In The Know: Oklahoma schools receive “F” grade from US Chamber

by | September 12th, 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.

The US Chamber of Commerce assigned gave Oklahoma schools an overall “F” grade in a report measuring educational effectiveness. Oklahoma schools received failing grades in the areas of academic achievement; academic achievement of low-income and minority students; and return on investment. The report is available here. Speaking at a community forum on “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, Executive Director David Blatt discussed race, poverty, and segregation in Tulsa schools.

A new report commissioned by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board found that 1 in 5 Oklahoma jobs are supported by the oil and natural gas industry. Last year, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate reached a record low, although it remains above the national average and infant mortality remains much higher for racial and ethnic minorities than for white babies. The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board called for the state to reconsider its rejection of Medicaid expansion and the infusion of federal funds that would come with it. We’ve noted before that rejecting the funds means a massive tax transfer to Washington.

The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board applauded the state’s move toward “performance-based budgeting,” which takes past performance into account when determining a budget item’s funding. Oklahoma State University and Stillwater have implemented employee wellness programs in an effort to reduce health care spending on preventable conditions, and say that the efforts are paying off. A planned “Cherokee Outlets” development is estimated to bring 1,000 permanent jobs to Catoosa.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is suing for access records from a intelligence networking website hosted by the Logan County sheriff’s office. The ACLU contends that the website, which allows law enforcement to share information about American motorists, is used to “track the activities of thousands of American citizens without their knowledge or consent.” You can read the ACLU’s statement here. Drought in southeast Oklahoma has the city of Duncan scrambling to locate new sources of water. Estimates say that the city’s primary water source, Lake Waurika, could be too depleted to use by 2016.

ABC News reported that a number of cities, including Tulsa, are quietly preparing for climate change in the name of “disaster preparedness” by limiting development in future flood zones and looking into infrastructure that can handle increased storm runoff. The Number of the Day is the median home price in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute assesses the impact of wage theft.

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Schools, housing, & poverty: Thoughts on segregation in Tulsa

by | September 11th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

This is an edited version of remarks made to a community form hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice on “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” held September 4, 2014. All statistics, along with their sources, are compiled in this spreadsheet.

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In a 1974 paper in the American Journal of Sociology, two scholars examined data on segregation in public elementary schools. They looked at schools in 60 cities, just before the start of serious efforts by the federal government to enforce the desegregation of public schools in the South. The researchers used a statistical measure called the dissimilarity index to look at how segregated or integrated the schools were in each city.

Not surprisingly, the research found most US school systems were strongly segregated. On the index where 0 represents perfect integration and 100 represents perfect segregation, the average score for the 60 cities was 79 percent.  The scores ranged from a low of 39 in Sacramento to a high of 97 in two cities – Tulsa and Oklahoma City. We’ve clearly had a lot of ground to make up over the past 40 years.

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In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

by | September 11th, 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.

Chesapeake Energy will face trial in Michigan on charges of felony racketeering and using false pretenses related to its land-leasing practices, a state judge has ruled. State Rep. Steve Vaughn (R-Ponca City) said he was considering new rules governing oil and gas wastewater disposal wells due to concerns about water pollution caused by the wells. A lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that a Texas insurance executive promised to pay former Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Carroll Fisher’s legal bills in exchange for Fisher’s “non-cooperation” with a state investigation into his business activities. The lawsuit also alleges that the executive spent ten of thousands to support current Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s election bid.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column shared the latest evidence that Obamacare is working to expand health coverage and slow the growth of health care costs. Two Norman high schools ranked in the top 1 percent in a list by Newsweek of the best high schools in America. The Oklahoma School Security Institute and Homeland Security have launched an emergency tip line, hoping it will prevent school shootings before they happen. A Tulsa non-profit is launching an effort to connect foster families with children attending particular Tulsa schools. MSNBC reported on the growing trend of hiking court fees in Oklahoma and other states to make up for state budget cuts, resulting in those who can’t afford to pay being sent to jail. On the OK Policy Blog, Camille Landry shared stories from the numerous Oklahomans struggling with hunger.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke about race and inequality at a University of Tulsa event for students and faculty. Sotomayor also visited Booker T. Washington High School and will talk to law students at Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma Thursday and Friday. Several more religious and social justice groups denounced anti-Muslim comments made by a state legislator, but Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, said he is standing by his statement that people should be wary of those who say they are “Muslim American.” 

The Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce’s OneVoice consortium, which includes about 60 chambers of commerce, local governments and public and private institutions, released its legislative priorities for 2014. Top priorities include preserving and expanding education funding and preserving and expanding Insure Oklahoma to cover the uninsured. You can see the full OneVoice agenda here. Oklahomans concerned about the placement of wind farms and how a new state law on rooftop solar panels will work can attend two meetings Thursday at the Corporation Commission in Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s ranking for the well-being of girls in the state by a Girl Scouts of America report. In today’s Policy Note, CNN reports on how the campaign for paid sick leave for all workers is picking up steam in cities and states throughout the country. Oklahoma is one of a few states that have banned local governments from requiring paid sick leave.

continue reading In The Know: Chesapeake Energy to face racketeering charges in Michigan trial

Hunger all around (Neglected Oklahoma)

by | September 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (0)

empty pantryCamille 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).

Hunger is all around me:

At a pool in a suburban park on a steamy Oklahoma summer afternoon: “I used to love summer,” one mom said, “but I’ll be glad when school starts.” “Tired of having them underfoot already?” I asked. “Not really. It’s just a struggle to feed them when school is out. They get breakfast and lunch at school. In the summer I have to pay for child care while I work, plus the two extra meals each day. I can’t scrimp on daycare so I have to cut back on food.”

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In The Know: Oklahoma ranks third in rate of women killed by men

by | September 10th, 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 again ranked third for the rate at which men killed women, according to a new study released by the Violence Policy Center. The ACLU of Oklahoma asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to nullify a lower court’s decision that Gov. Fallin could use “deliberative process privilege” to withhold records from the public.

A Ponca City legislator hosted an interim study for constituents concerned that oil and gas drilling activities have contaminated water wells or caused wells to go dry. Representatives from the Oklahoma Geological Survey provided the Corporation Commission with an update on their study of the state’s ongoing earthquake swarm.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn criticized the practice of making military equipment available to state and local law enforcement agencies. The Oklahoma City Council is considering new ridesharing regulations in response to services like Uber that compete with taxi cabs.

The OK Policy Blog reports on where the children previously held at Ft. Sill are now and what their futures look like. The Number of the Day is the average mortgage debt in Oklahoma.  In today’s Policy Note, Fivethirtyeight.com examined state variation in a new report on food insecurity across the country.

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The kids are out of Fort Sill. Now what?

by | September 9th, 2014 | Posted in Immigration | Comments (1)
immigration-court

Image via Kids In Need of Defense.

At the end of July, we published a blog post debunking some myths about the unaccompanied children housed at Fort Sill in Lawton. Now that the temporary shelter there has been closed and the children have all been relocated, we talked with the TU College of Law’s Professor Elizabeth McCormick (who spoke about this issue at OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute) about where the children are now and what their futures look like. We summarized her responses.

continue reading The kids are out of Fort Sill. Now what?

In The Know: OKC legislator proposes to raise subminimum wage

by | September 9th, 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.

State Rep. Mike Shelton (D-Oklahoma City) said he intends to introduce legislation next year that would raise the subminimum wage for service-sector employees whose meager salaries are supplemented with tips. The OK Policy Blog discussed how the Legislature picked winners and losers when deciding which state employees got a raise this year. The Oklahoma Transportation Commission adopted a $6.3 billion, eight-year work plan for Oklahoma’s highways and bridges, including replacing the bridge between Lexington and Purcell that was shut down for months after cracks were discovered.

Oklahoma’s Corrections Director said the agency plans to complete an overhaul of the state’s execution protocol and a “major reconstruction” of the death chamber before the state’s next scheduled execution in November. The State Supreme Court upheld a one-year suspension of an OU football player who had been accused of sexual assault. The student’s suspension had previously been thrown out by a Cleveland County judge. Grand River Dam Authority directors publicly endorsed Chief Executive Officer Dan Sullivan, despite a sexual harassment complaint against him that was settled for $223,000.

The Noble Public Schools superintendent was fired after she gained national attention for referring to some girls at the school as “skanks” and making them bend over to see if their skirts were too short. Overcrowding is a growing problem at south side Oklahoma City schools, and officials have added 52 portable classrooms at a cost of nearly $3 million. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to review a decades-old telephone case tainted by corruption at the Corporation Commission.

Oklahoma and 16 other states urged the U.S. Supreme Court to use cases from Oklahoma and Utah to resolve the issue of whether states can ban same-sex marriage. Oklahoma and nine other states have requested help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate a virus that has sent hundreds of children to hospitals in Missouri. The Number of the Day is the average cost of attendance for an Oklahoma resident, on campus, full-time student at the state’s research universities. In today’s Policy Note, the Moneybox blog discusses how a series of fast food walkouts around the country have been successful at spearheading a broader living wage movement.

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Raise your hand if you got a raise

by | September 8th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

old one dollarFor some 12,000 state employees, the long wait for a pay raise has finally ended. Legislation passed this last session provided selected workers a raise of 6.25 percent or more, effective July 1 (or in the case of state troopers, January 1). But with legislators appropriating significantly less than what an expert study recommended to move the state towards more competitive compensation, a majority of state employees were left out of this year’s pay raise plan.

Legislators also decided to pick and choose which positions received raises without much input from the agencies involved. This ad hoc process left out some workers who are in very similar positions to those who received raises. While the raises were a welcome start, many Oklahoma’s public employee compensation still has many gaps in what we need to attract and maintain enough qualified workers.

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In The Know: Oklahoma law-enforcement agencies stock up on military-grade equipment

by | September 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.

Oklahoma law enforcement agencies received more than $33 million worth of military-grade equipment in a controversial program that allows local law enforcement agencies to acquire surplus military weapons and vehicles. Equipment going to Oklahoma agencies include an airplane, 11 helicopters, more than 30 mine-resistant vehicles, 1,027 rifles and 227 pistols. The Washington Post profiled the founder of a private firm that had been seizing property from drivers on Oklahoma highways for the district attorney’s office until a judge intervened. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed the controversy over allowing policing for profit by a private company.

Hospitals in Oklahoma are projected to lose more than $4 billion in reimbursements between 2013-22 because the state chose not to expand Medicaid, and Oklahoma hospital executives said they have had to institute layoffs to offset the lost revenue. Local school officials say the Oklahoma State Department of Education has violated state and federal laws protecting student privacy by releasing information to districts about students who no longer attend their schools. The state Regents have launched an online dashboard for students to find data comparing Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. You can view the online dashboard here.

The latest episode of the OK PolicyCast discusses a couple of lawsuits before the Oklahoma Supreme Court that could dramatically change tax politics in the state. The Tulsa World reported that the undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. has leveled off while children who are becoming adults seek ways to become U.S. citizens. YWCA Tulsa and Dream Act Oklahoma are sponsoring a screening of ‘Documented’, a film by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas who outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in the New York Times Magazine. You can purchase tickets here.

In 2012, unintentional prescription drug overdoses claimed the lives of 534 Oklahomans, half of whom had taken drugs prescribed by their own doctors. The Oklahoma City Council delayed a final decision on regulations of new “rideshare” companies Uber and Lyft. In a series on the legacy of departing US Sen. Tom Coburn, NewsOK discussed his efforts to rein in tax breaks for wealthy. Steve Lackmeyer discussed OKC Mayor Mick Cornett’s recent appearance on Meet the Press. You can see the segment here.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of households in Oklahoma that were smoke free in 2010-2011. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times what’s behind sharply reduced estimates for the cost of Medicare, which will save the federal government more than the total cost of unemployment insurance, welfare and Amtrak combined.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma law-enforcement agencies stock up on military-grade equipment

The Weekly Wonk September 7, 2014

by | September 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | 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 The Weekly Wonk was on break for the holiday weekend, this edition contains links from the past two weeks.

On the OK Policy Blog, we made the case for ending runoff elections. Executive Director David Blatt reiterated the point in his Journal Record column this week. A post in our Neglected Oklahoma series examined the impact of the school-to-prison pipeline, and a blog post by intern Tyler Parette called for long-term solutions for homelessness in Oklahoma. 

A guest blog post argued that with Oklahoma slashing funding for regulation of horse races, it may not be long before we see a doping or race-fixing scandal. Policy Director Gene Perry and former inner-city teacher John Thompson reviewed Amanda Ripley’s book, “The Smartest Kids in the World: and How They Got That Way.”

Last week’s OK PolicyCast featured discussion of “The Smartest Kids in the World,” as well as the loss of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind Waiver and new details on the botched execution. This week, the OK PolicyCast examines a pair of lawsuits that could dramatically change tax politics in Oklahoma, one state lawmaker’s comments that have upset Oklahoma Muslims, and more. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

In his Journal Record column last week, Blatt discussed misperceptions about welfare in Oklahoma. Blatt spoke Thursday night at a panel on segregation in Tulsa’s public schools, where he noted that economic segregation has supplanted its racial predecessor. In our editorial of the week, The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board calls for greater scrutiny in issuing tax credits. We’ve written about tax credit reform before. 

Quote of the week:

“We made the point that if we don’t do anything about this problem in some manner, shape or form there will be cities that will not be able to afford a police department or a fire department.”

- Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, who is launching a campaign with Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett to get the state legislature to allow cities to diversify their source of revenue. Oklahoma municipalities are currently funded almost entirely by sales tax (Source: http://bit.ly/1uCGJlS).

See previous Quotes of the Day here.

Numbers of the day:

  • $5,168 – Oklahomans’ per capita spending on energy in 2012, 12th highest in the nation.
  • 11.5% – Percentage of people with diabetes in Oklahoma. The national average is 9.7%.
  • $6.3 million – Direct spending by out-of-state and international travelers in Oklahoma in 2010.
  • 2049 – Year at which the Garber-Wellington aquifer, which supplies water to Oklahoma City, Moore, Norman, Sherman, and other towns, will be 50 percent depleted if usage continues at current rates.
  • 1st – Oklahoma’s ranking nationwide for the rate of African-Americans killed by law enforcement, 1999-2011.
  • $13.1 million – Earthquake insurance premiums paid by Oklahomans in 2013, almost triple the $4.8 million paid by Oklahomans in 2009.
  • -4.1% – Drop in Oklahoma’s voter registration rate, from 81.1% 2008 to 77.0% 2012.
  • 7.6% – How much real tax revenue in Oklahoma remains below the pre-recession peak.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

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