With the right choices, we can restore education funding

by | March 31st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education, Taxes | Comments (0)

okedrallyThese are the prepared remarks delivered by David Blatt at the Oklahoma Education Rally on March 31st

It’s amazing to see such a huge crowd standing up for public education and Oklahoma’s children. Thank you all for being here.

My name is David Blatt. I’m the Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, a non-partisan think-tank that works on education and other state policy issues. We lead a coalition called Together Oklahoma, and if you want to find our information and join with us in the work that we do, please visit TogetherOk.org and okpolicy.org 

When you leave the rally this morning to go talk to legislators, many of them will express sympathy for boosting funding for education, but they may tell you that the money just isn’t there.  Don’t believe them. We have options, and I’m going to tell you what they are.

continue reading With the right choices, we can restore education funding

In The Know: Thousands of Oklahomans expected to descend on Capitol, press for more school dollars

by and | March 31st, 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.

Today you should know that thousands of people from across Oklahoma are expected to descend on the state Capitol today for what could be the largest rally for education in state history. The Tulsa World recalled a similar effort to rally for education funding before the passage of HB 1017  in 1990. Tulsa World editor Ginnie Graham wrote that kids with a day off from school could benefit from attending the rally. You can find more information here about the rally agenda and transportation options.

Oklahoma Watch examined the trend of growing advocacy by Tulsa-area school administrators. Tulsa schools are struggling to find enough teacher applicants due to low pay compared with nearby states. Lawmakers are facing pressure to revise many of the education reforms passed in recent years that critics say were too hastily put together without educator input.

As the Oklahoma Legislature reaches its halfway point, House and Senate leaders will soon begin working with the governor’s office to develop a budget while facing a $188 million shortfall. OK Policy has shared several ideas for how lawmakers can fill the budget hole without cutting services even deeper. A new analysis examines what’s behind the large rise in children entering Oklahoma’s emergency foster care system. Read the full report from The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group here. The head of Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services said the next report from monitors of a federal court settlement to improve the foster-care system will likely be negative.

The Oklahoman editorial board wrote that lawmakers should listen to pleas for more mental health funding. Insurers and other organizations helping with Affordable Care Act enrollment say they are prepared to handle a last-minute rush with the deadline for open enrollment today. Think Progress discusses how the states where residents struggle most to afford health care and medicine, including Oklahoma, have refused to address this issue by accepting federal funds to expand coverage. A two day conference in Shawnee will share work and research on Native American health issues.

An offender at an Oklahoma state prison was killed by a fellow inmate. The state Department of Corrections is not providing any details about the incident, including the names of the inmates involved, until they complete an investigation. A surprise drug screening at a private Oklahoma City halfway house this week showed more than half of the offenders were using illegal drugs. The community corrections center is operated by the same company that ran a Tulsa halfway house which was shut down following allegations of organized inmate fights. Julie Delcour discussed decrepit, cramped conditions at Tulsa County’s Juvenile Justice Center.

Oklahoma’s jobless rate dropped to 5.0 percent in February — the lowest since December 2008. As drought continues and oil and natural gas operations continue to expand throughout the state, companies are looking for ways to reduce the amount of freshwater they use. The southwest quarter of Oklahoma is in a fourth year of extreme drought.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking for age-adjusted rate of death by diseases of the heart. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute discusses why claims of a skills shortage among American workers may be overblown.

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Weekly Wonk March 30, 2014

by | March 30th, 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 Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

 This week, OK Policy released our suggestions for a balanced approach to the state budget shortfall. We examined the effects of tax cuts in Kansas, suggesting that their impact in Kansas offered a warning to Oklahoma. An upcoming lecture sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services will discuss responsive practices for adverse childhood experiences.

We shared the story of an Oklahoma man unable to access needed health care because the state has refused federal funds to extend coverage to low-income Oklahomans. We also gave you six good reasons why you should enroll in health insurance

In his Journal Record column, OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt discussed possible reasons for Oklahoma’s chronic budget shortfalls. Blatt will be speaking in Oklahoma City on Monday as part of the rally for public education funding.  

Numbers of the Day

  • 20 percent - Percentage of black male students in Oklahoma who received an out-of-school suspension in 2011-2012, compared with 7 percent of white male students. For females, 13 percent of black students had an out of school suspension in 2011-2012 compared with 3 percent of white students.
  • 36.9 percent - Percentage of office-based physicians in Oklahoma with a basic electronic health record system, significantly lower than the national average of 48.1 percent.
  • $101 million - How much Oklahoma could increase revenues by eliminating the “double deduction” for state income taxes, an unintentional fluke of the fluke of the law that serves no rational purpose.
  • $3.7 billion - Oklahoma’s tribal gaming revenue in 2012, the second highest in the US.
  • 12.2 percent - 2012 unemployment rate in North Tulsa, nearly twice the unemployment rate for the Tulsa Metro as a whole (6.9 percent).

Policy Notes

  • Demos examines how minimum wage hikes have affected job growth in cities and states.
  • The New Republic writes that the Affordable Care Act’s efforts to help the underinsured Americans have been overlooked.
  • SCOTUSblog reviews recent arguments made before the US Supreme Court pertaining to birth control, religious beliefs, and business in the Affordable Care Act.
  • Due the Affordable Care Act, survivors of domestic violence have resources available when applying for health insurance, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
  • Columbia Journalism Review discusses how coverage of debates over whether states should expand Medicaid has been leaving out the stories of the real people who are affected.

Upcoming event: Policy & Practice lecture series on best practices for adverse childhood experiences

by | March 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

julie miller-cribbsOn April 8, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will host Dr. Julie Miller-Cribbs for her lecture, “Adverse Childhood Experiences: Responsive Practices in Service Delivery Across Multiple Domains” as part of its Policy & Practice lecture series. Dr. Miller-Cribbs (who’s previously done a guest post for the OK Policy Blog) will discuss practices in integrating approaches to research, training and service delivery for individuals with adverse childhood experiences. 

Dr. Miller-Cribbs is Professor and Interim Director of the University of Oklahoma’s Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work, as well as a Research Associate in the School of Community Medicine. Previously, she worked as an emergency room social worker at a trauma facility in St. Louis, and with urban families and youth at social service agencies in Chicago and St. Louis. Dr. Miller-Gibbs’s research focuses on factors pertaining to vulnerability, strengths and functioning in the arenas of diversity, health and community life. She has presented her research at over 40 national and international conferences, and is the author of three books. 

This free public lecture will be Tuesday, April 8, from noon to 1pm at the Oklahoma History Center’s Chesapeake Room (800 Nazih Zuhdi Dr., Oklahoma City, OK 73105). For more information, contact the OKDHS Office of Planning, Research and Statistics at 405-521-3552. View the complete lecture series lineup here.

In The Know: Impact of massive tax cuts in Kansas offers warning to Oklahoma

by and | March 28th, 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 Zebre.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that following massive tax cuts in Kansas, job creation hasn’t kept up with the rest of the nation and business creation has slowed, as the state has cut millions from schools and other key services. Owasso community members rallied against Common Core on Thursday, and House Minority Leader Scott Inman criticized Governor Fallin for conceding too quickly to opponents of the educational standards. In a Tulsa World op-ed, Inman gave support for parents and educators converging in Oklahoma City to rally for education funding next Monday. Representatives from nearly every school district in the state are expected rally at the Capitol.

The Oklahoma Senate passed an extension of the state’s $5 million film industry tax break. The Senate also extended a tax incentive designed to reimburse Oklahoma communities for some of their expenses in attracting national and international events. Both bills head to the Governor’s desk next. Language that would have eliminated Oklahoma’s franchise tax has been removed from a bill. The tax generates about $40 million annually. NPR reported that some states are doing very well at signing people up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but Oklahoma is lagging behind.

Fox23 reported that Tulsa police officers are still driving thousands of miles to transport Oklahomans in need of mental health treatment, putting significant strain on department resources. Tulsa’s Juvenile Bureau made the case for why they need a new facility, despite juvenile arrests hitting a ten-year low. Tulsa County voters will decide the issue on Tuesday, April 1. With tornado season approaching, The Oklahoman’s editorial board called for bilingual severe weather warnings.

Representatives from five states experiencing earthquakes tied to hydraulic fracturing met for the first time in Oklahoma City to exchange information and collaborate on standards. The city of Duncan is contemplating a ban on all outdoor watering as water level in local Waurika Lake, the primary water source for several local cities, dropped to an unprecedented low. The lesser prairie chicken, a species native to Oklahoma, has been classified as “threatened” by Fish and Wildlife Service, possibly affecting oil and gas activities in several states.

The Number of the Day is the 2012 unemployment rate in North Tulsa, nearly twice the unemployment rate for the Tulsa Metro as a whole. In today’s Policy Note, Columbia Journalism Review discusses how coverage of debates over whether states should expand Medicaid has been leaving out the stories of the real people who are affected.

continue reading In The Know: Impact of massive tax cuts in Kansas offers warning to Oklahoma

There’s still no free lunch: Impact of massive tax cuts in Kansas offers a warning to Oklahoma

by | March 27th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education, Taxes | Comments (0)

ks_socialmediagraphic_finalAs Oklahoma considers tax cuts similar to those that took effect in Kansas last year, a new report shows that following in Kansas’s footsteps is a bad idea. 

Kansas’s massive tax cuts have failed to improve the state’s economic performance, as they have deepened the damage done by the recession to schools, colleges and universities, and other key services according to the new report from the nonpartisan, Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

Those arguing for more tax cuts in Oklahoma, even before we restore huge cuts to education funding, have claimed the tax cuts would boost the economy so much they would pay for themselves. Faced with the reality that large majorities of Oklahomans oppose cutting funding for services in exchange for tax cuts, the tax cut boosters have tried to promise a free lunch. The news out of Kansas exposes how weak that promise really is.

continue reading There’s still no free lunch: Impact of massive tax cuts in Kansas offers a warning to Oklahoma

In The Know: Why one Oklahoma oil executive doesn’t think oil and gas tax breaks are needed

by and | March 27th, 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 the Kaiser-Francis Oil Company’s Chief Financial Officer Don Millican said the state’s tax break for horizontal drilling is not actually increasing in-state drilling. OK Policy previously released a report on why this tax break, which is costing Oklahoma more than $250 million this year alone, is unnecessary and unaffordable.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed why Oklahoma is facing a budget shortfall when most states have surpluses. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol estimates 30,000 Oklahomans will attend a rally at the state Capitol on Monday for adequate education funding. Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman told the Tulsa Regional Chamber that the phrase Common Core has become toxic in Oklahoma. The Oklahoman wrote that attempts to repeal Common Core came close to banning ACT tests and Future Farmers of America.

The Tulsa Chamber’s workforce analysis project estimated that the aerospace jobs will grow 8 percent and manufacturing nearly 5 percent through 2018. You can see the full presentation from the Tulsa Chamber here. President Obama met with executives from the Belgian aerospace company ASCO Industries to thank them for investing in a plant in Stillwater.  A study commissioned by The Wind Coalition says developers have invested more than $6 billion in Oklahoma’s wind energy industry. You can see the full study here.

KGOU reported that with this year’s deadline to sign up for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace approaching, more than 60 percent of those without coverage still don’t know about it. OK Policy previously shared six reasons why Oklahomans should get covered before March 31st. On the OK Policy Blog, we share the story of an Oklahoman living in severe pain without being able to treat it, because Oklahoma is refusing federal health care funds.

A measure intended to close a loophole in child sexual abuse laws delved into a discussion in the Legislature about the appropriateness of spanking. The Legislature approved a resolution asking the federal government to do a comprehensive study of the Red River basin

A Senate committee advanced a bill that would add four prescription drugs to the state’s drug trafficking laws and allow those convicted of possessing larger amounts of these drugs to serve up to life in prison without parole. An Oklahoma judge ruled that the state could not keep secret the identities of the suppliers of drugs used in executions. The Tulsa World wrote that the new Department of Correction’s directors attempts to clamp down on media access will prevent taxpayers from knowing how their dollars are being spent.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s tribal gaming revenue in 2012, the second highest in the US. In today’s Policy Note, the National Women’s Law Center discusses a change in federal rules that will make it easier for survivors of domestic violence to get affordable health care.

continue reading In The Know: Why one Oklahoma oil executive doesn’t think oil and gas tax breaks are needed

I get knocked down (Guest post: Camille Landry)

by | March 26th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (0)

camille_landryCamille 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).

It’s Saturday morning at a free clinic in an Oklahoma City church staffed by student volunteers. Another group of volunteers is serving breakfast. There are over 100 people waiting for medical care. Many of those waiting have chronic diseases – diabetes, hypertension, asthma and/or heart disease. The patients are mostly between 18 and 65 – too old for Medicaid, too young for Medicare – but a few children wait to be seen, too. Most of the adults are employed.  None of them have health insurance.

George Carter sits at the table reading a textbook as he waits his turn. He is clean-cut and polite. George was 22 when he left a job at a big box store to attend college full time. “I was healthy. I was strong,” he says. “I planned to finish my computer science degree and join the Navy.”

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In The Know: Hundreds line up for health insurance enrollment help

by and | March 26th, 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 hundreds of people lined up at sites across Tulsa to get help enrolling in insurance on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. The Obama administration is granting more time for people to apply for health care if they started the process but were unable to complete it before the March 31 deadline. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services wrote an op-ed in the Tulsa World about how Oklahomans benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

Organizers of a March 31 rally at the state Capitol for education funding are estimating about 25,000 Oklahomans will attend. OK Policy released a report showing how Oklahoma can close its budget shortfall without further cutting education and other important services that are still funded way below pre-recession levels. The Senate Finance Committee voted to extend a tax credit that pays part of the salaries of private aerospace engineers. A bill to allow counties to impose a tax on sand and limestone mining operations that sell their product elsewhere didn’t make it through the full House by the deadline.

Oklahoma City business leaders and educators are speaking out against a push to scrap Common Core standards in Oklahoma schools. The Oklahoma Board of Education voted to adopt new science standards, beginning in the 2016-17 academic year. A Senate committee approved a bill that would require parents with minor children who want a divorce to take a class about the negative impact on kids.

A House Committee voted to erect a privately funding monument to the U.S. Bill of Rights at the Oklahoma Capitol. The monument’s approval would bypass a process that has been put on hiatus after the Capitol Preservation Commission received requests from Hindu, Satanist, and animal rights activist groups to erect their own monuments. 

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has reached a deal to allow Oklahoma and Kansas turnpike passes to work across state borders. A group supporting Senate candidate T.W. Shannon said they had been incorporated as a for-profit company instead of a non-profit because of a paperwork error.

The Number of the Day is how much Oklahoma could increase revenues by eliminating the “double deduction” for state income taxes, an unintentional fluke of the fluke of the law that serves no rational purpose. In today’s Policy Note, SCOTUSblog gave a plain English summary of the US Supreme Court oral arguments in Hobby Lobby’s lawsuit against the requirement to offer insurance covering contraception.

continue reading In The Know: Hundreds line up for health insurance enrollment help

Filling the Hole: Options for a balanced approach to the state budget shortfall

by | March 25th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (0)

Appropriations-08-15-CPIadjusted

The Board of Equalization has certified that legislators will have $188 million less for next year’s budget compared to this year.  In her FY 2015 Executive Budget, Governor Fallin proposed an overall cut of 1.9 percent across all of state government and cuts of 5 percent to most agency budgets. In a new issue brief, OK Policy argues that responding to budget shortfalls by imposing deeper budget cuts is not an inevitable outcome.

The prospect of a new round of budget cuts is of grave concern for two main reasons:

continue reading Filling the Hole: Options for a balanced approach to the state budget shortfall