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In The Know: State lawmaker proposes a $10,000 teacher pay raise

by | November 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

State lawmaker proposes a $10,000 teacher pay raise: A state lawmaker says he will introduce a measure next session to provide for a $10,000 teacher pay raise. Voters on Tuesday defeated State Question 779, which would have increased the sales tax by 1 percent to pay for a $5,000 teacher pay raise and fund common education, higher education and CareerTech. State Question 779 was brought to a vote through the ballot initiative process and championed by University of Oklahoma President David Boren [Tulsa World].

OK Group Pressuring Legislature To ‘Pass A Plan’ To Improve Education Funding: Last week, voters turned down a proposed hike in the state sales tax that would have provided for teacher pay raises. Now the campaign again is shifting back to pressuring the state legislature. “Pass a Plan” is the education advocacy group Stand For Children’s new campaign. The public is asked to sign a digital open letter to government leaders demanding they pass a plan to get Oklahoma education funding back on track [NewsOn6].

Tulsa Public Schools report reveals racial, economic disparities in student discipline, attendance: As Tulsa Public Schools leaders work to reduce racial, social and cultural disparities in factors that can determine a student’s success, the district released a snapshot of data last week that Superintendent Deborah Gist said shows “why we feel so urgent about this need.” Click here! “We have very significant discrepancies, and those break across a number of different lines, but it includes differences based on race and other social and cultural factors,” Gist said at the Nov. 7 school board meeting [Tulsa World].

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Six takeaways from Tuesday’s vote

by | November 14th, 2016 | Posted in Elections | Comments (2)

I-votedWhile most of the attention in Oklahoma last week focused on the geological earthquake that shook the state and the political earthquake that shook the nation, the state election results got less detailed coverage. Here are a few of our important takeaways from the vote:

Turnout was up

A total of 1,451,056 Oklahomans cast ballots for President, according to data provided by the State Election Board. That’s 132,000 more than the Presidential votes cast in 2012 (1,332,872), a 9.9 percent increase, but almost identical to the numbers in 2008 (1,462,661) and 2004 (1,463,758). Oklahoma saw a big increase in early voting: over 152,000 people took advantage of in-person early voting, compared to a previous high of 114,000 in 2008. The turnout rate of registered voters was 67.3 percent, also up from 2012. We won’t have numbers on the turnout rate for eligible voters — which includes those who are not registered to vote – until the Census Bureau releases data from its voter survey, but it should be up slightly from the 52.4 percent of eligible voters who voted in 2012.

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In The Know: What Trump’s election could mean for Oklahoma

by | November 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

What Trump’s Election Could Mean for Oklahoma: The full impact of Donald Trump’s presidency in Oklahoma won’t become clear for some time, but its implications already loom large in the areas of health, energy, taxes and infrastructure spending. Policy analysts and political observers interviewed by Oklahoma Watch since Tuesday’s election said Trump’s plans, if enacted by Congress, could produce a tectonic shift felt from one end of the state to the other. Here is an initial assessment of how Oklahoma might fare under Donald Trump’s presidency in several key policy arenas [Oklahoma Watch].

Trump victory may mean federal judge nominees for Oklahoma City are replaced: Two nominees for federal judgeships in Oklahoma City may be replaced next year after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, Oklahoma’s senators acknowledged this week. The nominees, Suzanne Mitchell and Scott Palk, were approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee in May, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would not allow Senate confirmation votes. McConnell blocked votes on most judicial nominations this year — and refused to hold hearings for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland — in hopes a Republican would win the presidency and replace President Barack Obama’s nominees with new ones [NewsOK].

Diverse group gathers in downtown Tulsa to promote rights, well-being of oppressed people: A crowd of more than 100 people gathered Saturday afternoon in downtown Tulsa to promote the rights of underrepresented groups in the wake of the U.S. presidential election. About a dozen speakers from different backgrounds shared their stories and thoughts on how to move forward in protecting members of the LGBT community as well as members of religious and ethnic minorities [Tulsa World].

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The Weekly Wonk: The racial wealth gap, military food insecurity, who doesn’t vote, and more

by | November 13th, 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.

This Week from OK Policy

On the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst and Oklahoma Assets Network Coordinator DeVon Douglass highlighted the persistence of the racial wealth gap. In a guest blog post, Effie Craven of the Oklahoma Food Banks called for greater resources to be put towards veteran and military food insecurity.

Executive Director David Blatt discussed who doesn’t vote, and why. In his Journal Record column, Blatt examined small signs of change in the election outcomes. We released a statement on Tuesday night calling for lawmakers to take responsibility for school funding. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis suggested that the indictment of Supt. Joy Hofmeister highlights the need for campaign finance reform.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt appeared on Studio Tulsa, where he discussed Tuesday’s elections. Blatt shared election takeaways in a Tulsa World article. Blatt spoke to Oklahoma Watch about effects of SQ 779’s failure to pass. Prior to the election, Blatt spoke with NewsOK about the interest around the State Questions, and with Oklahoma Watch about the odds the State Questions would pass. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board quoted our statement on SQ 779’s failure

Policy Director Gene Perry and OCPA CEO Dave Bond spoke about the State Questions with the Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce. Julie Couch of the Stillwater News Press cited OK Policy analysis in her discussion of the election. The Ada News cited OK Policy on the 2017 Legislative session.

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Answering the Call: Food Security among Military Service Members and Veterans (Guest post: Effie Craven)

by | November 11th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Effie Craven serves as the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Oklahoma Food Banks — the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma — where she advocates for programs and policies that promote access to nutritious foods and economic security for all Oklahomans.

One in six Oklahomans struggles with hunger, 25 percent of Oklahoma children are at risk of going to bed hungry at night, and 16 percent of our population live at or below the federal poverty line. These staggering figures highlight the critical problem of hunger in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, our military service members and veterans are not immune.

With more than 300,000 veterans in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Food Banks are deeply concerned that tens of thousands of our state’s former service members may be struggling with hunger. According to a study published in 2015, more than one in four Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nationwide reported being food insecure in the past year. A separate 2015 study found that 24 percent of veterans who have accessed care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA) reported being food insecure. Feeding America’s Hunger in America report included data on veteran and military status among food pantry clients across the nation for the first time in 2014. The study found that than 1 in 5 households served by the Feeding America food bank network reported having at least one member who has served in the U.S. military.

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In The Know: Libertarian candidates exceed expectations

by | November 11th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, 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

Libertarian candidates exceed expectations: Despite losing in every race, Oklahoma Libertarians are in a celebratory mood. For the first time in more than a dozen years, the Libertarian Party appeared in federal, state and local races. With Oklahoma’s new ballot access laws, the party will be able to remain a recognized political party at least until the next statewide election in 2018. The party had to secure at least 2.5 percent of the electorate for its presidential nominee, Gary Johnson [Journal Record].

Big Ag Had A Very Bad Election Night: On a tense election night, when most eyes were fixed on the volatile presidential race, an unlikely coalition of environmentalists, animal welfare advocates and a spectrum of other organizations won a quiet, hard-fought victory in Oklahoma. In a major setback for industrialized agriculture in the Great Plains, Oklahoma voters resoundingly rejected a “right-to-farm” question that opponents say would have made it difficult to approve any new regulations of the state’s farmers going forward [Huffington Post]. Our fact sheet on SQ 777 is available here.

Defeat of SQ 779 sends clear message to Oklahoma lawmakers: In overwhelmingly rejecting a permanent 1-cent increase in the state sales tax to fund teacher pay raises and other education concerns, Oklahoma voters sent a clear message to the members of the Republican-controlled Legislature: Do your jobs. They haven’t shown much of a willingness to do so, which is how State Question 779 wound up on the ballot Tuesday. But that resistance must end in 2017, because the teacher pay raise issue isn’t going anywhere until it does [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]. Our fact sheet on SQ 779 is available here.

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Hofmeister indictment highlights need for better campaign finance laws (Capitol Updates)

by | November 10th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (1)

Steve 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.

dark moneyAlmost everyone seems to agree that excessive money has fouled our politics in this country, but no one can figure out what to do about it. The latest manifestation of the problem is the surprise filing of felony counts by Oklahoma County DA David Prater against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, the leaders of two respected Oklahoma education organizations, and two Republican political operatives.

The shocking case is a tragedy for those charged, their families and close friends, and the entire state, especially public education. It will also be a negative influence in the lives of those close to the situation who were not charged but whose actions will be scrutinized and who will be witnesses at trial. No matter the eventual outcome, a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money will be expended by everyone involved. Looking at the charges and the affidavit accompanying them, it seems unlikely the case will go away quickly or inexpensively.

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In The Know: Backers of Failed Education Tax Vow to Press On at Capitol

by | November 10th, 2016 | Posted in Blog | 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

Backers of Failed Education Tax Vow to Press On at Capitol: Count them down but not out. With the defeat of State Question 779, which proposed to raise the state sales tax by one cent for education, some supporters say their voices will be even louder at the Capitol next year. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was among them. …The outlook, however, is somewhat bleak, at least in the short term [Oklahoma Watch]. Educators and supporters of more education funding who claimed seats in the Legislature could help push the issue when the next session starts in February [Oklahoma Watch]. Our fact sheet on SQ 779 is available here.

Counties along state borders to east, south show most support for failed education sales tax: Reaction to Tuesday’s State Question 779 vote ranged from relief from those opposed to raising Oklahoma’s sales tax to more vows by demoralized teachers to “abandon ship.” …After more than two years of public education groups documenting the relationship of pay to a deepening teacher shortage across the state, only eight counties approved the ballot initiative led by University of Oklahoma President David Boren [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Voters Soundly Reject State Question to Constitutionally Protect Farming and Ranching: Oklahoma voters on Tuesday rejected State Question 777 — known by supporters as the right-to-farm amendment. The final vote was 60-40 against the measure, which would’ve elevated farming and ranching to a constitutional right. The ‘Yes on 777’ coalition raised more money, earlier, and polling showed a race in flux weeks before the vote [StateImpact Oklahoma]. OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 777 is available here.

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In The Know: Oklahoma voters strike down ‘penny sales tax’ for education

by | November 9th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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 voters strike down ‘penny sales tax’ for education: A state question dealing with a tax increase was a highly debated issue leading up to the polls. State Question 779 would implement a one percent sales tax to fund teacher pay raises and other educational causes. Supporters say the bill would generate more than $600 million for teacher pay raises and education. “Education is hurting. Our kids are hurting. They are the ones who are feeling the effects of this,” said OEA President Alicia Priest. Critics opposed raising taxes in the midst of a budget crisis, and also took issue with the bill’s nickname [KFOR]. Read OK Policy’s statement on the SQ 779 vote here. Full Oklahoma election results are available here.

Voters back criminal justice reform: Faced with some of the highest incarceration rates in the nation, Oklahoma voters were backing two ballot measures Tuesday designed to reduce the state’s overflowing prison population. In early returns, voters were approving State Question 780, 161,935 to 112,479, or 59.01 percent to 40.99 percent, and State Question 781, 157,544 to 114,496, or 57.91 percent to 42.09 percent. State Question 780 makes certain low-level crimes a misdemeanor instead of a felony [NewsOK].

Oklahomans vote against ‘Right to Farm’: You’ve probably seen signs around town dealing with the so-called ‘Right to Farm’ state question. State Question 777 would prevent lawmakers from passing legislation to regulate broad farming and ranching practices unless there is a compelling state interest. The so-called ‘Right to Farm’ bill would amend the constitution and create guaranteed rights for the agriculture industry. Critics of the bill say that it would benefit corporate farms the most, and would hinder local leaders’ abilities to protect their communities from harmful practices [KFOR].

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Statement: With failure of SQ 779, lawmakers must take responsibility for restoring school funding

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the failure of SQ 779, the sales tax increase for education:

SQ 779 did not reach majority support even though Oklahomans widely acknowledge that we must improve school funding. The results of this vote show that many believed that SQ 779 was the wrong solution to the right problem. Many voters were not willing to add to the sales tax — our state’s most regressive major tax, which takes the biggest share of income from low-income seniors and working families — after years of income tax cuts heavily slanted to benefit the wealthiest Oklahomans. Going forward, lawmakers must find a more balanced approach to restore school funding. The failure of SQ 779 does not take lawmakers off the hook, because our state’s children and economic future still depend on better funding of schools and teachers.

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