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Asking District Attorneys to fund themselves with fees, forfeitures creates systemic problems (Capitol Updates)

by | August 7th, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates | 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. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

There’s an eCapitol story accompanying this week’s update about the funding crisis in our District Attorney system.  I’ve also heard the new Tulsa County DA, Steve Kunzweiler, express his frustrations at the funding problems his office faces.  This is not untypical of many other state agencies, but the prosecutors can make a good case that their role in public safety is basic and ought to be agreed upon as a fundamental, or core, function of government.  But here’s the problem:  Most people, including legislators agree that DAs are a core function of government, but we still refuse to fund them.  They received a 2% cut in this year’s budget.

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In The Know: State infant mortality rate declines

by | August 7th, 2015 | 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.

Today In The News

Infant mortality rate drops: Although it remains above the US average, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate has declined 15 percent since 2005. The state’s infant mortality rate for black infants remains almost double that of white infants [NewsOK]. Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate has recently hovered somewhere between Kuwait and Russia [OK Policy].

State lacks special education teachers: Advocates say that the state’s vacancies for special education teachers are particularly damaging to students in need of specialized attention. The Oklahoma Education Association says that the state only had 30 graduates from state collegiate special education programs [KFOR].

Community health centers are vital part of state health infrastructure: Even as more Americans have access to health insurance, a serious health-care problem persists: the shortage of access to essential preventive and primary care services. A key part of the solution lies in our nation’s community health centers, a proven national model [John Silva / Tulsa World]. But recent state funding cuts threaten community health centers’ ability to provide care across Oklahoma [OK Policy].

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In The Know: Law enforcement takes $47.5 million with controversial asset seizures

by | August 6th, 2015 | 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

Highway patrol led in controversial asset seizures: More than 100 Oklahoma law enforcement agencies received $47.5 million over more than a decade through a controversial U.S. Department of Justice program that shared forfeited private assets with state and local agencies. Nearly three-fourths of the money and property went to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol [Oklahoma Watch]. Property is seized by law enforcement supposedly because it’s connected to criminal activity. Yet many seizures are not accompanied by a conviction, or even the filing of charges [Trent England & Gene Perry / NewsOK].  Canadian County Sheriff Randall R. Edwards is pushing back against a lawmakers attempt to reform asset forfeiture laws [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma City Council questions jail plan: A county study committee has recommended seeking a sales tax increase to pay for a new jail amid threats of a federal lawsuit over the condition of the current jail. Oklahoma City councilwoman Meg Salyer said it could be the “perfect opportunity” to consider consolidation of some law enforcement duties. Councilman Ed Shadid said a proposed permanent sales tax increase to fund jail operations could endanger transit improvements and other projects [NewsOK].

How Oklahoma is turning around its tragic history with Indian education: As of 2013, 15 percent of students in Oklahoma public schools are identified as American Indian, which put them tied with Hispanics as the second largest group of students in the state. The state’s recent efforts to create an informative, culturally-inclusive curriculum on American Indian issues is a stark contrast to how Indian Education was handled earlier in Oklahoma’s history [OK Policy].

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Two great opportunities for Oklahoma college students

by | August 5th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

okpolicy_mugsOK Policy is pleased to announce two exciting opportunities for Oklahoma college students. We are now accepting applications for our Fall Internships and for our 2015-16 Research Fellowships. 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; the deadline for both programs is Friday, August 28th.

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Oklahoma has a tragic history when it comes to Indian education. Here’s how we’re turning it around.

by | August 3rd, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (2)

Bah-He-Toya-Mah is an OK Policy summer intern. She has a political science degree from Oklahoma City University and is completing postgraduate studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Tribal Administration and Governance program. Prior to OK Policy she worked at her tribe, The Apache Tribe of Oklahoma. She has interned with the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education in Washington D.C.

Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania (c. 1900)

Pupils at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, Pennsylvania (c. 1900)

When President Obama visited our state recently, his first stop was the Choctaw Nation in southeast Oklahoma. The Choctaw Nation covers some of the poorest parts of the state – where 32.3 percent of children live in poverty and unemployment rates are well above the rest of the state. Because of the serious economic struggles of the region and the strong partner that the federal government has in the Choctaw Nation, the area has been included in the first round of President Obama’s Promise Zones, where local and federal resources will be concentrated to improve human development and well-being.

Part of the Choctaw Nation Promise Zone initiative is an intensive summer school program for 4-year-olds to third graders, including both American Indian and non-American Indian children. It will be a new test of the U.S. government’s ability to partner with a tribe to improve education for all children. That partnership builds on Oklahoma’s recent successes with Indian Education. We have become a good model for the nation as a whole of how to begin overcoming our tragic history of using education in ways that damaged American Indian communities and culture.

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The Weekly Wonk: Americans with Disabilities Act, 50 years of Medicare and Medicaid, and more

by | August 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkWhat’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.

In The Know, OK Policy’s weekday morning news roundup, will be taking a break through Wednesday, August 5th, due to our third annual Summer Policy Institute (SPI). You can follow along with SPI on Twitter with the hashtag #okspi.

In The Know will resume on Thursday, August 6th. If you don’t currently receive In The Know and would like to, you can sign up here.

This Week from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy Blog, guest blogger and Summer Policy Institute 2014 participant Britany Burris explained why the Americans with Disabilities Act is a gift to all Americans. Executive Director David Blatt shared the importance of Medicaid and Medicare as they celebrate their 50th year. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis discussed new Office of Juvenile Affairs charter schools for youth who are at risk or have special needs.

In a guest post, Laura Goldring of MaddieLuke, LTD called for more attention and advocacy around senior hunger. Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed Oklahoma’s heavily gendered political offices. A previous blog post examined the topic in greater detail.

OK Policy is hiring! We are seeking an experienced and effective policy analyst to lead our work on economic issues affecting low- and moderate-income Oklahomans. Applications are due by Monday, August 24th. You can learn more here

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New charter schools take on thorny challenge of educating troubled youth (Capitol Updates)

by | July 31st, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

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 sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

For many years kids in our juvenile institutions have received their schooling from the school district in which the institution is located. The districts continued to receive the state allocation of funding for the students and signed a contract with the institutions to provide teachers and other educational necessities to provide the kids with an education. I’m not expert enough to know how well this has worked. But recently the Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) sought and got legislation that allowed it to create its own charter school for kids incarcerated at the two juvenile institutions for delinquents and juvenile offenders. The schools have just begun their new operation. The idea looks promising.

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In The Know: Election board, advocates reach National Voter Registration Act agreement

by | July 31st, 2015 | 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.

Next week, In The Know will be suspended through Wednesday, August 5th, due to our Summer Policy Institute. In The Know will return on Thursday, August 6th.

Today In The News

State Election Board, advocacy groups reach agreement: Federal law requires that state agencies where people seek assistance additionally provide assistance in registering to vote. However, a group of Oklahoma-based organizations had raised concerns that state agencies weren’t complying with the law. The Election Board and advocacy groups have reached an agreement under which a range of state agencies will be required to ask clients if they want to register to vote, and to assist them with the registration process [Journal Record]. The Election Board is launching a website tracking the effort [Oklahoma State Elections Board]. Oklahoma has the country’s eighth-lowest voter registration rate [OK Policy].

Agencies providing care to Oklahomans with disabilities hit by reimbursement cut: Combined with a subsequent loss of federal matching funds, a 3.5 percent reimbursement cut to home- and community-based care developmental disability and aging services leaves equates to almost $9 million in cuts next year. Ed Lake, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, said in a letter that the cuts were necessary to balance his department’s budget, but care providers say it leaves already underfunded services further without needed resources [Tulsa World]. Appropriations for the state’s FY 2016 budget are 1.3 percent lower than appropriations for the prior year [OK Policy]. Oklahomans with disabilities wait nearly a decade on a waiting list to receive services [OK Policy].

Happy birthday, Medicare and Medicaid: The US’s two largest public health initiatives turned 50 this month. Over the last five decades, they’ve improved the health and financial security of nearly 1 in 3 Americans [OK Policy].

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Happy birthday, Medicare and Medicaid!

by | July 30th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

LBJ signing

President Johnson signing the legislation creating the Medicare and Medicaid programs, July 31, 1965

This is an edited and expanded version of a column that ran in the Journal Record.

Until a half-century ago, if you were elderly, poor, or living with a disability in America, chances are you were without health insurance and couldn’t get the medical care you needed. Thanks to Medicare and Medicaid, two landmark public initiatives that were signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson fifty years ago this month, the health and financial security of nearly one in three Americans has forever been improved.

Medicare, which covers almost all seniors and younger people with serious disabilities, pays for a wide range of preventive services, as well as hospital stays, prescription drugs, and critical medical supplies. Before Medicare, almost half of all Americans 65 and older were without health insurance. Today it’s only 2 percent. Between 1970 and 2010, Medicare contributed to a five-year increase in life expectancy at age 65 by providing early access to needed medical care. Medicare recipients are also less likely to miss needed care or have unmanageable medical bills than working-age adults with insurance, as a recent New York Times editorial noted.

Medicaid, the other program signed into law by President Johnson in July 1965,  may forever be Medicare’s less renowned and beloved sibling, but it is an equally important part of the health care safety net. Medicaid provides comprehensive medical coverage primarily to low-income children and pregnant women, while covering premiums, deductibles, and additional services such as long-term care for low-income seniors and people with disabilities who also receive Medicare.

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In The Know: State high school graduation rates drop

by | July 30th, 2015 | Posted in 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.

Today In The News

High school graduation rates drop for all groups: According to the state Department of Education, 2013-2014 high school graduation data shows that Oklahoma’s high school graduation rate declined to 82.7 percent, down from 84.9 percent during the prior school year. Although graduation rates dropped across all measured groups, students living in poverty saw the largest decline [Oklahoma Watch]. However, the state is withholding graduation data for 58 percent of the state’s public school districts and charter schools, arguing that releasing the data would violate a law intended to protect student privacy. [Oklahoma Watch].

Teacher shortage unlikely to resolve soon: Although Oklahoma universities are producing education graduates at record rates, school districts are still reporting significant teacher shortages. This forces larger class sizes, which in turn leads more and more teachers to seek work out of state, with better pay and smaller class sizes [News9].

Some Oklahoma insurers now covering man-made earthquakes: Previously, fuzzily-worded language and contention over the cause of Oklahoma’s earthquake swarms left some Oklahomans unsure of whether earthquake damage caused to their home or property would be covered by their earthquake insurance. Now, some insurers will cover earthquake damage regardless of the cause, although earthquake-specific policies still need to be purchased separately from standard insurance [NewsOn6].

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