In The Know: Oklahoma loses federal flexibility waiver after Common Core repeal

by | August 29th, 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 U.S. Department of Education denied Oklahoma’s request to extend a flexibility waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act, a decision that will place restrictions on nearly $30 million a year in federal funding for local school districts.

Newly released autopsy records from Oklahoma’s botched execution do not appear to support earlier DOC statements that Clayton Lockett’s vein collapsed or that he died from a heart attack; records show extensive bleeding near an IV site in the groin and that the doctor supervising the execution discovered the lethal drugs were leaking into tissue and not entering the vein.

In response to online testing failures that disrupted end-of-instruction exams for thousands of students, the state Education Department announced it will not use fifth- and eighth-grade writing scores in this year’s A-F report cards. Pennsylvania’s Governor accepted federal funds to expand Medicaid, becoming the 27th state and the 9th Republican governor to do so. 

A district court ruled Oklahoma’s use of public funds to send students with disabilities to religiously affiliated schools is unconstitutional. The OKPolicy Blog presented two takes on education reform in response to the book, “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.”

The Number of the Day is the year that the aquifer supplying water to Oklahoma City, Moore, and Norman is expected to be 50 percent depleted. In today’s Policy Note, the Brennan Center suggested broad reforms to how federal grants are administered to state and local law enforcement. 

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma loses federal flexibility waiver after Common Core repeal

Two Takes: The Smartest Kids in the World

by and | August 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (1)

smartestkidsEarly next month, the education advocacy group Stand for Children Oklahoma is hosting a lunch with keynote speaker Amanda Ripley, a journalist and author of the recent non-fiction book, “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way.” Ripley’s book looks at how the US education system compares to Finland, South Korea, and Poland — three countries where students excel on an international test of critical thinking skills. In this comparison, Oklahoma plays a prominent role.

Today on the blog, we present two takes on the book. The first essay, by Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Policy Director Gene Perry, discusses how Ripley’s findings show that Oklahoma may be getting the schools we really want. The second essay, by education writer and former teacher John Thompson, argues that Ripley’s book leaves out a deeper understanding of school reform in Oklahoma.

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In The Know: Texas to withhold botched execution autopsy details after Oklahoma intervenes

by and | August 28th, 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.

Texas officials have agreed to keep secret certain records pertaining to the autopsy of Clayton Lockett, who died following Oklahoma’s botched execution attempt. Oklahoma officials requested even more autopsy records be kept from the public, but the Texas attorney general said the state would only shield those that could identify the pharmacy that supplied the lethal injection drugs. The Tulsa couple who successfully challenged Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriage filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to use the case to decide the issue for the entire nation. On the OK Policy Blog, Camille Landry shares a story of a youth caught in Oklahoma’s school to prison pipeline.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column debunks the perception that Oklahoma is providing welfare checks to large numbers of adults who should be working. The State Board of Education approved the formation of a steering committee to recommend a process for developing new academic standards to replace Common Core. Ten school employees from across the state were flagged in a recent check as illegally working without a valid certificate. Oklahoma Watch reported that the teacher shortage in Oklahoma has led to an explosion in the number of teachers given emergency classroom certification, meaning more districts are relying on teachers to teach subjects they are not fully trained for.

Seven landowners in Canadian and Kingfisher counties filed a class-action lawsuit this week to prevent wind turbines from being built near their homes. A Northern Michigan judge is expected to issue a ruling on whether Chesapeake Energy should stand trial on racketeering charges that accuse it of leasing land to thwart competitors and then canceling the deals when the competition ended. Oklahoma City’s unemployment rate — already one of the lowest in the nation among large cities — improved in July, as did the rates in more than two-thirds of the state’s counties.

The Number of the Day is Percentage of Oklahoma children who have witnessed domestic violence in their home, the highest rate in the nation. In today’s Policy Note, FiveThirtyEight discusses how the federal government’s recent expansion of housing vouchers has dramatically reduced homelessness among veterans.

continue reading In The Know: Texas to withhold botched execution autopsy details after Oklahoma intervenes

No Exit: The School-to-Prison pipeline (Neglected Oklahoma)

schooltoprison

Graphic courtesy of Rethinking Schools (www.rethinkingschools.org)

Camille 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).

Kyron Dean perches uncomfortably on a sofa in his grandmother’s home in Del City. “Still trying to get used to being free,” he says. He was released from prison two weeks before we met, after serving 30 months for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

“He was always a good boy. Polite,” his grandmother says. “He was raised to be respectful.” So how did he end up in prison? “It’s like they greased the chute. Back when he was in the 9th grade, Kyron got into a fight. Boys fight. Always have. No guns, no knives, just two boys tussling. Next thing I know he is locked up. That’s just crazy! It’s wrong.”

continue reading No Exit: The School-to-Prison pipeline (Neglected Oklahoma)

In The Know: Cox wins Democratic runoff over Deskin in state superintendent’s race

by and | August 27th, 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.

Peggs Superintendent John Cox defeated Freda Deskin in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff for state superintendent. Cox will face Joy Hofmeister in the general election. The okeducationtruths blog and blogger Brett Dickerson discussed the big issues at play in Oklahoma’s superintendent race.

School choice advocate Chuck Strohm defeated Jenks school board member Melissa Abdo in the runoff for House District 69, after an outside group poured $30,000 into the race with ads saying Abdo’s support for education funding was a call for a tax increase. OETA reported on how “dark money” spent by groups that don’t disclose their donors is shaping Oklahoma politics.

Veteran prosecutor Steve Kunzweiler defeated state Rep. Fred Jordan in the race for Tulsa County District Attorney. State Sen. Connie Johnson defeated perennial candidate Jim Rogers in a runoff to determine the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. Johnson will face U.S. Rep. James Lankford in the general election. Republican Steve Russell and Democrat Al McCaffrey won their respective runoffs and will face each other for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Lankford. You can see all state runoff election results here. OU political scientist Dr. Keith Gaddie questioned the cost of primary runoffs in Oklahoma and suggested a better alternative. 

Despite the legislature’s vote to abolish Common Core in Oklahoma, about half of the school districts in the state are keeping the standards. Alex Public Schools Superintendent Jason James wrote that teacher shortages are the number one problem facing Oklahoma schools. Two elected officials in Rogers County who were targeted by a multicounty grand jury investigation that yielded no indictments are suing the Rogers County Sheriff. The Tulsa Police Department’s Gilcrease Division was ordered by the chief to remove from its building a donation bucket for embattled Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson.

The Oklahoman examined the debate over what’s behind the huge increase of earthquakes in the state. State officials announced a $100 million initiative to improve safety at railroad crossings, funded by federal dollars and the sale of the Sooner Sub rail line. The Number of the Day is the direct spending by out-of-state and international travelers in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, entrepreneur Nick Hanauer wrote that America cannot sustain its current levels of inequality without a serious backlash or a police state.

continue reading In The Know: Cox wins Democratic runoff over Deskin in state superintendent’s race

In The Know: Primary runoff elections in Oklahoma

by | August 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.

Oklahomans go to the polls today to choose their candidates in primary runoff elections. Polls are open from 7am to 7pm. KGOU selected three races to watch today. Despite a surge of voters registered this summer by a medical marijuana petition drive, the number of registered voters in Tulsa, particularly registered Democrats, has declined.

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit arguing that reporters have the right to witness executions from beginning to completion. During the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April, officials blocked the view of witnesses and reporters when it became clear that the execution was not proceeding as planned. You can read the ACLU’s statement here. Speaking to a national discussion of police accountability, the Choctaw Police Department spoke favorably of body cameras, which its on-duty officers began wearing five months ago. 

Researchers at the University of Tulsa have received a grant to provide free PTSD treatment, trying a new approach to treating the disorder. A post on the OK Policy Blog called for long-term solutions to address homelessness in Oklahoma. Following up a previous article on computer glitches delaying Medicaid enrollment for former foster youth in Oklahoma, NewsOK discussed how other states are dealing with the issue. Oklahoma health officials are concerned about the impact of e-cigarettes on youth smoking. We’ve written about the debate over e-cigarettes before.

A Supreme Court expert from Stanford University has joined the Oklahoma legal team fighting to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban. KJRH reports that the Tulsa County jail is $650,00 over-budget for overtime this year. County officials blame low staffing levels caused by the job’s high stress and low pay. In efforts to make college more affordable, four state universities have moved to a flat-rate tuition system, where students pay one rate regardless of hours taken, and OU has launched a debt-free teacher initiative that forgives up to $20,000 worth of student loan debt if a student agrees to teach in Oklahoma for four years.

Residents concerned that a potential retail development could impact Turkey Mountain sought answers at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Ginnie Graham discussed news that a personal finance website ranked Oklahoma the 6th-worst state for women’s equality. We’ve written about the state of women in Oklahoma before (here and here). Tulsa recycling officials say that Tulsans are still disposing of trash in blue recycling bins, and are planning more public education to teach people how to use the recycling bins. KGOU reports that more Oklahoma water systems are implementing mandatory rationing – 27, up from 26 last year.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of people with diabetes in Oklahoma. The national average is 9.7 percent. In today’s Policy Note, The Atlantic discusses the ACLU’s lawsuit over witnessing executions in Oklahoma and the broader reasoning behind keeping executions open to the public.

continue reading In The Know: Primary runoff elections in Oklahoma

Homelessness in the Long Run: Why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions

by | August 25th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

This post was written by OK Policy summer intern Tyler Parette, a political science major at Oklahoma Christian University. Tyler will be studying international relations at the University of Oxford this fall.

“Did that man bother you?” asked the woman as  I was standing in line to get my morning coffee.

“What do you mean?” I replied.

“That man has been sitting outside asking people for money. Did he try to assault you?”

This question caught me off guard. It’s not every day that I am asked if I have been assaulted.

“No, he told me he was a veteran and I asked what branch he served in. He said Navy, so I asked what ship he served on and then he quit talking with me.”

Seemingly uninterested in the conversation that I had with the apparently homeless man outside the coffee shop, the woman walked back over to her table. Minutes later, she jumps up from her table and darts out the door to intercept another woman who was about to give the man outside some change.

“Do not give him anything! You,” pointing at the man, “Go away!”

Everyone in the coffee shop watches as the woman saunters back through the front door. She marches up to the counter and demands that something must be done about the man pestering people on the sidewalk.

continue reading Homelessness in the Long Run: Why Oklahoma needs long-term solutions

In The Know: School safe rooms on some ballots

by | August 25th, 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 legislative efforts to make it easier for school districts to build safe rooms failed, four Oklahoma school districts will have safe room bonds on ballots on Tuesday’s election. Opponents of Common Core in other states are turning to Oklahoma for advice. We’ve written previously about how repealing Common Core could put Oklahoma schools under greater federal control because Oklahoma could lose exemptions from parts of the federal No Child Left Behind law. The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board wrote that the state’s teacher shortage is indicative of a troubled education system.

As many as one in three Tulsa Public Schools students speak Spanish at home, creating communication difficulties between school administrators and parents. TPS says that while they have strong language support in schools, more is needed. On Tuesday, voters will decide on two bond issues totaling more than $40 million for Sapulpa Public Schools.  Advocates warn that the state is moving too slowly in adjusting to allow foster youth to remain enrolled in Medicaid through age 26, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Volunteers with a group that assists youth aging out of foster care say they need more mentors.

Oklahoma Watch spoke with the executive director of Mental Health Association Oklahoma about mental health issues in Oklahoma. Data from the Tulsa Housing Authority shows that housing subsidy vouchers have gradually shifted south and east as families gravitate towards better schools and better jobs. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board called for greater scrutiny to be employed in issuing tax credits, noting that state lawmakers don’t know how many tax credits will be handed out in a given year, how many will be cashed in, or if they generate any economic activity. We’ve written about tax credit reform before.

continue reading In The Know: School safe rooms on some ballots

The Weekly Wonk August 24, 2014

by | August 24th, 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.

This week on the OK Policy Blog, we examined the data and concluded that the popular assumption that Medicaid recipients make unnecessary trips to the ER is more based on myth and anecdote than fact. Now that the political dust has settled, we explored the impact of the third grade reading law on schools. In light of recent conversations on immigration, we took another look at the novel Kind of Kin, which explores the impact of immigration politics on a small Oklahoma town.

We are currently accepting applications for our fall internship and for our 2014-2015 research fellowship! Students working with OK Policy have a wide range of opportunities to conduct research, write blog posts, and contribute to OK Policy projects and events. We invite all interested candidates to apply by Friday, August 29. Find out more here.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt looks at long-withheld emails and wonders why the Governor’s office devoted so much attention to a perceived slight from OCPA and so little to the situation of 150,000 Oklahomans left without options for health insurance. In our Editorial of the Week, M. Scott Carter argues that lawmakers have instituted too many tax incentives without building in mechanisms to measure their impact.

Quote of the week:

“I wouldn’t label this an Obamacare grant. I think that classification is confusing to people and, in a sense, inaccurate.”

- Alex Weintz, Governor Fallin’s Communications Director, referring to a $3 million grant that the state applied for under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) (Source: http://bit.ly/1qrTQCS)

Numbers of the day:

  • $23,330 – Average mortgage debt in Oklahoma in 2013.
  • 4.6% – Oklahoma’s unemployment rate in July, up slightly from June’s unemployment rate (4.5%).
  • 34.4 million – Acres of farmland in Oklahoma, comprising 77% of all land in the state.
  • 3428,689 – Total number of motor vehicles registered in Oklahoma in 2011.
  • $111.23 – The value of goods and services that can be purchased for $100 in Oklahoma, compared to the national average.

What we’re reading:

In The Know: Medical marijuana petition falls short

by | August 22nd, 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 group circulating a petition to put a medical marijuana state question on the ballot did not collect enough signatures to do so. Organizers say they will try again next summer. While collecting signatures, the group registered an estimated 40,000 people to vote. A report from the American Cancer Society said that Oklahoma is lagging in the fight against cancer. The report cited a lack of palliative care programs, a below-average cigarette excise tax rate, and a failure to expand eligibility in the state Medicaid program. You can read the full report here.

A post on the OK Policy Blog examined the data to see if Medicaid recipients overuse the ER as much as commonly thought. Writing in the Journal Record, M. Scott Carter argued that lawmakers overutilize tax incentives without instituting measures to measure and judge their impact. Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman and incumbent Gov. Mary Fallin will face each other in a debate on Oct. 2 at OSU.

The state Corrections Department is considering decommissioning the use of towers at its facilities to save costs, but corrections officers say that removing personnel from the towers would put staff on the ground in jeopardy. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board warned of the costs of an aging prison population. A rally held on the steps of the Capitol on Thursday in response to the police shooting death of unarmed Missouri teen Michael Brown warned that such incidents could happen anywhere. An Oklahoma City police officer has been arrested for allegedly raping at least seven women while on patrol. All of the victims were African-American women.

A criminal investigation into state schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister’s campaign is underway. The investigation is looking for evidence of public corruption, campaign contribution violations and illegal collusion with political candidates. A top Tulsa Public Schools administrator who worked for the district for a year has been found to lack the necessary credentials to perform her duties.  An editorial in the Tulsa World chastised Tulsa County officials for giving themselves a raise to the highest salary allowed by law when many Tulsans, including correctional officers and teachers, are struggling to get by.

A state multicounty grand jury investigation concluded an 18-month investigation yesterday without handing down any indictments. The grand jury was investigation multiple allegations of wrongdoing in Rogers County. July traffic at Tulsa International Airport was up 11.8 percent compared to this time last year. Local officials attribute the growth to a strong local economy and success in recruiting new events into the city. StateImpact explained that upriver states have a significant impact on Oklahoma’s scenic river protection policy because pollution standards in other states determine water quality in Oklahoma’s rivers.

AAA is predicting a 2 percent boost in Labor Day travel compared to last year, slightly above the projected national average. AAA credits increased consumer optimism. The first human case of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in Oklahoma was confirmed yesterday. The Number of the Day is the value of goods and services that can be purchased for $100 in Oklahoma, compared to the national average. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times explains how the gender wage gap most significantly disadvantages mothers in low-wage jobs who need to take time off to care for children.

continue reading In The Know: Medical marijuana petition falls short

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