In The Know: Oklahoma City experiments with community school to address poverty

by and | July 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, 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.

The Oklahoma Gazette reported on Oklahoma City Public School’s first experiment to combat poverty using the community schools model at Edgemere Elementary. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed the promise of community schools to reach the most at-risk children in the state. Five former employees have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, claiming the firings violated the state Workers’ Compensation Act and Open Meeting Act and also were a case of age discrimination. 

An audit of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections found that the agency is violating a law that requires centralized food purchases, has an outdated computer system that does not adequately track the status of inmates and needs improved financial oversight. You can see the audit’s recommendations here. StateImpact Oklahoma shared five things to know about the lawsuit challenging the state’s recent changes to taxes on oil and gas drilling. The Oklahoman Editorial Board discussed OK Policy’s research finding the impact of term limits in the Oklahoma Legislature has been less straightforward than most people thought.

Callers to an Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ hotline for abuse and neglect have been facing wait times as long as 30 minutes. In an Oklahoman op-ed, Scott Meacham criticized repeated state budget cuts to the OCAST program, which provides seed capital to science and technology start-ups. Scott Carter discussed how the Oklahoma Governor’s race is looking to be much closer than most people thought. The only supermarket for miles in North Tulsa closed its doors for good Monday, and many residents are struggling to get groceries without access to a car. 

The Department of Environmental Quality has cited the city of Mustang for arsenic levels above drinking water standards. Work on a $5.8 million bridge project has stopped after federal officials told an Oklahoma county that its construction method could harm a threatened fish species. An airline ticket out of Tulsa dropped by $12 a seat during the first quarter, but the city still has one of the nation’s least affordable airports. Gas prices continue to drop in Oklahoma as demand nationwide dropped below 9 million barrels per day. Oklahoma native Krista Tippett, creator and host of the public radio show “On Being,” was honored with a National Humanities Medal in a ceremony at the White House.

The Number of the Day is the amount of debt held by the average Oklahoma household in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, a new poll shows nearly three quarters of Americans said they favor offering migrant children shelter and support and not rushing to deport them while determining whether they are eligible to stay in the country.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma City experiments with community school to address poverty

In The Know: Federal agreement will fund new Tulsa VA clinic

by and | July 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.

Today you should know that a new 140,000-square-foot Veterans Administration outpatient clinic for Tulsa is part of a $17 billion spending agreement reached by Congress. Gov. Mary Fallin sent a letter to the White House complaining about a program at Fort Sill that is caring for unaccompanied migrant children from Central America. OK Policy previously debunked several myths that have been spread about these children. On the OK Policy Blog, we share explain the ABCs of Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships and why they are important for low- and middle-income Oklahomans. This year Oklahoma lawmakers attempted to divert funds from Oklahoma’s Promise to fill a budget hole, but they backed off after a public outcry and an Attorney General opinion that the transfer was illegal.

Beginning this semester, all Oklahoma State University students will have to complete an online course aimed at sexual-assault awareness and prevention. The Tulsa World discussed how the state is having trouble getting the process for developing new educational standards started. Oklahoma City Public School is preparing for an influx of more than 3,500 pre-K students — its largest pre-K enrollment ever. Tulsa Public Schools still needs to fill 120 open jobs before the school year begins in August.

The City of Claremore must pay $41,000 to cover attorney costs of plaintiffs who successfully sued to city to make Claremore police dashcam videos treated as open records. Oklahoma Watch discussed the role of low-interest federal loans in helping Oklahomans rebuild after a natural disaster. Voters have until Friday Aug. 1 to register to vote in the Aug. 26 Runoff Primary Election. Voter registration forms and ballot information can be downloaded here.

The Oklahoma City Council has developed new regulations for “transportation network companies” such as Uber and Lyft that use smartphone apps to connect drivers in their personal vehicles to individuals looking for rides. The regulations require drivers to pay for an annual permit and vehicle inspection, similar to rules covering taxis. The latest installment in Tulsa World Photographer Mike Simons’ series shares stories he came across walking all 16 miles of Peoria Ave. Rising heat poses extra dangers for Oklahoma’s homeless population, who have limited access to water and air-conditioned places to rest.

Free rain barrels are being offered to Jackson County residents at the Southwest Technology Center in Altus. The National Park Service has awarded historic preservation grants to four American Indian tribes in Oklahoma. The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans with “minimal fruit consumption.” In today’s Policy Note, CityLab examines a growing program that fast-tracks immigration visas for investors willing to put at least $500,000 into an at-risk area and create at least 10 full-time jobs.

continue reading In The Know: Federal agreement will fund new Tulsa VA clinic

The ABCs of Oklahoma’s Promise

by | July 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

1904095_10103154809782713_4859493851675163805_nThis post was written by OK Policy summer intern Rosie Nelson.  Rosie has an MA in Higher Education from the University of Mississippi and will begin a PhD program at the Stanford Graduate School of Education starting this fall.

Recently, the Oklahoma legislature attempted to divert funds from the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Plan to fill a budget hole. After a public outcry and Attorney General opinion that the transfer was unconstitutional, state leaders backed off the plan. The scholarship program that was threatened is more than just money for college—it’s a commitment to Oklahoma’s future. Through the program, Oklahoma promises tuition funds will be available for hard-working, committed students that want to continue their education after high school.

OkP-logoBut how does it work—and why is it so important for low- and middle-income Oklahomans?  The Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Plan, better known as OHLAP or Oklahoma’s Promise, is an early commitment financial aid program. Students interested in receiving the scholarship must apply in 8th, 9th, or 10th grade—years before starting college—and complete a series of requirements before graduating from high school.

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In The Know: Arguments heat up in lawsuit over oil and gas tax rate

by and | July 28th, 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.

Today you should know that a state Supreme Court referee will hear arguments this week on a lawsuit challenging changes to Oklahoma’s gross production taxes. Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller said a trigger that could impose more income tax cuts in 2016 and 2018 doesn’t make economic sense. The state Attorney General’s Office says it gave “incorrect” advice related to the Open Meeting Act to members of the state Workers Compensation Commission, raising questions about whether the agency’s recent layoffs of 16 employees and other actions in past meetings are valid.

The Tulsa World examined how the violence fueling a surge in child refugees from Central America has been fueled by the U.S. drug trade. Two Lawton churches are partnering to provide weekly Catholic Masses for the migrant children being housed at Fort Sill. OK Policy previously debunked several of the myths that have emerged around those children. In the first episode of a new weekly OK Policy podcast, we discuss the children at Fort Sill, examine one of the largest business subsidies in Oklahoma, and more.

A recent graduate from Tulsa County drug court, which provides supervised substance abuse treatment as an alternative to incarceration, said the program saved his life. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is expanding regional training academies to have fewer untrained officers working in state prisons. A spokesman for Gov. Fallin says the governor wants investigators looking into Oklahoma’s recent botched execution to consider problems that have occurred in other states such as Ohio and Arizona.

Food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters across Oklahoma are scrambling to meet demand for food from kids who can’t get the free and discounted meals offered when schools are in session. UCO Business Dean Mickey Hepner wrote in the Edmond Sun that Oklahoma’s cuts to the health care safety net could have been avoided by legislators. The OK Policy Blog previously shared how Oklahoma is hiking fees on the poorest and sickest citizens. An additional $210,000 from city council and a $20,000 donation will prevent planned fare hikes and service cuts to Tulsa Transit this year. The Tulsa World examined statistics on suicides in the Tulsa area, which have been nearly twice as common as homicides.

Five counties in Oklahoma are among the nation’s fastest-growing, according to a newly released compilation by the U.S. Census Bureau. The Oklahoma Supreme Court says Republican state Rep. Fred Jordan is eligible to run for Tulsa County’s district attorney, even though a raise for prosecutors was approved during his term in the Legislature. A group of Oklahomans are suing restaurants across the state, claiming it is illegal for them to not include liquor tax in the menu price for mixed drinks. After a record-breaking 63 people died of the flu in the 2013-14 flu season, Oklahoma health officials says they expect the same flu strains this season.

The Number of the Day is how many bushels of soybeans were produced by Oklahoma farmers in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, Vox reports that from the start of the health reform debate to when the law was passed, Congress never considered or debated over excluding federally-facilitated health exchanges from offering tax credits to purchase insurance, as lawsuits trying to block the tax credits are now claiming.

continue reading In The Know: Arguments heat up in lawsuit over oil and gas tax rate

The Weekly Wonk July 27, 2014

by | July 27th, 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, we debunked some myths about who the migrant children at Fort Sill are, why they came to the US, and what’s being done about them. A new issue brief examines Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program and makes recommendations going forward. We’ve written about some problems with the program before.

OK Policy Southern Education Fellow Rebecca Hollis described IMPACT!Tulsa, a new initiative designed to coordinate efforts to improve schools achievement and compile outcome data to ensure that reforms achieve the desired outcomes. We announced an upcoming event to honor Gov. Henry Bellmon with the 2014 Good Sense/Good Cents award on Aug. 4th. The event is free and open to the public.

We’re thrilled to introduce a new weekly podcast from OK Policy! The In The Know podcast will feature some of the most important Oklahoma headlines and feature interviews with OK Policy researchers regarding their work that week. On this week’s edition, Kate Richey and Carly Putnam bust some myths surrounding the migrant children at Fort Sill, and Gene Perry discusses one of the largest business subsidies in Oklahoma.

In his journal record column this week, Executive Director David Blatt shared the complicated reality of the effects of term limits on the Oklahoma legislature. This blog post discusses the topic in greater depth.  Blatt was quoted in the Tulsa World discussing recent court rulings on the Affordable Care Act.

NewsOK cited OK Policy data while reporting on Oklahomans with mental illnesses that go untreated because of the state government’s decision not to accept federal funds to expand health coverage. In our Editorial of the Week, The Oklahoman wrote that Oklahoma still has a long way to go on corrections reform. Policy Director Gene Perry is quoted in the piece.

Quote of the Week:

“According to the Affordable Care Act’s (marketplace), I signed up and went through that process, and they said I would qualify for state Medicaid. When you go to the state Medicaid website, due to Governor Fallin’s unwillingness to expand it, I don’t qualify.”

- Joshua Kraft, a 26-year old Oklahoman with chronic depression and anxiety. Because the state has refused to accept federal funds to expand health coverage to low-income Oklahomans, Kraft’s illness largely goes untreated (Source: http://bit.ly/1n7MxD4)

See previous Quotes of the Day here.

Numbers of the Day

  • 19,873 – Number of beginning farmers in Oklahoma in 2012, down from 26,880 in 2002.
  • 20 – Number of women in the Oklahoma legislature out of 149 legislators, the 3rd lowest percentage in the nation.
  • 85 – Number of laboratory-confirmed cases of rabies in Oklahoma during 2013.
  • $36,300 – Average teacher base salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and ten years of teaching experience in Oklahoma.
  • 7.5% – Percentage of wage and salary workers in Oklahoma that were members of a union in 2013.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

What we’re reading

The OK Policy Podcast: Episode 1

by | July 25th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Podcast | Comments (0)

radio micHere’s the first episode of a new weekly podcast from OK Policy. This week, we share some of the most important Oklahoma headlines, bust some myths surrounding the migrant children at Fort Sill, and discuss one of the largest business subsidies in Oklahoma.

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

Click here to download the most recent episode or play it in your browser:

In The Know: Records show same drugs used in botched OK, AZ executions

by | July 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Records show that the same drugs were used in the botched lethal injections in Arizona on Wednesday and in Oklahoma nearly three months ago. The Tulsa World reports that the probe into Oklahoma’s botched execution is still pending and that a variety of records, including the autopsy report for the deceased prisoner, still have not been released. A research group has found that Texas and Oklahoma, two states whose leadership most vociferously oppose EPA regulation on carbon pollution, would be the biggest economic winners from that regulation due to increased demand for natural gas. The study’s authors note that the increased natural gas production would drive job creation and corporate revenue in producing states. StateImpact discussed conflict and conversation around increasing wind energy production in Oklahoma’s Osage County.

The federal government says that more than 200 unaccompanied children from Central America who had been housed at Fort Sill have been placed with sponsors in Oklahoma, primarily parents, relatives and family friends. The government also says that all the children have been vaccinated and medically cleared. OK Policy previously debunked some of the myths being spread about the children at Fort Sill. A team of child abuse medical experts, who have served as expert witnesses in countless Oklahoma court cases, will be disbanded due to lack of funding.

On Monday, August 4th, OK Policy will honor Governor Henry Bellmon with the 2014 Good Sense/Good Cents Award, followed by a panel discussion of the Bellmon legacy. The event is free and open to the public. A provision of the Affordable Care Act called the  Medical Loss Ratio Rule, which requires health insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on patient care and quality improvement, has generated $6.7 million in refunds to Oklahomans from health insurance companies this summer. The Tulsa World reported on a Tulsa Community College program that allows prisoners to work towards degrees while in prison. Since 2007, more than 345 certificates and degrees have been awarded to inmates. Some anti-abortion laws passed by the legislature this spring may end of up in court.

The chairman of the state Workers Compensation Commission has rescinded bids for a project discussed during a secret meeting and pledged greater transparency moving forward. The Commission has come under scrutiny recently due to alleged violations of the Open Records Act. A study conducted by Southwestern Oklahoma State University reported on the financial impact of the Oklahoma Army National Guard, finding that for every 100 jobs created by the Guard, 127 are created statewide.

Norman residents are upset after city staff admitted to withholding information regarding a zoning change in southeast Norman that could bring a Wal-Mart Supercenter to the area. The Oklahoman argued in favor of better maintenance of the state’s dams due to public safety concerns. Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman has named the final three members to a nine-person committee that will oversee the renovation of the state Capitol. Other committee members were selected by Gov. Fallin and House Speaker Jeff Hickman.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of wage and salary workers in Oklahoma that were members of a union in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the New Republic reports on the sexual and gender-based violence forcing children to flee Central America.

continue reading In The Know: Records show same drugs used in botched OK, AZ executions

Upcoming Event: The Legacy of Gov. Henry Bellmon

BellmonHLOklahoma Policy Institute will honor Governor Henry Bellmon with the 2014 Good Sense/Good Cents Award, followed by a panel discussion on the Bellmon legacy, on Monday August 4th from 1:00 – 3:00 pm at the Lorton Performance Center on the University of Tulsa Campus. The events are free and open to the public.

The Good Sense/Good Cents award will be presented to Gov. Bellmon’s daughters Ann Denney and Pat Hoerth by Tulsa Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr., whose father, Dewey F. Bartlett Sr., succeeded Henry Bellmon as Governor and served concurrently with him in the United States Senate. The  annual award honors political leaders whose political service is distinguished by a commitment to respectful political dialogue, sound fiscal stewardship, and concern for the less fortunate. The inaugural recipients of the award in 2013 were Mayors Robert LaFortune of Tulsa and Melvin Moran of Seminole.

continue reading Upcoming Event: The Legacy of Gov. Henry Bellmon

In The Know: Education board stalls process to create new standards

by and | July 24th, 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

The Oklahoma Board of Education voted to table a plan to develop new educational standards replace the Common Core standards. Some board members raised concerns that the process proposed by Superintendent Barresi was too complicated. Nearly half of the 1,128 Tulsa Public Schools third-graders who scored unsatisfactory on the state reading test in the spring have either qualified for exemptions or are being considered for probationary promotion to fourth grade. The Tulsa World praised Governor Fallin softening her position on making passing the third grade dependent on a high-stakes reading test.

Oklahoma schools are receiving a state aid increase of about $38 per student this year. Total state aid is still $172 million below what it was in 2008. Oklahoma’s Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger wrote an op-ed in the Tulsa World on how off-the-top funding mandates have contributed to this year’s budget shortfall. OK Policy previously examined how these mandates caused the shortfall — along with growing tax refunds and oil and gas industry rebates. A new OK Policy report examines what’s behind the growing cost of the Quality Jobs program, one of the largest business subsidies in Oklahoma.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses how term limits have affected legislative experience levels since they went into effect in 1992. We previously discussed on the OK Policy Blog how the data shows a more complicated story than the popular understanding of term limits.

The Oklahoma County district attorney’s office has initiated an investigation into possible Open Meeting Act violations by the new Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission. One commissioner said the group has had up to five “informational meetings” attended by a quorum of commissioners but not posted as public meetings. The Tulsa World expressed disappointment that sweeping workers compensation reforms were being implemented with “an unpleasant odor of secrecy.” An independent expenditure group that paid for television advertisements opposing State Superintendent Janet Barresi in last month’s primary has not filed any required spending reports with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. U.S. Rep. James Lankford and state Rep. T.W. Shannon spent more than $4 million combined in the Republican race to replace U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, while two dark money groups added about $1.5 million.

AmeriCorps volunteers are working with Tulsa’s Southern Hills United Methodist Church on a program to improve literacy for at-risk kids. An event Aug. 16-17 at the Oklahoma City State Fair Park will provide free dental, vision and limited medical care to Oklahomans. Based on previous events, it is expected hundreds of Oklahomans will wait hours in line for care, with many turned away. University of Tulsa researchers have won a grant from the EPA to study methods to improve indoor air quality and reduce asthma triggers in tribal schools.

The Number of the Day is average teacher base salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and ten years of teaching experience in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, E.J. Dionne explains why a recent ruling by a D.C. Circuit federal court to disallow ACA health insurance subsidies is a serious distortion of the law for ideological purposes.

continue reading In The Know: Education board stalls process to create new standards

New issue brief examines one of the largest business subsidies in Oklahoma

by | July 23rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget & Taxes | Comments (0)

Quality Jobs subsidyMark Lash is a retired federal employee who follows Oklahoma policymaking. He has previously written about the Quality Jobs Program for the OK Policy Blog.

Download the full report here.

According to a New York Times report, state and local governments provide over $80 billion each year to a variety of businesses through tax exemptions, tax credits, incentives, and other programs. That same report showed Oklahoma provides over $2 billion each year to businesses for economic development.

Perhaps the most popular and well-known subsidy in Oklahoma is the Quality Jobs Program. A new OK Policy issue brief examines the background of this program, describes its key elements, and makes recommendations on how to best achieve its stated purpose of job growth while also maximizing the use of limited state revenues. Read on for a summary or click here to download the full issue brief.

continue reading New issue brief examines one of the largest business subsidies in Oklahoma