OK PolicyCast: Episode 11

by | October 10th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

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

radio micThe OK PolicyCast discusses the most important news in Oklahoma and what it means. This week, we’ll speak with Carly Putnam about economic opportunities for women in Oklahoma, and what we can do to make it easier for women to get ahead. Also this week’s headlines, numbers of the day, and more!

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The public education crunch goes from bad to worse (Guest Post: John Waldron)

by | October 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (8)

john waldronJohn Waldron is a high school history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School

There is a crisis in Oklahoma education. Here’s the view from the ground.

I teach at one of the finest high schools in Oklahoma – Booker T. Washington in Tulsa – and I have long been concerned about the effects of budget cuts on our programs. Since 2008 we have cut our staff approximately 20 percent, while adding 6-7 percent to the student population.

For me, this has meant larger class sizes. Prior to 2008, class loads were capped at 140 students per teacher. Typically, I had about 110 in my classes, which are generally upper-level history courses. Today, after six years of cuts, I have 147 students. To give you a sense of what that means, consider this: if I give an essay question to each student (something I believe is a critical part of an upper-level course) and spend five minutes on each essay, it takes over 13 hours to grade them. That’s about how much planning time I have in three weeks of school. It has also meant eliminating my elective classes to teach more survey courses. And, of course, 147 students means 147 names to memorize, and 147 sets of individual circumstances to respond to. You see the dilemma. How can we deliver quality instruction to every student, under increasingly stressed conditions? How can we make bricks without straw?

continue reading The public education crunch goes from bad to worse (Guest Post: John Waldron)

In The Know: State Medicaid program needs additional $164 million to avoid cuts in 2016

by | October 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.

State Medicaid leaders told lawmakers in Thursday’s board meeting that they need at least $164 million in additional state dollars in the next fiscal year just to maintain the state’s existing Medicaid program. The agency plans to ask for a total additional $275 million and hopes to increase the rate it pays providers, which has been cut in recent years. The state Department of Corrections opened its renovated execution chamber to the media, and says that it is ready for November’s scheduled executions.

The Red Dirt Report wrote that state prisons’ officers say that inmates are planning coordinated riots across the state in hopes of forcing a federal takeover of the state’s overcrowded prison system. Staffing levels are too low to restore order if riots break out, according to Oklahoma Corrections Professionals. The Tulsa World’s editorial board argued that the state Department of Education still needs to meet its testing mandate this winter despite unrest over standardized testing and having no testing vendor lined up. A former member of the state Board of Education lambasted Gov. Fallin for her silence regarding the chaos over winter testing.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed a study showing same-sex marriage in Oklahoma will boost the state’s income tax revenue. The State of Oklahoma has confirmed that state workers can enroll a same-sex spouse in employee benefit plans. A state panel has approved a laundry list of repairs needed at the Capitol. The state Department of Human Services collected a record nearly $1 million per day in child support on behalf of Oklahoma children and families between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014.

Northeastern Oklahoma officials and business leaders urged the state transportation committee to fund needed repairs to the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation system, and they said continuing to defer maintenance could result in shipping and transport delays.  StateImpact spoke to landowners who have successfully turned to wind farming to preserve their family farms. The Number of the Day is the number of marriage licenses issued in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, a poll of low-income Southerners found that they preferred Medicaid over private health insurance.

continue reading In The Know: State Medicaid program needs additional $164 million to avoid cuts in 2016

Study: Same-sex marriage will boost Oklahoma income tax revenue

by | October 9th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)
Photo by Jose Antonio Navas.

Photo by Jose Antonio Navas.

Now that same-sex marriage is legal in Oklahoma, there’s one big question on everyone’s mind: how is it going to affect state tax revenue?

Okay, maybe that’s not on everyone’s mind, but researchers at Tulane, Vanderbilt, and Western Kentucky Universities have given it a lot of thought. Their research published earlier this year in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management makes an extremely detailed examination of how same-sex marriage will affect state and federal taxes in Oklahoma and across the nation. They also provide a hint on how many same-sex couples in the state may take advantage of their new right to marry.

continue reading Study: Same-sex marriage will boost Oklahoma income tax revenue

In The Know: Voter registration deadline for November elections is tomorrow

by and | October 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.

Oklahomans who want to cast a ballot in the Nov. 4 general election have until tomorrow to register to vote. The OK Policy Blog and David Blatt’s Journal Record Column discussed Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit that seeks to take health insurance away from 55,000 Oklahomans. About six weeks into the school year, school districts across the state still have teacher vacancies. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has begun studying how to boost pipeline safety throughout the state. The U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration threatened to intervene if Oklahoma does not beef up its pipeline regulations.

Two news organizations are suing Oklahoma prison officials for preventing reporters from viewing portions of an execution that went awry in the spring and are asking a federal judge to stop new state execution protocols from going into effect. Only two of the nearly 1,500 inmates granted an early release by the state Corrections Department since March have returned to prison after they were set free. More than half of Oklahoma’s public college presidents went to the state Capitol to tell lawmakers not to allow guns on campus

A House interim study once again looked at a measure to ban texting while driving, which has failed multiple times in the Legislature. Oklahoma City has launched a new smartphone app for reporting problems to the city and finding public meetings. Oklahoma has adopted emergency regulations to govern health care navigator programs that help Oklahomans find coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The OK Policy Blog previously argued that the new regulations are unnecessary and could hamper efforts to reduce the number of uninsured.

Refilling prescription painkillers will now be more difficult after new rules went into effect this week that put popular hydrocodone medications in a stricter drug class. Tulsa is hosting a drug take-back day on October 18 for people to dispose of unwanted prescription medications. Governor Fallin’s office declined to issue a state of emergency declaration requested by Rep. Mike Ritze due to “the potential spread of Ebola.” Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said that “declaring a state of emergency when no Oklahomans are actually sick would be premature.”

The Number of the Day is the drop in crude oil prices at the Cushing oil hub since mid-June. In today’s Policy Note, Vox examines why oil prices are plummeting and what that could mean for the economy.

continue reading In The Know: Voter registration deadline for November elections is tomorrow

Misguided ruling could rob health care from 55,000 Oklahomans

by | October 8th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

ACA_SupremeCourtThe ruling by Oklahoma federal District Court Judge Ronald A. White that Oklahomans buying health insurance on healthcare.gov are ineligible for tax credits may have been a victory for Attorney General Scott Pruitt. But if upheld by higher courts, it would be a huge defeat for tens of thousands of previously-uninsured Oklahomans who are using these credits to purchase affordable health coverage. The good news is that the ruling rests on a misguided interpretation of the Affordable Care Act that may still be overturned.

Premium tax credits are a central mechanism of the Affordable Care Act’s goal of extending health insurance coverage to tens of millions of  uninsured Americans. Individuals and families with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level are eligible for the tax credits on a sliding-scale basis. The credits can only be used to buy certain health plans on the new health insurance marketplaces, known also as Exchanges. Under the ACA, states were given the opportunity to operate their own exchange; where they chose not to do so, as in Oklahoma and a majority of states, the exchange is operated by the federal government at HealthCare.gov.

continue reading Misguided ruling could rob health care from 55,000 Oklahomans

In The Know: Same-Sex married couples must wait for new drivers’ licenses

by and | October 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.

Although same sex marriage is now legal in Oklahoma, couples seeking to change their name on state identification cards, such as a drivers’ licenses, may have to wait a few days as the Department of Public Safety and tag agencies work out a process. An attorney told NewsOK that private sector employers with self-funded health plans still can decide whether to extend health insurance benefits to same-sex spouses. With same-sex couples on front pages across the state, Oklahoman reporter Chris Casteel looked back to the first time the paper did a feature on gay and lesbian Oklahomans in 1983.

Almost simultaneously last night, debates were held for the state superintendent’s race, the open US Senate race, and local judicial candidates. U.S. Rep. James Lankford and state Sen. Connie Johnson differed on drug policy, same-sex marriage and use of military force as they brought their U.S. Senate campaigns to Oklahoma State University. The candidates for state superintendent squared off on the issues of Common Core standards, standardized testing and teacher pay at a debate in Claremore. The College Board is releasing SAT scores for the graduating class of 2014, and the news is good for Oklahoma, even though fewer students showed up to take the test. You can see the full Oklahoma SAT report here.

A state lawmaker said she will reintroduce legislation to require a DNA sample from everyone arrested for a felony in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how this kind of indiscriminate DNA testing can lead to innocent Oklahomans being wrongfully convicted. NewsOK reported that law enforcement agencies neglected to perform DNA tests on tens of thousands of people convicted of serious misdemeanors, despite a provision in state law for such testing. Inmates inside Okmulgee County jail are threatening to resume rioting due to severe overcrowding. Fox 25 reported on new hopes that Oklahoma will implement real corrections reforms. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed signs that Governor Fallin may begin supporting criminal justice reform.

The OK Policy Blog discussed how there are limited economic opportunities for women in Oklahoma and what we can do to fix that. Oklahoma Watch launched an online data center to search for useful and revealing facts about public agencies, cities and towns, and the state as a whole. The Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah has been gifted a heard of bison and will tend to the animals for the first time since the 1970s.

The Number of the Day is percentage of Oklahoma students who took the SAT in 2014 who met the SAT College and Career Readiness Benchmark. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discussed a surprising Obamacare experiment that is improving health in low-income communities while saving taxpayers $24 million last year.

continue reading In The Know: Same-Sex married couples must wait for new drivers’ licenses

Oklahoma women have few economic opportunities. Here’s how we can fix that.

by | October 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)
businesspeople

Photo from Penn State used under a Creative Commons license.

A report released last month from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) ranked all 50 states on economic opportunity for women. Oklahoma came in 43rd. However, a careful reading of the report shows that it’s not just women who are in trouble economically. In Oklahoma, both men and women are struggling to get ahead.

What’s in the report?

IWPR’s rankings were based on a composite of four ratings: median annual full-time, year-round earnings for women; the ratio of median earnings between women and men for full-time, year-round employment; the percent of women in the labor force; and the percent of employed women in managerial or professional occupations.

continue reading Oklahoma women have few economic opportunities. Here’s how we can fix that.

In The Know: Same-sex marriage now is legal in Oklahoma

by and | October 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.

Gay and lesbian couples began marrying in Oklahoma after a surprise announcement from the U.S. Supreme Court that could quickly expand same-sex marriage to nearly two-thirds of the states. Among the first to get married were two Tulsa women who filed the lawsuit against Oklahoma’s same-sex marriage ban nearly ten years ago. SCOTUSBlog examined the implications of the Supreme Court’s action across the country.

Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller says Oklahoma’s gross revenue collections in September grew by more than 8 percent over receipts from the same month last year and that the growth was the highest monthly growth rate since April 2013. Gross revenue is everything the state brings in before paying back tax refunds and diverting revenue to mandatory programs. Treasurer Miller argued against an idea suggested by both Gov. Fallin and her challenger Rep. Joe Dorman to move Oklahoma to a two-year budget.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed warning signs that state leaders may overreact to a recent killing in Moore in ways that harm all of us. Curtis McCarty, who spent 19 years on Oklahoma’s death row before being exonerated by DNA evidence, spoke with Wichita Public Radio about his wrongful conviction and life behind bars.

Flu season is beginning and health officials recommend everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine. Debates and forums involving candidates for U.S. Senate, state superintendent of public instruction and Tulsa County district judge will be held this evening. The Together Tuesday tour by Together Oklahoma, a coalition led by OK Policy, is coming to Woodward this evening. The tour is a series of forums on the state of democracy in Oklahoma and how we can develop a state budget and tax system that better reflects our values. The City of Duncan, which is already facing a severe drought, is now dealing with contamination of its drinking water that violates federal standards.

The Number of the Day is the number of endangered species in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, John Oliver offers a revealing look at civil forfeitures, a process which allows state and federal government to seize individuals’ property without convicting them of a crime.

continue reading In The Know: Same-sex marriage now is legal in Oklahoma

Don’t let fear make us dumb

by | October 6th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (1)
Photo by Anthony Gullen.

Photo by Anthony Gullen.

Recently a terrible crime has made the headlines in Oklahoma. Shortly after being fired from a food processing plant in Moore, Alton Nolen attacked two of his co-workers with a knife, beheading one and seriously injuring another.

The details of the crime are awful, and the perpetrator should be punished to the full extent of the law. However, our reaction to this incident could have repercussions far beyond Alton Nolen, his victims, and their families. There are already signs that state leaders may overreact in ways that harm all of us.

continue reading Don’t let fear make us dumb

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