnson.

El Taco Loco, a Tulsa restaurant operated by a 16 and 11-year-old brother-sister team has closed due to problems with the building. A continuing Tulsa World series is sharing the stories of people and places along the 16 miles of Peoria Avenue. The Number of the Day is how many Oklahoma K-12 students qualified for special education programs during the 2011-12 school year. In today’s Policy Note, the Immigration Policy Center discussed how the United States’ three- and ten-year bans on immigration applicants are keeping families apart.

continue reading In The Know: Federal highway funds to Oklahoma to be reduced beginning August 1st

Invalidated appropriation leads to $6.7 million budget cut

by | July 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)
pruitt

Attorney General Scott Pruitt

The state’s new fiscal year began on July 1st with most state agencies funded slightly worse than they had originally expected.

Last month, OK Policy broke the story that this year’s General Appropriations (GA) bill diverted $7.9 million out of the trust fund for Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships. In accordance with state statutes, each year the State Board of Equalization certifies an amount to transfer to the trust fund to cover scholarships for the coming year. In December, the Board certified $57 million for Oklahoma’s Promise in FY 2015. However, the Legislature attempted to order the Board to reduce the transfer by $7.9 million so that it could be used to balance the overall FY 2015 budget.

continue reading Invalidated appropriation leads to $6.7 million budget cut

In The Know: Hearings for thousands of injured workers delayed

by and | July 7th, 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 that hearings for thousands of injured workers will be delayed this month while the state’s workers compensation system is split into two agencies— each with its own staff, offices and equipment. Due to a difficult job market, enrollment in CareerTech programs is increasing among workers who already have college degrees. The number of out-of-state students attending Oklahoma’s public universities and colleges has more than doubled since 2000 as schools increasingly rely on nonresident tuition to supplement their budgets. The University of Oklahoma is introducing new residential colleges to its campus holding student living facilities, internal dining facilities, study halls, seminar rooms, and professor’s offices all in one building.

Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, wrote an op-ed on the path forward for educational standards in Oklahoma after the repeal of Common Core. A group of city and school district officials are backing a successful-but-expensive summer learning program in northeast Oklahoma City, hoping to expand the concept to other inner city schools. The small Panola School District has missed a Department of Education deadline to raise enough funds to continue operating, but the community is still fighting to save the district.

Poverty has become more concentrated in Oklahoma over the past decade, with nearly one-third of the state’s population living in communities with concentrated poverty. NPR examined what is happening in President Obama’s ‘Promise Zones,’ five areas across the United States, including the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, where the federal government has launched a focused effort to tackle poverty. At a downtown public-safety seminar, Tulsa police said an increasing number of homeless people and beggars are not causing an increase in crime. Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City is seeking volunteers to help with the intake and explanation of rights to immigrant children being housed at an Oklahoma military base while they wait for deportation hearings.

State Treasurer Ken Miller criticized the legislature’s overuse of one-time funds to balance the state budget, even as they reduce recurring revenues by cutting taxes. Legislators criticized an initiative petition to install storm shelters and safe rooms in every Oklahoma public school, saying it would overstress the General Revenue Fund. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has approved the latest ballot language of the petition and cleared the way for supporters to begin collecting signatures. The Oklahoma County jail’s kitchen has been inoperable since June 19 because of a collapsed sewer line under the jail.

 A new paper in the journal Science suggests a small number of high-volume wastewater wells used in drilling operations could be responsible for many of Oklahoma’s earthquakes. Oklahoma oil and gas drillers defended the wells as the easiest way for them to dispose of millions of barrels of toxic water produced in the drilling process. The OK Policy Blog discussed the failure of a bill to require doctors to check a prescription monitoring database before prescribing powerful painkillers. Oklahoma’s Nursing Board said they are dealing with a large number of cased of prescription drug abuse among Oklahoma nurses. The number of licensed nurses in Oklahoma has grown more than 40 percent over the past decade.

The Number of the Day is the average number of minutes patients spend in the emergency room in Oklahoma before being seen by a doctor. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains why the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision does not erase most of the reproductive health gains achieved by the Affordable Care Act.

continue reading In The Know: Hearings for thousands of injured workers delayed

The Weekly Wonk July 6, 2014

by | July 6th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk

The 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. Because The Weekly Wonk was on hiatus last weekend, this edition features links and information from the past two weeks.

This week, OK Policy Summer Education Leadership Initiative Fellow Rebecca Hollis shared the benefits of community schools. A guest post explained why tracking school readiness matters in Oklahoma. We discussed why a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of tax cuts passed in the prior legislative session could be a game-changer.

Using the experiences of California and Kansas as examples, we pointed out how and why the economic case for tax cuts is in shambles. We presented more proof that hiking copayments for Medicaid recipients doesn’t actually create savings. We reviewed how, this session, lawmakers had the opportunity to enact effective legislation to combat prescription drug addiction in the state – and fumbled it. We’ve written about prescription drug addiction in Oklahoma before.

NewsOK quoted Executive Director David Blatt in their reporting on the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s decision to raise copays for Medicaid recipients. Blatt argued against raising copays in his Journal Record column and in the Tulsa World. We’ve discussed at length why the copayments will harm health without saving the state money (here, here, and here). The Oklahoman’s editorial board suggested that our dismay at the hikes was “unwarranted.”

The Washington Post quoted Blatt in their discussion of the recently-announced extension of Insure Oklahoma. We’ve written before about how Insure Oklahoma could be used to extend health coverage to all low-income Oklahomans. Blatt was also quoted in an article by Dissent Magazine examining how states and cities are stepping into the void left by congressional obstruction to address problems of inequality, economic stagnation, and climate change.

In the Oklahoma Gazette, policy analyst Carly Putnam made the case for the importance of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in Oklahoma. The Red Dirt Report cited OK Policy statistics while describing the devastating impact of “tough on crime” policies. 

In our Editorial of the Week, the Tulsa World argued against a law passed this session declaring gold and silver coins legal tender and exempting sales of gold coins from sales taxes. The move is expected to cost the state nearly $1 million in the next budget year.

Quote of the Week

“I made some of the toughest votes today that I’ve ever made in my life. I’m against every one of these rules but I can’t help it.”

- Former Sen. George Miller, a member of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board, speaking about their votes to slash provider rates, increase copayments, and reduce services for Medicaid. With flat state funding and lawmakers refusing to accept federal funds offered under the Affordable Care Act, Oklahoma Medicaid is facing a $225 million shortfall this year (Source: http://bit.ly/1vbZ4Fp).

See previous Quotes of the Day here.

Numbers of the Day

  • 231,000 – Number of Oklahomans employed in education or health services, nearly 13 percent of all workers in the state.
  • 98,923 – Number of Oklahoma youth that participated in 4-H programs in 2012.
  • 15.6% – Percentage of Oklahomans with disabilities.
  • 113,324 -Miles of public road in Oklahoma as of 2008.
  • 13.3 percent – Percentage of Oklahoma K-12 public school revenue that comes from the federal government.
  • 34 – Number of arrest-related deaths in Oklahoma in 2013, including those shot by police officers, committing suicide, or killed in an auto accident.
  • $572,500 – Job creation incentive payments Chesapeake Energy is still eligible to collect this year from Oklahoma City, despite laying off more than 700 positions at its OKC headquarters.
  • 128 – Number of painkiller prescriptions per 100 people in Oklahoma, the 5th highest rate in the nation.
  • 123,000 – The number of uninsured Oklahomans who would have health insurance by 2016 if Oklahoma accepts federal funds to extend coverage to low-income residents

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

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