In The Know: Lawsuit asks Oklahoma Supreme Court to throw out repeal of Common Core

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

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that parents, teachers and members of the Oklahoma Board of Education asked the state Supreme Court to throw out a law repealing Common Core academic standards. Their lawsuit argues that the bill repealing Common Core gives the Legislature too much power to rewrite academic standards and violates the separation of powers. An Oklahoma Supreme Court referee heard arguments in Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent’s challenge to the state income-tax cut that was enacted during the past legislative session. Fent argues that the law was passed without following the constitutional requirements for a revenue bill.

Claiming the state is experimenting on “captive and unwilling human subjects,” 21 Oklahoma death-row prisoners filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state’s execution protocols. The federal appeals court set to rule on Oklahoma’s same sex marriage ban has ruled that a similar ban in Utah is unconstitutional. On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how community schools are proving to be an effective way to address the challenges of poverty without lowering expectations for low-income students.

Joy Hofmeister, who recently defeated Superintendent Janet Barresi in a Republican primary, said her agenda if she wins the general election will focus on fixing the A-F school grading system, developing new academic standards, and improving special education. State Superintendent Janet Barresi vowed to focus her remaining six months in office on the task of writing new reading and math curriculum standards. A video from a State Department of Education event on developing the standards shows Barresi telling teachers to prepare for the difficult process by reading the Book of Nehemiah in the Bible and telling would-be critics to “Go to Hell.”

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses the heavy cost of Oklahoma’s plan to hike copayments for Medicaid prescriptions and doctor visits. OK Policy has urged Oklahomans to contact the Health Care Authority board, which will decide today whether to approve the copay increases. New Census data shows that Oklahoma is one of only seven states that grew younger last year, thanks in part to an influx of 20-something oilfield workers. Twenty-two more graduates completed the Women in Recovery Program which is providing an effective alternative to prison for women with substance abuse problems.

Tulsa World reporter Kevin Canfield expressed concern that barely more than 20 percent of voters participated in city council elections this week. The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved a $370 million renovation project for the football stadium. Oklahoma Kiowas are celebrating U.S. national soccer team forward Chris Wondolowski, the first tribally enrolled Native American to participate at the World Cup. The Duncan Board of Education has approved the purchase of 4,500 skateboard helmets for students and employees to wear in case of a tornado. A new study warns that ongoing climate changes pose serious risks to the agricultural and energy industries in Oklahoma and other Great Plains states.

The Number of the Day is the miles of public road in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Governing discusses how states are requiring tougher entry requirements for teacher colleges and more proof of subject mastery before teachers can enter the classroom.

continue reading In The Know: Lawsuit asks Oklahoma Supreme Court to throw out repeal of Common Core

Schools alone can’t overcome poverty. They need a community.

by | June 25th, 2014 | Posted in Education, Poverty | Comments (0)
Rebecca Hollis

Rebecca Hollis

This post is by Rebecca Hollis, who is working with OK Policy during the summer as a Southern Education Leadership Initiative Fellow. Rebecca attends Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH and is part of the Philosophy, Politics, and the Public Honors Program.

Improving educational outcomes for children living in poverty is one of the most difficult and important tasks that Oklahoma faces. The future of these children is the future of our whole state. The poverty rate has grown to the point that today nearly 1 in 4 Oklahoma children are living in poverty, and a recent study by The Southern Education Foundation indicates that low-income students (those who qualify for free or reduced lunches) are now the majority across the South. In 2011, 60.6 percent of Oklahoma’s students were considered low-income, and this number continues to grow.

The difficulty of educating children in poverty stems from the issues they face outside of the classroom. The poorest students may suffer from food insecurity.They may be exposed to air pollution and toxic levels of lead.They may experience violent crime or have a parent who is incarcerated. They may frequently change schools without a stable residence. The list goes on.

That’s why the typical school models are not enough. We need a whole community to meet the needs of the whole child.The community school model is a cost-effective, national reform strategy that seeks to do just that. In Oklahoma and other states, this model is producing impressive academic results such as increased enrollment, improved graduation rates, and higher test scores.

continue reading Schools alone can’t overcome poverty. They need a community.

In The Know: Hofmeister beats incumbent Janet Barresi for superintendent nomination

by and | June 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.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that Joy Hofmeister has won the Republican nomination for state superintendent with 58 percent of the vote. Incumbent Janet Barresi came in third behind Hofmeister and Brian Kelly. With no candidate receiving 50 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, it will go to a runoff between Peggs Superintendent John Cox and Oklahoma City charter school founder Freda Deskin. Congressman James Lankford won the Republican nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn.

In state legislative races, a woman whose 9-year-old son died in the Moore tornado lost a bid to unseat state Representative Mark McBride. Rep. Kay Floyd, the state’s first openly gay female lawmaker, easily won the Democratic primary for the state Senate seat being vacated by Al McAffrey, the first openly gay male Oklahoma lawmaker.

Gov. Mary Fallin said that she is optimistic the state will be allowed to continue the Insure Oklahoma program for at least another year. OK Policy has discussed how Insure Oklahoma can be a long-term solution for Oklahoma to expand health coverage to low-income citizens. State Rep. Mike Reynolds says that state legislators must conduct a special session in order to pass a new state budget in light of Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s opinion that the current budget includes an unconstitutional diversion of money from the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship trust fund.

The U.S. Department of Labor has won back pay for over 4,000 energy industry workers in Texas, Oklahoma, and North Dakota. A court ruled the workers had been shorted thousands of dollars each in overtime pay. Oklahoma mental health providers protested a proposed budget cut that would reduce who is eligible to receive psychosocial rehabilitation services under Medicaid. Twenty-eight inmates rioted inside the Lincoln County Jail, causing $2,000 in damage as they tried to break out of their enclosed section. A pack of stray dogs roaming the state Capitol grounds has bitten two visitors and chased others in recent weeks.

The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents has approved a nearly 5 percent tuition and fees increase for the next school year. An inter-faith group in Tulsa held a community meeting to talk about how Green Country can help with the hundreds of immigrant children being housed at Fort Sill. The Ardmore School District has been accepted into the Community Eligibil­ity program to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students. OK Policy previously discussed how this new federal program can be a better mechanism for fighting hunger in high-poverty schools while reducing administrative costs. Schools and districts have until August 31 to sign up for the program this year.

The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahomans employed in education or health services, nearly 13 percent of all workers in the state. In today’s Policy Note, Pacific Standard examines how a growing number of American kids in the child welfare system are being adopted out to other countries. At least one private agency in Pennsylvania is helping Oklahoma child welfare services place children in Europe.

continue reading In The Know: Hofmeister beats incumbent Janet Barresi for superintendent nomination

More proof that hiking Medicaid copays doesn’t add up

by | June 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)
Photo by Robert Neff used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Robert Neff used under a Creative Commons license.

As we’ve discussed before in this blog post and fact sheet, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is considering hiking copayments for Medicaid patients to get a prescription or doctor’s visit, as a way to partially cover Oklahoma’s Medicaid funding shortfall. However, the best evidence shows that the promised savings won’t be realized. Research shows that even modest copay increases contribute to worse health outcomes for patients and don’t generate significant savings in the long run.

Unfortunately, the Health Care Authority (OHCA) does not seem to have taken this research into account when developing their plan.  OHCA documents estimate the plan will save $3.1 million for the state ($8.3 million including federal funds). However, that estimate assumes that utilization of services would remain constant, despite the fact that they would now cost significantly more.

continue reading More proof that hiking Medicaid copays doesn’t add up

In The Know: State fails to autopsy most executed inmates

by and | June 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.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that a Tulsa World investigation found that the state has conducted autopsies on less than half of the inmates executed in Oklahoma since 1990 and in many cases does not perform tests that could show whether inmates were awake and paralyzed as painful drugs flowed into their veins. The Tulsa World reported that a 2011 law that cloaks Oklahoma’s execution procedures in secrecy and nearly sparked a constitutional crisis sailed through the state Legislature with no debate and little opposition.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority will consider $252 million in Medicaid cutbacks at its board meeting on Thursday, including new limits on patient services, higher copays and smaller reimbursements to doctors and other medical providers. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed what could be the impact of these cuts. The Tulsa Initiative Blog discussed how Oklahoma has put itself in the control group in a test of expanding health coverage through Medicaid, which may prove to be expensive for the citizens who cannot afford health care and the hospitals who face unpaid bills without federal funding to mitigate the loss. The Tulsa World called for the Legislature to eliminate a loophole in Oklahoma’s Open Records Act that a judge ruled allows Governor Fallin to shield records relating to her decisions to reject federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

With voters headed to the polls today, KGOU shared four Oklahoma primary races to watchRepublican domination of the Legislature is expected to continue after this election cycle. The badvoter.org website, which allows anyone to look up whether individual Oklahomans are voting, is stirring mixed feelings among Oklahomans. Fivethirtyeight and NPR provided rundowns of the U.S. Senate primary race between James Lankford and TW Shannon, who are trying to distinguish themselves in style if not substance. Republican congressional candidates Shane Jett and Daryl Robertson have not filed financial disclosure reports even though they have met the campaign spending threshold. Candidates running for state offices in Oklahoma have raised more than $900,000 in last-minute contributions over the past two weeks.

Ten city attorneys have written a letter to Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz stating that he has no authority to decide which inmates are housed in the Tulsa Jail and at what cost. Amid a lengthy losing streak in his fight against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt reached a small, symbolic victory in a Supreme Court ruling on regulation of greenhouse gases. The decision will not affect major new greenhouse gas regulations for power plants that the agency proposed earlier this month. The University of Oklahoma is planning a $12 million project to build tornado shelters on its Norman campus.

The Oklahoma Conference of Churches is recruiting pro-bono legal services, clinicians, and counselors to aid immigrant children being housed at Fort Sill. Northeastern State University has received a five-year grant of $735,000 aimed at improving child welfare services in the Cherokee Nation. The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahoma youth that participated in 4-H programs in 2012. In today’s Policy Note, the New Republic discusses how the absence of guaranteed paid family leave in the United States is preventing us from seeing working men as fathers.

continue reading In The Know: State fails to autopsy most executed inmates

In The Know: Pair of DEQ staffers conspired with legislator to torpedo agency funding

by and | June 23rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (6)

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.

Download today’s In The Know podcast here or play it in your browser:

Today you should know that a Journal Record investigation uncovered that a state representative who oversaw the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality’s budget conspired with two DEQ staff members to gut its funding as retribution against the agency’s new director. Researchers from OU and OSU who have criticized the state’s A-F school grading system say State Superintendent Janet Barresi made false claims about their work in recent campaign appearances. 

David Blatt wrote in the Tulsa World that proposed Medicaid copay hikes could seriously harm Oklahoma’s poorest and sickest citizens, without saving the state money over the long run. An OK Policy fact sheet explains why Oklahoma should not hike Medicaid copays and what you can do to take action. The Tulsa World praised Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s finding that lawmakers’ attempt to take money out of the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship trust fund is unconstitutional. OK Policy first broke the new about this illegal budget maneuver.

An Oklahoma County election official said early-voting turnout has been similar to past primary turnouts. Tulsa World columnist Mike Jones argued that Oklahoma’s low voter turnout is empowering extremists. A new website at badvoter.org allows Oklahomans to look up their voting records as well as the records of friends, family, employers, elected officials and even famous Oklahomans. Key individuals involved in a so-called “dark-money” group supporting T.W. Shannon for U.S. Senate this year have had close ties with the campaign or its main consulting firm, and the Oklahoma County District Attorney is investigating whether there has been illegal collusion.

On the OK Policy Blog, we shared video of a panel discussion featuring OK Policy’s Kate Richey on expanding economic opportunity in Oklahoma. An OK Policy report lays out recommendations for closing the opportunity gap for people of color in Oklahoma. Oil and gas companies have applied for more than 6,000 drilling permits in Oklahoma for the second consecutive year. Governor Fallin toured the Fort Sill Army barracks that is housing about 600 immigrant children and said they appeared to be healthy and in good spirits.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board praised a new law that establishes best practices for police officers to assess domestic violence situationsOklahoma’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.6 percent in May, as the nation as a whole posted a fourth straight month of solid hiring. After three years of choosing between the rival Tulsa Christmas Parade and the Downtown Parade of Light, Tulsans will once again have just one holiday parade — called the American Waste Control Tulsa Christmas Parade. OK Policy analyst Carly Putnam wrote in the Oklahoma Gazette why a novel that one legislator used as an example of the evils of Common Core should be read by all Oklahomans.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans with disabilities. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities discusses what the budgetary disaster emerging from Kansas’ radical tax-cutting experiment should mean for other states.

continue reading In The Know: Pair of DEQ staffers conspired with legislator to torpedo agency funding

The Weekly Wonk June 22, 2014

by | June 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (1)

the_weekly_wonk

The 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 called on you to help stop harmful changes to Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. As we’ve previously written, proposed copayment hikes would damage Medicaid recipients’ health without saving money for the state. We wrote that lawmakers haven’t done enough to end the crisis in Oklahoma’s prisons. You can read our suggested reforms for the state criminal justice system here.

The state legislature made unsustainable, irresponsible choices when building the FY 2015 budget. Our evaluation of the budget can be found here. OK Policy staffer Kate Richey participated in a panel entitled “Expanding Opportunity in Oklahoma: Earned Success and the Paths to Prosperity” in Oklahoma City last week. You can watch the panel discussion here, and read more about building equity in Oklahoma here.

The Tulsa World quoted Policy Director in a discussion of the debate surrounding wind energy in Oklahoma. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that the legislature acted inappropriately when they raided the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship trust fund to balance the state budget.

In our Editorial of the Week, The Oklahoman agreed with Blatt, arguing that lawmakers were risking one of the best things they’d ever made for young Oklahomans. The maneuver was deemed illegal by the state Attorney General’s office on Thursday.

Quote of the Week

“I’ve had parents, and even some of the children tell me, ‘There is no childhood here.’ There’s not any calculated attempt to game the system. There’s just one last attempt to survive, and try to have some quality of life.”

- Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright scholar who is researching the causes of child migration in Central America. Currently nearly 600 children who were detained crossing the border are being held at Fort Sill (Source: http://nbcnews.to/1vzY2Ft)

Numbers of the Week

  • $957 million - Amount spent on food purchases from Oklahoma grocers by the 889,137 Oklahomans receiving SNAP benefits in FY 2013.
  • 102.4 million – Total number of volunteer service hours performed by Oklahomans in 2012.
  • $14.77 – Median hourly wage for Oklahoma workers in 2013.
  • $202 – Average monthly tax credit for Oklahomans who purchased insurance on Healthcare.gov. The tax credits reduced average monthly premiums to $75.
  • 45th – Oklahoma’s rank in the AARP’s state scorecard on long-term services and supports for older adults, people with physical disabilities, and family caregivers.

What We’re Reading

Watch This: Expanding Opportunity in Oklahoma

by | June 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (0)

OK Policy staffer Kate Richey recently participated in a panel discussion in Oklahoma City titled “Expanding Opportunity in Oklahoma: Earned Success and the Paths to Prosperity.”  Kate coordinates Oklahoma Assets Network (OAN), which represents individuals and organizations working to promote proven tools for all Oklahomans to build stronger financial foundations.

Watch the clip below for a discussion on opportunity in Oklahoma which also included Ryan Kiesel (Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma), Jonathan Small (Vice President for Policy, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs), and Dr. Jason Sorens (Lecturer, Department of Government, Dartmouth College).

In The Know: AG finds diversion of Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship funds is illegal

by | June 20th, 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 Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has found that legislators acted unlawfully when they tried to divert nearly $8 million from the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship trust fund to general revenue. The blog post where OK Policy broke the story is available here, and you can read the Attorney General’s opinion here. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt argued that raiding the trust fund was an unacceptable tactic in balancing the budget.

A post on the OK Policy blog examined more of the underhanded funding grabs the legislature made in lieu of building a responsible and sustainable state budget this year. Early voting has begun ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. State superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister has called for a federal investigation of reported violations of student privacy by incumbent Janet Barresi’s campaign. A panel hosted by the Tulsa Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists held a panel to discuss statewide educational issues on Thursday.

Gov. Fallin is planning to tour the Fort Sill army barracks where 600 immigrant children are being housed by the federal government. A Cherokee group that commemorated their ancestors by biking the 1,000-mile Trail of Tears over three weeks arrived home on Thursday. Petitioners collecting signatures for an initiative to put medical marijuana to a state vote in November say that they continue to be harassed by law enforcement while gathering signatures. An Oklahoma man who says that he was tortured while held in a Bryan County jail has settled a lawsuit over his mistreatment.

The Tulsa City Council has approved the city’s 2015 budget, which is about 2.4 percent smaller than last year’s budget. A number of Tulsans dialing 911 report being put on hold, a problem that Tulsa’s 911 director attributes to budget cuts. Oklahoma homeless assistance programs will receive $785,047 in additional funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Scientists report that drought conditions have led to a relatively calm tornado season in Oklahoma: only seven tornadoes have been confirmed in the state so far this year, compared to a more typical 40 to 45.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank on an AARP score card comparing long-term services and supports for older adults, people with physical disabilities, and family caregivers. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times investigates who earns the minimum wage and  would be affected by proposed increases.

continue reading In The Know: AG finds diversion of Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship funds is illegal

They did what?? Funding grabs create shortfalls for many agencies

by | June 19th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

pickpocketFaced with a nearly $200 million shortfall in building the FY 2015 budget, legislative leaders and Governor Fallin had three basic choices.

They could have simply cut spending, slashing deeply across all areas of government. This would have left unaddressed critical needs for schools, state employees, the child welfare system, and others, and forced massive cuts on our health care system.

They could have filled the budget hole by curbing tax breaks and closing tax loopholes. This would have strengthened our faltering tax system over the long term but would have antagonized powerful beneficiaries of tax preferences and anti-tax hardliners.

Instead of either of these tough options, they went for the seemingly easier one of balancing the budget by scrounging together whatever money they could find in state funds, even if they were only one-time revenues and even if the money was collected for other purposes than supporting general state operations.

continue reading They did what?? Funding grabs create shortfalls for many agencies