In 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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said schools are closing, teacher layoff notices have gone out and class sizes will grow across Oklahoma because of the state’s flat education budget. Senate Appropriations Committee Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, said “it is past time” for teacher raises in Oklahoma, but he doesn’t know where the money will come from if current revenue forecasts hold. Lack of funding for this priority did not stop the Legislature from allowing a tax cut to go through that will cost $147 million in FY 2017, about the same as would have been needed to fund the first year of Superintendent Hofmeister’s teacher raise plan. The Stillwater News Press Editorial Board wrote that it will take a citizen uprising to get education funded in Oklahoma.
KGOU reported on how state agencies are planning to deal with reduced funding based on the budget appropriations passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Fallin. The Tulsa World Editorial Board wrote that funding for public art programs is another casualty of state tax policy. The Oklahoman Editorial Board wrote that the state’s Indigent Defense System is becoming strained with higher caseloads and reduced state funding. On the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis described three kinds of critics of the state budget deal.
The Journal Record wrote that most of the controversial bills that put Oklahoma in the national headlines at the start of the Legislative session did not get passed [paywall]. Gov. Fallin signed five education bills last week, including one that extends the use of parent-educator teams to decide if third graders who do not pass a reading test can go on to the fourth grade. Gov. Fallin also signed a bill that increases the requirements for how young children are secured when riding in vehicles.
Accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid would make Oklahomans healthier and would save money for residents and the state budget, according to a report released Thursday by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. You can see the full report here. OETA reported that chronic underfunding of mental health care in Oklahoma has forced providers to prioritize the most severely ill while making others wait until they get worse. The Frontier reported on how a young Oklahoma man who had already waited a month for a mental health appointment killed his mother during a psychotic break.
County Health Departments will no longer be offering free vaccinations for Oklahomans with insurance due to reduced funding. The number of abortions performed in Oklahoma declined nearly 19 percent from 2010 to 2013, part of a nationwide decline in abortions. State Sen. Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso, was accused in a lawsuit Friday of embezzling more than $1 million while at the Better Business Bureau to pay personal expenses and “to support a hidden gambling habit.” Starting with the upcoming fall semester, incoming University of Oklahoma freshmen will be required to take a five-hour course in diversity issues before completing the end of their first year.
A complaint that that supervisors at the Chickasaw Nation’s Winstar World Casino “engaged in threats and surveillance” to prevent a union organizing effort has been dismissed because tribal sovereignty puts them outside the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. The Number of the Day is 5.8% – the percentage of Oklahoma women age 15 to 50 who gave birth in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Wall Street Journal shows that public health insurance has done a better job of controlling costs per patient than private health insurance.
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