Should Oklahoma require a civics test to graduate high school?

by | December 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education, Elections | Comments (1)
Photo by the Town of Chapel Hill.

Photo by the Town of Chapel Hill.

This post is by OK Policy intern Dakota States. Dakota is a recent graduate of Oklahoma State University, where he studied political science, environmental sociology, and screen studies.

A common stereotype of high school civics is a teacher who’d rather be coaching reading directly off slides as he unenthusiastically tells students about the branches of government. Admittedly, that stereotype is unfair to many creative and talented social studies teachers in our state; however, it’s true that civics has not typically been given the same importance as other high school academic and social goals.

Students often leave high school with an incomplete understanding of how the social and political structures around them function. That may be why an Annenberg Public Policy Center survey found that 35 percent of Americans were not able to name a single branch of government and only 32 percent could correctly identify the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

continue reading Should Oklahoma require a civics test to graduate high school?

In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds income tax cut measure

by and | December 3rd, 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.

A state income tax cut bill passed by the Oklahoma Legislature this year was upheld Tuesday by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. You can read the Court’s decision here. A rape charge has been filed against a former Norman High School student in a case that sparked a protest by classmates of the alleged victim. State Superintendent-elect Joy Hofmeister on Tuesday released the results of an unscientific poll conducted by her transition team that identified testing, teacher pay and overall funding as the top three priorities identified by more than 10,000 respondents.

On Thursday, OK Policy’s Kate Richey will speak about her research on the wealth and opportunity gap for people of color in Oklahoma at a meeting of the  Alliance for Economic Inclusion for Northeastern Oklahoma. The meeting is free and open to the public and will be held from 6-8 pm at 221 E Mathew B Brady St in Tulsa. You can find our report and past presentations on the opportunity gap here. A protest is being planned outside the weekly Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee meeting over an article the groups’s president wrote titled, “Why blacks hate cops & how blacks can be winners, not losers!”

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate for 2014 is 4.5 percent, down significantly from 5.6 percent in 2013. OSU economist Dan Rickman warned that a drop in oil prices could cost the state up to 1,000 jobs next year. A survey by Arvest Bank found that Oklahomans’ sentiment about their financial situation improved from June to October, but 60 percent of respondents foresee widespread unemployment in five years. A Tulsa police officer charged in the murder of his daughter’s boyfriend retired last month and collected a lump sum pension payout of more than $160,000. While a state law prevents officers convicted of felonies from collecting their monthly pensions, Officer Shannon Kepler gets to keep the lump sum even if convicted in the case.

A north Tulsa specialty health clinic celebrated the opening of a new education center Tuesday. The clinic is aimed at easing the doctor shortage in north Tulsa and helping area residents to have easier access to specialists. The Oklahoman editorial board argued that Oklahoma should get off the short list of states that haven’t banned texting while driving. The Oklahoma Lottery Commission will again ask legislators to lower their 35 percent minimum mandated percentage of net profits going to education.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission ended its four-month inquiry into wind energy development in Oklahoma, which could lead to new rules for the industry. National Geographic Traveler magazine has named Oklahoma City as one of the ‘Best Trips’ of 2015. You can see the magazine’s write-up here. The Number of the Day is the percentage of consumers with subprime credit in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog reports that many Americans didn’t vote in the most recent elections because they couldn’t get time off from work.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds income tax cut measure

Upcoming Event: ‘Closing the gap’ & Alliance for Economic Inclusion

by | December 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

Photo_Kate RicheyThe Alliance for Economic Inclusion for Northeastern Oklahoma (“NEOK AEI”) will host their quarterly meeting this Thursday, December 4th. Kate Richey, who works for Oklahoma Policy Institute as project coordinator for Oklahoma Assets Network will present her research, ‘Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma.‘ This research outlines an equity agenda for Oklahoma’s future, one that acknowledges the racial wealth gap and income inequality as products of our collective history, culture, and public policies:

Oklahoma’s prosperity depends on the financial success and economic achievement of the people who call it home. For a state that has always been rich in natural resources and entrepreneurial spirit, the future continues to look bright. Yet we’ve also inherited a legacy of discrimination that historically impeded economic opportunity for people of color and created a wealth deficit that persists today. Left unaddressed, this wealth deficit threatens Oklahoma’s ability to achieve shared prosperity into the
future.

aeiThe NEOK AEI partnership seeks to improve the financial capability of low- to moderate-income consumers and is comprised of community based organizations, financial institutions, foundations, employers, faith-based organizations, tribal, state and local governmental agencies, bank regulators, and public officials. The NEOK AEI, launched in October 2012, has over 150 members representing 97 organizations. 

The meeting is free and open to the public and will be held from 6:00 to 8:00pm at 221 E Mathew B Brady St in Tulsa Oklahoma.

In The Know: Education funding, scrutiny of tax credits top Oklahoma Republican agenda for 2015

by and | December 2nd, 2014 | Posted in 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.

Oklahoma Republicans met will meet Sunday and Monday to hammer out details of their agenda for 2015, and House Speaker Jeff Hickman said they are focusing on increased funding for public schools and more scrutiny of state tax credits. Gov. Mary Fallin said she’s urging lawmakers to give careful scrutiny to the state-appropriated budget, especially the amount being diverted from Oklahoma’s general revenue fund. The Oklahoma Democratic Party chose not to pursue a new election in the Second Congressional District, even though the party’s original candidate died two days before the election.

A decade after casino gambling was approved in Oklahoma, the industry has boomed, but little has been done to measure how bad compulsive gambling is in Oklahoma. Compulsive gambling has been the motivation for several high profile embezzling cases in the state. Wagoner County Sheriff Bob Colbert defended a program that is providing military equipment at very low cost to local law enforcement. President Obama is planning an executive order to restrict this program, while creating new grants to improve police training and place body cameras on 50,000 officers across the country. Sheriff Colbert said his office is already testing out two body cameras and would be interested in a federal grant to put them on all of his deputies.

For World AIDs Day, the OK Policy Blog shared a Q&A with the director of H.O.P.E., a Tulsa-based HIV/AIDS testing and educational organization. Tulsa CARES, an organization that provides support to people in northeast Oklahoma living with HIV/AIDS, announced that they are building a new, much larger facility. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from a Tulsa police officer who had refused to attend a law enforcement appreciation day event held by the Islamic Society in Tulsa. NewsOK reported that Oklahoma is relying on the honor system to enforce a new law prohibiting certain welfare funds from being used in casinos, liquor stores, tobacco shops and strip clubs.

The Tulsa School Board is looking at a $415 million bond proposal for facility and technology upgrades, which would set a new state record for total cost. A Tulsa World poll found that by a 2 to 1 margin, Oklahomans don’t think the state’s A-F system of grading public schools accurately reflects school quality. A monthly economic survey index of Oklahoma and eight nearby states has dipped again, pointing to much slower growth for the overall regional economy over the next three to six months. Falling oil prices have cost Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm $10 billion in lost stock value since August.

Oklahoma’s tobacco trust is on pace to generate as much in earnings for the fight against tobacco as it is taking in from tobacco companies as part of a nationwide legal settlement. A long-awaited train connecting passengers from Tulsa to Oklahoma City is arriving next year with plans to connect riders from downtown to downtown. Oklahoma officials said the state will have a hard time meeting stricter new ozone standards being proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ground-level ozone fuels smog and can worsen respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including asthma.

The Number of the Day is the number of children in the custody of the state of Oklahoma at the end of FY 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times examined a growing parent backlash against overtesting in schools.

continue reading In The Know: Education funding, scrutiny of tax credits top Oklahoma Republican agenda for 2015

On World AIDS Day, a Q&A about HIV and AIDS in Oklahoma

by | December 1st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
AIDS/HIV memorial. Photo by byronv2.

AIDS/HIV memorial. Photo by byronv2.

Since 1988, health advocates around the world have recognized World AIDS Day as an opportunity to unify in the fight against AIDS. To learn more about HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma, we spoke with Kathy Williams, executive director of Health Outreach Prevention Education, Inc. (H.O.P.E.), a Tulsa-based HIV/AIDS testing and educational organization. Her answers are summarized below.

continue reading On World AIDS Day, a Q&A about HIV and AIDS in Oklahoma

In The Know: Hundreds of votes go uncounted during November election

by and | December 1st, 2014 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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.

Hundreds of voters who cast provisional ballots during the Nov. 4 election ended up not being counted by election officials. While many were excluded for valid reasons, the Tulsa World found that at least two ballots had not been counted due to a mistake by the election board. Community leaders in Tulsa said the city has made progress in reducing distrust of law enforcement among blacks and Hispanics, but more needs to be done. Some Oklahoma Muslims say increasing discrimination in the state is creating the worst environment they have faced. A Tulsa World poll found 54 percent of Oklahomans viewed Islam unfavorably, but almost 80 percent said Muslims should enjoy the same religious freedoms as other Americans.

A sharp drop in crude oil prices caused shares in Oklahoma’s largest oil and gas companies to fall between 12 and 30 percent on Friday. Justia analyzed the ruling that ordered Continental Energy CEO Harold Hamm to pay a $1 billion divorce settlement. Following a large demonstration by Norman High students and community members against how three sexual assault victims were treated at the school, the district’s superintendent said they will make reforms that seek to be a national model in sexual assault curriculum policies. The Oklahoman wrote that lawmakers have no excuses not to pursue criminal justice reforms to reduce incarceration. Former Oklahoma Secretary of Health Tom Adelson wrote in the Tulsa World that predictions of an Obamacare ‘trainwreck’ have not come true. Two events are coming up in Tulsa to help people learn about obtaining health insurance through the marketplace exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.

Tulsa World opinion editor Wayne Greene gave recommendations to fix the state’s broken budgeting process. The Oklahoman wrote that two separate AG opinions finding that the Legislature illegally shifted funds when making this year’s budget show a need for budget reforms. OK Policy previously discussed how the Legislature’s funding grabs have threatened low-income college students and the uninsured. Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and former state Treasurer Scott Meacham argued in NewsOK that Oklahoma schools are failing, but they said we should not have a serious discussion about increasing funding until we change teacher tenure and compensation, create higher curriculum standards, and hold back more students. The Tulsa World argued that the reinstatement of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver still does not justify revoking Common Core standards.

The Oklahoman praised OK Policy’s newly updated CountyStats tool that provides fact sheets with key data for each of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. You can see the latest CountyStats fact sheets here. Oklahoma lawmakers and managers of the Capitol restoration project traveled to Kansas to get tips on Capitol repair. The EPA has awarded more than $14.2 million to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to fund drinking water systems throughout the state. The Number of the Day is number of Oklahomans exonerated after being falsely convicted between 1989 and 2014. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress shares how the Affordable Care Act is helping LGBT Americans.

continue reading In The Know: Hundreds of votes go uncounted during November election

The Weekly Wonk November 30, 2014

by | November 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 KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know. Because In The Know has taken short breaks over the last two weeks for a conference and Thanksgiving, this edition of The Weekly Wonk includes material from both weeks.

OK Policy released our updated CountySTATS 2014, with county-by-county data on a wide variety of indicators. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board discussed some of the more interesting numbers they uncovered in CountySTATS 2014. In his Capitol Updates, Steve Lewis discussed why agency directors shouldn’t expect new funding this year, despite growing need, and argued that if Oklahoma wants to increase education funding, it will need to do more than simply rearrange the funds it already has.

A new blog post explained how state leadership’s efforts to block the Affordable Care Act means the state is missing out on the flexibility the federal government is offering states in expanding health coverage. We examined the implications of a ruling from the state Attorney General finding that the legislature acted unconstitutionally appropriated from the Trauma Care Assistance Fund in an effort to balance the state budget. We’ve written about the legislature’s habit of inappropriate appropriations before, and the shortfalls they create.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt discussed a recent presentation given by Dr. Larry Jacobs on the future of the Affordable Care Act and concluded that while the road to full implementation might be bumpy, it’s not a dead end. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board came to a somewhat different conclusion. Policy Director Gene Perry spoke to The Oklahoman about the possibilities for criminal justice reform in 2015, and The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board praised OK Policy’s support for a renewed effort from the Governor’s office in implementing the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. In our Editorial of the Week, Blatt made recommendations for Gov. Fallin’s second term in office.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk November 30, 2014

Education funding schemes no substitute for dealing with taxes

by | November 26th, 2014 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

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. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

Sen. Brian Crain said this week he will introduce two $2.5 billion bond issues to generate funds for common and higher education.  The proposals would have to pass the legislature and a vote of the people.  Apparently the idea is to invest the borrowed money to earn enough to pay the interest on the bonds.  If there’s more earned than owed the money would go to education, and when the bonds are paid off all the earnings would go to education.

continue reading Education funding schemes no substitute for dealing with taxes

In The Know: Oklahoma voter registration lead officially goes to GOP for first time in state history

by | November 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.

Republicans have surpassed Democrats in voter registration for the first time in Oklahoma history, the result of a decades-long trend in state politics. Speakers at a vigil in response to events in Ferguson, Missouri said the same underlying racial tensions and distrust of law enforcement are present in Tulsa. Guthrie educators said the community’s repeated refusal to approve bond measures has led to severe deterioration of facilities at Guthrie schools.

On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how another funding grab by the Legislature to close this year’s budget shortfall was found unconstitutional. Several Oklahoma elected officials, businesspeople, and church leaders held a public scripture reading at the state Capitol to celebrate the National Bible Association’s International Day of the Bible. Mustang Public Schools has cancelled plans to offer a Bible course developed by the head of the Hobby Lobby retail chain, amid controversy about bias in the curriculum and reports that the course was presented to Mustang school board members in a way that sought to skirt open meetings requirements.

The Oklahoman editorial board discussed the state’s continuing failures to protect children from abuse and neglect. Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm has followed expanded oil and gas production north to the Oklahoma-Kansas border. The Number of the Day is how many commercial banks are in Oklahoma, which has fallen steadily since 1985. In today’s Policy Note, a woman writes in The Huffington Post that legal challenges by Oklahoma and others seeking to eliminate subsidies for purchasing insurance on healthcare.gov are a threat to her parents’ lives.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma voter registration lead officially goes to GOP for first time in state history

Legislature’s wandering budget hands get slapped again

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

pickpocketFor the second time, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has struck down a provision of this year’s state budget, ruling that the legislature acted unconstitutionally when it pulled $5 million out of the State Health Department’s Trauma Care Assistance Fund to fund other government services.

In June, the A.G. ruled that the legislature had acted improperly when it diverted $7.9 million intended for the Oklahoma Higher Access Learning Program (OHLAP), also known as Oklahoma’s Promise, for other purposes. The college scholarship money was part of $191 million that the legislature redirected from nearly 30 different agency revolving funds and other state funds in an effort to balance the FY 2015 budget and avert even deeper cuts to services.  With the OHLAP money no longer available, officials decided to apply an across-the-board cut to all agencies in proportion to their funding from the FY 2015 General Revenue fund.

Back in June, we called attention to several other funding grabs by the Legislature to balance their budget. In the case of the Health Department’s Trauma Care Assistance Fund, we noted that this would result in a $3 million shortfall in payments to hospitals and other trauma care providers in FY 2015, and had also led the agency to further slash critical funding for community health centers and cut support for the cord blood bank.

continue reading Legislature’s wandering budget hands get slapped again

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