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In The Know: As some states curb high fines, Oklahoma’s go even higher

by | September 8th, 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

As some states curb high fines, Oklahoma’s go even higher: When riots erupted two years ago in Ferguson, Missouri, some of the tension in the black community was blamed on the city’s use of court fines and fees that burdened many low-income people with debts they could not pay. Since then, Missouri has reduced the maximum fines for traffic tickets and other violations and limited the share of city budgets supported by fees. California and other states also adopted reforms, offering amnesty to some indigent offenders with large debts. Oklahoma made changes too, but its lawmakers went the other direction [Associated Press]. Oklahoma went the wrong way on fines and fees during the 2016 legislative session [OK Policy].

Section 8 housing voucher freeze hits Oklahoma City’s poorest residents hardest: Last March, about the time she and her husband were splitting up, Stacy Pece says she walked into the Oklahoma City Housing Authority and filled out an application for housing assistance. Six months later, Pece, 33, is living at the City Rescue Mission, an Oklahoma City homeless shelter, waiting to hear back from the housing authority. She guesses she’s called the agency about 200 times, looking for an update on the status of her application. She hasn’t heard back, she said [NewsOK]. Even though Oklahoma is considered an affordable place to live, housing costs are still unaffordable for many lower wage earners [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Transportation Department to share in returned funds: Flummoxed state transportation officials got the relief they were looking for Tuesday. State finance officials reversed course and said the Transportation Department is entitled to get back $11.35 million, after all. The money will be used to improve roads and bridges. “We’re delighted that everything worked out,” Mike Patterson, the Transportation Department’s executive director, said Tuesday [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Oklahoma Unemployment Exceeds National Rate First Time In 26 Years

by | September 7th, 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

Oklahoma Unemployment Exceeds National Rate First Time In 26 Years: Gross Receipts to the Treasury continued their downward trajectory for an 18th consecutive month in August as unemployment figures released late in the month show Oklahoma’s jobless numbers exceed the national rate for the first time in 26 years, according to State Treasurer Ken Miller. Reports released on Tuesday by Miller show gross receipts, which provide a broad view of state economic activity, were down by 4 percent in August compared to the same month of last year [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma child welfare improvement plan gets extension to implement changes: With the five-year deadline on the state’s child welfare improvement plan coming up in December, officials with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the attorneys representing foster children have agreed to extend the timeline to fully implement the reforms. The extension stems from the acknowledgement that the requirement of having at least two years of sustained progress isn’t going to be met [Tulsa World]. The plan has consistently struggled to meet benchmarks since 2012 [OK Policy].

Geologist Sees Clues, and Further Dangers, in Puzzle of Oklahoma’s Earthquakes: Scientists and regulators agree that earthquakes like the 5.6-magnitude tremor that struck Oklahoma on Saturday, and thousands of smaller ones in recent years, have been spurred by the disposal of millions of tons of wastewater that is pumped to the surface, and then injected back into the ground, during oil and gas production. The shock last week tied a record set in 2011 in Prague, Okla., for the strongest such tremor in the state’s history [New York Times].

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At the intersection of hunger and health (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

by | September 6th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Effie Craven serves as the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, where she advocates for programs and policies that promote access to nutritious foods and economic security for all Oklahomans.

Photo by Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Photo by Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

In the food banking world, we frequently measure need in terms of “food insecurity.” Food insecurity is an economic condition describing a lack of adequate access to affordable, nutritious food. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, there are more than 650,000 food insecure people in Oklahoma — about 1 in 6 Oklahomans. At the same time, rates of chronic disease like hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease remain high, and Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest obesity rates in the nation.

Chronic disease and food insecurity are intricately linked and often lead to a vicious cycle. As limited income is stretched further by an illness and families are forced to make difficult choices, food is often the only part of a budget with any flexibility. Because healthy food is typically more expensive and has a shorter shelf-life than processed foods, families may opt for cheaper, longer-lasting but nutrition-deficient foods.

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In The Know: Record-tying Oklahoma earthquake felt as far away as Arizona

by | September 6th, 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

Record-tying Oklahoma earthquake felt as far away as Arizona: A record-tying earthquake in the edge of Oklahoma’s key energy-producing areas rattled the Midwest from Illinois to the southwest part of Texas on Saturday, bringing fresh attention to the practice of disposing oil and gas field wastewater deep underground. The United States Geological Survey said a 5.6 magnitude earthquake happened at 7:02 a.m. Saturday in north-central Oklahoma, on the fringe of an area where regulators had stepped in to limit wastewater disposal [Associated Press]. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission moved to shut down 37 disposal wells in the area [Fox 25] and indicated that more actions may follow [OK Energy Today]. Governor Fallin declared a state of emergency for Pawnee County [KFOR].

Oklahoma lawmakers passed numerous bills raising fines, fees: The Oklahoma Legislature passed a number of measures this year that may raise fines or fees. A one-time, $5 fee to pay for new license plates will generate an estimated $18.5 million, plus an additional $4 million through increased compliance with registration laws. Another measure increased court fees for divorce and related matters, which will raise $11.2 million for the state [NewsOK]. The revenue from the new license plate fee will be split by the state and a 3M company [NewsOK]. The 2016 legislative session began with hope of progress on fines and fees, but last-minute legislation hiked them even further [OK Policy].

Expectations Remain High As Funding Decreases For OK Schools: It’s not just elementary and secondary schools in Oklahoma that are suffering from big budget cuts. State funding per student at the state’s colleges and universities are down 22 percent since 2008, and that’s having a big impact on both the schools and young people counting on a college degree to advance in life. All across the country, it’s a struggle to fund education from kindergarten through higher education, but add in tuition hikes and cuts in campus staff, and the quality of higher education here in Oklahoma has some concerned [NewsOn6]. Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to general state aid to schools since 2008 [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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The Weekly Wonk: Funding high-poverty schools; no good, very bad runoffs; & more

by | September 4th, 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, summer intern Kylie Thomas examined how a new federal education law could change how we fund high-poverty schools. Executive Director David Blatt argued against Oklahoma’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad runoffs. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam pointed out that Oklahoma is missing a big opportunity to improve mental illness and addiction treatment by refusing to expand Medicaid coverage.

In his Journal Record column, Blatt warned that four-day school weeks will leave more kids hungry. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update flagged nine Senate races to watch this November. In a guest post, Georgetown professors Deborah Phillips and William Gormley reported on their new research that found that the Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains

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Nine Oklahoma Senate races to watch this November (Capitol Updates)

by | September 2nd, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Elections | Comments (3)

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 find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

Last week’s runoff elections helped clear the picture for this November’s legislative races. With half the Senate’s 48 members up for election, it looks like there will be at least nine competitive Senate general election races — three seats currently held by Democrats and six by Republicans.

In Senate District 1, Michael Bergstrom, a high school English teacher in Bluejacket Public Schools, is the Republican candidate against John Myers, a long time veterinarian from Vinita. Bergstrom says he’s an educator, a Christian and a constitutional conservative. Myers says he wants to “promote and protect the assets” of Senate District 1 which means getting the state’s budget in order. SD 1 is currently held by Sen. Charles Wyrick, a Democrat.

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In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin decides against a special session on teacher raises

by | September 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.

Today In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin decides against a special session on teacher raises: Gov. Mary Fallin will not call for a special session of the Legislature to address raises for state teachers. Instead, following a meeting with legislative leaders on Thursday, Fallin’s office announced that an excess $140.8 million in revenues will be returned to state agencies. Michael McNutt, a Fallin spokesman, said the governor and legislative leaders discussed their commitment to an alternative teacher pay raise rather than University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s proposed sales tax increase that voters will consider Nov. 8 as State Question 779 [Tulsa World].

Right-to-Farm or Right-to-Harm: Oklahoma Voters Get Final Say With SQ 777: Oklahoma voters decide on State Question 777 in November. Supporters call the ballot initiative right-to-farm, but opponents prefer right-to-harm. It’s a divisive, national issue that’s made its way to Oklahoma, pitting agriculture against environmentalists and animal rights activists. By now, many Oklahomans have seen the signs and billboards for and against State Question 777, and organizations backing both sides of the issue are gearing up a television ad blitz [StateImpact Oklahoma].

New research finds Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains (Guest Blog: Deborah Phillips and William Gormley): In an era of high expectations of preschool education, new research finds that the Head Start program operated by Tulsa’s Community Action Program (CAP) has risen to the challenge. Since the early 2000s, we have been following children who participate in Tulsa CAP Head Start and Tulsa Public School pre-K programs. We found that positive initial effects of the program on participants’ readiness for kindergarten persist into middle school in the form of higher math achievement test scores, less grade retention, and less chronic absenteeism as compared to children of the same age and backgrounds who did not participate in CAP Head start or in the Tulsa Public Schools pre-K program in 2005-06 when the study began [OK Policy].

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New research finds Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains (Guest Blog: Deborah Phillips and William Gormley)

by | September 1st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Deborah Phillips is Professor of Psychology and William Gormley is Professor of Government and Public Policy at Georgetown University. Their Tulsa-based research on early childhood education has appeared in the top scientific journals in their fields, in national media outlets, and was mentioned in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address.

In an era of high expectations of preschool education, new research finds that the Head Start program operated by Tulsa’s Community Action Program (CAP) has risen to the challenge.

Since the early 2000s, we have been following children who participate in Tulsa CAP Head Start and Tulsa Public School pre-K programs. We found that positive initial effects of the program on participants’ readiness for kindergarten persist into middle school in the form of higher math achievement test scores, less grade retention, and less chronic absenteeism as compared to children of the same age and backgrounds who did not participate in CAP Head start or in the Tulsa Public Schools pre-K program in 2005-06 when the study began. These results were strongest for girls, white and Hispanic children, and English Language Learners.

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In The Know: State to again attempt to address criminal justice reform

by | September 1st, 2016 | Posted in Blog | 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

State to again attempt to address criminal justice reform: The state of Oklahoma once again will take a stab at criminal justice reform, officials said Wednesday. The announcement comes after years of unsuccessful efforts to reduce the prison population. Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday she expects a task force she appointed in July to come up with recommendations in December that can be used as the basis for legislation in the 2017 legislative session [Tulsa World]. Significant reductions in incarceration will require a smarter approach to both non-violent and more serious crimes [OK Policy].

State ranked 44th for access to justice: Oklahoma is one of the lowest-ranking states for access to justice, but a national advocate said he believes the state is now on the right track. In an annual report published by The Justice Index, Oklahoma ranked 44th. The state had low marks in attorney access, support for people representing themselves in court and access for people who aren’t fluent in English. However, Legal Services Corp. President James Sandman told the Oklahoma Access to Justice Commission to not be disappointed [Journal Record].

In Oklahoma, Child Care Providers Are Closing Their Doors: After 23 years in the child-care industry, Laura Hatcher is edging toward a decision she doesn’t want to make. The 51-year-old Antlers resident runs one of the four licensed day-care facilities in Pushmataha County in southeast Oklahoma. But she questions whether she can keep her doors open beyond another year or two because running the business is getting more expensive and difficult. “It’s a struggle and I’m working 11, 12 hours a day,” she said. “If it continues the way it is, I’m not going to be able to keep going.” [Oklahoma Watch] An earlier child care subsidy freeze has been lifted, but remains endangered [OK Policy]. Child care is getting less accessible for Oklahoma’s working parents [OK Policy].

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Oklahoma is missing a big opportunity to improve mental illness and addiction treatment

by | August 31st, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

Therapist listening to her patientOne of the most successful ways that’s been found to help people escape from opioid addiction is through medications that partially mimic the effect of more dangerous opioids while causing less intoxication and less physical dependence. Despite the success of these medications, a continuing stigma around their use means that health care providers are often wary. Oklahoma’s health care leaders aim to fix that, which is why several doctors’ groups and state officials recently hosted a training on appropriate use of these drugs. With heroin overdose deaths on the rise, their efforts should be applauded.

But reducing the stigma among health care providers is not enough when many Oklahomans can’t afford to see a doctor in the first place. A 30-day supply of one of these drugs, Suboxone, runs more than $350, and a year of treatment, including appointments and counseling, can cost upwards of $10,000. Oklahoma, with its second-highest non-elderly uninsured rate in the US and a severely underfunded health care safety net, still leaves many without access to treatment.

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