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Registration now open for Fall Policy Boot Camps in Tulsa and Edmond

by | August 25th, 2016 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

P1020339Do you want to learn more about the state budget, criminal justice reform, poverty, and other critical policy issues affecting our state? If so, you’re in luck: registration is now open for OK Policy’s second Fall Policy Boot Camp (FallPol). This year, we will host two FallPols — one at OSU-Tulsa on Friday, October 14th and one at Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond on Saturday, October 15th.

FallPol is an intensive, one-day policy training intended primarily for emerging professionals working for non-profits, advocacy groups, government, and businesses, as well as educators, parents, civic volunteers, and other rising leaders with an interest in Oklahoma issues but without in-depth familiarity with the state’s policy landscape. Advocates and professionals with expertise in one policy area who wish to be better informed across a broader canvas of issues will find this training especially useful.

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In The Know: Year after Costello’s death, mental health spending lags

by | August 25th, 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

Year after Costello’s death, mental health spending lags: Oklahoma spends less money on its mental health system than it did the day Labor Commissioner Mark Costello died. On Tuesday, the anniversary of his death, Costello’s widow Cathy said the state’s lack of investment in treatment for residents with brain disorders is heartbreaking. …At a tree planting ceremony outside the Oklahoma Department of Labor building, Cathy Costello and three of her children shoveled dirt into a hole where a redbud tree will grow in honor of their slain husband and father [NewsOK]. The FY 2017 budget adds to the cost of mental illness in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

DHS forced to make changes to SNAP program due to budget cuts: Benefits provided to low-income Oklahomans is being slowed after statewide budget cuts, the state agency overseeing the program said. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, is changing the way it replaces cards. Cards were available immediately, but now cards have to be provided through a third party, delaying them for a week. In a typical month, about 25,000 cards are issued. Of those, 15,000 represent replacement cards [FOX25]. More than 1 in 4 Oklahoma children rely on SNAP to get enough to eat [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Public Safety Department considers furloughing troopers: The Department of Public Safety is considering 23-day furloughs for state troopers and civilian employees as the agency struggles with budget problems, officials said Wednesday. DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson has requested a $12 million budget supplement. He said that without this emergency funding, his agency will not be able to maintain present levels of staffing and operations, which have been reduced after millions of dollars in budget cuts the last two years [NewsOK]. Fifty-nine of 73 state agencies receiving state appropriations saw a further cut in FY 2017, following midyear cuts in FY 2016 [OK Policy]. 

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In The Know: Oklahoma medical marijuana petition gets enough signatures to be examined for ballot

by | August 24th, 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

Oklahoma medical marijuana petition gets enough signatures to be examined for ballot: An initiative petition to let Oklahomans vote on whether to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes has enough signatures to potentially get on the ballot, Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge announced Tuesday. Backers of the petition say they hope to get the issue on the November ballot, but state officials say time constraints may make that impossible. If the issue fails to make the November ballot, voters still might get a chance to vote on it later during a special election or the 2018 primary or general election, officials said [NewsOK].

Runoffs produce November favorites in many legislative races: Most of the 13 legislative runoffs on Tuesday produced likely general election winners in heavily Democratic and Republican districts, while a few results set the table for competitive November ballots. “I think people were attracted to the type of campaign we ran and I think they were attracted to the message we shared,” said Adam Pugh, the Republican runoff winner in Edmond’s Senate District 41 [NewsOK]. A former Amazing Race’ contestant lost his Oklahoma Senate runoff [Associated Press]. Longtime Oklahoma County Clerk Caudill lost her re-election bid [NewsOK]. Here are the full results from Tuesday’s elections [NewsOK]. 

Seminole voters defeat school bond issue: For the second time in 18 months, voters in the Seminole School District have soundly defeated a bond issue designed to finance construction of a new high school. Defeat of the proposal means that for the foreseeable future, high school students will have to continue attending classes in a renovated building that previously served as a grocery store and call center [NewsOK]. Voters approved school bond issues in several central Oklahoma school districts Tuesday [NewsOK].

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An achievable step towards justice for all: End money bail

by | August 23rd, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (4)

Hand in handcuffs on a pile of dollarsThe criminal justice system tends to move slowly. The time between a person’s arrest and sentencing usually stretches for months, depending on the charges, but where that time is spent depends mainly on whether the person can afford to pay bail.

An increasing number of jurisdictions, including here in Oklahoma, are now paying attention to the inequality and inefficiency this creates and taking steps to improve the situation. The Legislature should consider following the lead of other states and replace its money bail system with one that takes an evidence-based approach to risk and ends the unequal treatment of poor defendants. 

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In The Know: Survey shows at least 2,800 education jobs lost, statewide teacher shortage persisting

by | August 23rd, 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

Survey shows at least 2,800 education jobs lost, statewide teacher shortage persisting: A new statewide survey found that at least 2,800 public school jobs have been lost to budget cuts and in the first part of August, schools were still in need of more than 500 teachers. In the Oklahoma State School Boards Association survey during the first two weeks of August, school districts representing about 83 percent of all public school students participated. Budget cuts were the primary factor in districts’ decisions to eliminate 1,500 teaching positions and 1,300 support worker positions [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma voters choose nominees in primary runoff election: Oklahoma voters will head to the polls Tuesday for a primary runoff election that will decide the final list of party nominees for a handful of legislative seats and a congressional seat in November’s general election. Voters in central Oklahoma will choose between former state Sen. Al McAffrey and retired university professor Tom Guild in Tuesday’s runoff for the Democratic nomination in the 5th Congressional District. The winner will face Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, who is seeking a second two-year term, and Libertarian Zachary Knight on Nov. 8 [Associated Press].

Research On Tulsa’s Head Start Program Finds Lasting Gains: In 1998 Oklahoma became one of only two states to offer universal preschool, and it’s been one of the most closely watched experiments in the country. Today, the vast majority of these programs are in public schools. The rest are run by child-care centers or Head Start, the federally funded early-childhood education program [NPR]. Head Start works; now let’s work on the rest of the education system [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

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Celebrating big progress toward hunger-free schools

Late this summer, just as parents started to wonder precisely where they’d put that school supplies list, Tulsa Public Schools announced that all elementary schools in the district would serve free breakfast and lunch to all students in the coming school year. Tulsa is able to provide these meals using federal funding through the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP

This is great news for Tulsa Public Schools and kids. Community Eligibility Provision drives down administrative burdens, better equips kids to learn, and ends the stigma sometimes attached to free school meals. Participation has so far been very low in Oklahoma, but bringing in TPS’s 24,000 elementary students will increase the number of students participating in Oklahoma in the 2016-2017 school year by more than one-third, from 66,000 to 90,000.

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In The Know: Five Things You Should Know About Tuesday’s Election

by | August 22nd, 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

Five Things You Should Know About Tuesday’s Election: The lineup for November’s general election ballot will be settled after candidates in one congressional and 13 legislative races face off Tuesday. The run-off elections will feature the top two vote earners from the June primaries in races where no candidate received at least 50 percent of the votes. Districts in much of the state won’t vote because their legislative and congressional match-ups for the general election have already been set. Here are five key points about Tuesday’s elections [Oklahoma Watch].

Fed Up With State’s K-12 Stance, Okla. Teachers Run for Office: Fueled by their fury over cuts to K-12 budgets, low pay, and an array of other grievances, a scrappy group of teachers is attempting to upend Oklahoma’s political establishment this election season. After ousting the state’s superintendent in a 2014 primary, the loosely organized group of educators from around the state successfully campaigned to scrap the state’s teacher-evaluation system that was tied to students’ test scores. They notched another victory when they lobbied to defeat a bill backed by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin that would’ve expanded the use of vouchers. So last spring, when someone suggested to their Facebook group that they start legislating themselves, more than 40 teachers filed to run for one of the 126 open seats in the state’s Senate and House of Representatives [Education Week].

Funding tightens for Oklahoma trooper raises as teachers step up in line: Two years after troopers got hefty raises, the state can no longer afford them and is considering furloughs and other cuts to make ends meet in the Department of Public Safety. The plight of troopers now concerned about whether their raises will stand up is feeding doubts about plans to give an even more expensive boost to the state’s 44,000 public school teachers. Some local school leaders cringe at the thought of scrambling to pay for those increases [Norman Transcript].

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The Weekly Wonk: Restoring the right to vote, feeding hungry children, & more

by | August 21st, 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, intern Tara Grigson examined why Oklahoma’s summer meal programs have such limited reach.  Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column made the case for reforming felon disenfranchisement

Steve Lewis’s weekly Capitol Update reviewed a report on building state educational systems. On the Together Oklahoma blog, intern Amy Luznicky discussed barriers and bridges to successful advocacy. We’re excited to welcome Bailey Perkins to the OK Policy team as our Outreach and Legislative Liaison.

Upcoming Opportunities

  • We’re accepting applications for paid, part-time internships until Friday, August 26th! Eligible students should have completed at least four semesters of college coursework or be pursuing a graduate degree. To learn more and apply, click here.
  • In October, we’re pleased to welcome author Tamara Drout to discuss her recent bookSleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America, in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. On Wednesday, October 5, at 7pm, Drout will discuss the book at the Woody Guthrie Center with BookSmart Tulsa. Click here to learn more and RSVP. On Thursday, October 6th, Drout will will be the featured speaker at the Central Oklahoma Community Forum’s 2016 Labor-Religion luncheon at 11:30am at Fairview Baptist Church (1700 Northeast 7th Street, Oklahoma City). Lunch will be served free of charge, but space is limited. You must register in advance no later than Thursday, September 29th by calling Linda Smith at (405) 634-4030 or by emailing Learn more about both events here.

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New report looks into why state education systems are falling behind the world (Capitol Updates)

by | August 19th, 2016 | 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 find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

There’s a published story last week by eCapitol reporter Christie Southern about an education study released by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The 2-year study of education in various countries by a bipartisan panel of legislators and staff from 28 states alarmingly finds that “according to the latest data, out of the 65 countries, the U.S. placed 24th in reading, 36th in math and 28th in science. Another report, which looked at millennials in the workplace, placed the U.S. last in problem solving, according to NCSL.”

NCSL is a bipartisan national organization of state legislators and legislative staff that exists to help states develop sound governing policies by providing information and ideas through research and discussion. One of the members of the panel studying education was our own Sen. John Ford (R-Bartlesville), Chair of the Senate Education Committee for the past several years.

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In The Know: Oklahoma faith leaders declare support of SQ 779

by | August 19th, 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

Oklahoma faith leaders declare support of SQ 779: A group of faith leaders on Thursday called voter support for a ballot measure to fund education and teacher pay raises in Oklahoma a “moral imperative.” Metropolitan Baptist Church Pastor Ray Owens hosted about half a dozen ministers from churches as far away as Enid for a press conference to advocate for State Question 779. He spoke of the summer departure of longtime Booker T. Washington High School teacher Anthony Marshall for a much higher-paying job at Washington, D.C., Public Schools [Tulsa World]. OK Policy’s statement on the proposal is here

TPS Starts School Year With No Teacher Vacancies For Second Year: For the second year in a row, Tulsa Public School will have a teacher in every classroom for the first day of school. Despite a shortage of teachers, TPS was able to fill about 286 vacancies; last year the district had to fill almost 500 open spots. Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist made the announcement Thursday, saying every student deserves a quality teacher in the classroom [NewsOn6].

In Catoosa Schools, Cash for New Buildings but Cuts for Classrooms: Perhaps nowhere in Oklahoma is the irony of school funding more stark than in Catoosa Public Schools, a district of 2,100 students 15 miles east of Tulsa. School bonds have resulted in an infusion of cash, spent on MacBook computers for all middle and high school students, a monolithic dome cafeteria that doubles as a tornado shelter, new air conditioner units, buses and a plethora of other upgrades. The school board in July approved a contract to build a $1.5 million press box with an elevator at the high school football field [Oklahoma Watch]. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy]. Some districts, including Catoosa Public Schools, are switching to four-day school weeks to save money, but this leaves some students at risk of hunger [OK Policy].

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