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In The Know: State Superintendent Charged With Campaign Violations

by | November 4th, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Election day is Tuesday, November 8th! Before you vote, make sure you’re informed: read our State Questions Guide for information on the seven questions on the ballot, check out the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters and several other groups, and use the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool to confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and view sample ballots.

Today In The News

State Superintendent Charged With Campaign Violations: Oklahoma Count District Attorney David Prater filed charges against State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and four others Thursday for campaign violations. The charges stem from a 2014 investigation examining whether Hofmeister used a “super PAC” or dark money group to attack her campaign opponent, Janet Barresi. According to court documents obtained by News 9, the investigation reveals a conspiracy to commit campaign contribution violations and illegal coordination by members of a registered 501c4 called Oklahomans for Public School Excellence (OPSE), the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA), the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) and Joy Hofmeister [News9]. Hofmeister said she won’t resign and will fight the charges [NewsOn6].

Targeted strategist worked with local House candidate, others: An Oklahoma City-based campaign strategist facing criminal charges along with State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and three others has consulted for House District 4 Republican candidate Bob Ed Culver Jr., according to financial disclosures filed this year. Culver declined to comment on the criminal charges unveiled Thursday against Robert Fount Holland, a political adviser and founder of A.H. Strategies. Holland is facing two counts of conspiracy to commit a felony and one count of being in violation of the computer crime act [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Early in-person voting begins across Oklahoma: People endured long waits to vote at some locations in Oklahoma on Thursday, which was the first of three days of early in-person voting at county election board offices in the state. More than 200 people formed a line outside the board office in Oklahoma City that snaked across the front of the building and extended into a parking lot. Some said they waited up to two hours to cast a ballot. Early in-person voting is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday in all 77 counties [Associated Press].

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What cuts to alternative education mean for individual lives. Lives such as mine. (Guest Post: Teara Firor)

by | November 3rd, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (2)

Teara Firor is a Tulsa-born social worker and parent of three children in the  public school system.

We hear a lot about the cuts to public programs that have been made in recent years as a result of the state’s endless budget crisis. Often a lot of numbers get tossed around, but we can lose sight of what the programs that are being cut mean for individual lives. Lives such as mine.

I attended Broken Arrow Academy from 2001 until I graduated in 2004. The BA Academy is one of over 250 alternative education programs that operate in the state to serve at-risk students. Prior to being accepted there, I was on the fast track to dropping out of high school entirely. I attended four different schools my freshman year. When I was in school, I ate lunch alone in the bathroom because I found the school of over 1,000 students overwhelming, and after so many transfers it became difficult to make friends.

My first day at Broken Arrow Academy was my first good day of school in years. As time progressed, I developed relationships with my teachers and school counselor. Those relationships helped me see school as a safe place and helped me continue to attend when things got rough.

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In The Know: OKC shows nation’s largest unemployment increase over year

by | November 3rd, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Election day is Tuesday, November 8th! Before you vote, make sure you’re informed: read our State Questions Guide for information on the seven questions on the ballot, check out the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters and several other groups, and use the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool to confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and view sample ballots.

Today In The News

OKC shows nation’s largest unemployment increase over year: Oklahoma City had the largest increase in unemployment over the year among large metropolitan areas in the United States, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Labor Department. Unemployment in the Oklahoma City metro area grew by 1.2 percentage points over the year, according to Labor Department numbers. In September, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate crept up three-tenths of a percentage point to 4.7 percent [NewsOK].

City, school leaders discuss Vision Tulsa’s $10 million for teachers: Vision Tulsa’s $10 million project to improve teacher recruitment and retention got more definition Tuesday with a proposal to tackle those issues through special-training efforts over seven years. Superintendents from Tulsa Public Schools, Jenks Public Schools and Union Public Schools made the pitch to a group of Tulsa City Councilors and city staff, proposing a new-teacher induction program and professional-development opportunities for all teachers [Tulsa World].

Consultants to State: Repeal Incentives for Movies, Access Roads: Consultants hired by the state have recommended repealing financial incentives for movies made in Oklahoma and industrial access roads, but suggested retaining, or at most modifying, most of the tax breaks up for review this year. The recommendations by the PFM Group of Philadelphia will be presented Friday to the state’s new business incentive commission and discussed at a Nov. 10 public hearing at the Capitol. The tax break panel intends to forward the proposals, along with any suggested changes, to Gov. Mary Fallin and state lawmakers by December for possible legislative action in 2017 [Oklahoma Watch]. Tax incentive reform efforts could be strengthened with automatic sunset provisions [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Millions raised and spent on Oklahoma ballot measures

by | November 2nd, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Election day is Tuesday, November 8th! Before you vote, make sure you’re informed: read our State Questions Guide for information on the seven questions on the ballot, check out the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide from the League of Women Voters and several other groups, and use the Oklahoma State Election Board’s Online Voter Tool to confirm your voter registration, find your polling place, and view sample ballots.

Today In The News

Correction: Yesterday’s Quote of the Day was from Oklahoman Johnny Reininger, Jr., not Howard Rosenblum. We regret the error.

Millions raised and spent on Oklahoma ballot measures: Backers of a penny sales tax for schools, proponents of criminal justice reform and supporters of wine and full-strength beer sales in supermarkets have raised and spent millions of dollars seeking to persuade Oklahomans to vote for their proposals on Tuesday. Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future — a committee backing the education measure — received $4.27 million in contributions by Sept. 30, according to a report filed Monday [NewsOK]. Two national nonprofits and a major out-of-state corporation are some of the million-dollar donors to campaigns for state questions appearing on the ballot [Oklahoma Watch].

Drug addiction debate continues as election nears: When she was a little girl, Megan Gaddis never said, “I want to be a drug addict when I grow up.” She never imagined a future that included a felony conviction and prison time. “I didn’t really do drugs in high school,” Gaddis said. “I had a preconceived notion that people who used drugs were bad people.” Gaddis’ story began with painkillers. She originally took them for an injury but spiraled into addiction. That spiral bottomed at homelessness and a meth habit. Isolated from her children and everyone who loved her, she was alone [Norman Transcript]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 780 and SQ 781 here.

Fact Check: The claim that less than half of SQ 779 revenues will go to teachers is false: A central claim being made by opponents of State Question 779, the ballot measure that would increase the sales tax by one percentage point to boost funding for education, is that less than half the money will go to raise teacher pay. This assertion is made repeatedly on the homepage and campaign ads of the group leading the No on 779 campaign and has been repeated by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and other organizations. The assertion is false. SQ 779 clearly provides that of all revenue received by the new one-cent tax, a full 60 percent will go to teacher pay [OK Policy]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 779 here.

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Fact Check: The claim that less than half of SQ 779 revenues will go to teachers is false

by | November 1st, 2016 | Posted in Education, State Questions, Taxes | Comments (18)

A central claim being made by opponents of State Question 779, the ballot measure that would increase the sales tax by one percentage point to boost funding for education, is that less than half the money will go to raise teacher pay. This assertion is made repeatedly on the homepage and campaign ads of the group leading the No on 779 campaign and has been repeated by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and other organizations.

The assertion is false. SQ 779 clearly provides that of all revenue received by the new one-cent tax, a full 60 percent will go to teacher pay.

Here’s how it will work. Under the new language to be added to the state Constitution, 69.5 percent of all revenue from the one-cent sales tax will go to common education. How common education’s share will be allocated is spelled out in Article XIII, Section C.3.A.1  and Section C.4, as follows:

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In The Know: More than 200 new laws to go into effect in Oklahoma

by | November 1st, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

More than 200 new laws to go into effect in Oklahoma: More than 200 new laws are set to go into effect in Oklahoma this year, including criminal justice reforms and measures to bring in more tax revenue. A total of 228 measures approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin will take effect Tuesday. Another 159 bills passed by lawmakers have already gone into effect, according to the Oklahoman. Due to a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, the Legislature took many steps this year to bring in more money [Associated Press]. Here are the highs and lows of the 2016 legislative session [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Education Department Hopes To Follow Iowa’s Lead On Teacher Retention: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has asked for $15 million to implement a system lawmakers passed last year that would help retain highly effective teachers. The Legislature didn’t have the funds to pay for the so-called “Iowa model” as part of House Bill 3114. The Education Department asked for the money Thursday as part of its budget request for Fiscal Year 2018. eCapitol’s Christie Southern reports the money would allow 10 to 15 schools to participate in the program, and the money would pay for stipends for professional development conferences and allow for a replacement teacher to fill the classroom during that time [KGOU]. Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is not just about salaries [John Lepine / OK Policy].

When K-12 schools are underfunded: The latest school funding numbers have been released, and, sadly, Oklahoma is once again the winner! After inflation, our state’s general funding for K-12 education is 27 percent less per pupil than before the beginning of the 2008 recession, a higher percentage than any other state in the country. This amounts to $211 less per student per year in each school. As a parent, I care about school funding because I want my kids to have art and music programs and teachers who are treated like professionals and have access to the best resources to use in their classrooms [Elizabeth Smith / OK Policy].

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When K-12 schools are underfunded… (Guest post: Elizabeth Smith)

by | October 31st, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (1)

sad student

Elizabeth Smith is the planning director for the Yale National Initiative at the University of Tulsa, a partnership between TU, Tulsa Public Schools, and Yale University to strengthen teaching in Tulsa schools.  She recently completed a Ph.D. in Public Policy, P-20 Education Policy.

The latest school funding numbers have been released, and, sadly, Oklahoma is once again the winner!  After inflation, our state’s general funding for K-12 education is 27 percent less per pupil than before the beginning of the 2008 recession, a higher percentage than any other state in the country.  This amounts to $211 less per student per year in each school.  As a parent, I care about school funding because I want my kids to have art and music programs and teachers who are treated like professionals and have access to the best resources to use in their classrooms.  As a higher education professional for the last 12 years, though, why does adequate funding for K-12 education matter to my work?

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In The Know: State budget cuts put strain on programs for vulnerable adults

by | October 31st, 2016 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

State budget cuts put strain on programs for vulnerable adults: When Jana Gildon lost her job at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services due to budget cuts, she was one of just four state workers tasked with investigating abuse, neglect and exploitation at long-term care facilities like nursing homes. Gildon’s job was one of about 100 DHS positions that were eliminated in August. The layoffs were part of $45 million in funding cuts for the 2017 fiscal year that DHS was forced to implement due to a more than $100-million shortfall at the agency amid state budget cuts. “People are losing their jobs even after years with the state because our Legislature and governor have not handled our budget very well,” Gildon said [The Oklahoman].

Only 4 Of 274 Claims Paid Out After Largest Oklahoma Quake: The sidewalks around the more than 110-year old Arkansas Valley National Bank building are still roped off to guard pedestrians from falling chunks of sandstone nearly two months after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook Pawnee. The hand-cut sandstone facade of the building, a historic landmark in downtown Pawnee, sustained heavy damage in the Sept. 3 earthquake. Bank building owner Keith Cheatham just laughed when asked if he had earthquake insurance. “If you have earthquake damage, you are pretty much on a self-help program,” he said. As of Sept. 30, Only four insurance claims worth $24,232 have been paid out of the 274 claims filed for damage from the Sept. 3 earthquake, according to the Oklahoma Insurance Department [The Oklahoman].

GOP expected to maintain super majorities in Oklahoma: Republicans are expected to maintain super majorities in both the Oklahoma House and Senate after the November elections, but Democrats remain hopeful they could pick up a seat or two in each chamber. Republican and Democratic politicos predict there won’t be any major swings in either chamber, but a byproduct of the GOP’s major gains over the last decade is that Republicans have more open seats to defend: 19 in the House and nine in the Senate. Republicans currently hold a 39-9 edge in the Senate and a 71-30 advantage in the House [Associated Press].

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The Weekly Wonk: State Questions, who’s not voting, and more

by | October 30th, 2016 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy Blog, a guest post from Sen. Connie Johnson argued that SQ 776, which would affirm Oklahoma’s right to perform executions, has a dangerous hidden agenda. Executive Director David Blatt wrote that claims SQ 777 (“Right to Farm”) will boost food security are hard to swallow. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler explained why OK Policy is supporting SQ 780 and 781, the criminal justice reform state questions on the ballot.

In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis examined Oklahoma’s $1.3 billion school funding gap. Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed who doesn’t vote in Oklahoma

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke to the Associated Press about rising Healthcare.gov health insurance premiums in Oklahoma. He spoke to FOX25 for a report on budget negotiations between Governor Fallin’s office and the legislature. Governing magazine quoted Blatt on SQ 779, which would raise the sales tax to pay for education, and Blatt spoke to the Enid News on the same topic. Our statement on SQ 779 is available here

Policy Director Gene Perry spoke to KOSU about Oklahoma’s per-pupil spending cuts. Our report on the topic is available here. Forrest Bennett, candidate for office in HD 92, cited OK Policy in an interview with NonDoc. 

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Oklahoma’s $1.3 billion school funding gap (Capitol Updates)

by | October 28th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (2)

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.

There was more bad news this week that Oklahoma, for the third straight year, had the largest cuts in the United States in state aid funding for education. The per pupil state aid formula cuts were 26.9 percent after inflation between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2017, nearly twice as much as Alabama which was the next worst state. It’s hard to believe that publicity like this enhances our reputation as a good place to live and do business.

There are those who will argue that total support for public schools, including both local and state funding, is the relevant measure of support and that education is not faring so badly. A graph from the National Center for Education Statistics on the Oklahoma Education Coalition website rebuts such an argument. It demonstrates that in 2016 Oklahoma’s neighboring states invested substantially more in common education on a per-student basis. Oklahoma would have to invest nearly $1.3 billion more annually to reach the regional average per-student spending.

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