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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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In The Know: ‘Invalid and unreliable’: 2016 school report cards released

by | October 28th, 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

‘Invalid and unreliable’: 2016 school report cards released: One final time, the Oklahoma State Department of Education released school report cards based on a much-maligned calculation method even the state’s top educator has deemed invalid and unreliable. Across the state, there were 196 A’s, 455 B’s, 582 C’s, 319 D’s and 213 F’s this year. That means there were 16 percent more “F” schools and 8 to 9 percent fewer A and B schools, respectively [Tulsa World]. Here is the list of schools and their overall grades and scores for 2016 [Oklahoma Watch].

Board of Education OKs higher budget request, hears ideas to overhaul student testing system: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday got its first look at recommendations for overhauling the state’s student testing program and approved a higher budget request for fiscal year 2018. Oklahoma’s student testing and A-F school accountability systems need updating to meet new state and federal requirements. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said her administration is looking to close the “honesty gap” that has existed for years between Oklahoma’s state testing standards for student performance and the much-lower proficiency rates demonstrated by Oklahoma students on national tests [Tulsa World].

Chamber Leaders: Legislature’s Social Agenda Hurts Oklahoma’s Economic Development: Chamber of Commerce officials from Oklahoma’s two largest cities told lawmakers Wednesday focusing on social issues can harm economic development in the state. Tulsa Regional Chamber Senior Vice President of Economic Development Brien Thorstenberg told House and Senate members who gathered for a joint interim study that his organization constantly receives phone calls from businesses about Oklahoma’s stance on issues like North Carolina’s bathroom bill and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “This is a workforce talent attraction aspect, and being able to attract talent,” Thorstenberg said [KGOU].

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In The Know: Oklahoma is fourth in the nation in number of women killed by men

by | October 27th, 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 is fourth in the nation in number of women killed by men: Just as Oklahoma’s rate of deadly violence against women by men seemed to be improving, an annual report finds the state turning in the opposite direction. Oklahoma has consistently ranked high in the annual Violence Policy Center report, which examines the states’ homicide rates of women killed by men. The data are based on two years prior to the reports, meaning this year’s ranking is for murders committed in 2014. Oklahoma rose two spots this year to No. 4. Last year, the state had shown a slight improvement by moving from No. 3 to No. 6 [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]. The report from the Violence Policy Center is available here.

Debate Over Civil Asset Forfeiture Heats Up Again: A contentious hearing held Wednesday at the State Capitol provided hints that civil asset forfeiture will again be a hot topic during next year’s legislative session. Civil liberty groups and law enforcement representatives debated for three hours on whether Oklahoma should continue to allow police to seize people’s cash or property without securing a criminal conviction. But after the hearing, two prominent backers of overhauling the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws said they are unlikely to pursue legislation to end the practice [Oklahoma Watch]. New Mexico stopped civil asset forfeiture abuse; Oklahoma can, too [OK Policy].

Medical marijuana backers prepare for 2018 vote: It will likely be two years until medical marijuana shows up on Oklahoma’s ballot, which gives supporters that much time to prepare a campaign. It also provides time for the opposition. Oklahomans for Health Chairman Chip Paul, who helped lead a successful signature-gathering effort this year that secured the proposal’s place in the November 2018 election, said he will start organizing in earnest after the presidential election [Journal Record].

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The dangerous hidden agenda behind State Question 776 (Guest Post: Sen. Connie Johnson)

by | October 26th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, State Questions | Comments (4)

Connie Johnson serves as Chair of the Say NO to SQ776 Campaign Committee. She was a State Senator representing District 48 in northeastern Oklahoma County from 2002-2014.

thinktwicelogoI’ve worked throughout Oklahoma these past few months to defeat State Question 776 as Chair of the Say No To SQ 776/Think Twice Oklahoma campaign. I know why its sponsors put it on the ballot. When you push the hot-button issue of the death penalty on average Oklahomans, most won’t think about any details, regardless of their opinion on the issue. Many think SQ 776 is an up or down question on capital punishment. It’s not. Instead, the authors are trying to dupe Oklahoma voters into putting the death penalty in Oklahoma above the law. That’s what makes SQ 776 so dangerous.

Proponents of SQ 776 seek to “protect” the death penalty by adding it into the Oklahoma constitution. What they really want to protect is death sentences, in case specific methods of execution are disallowed. This was already accomplished when the legislature also passed HB1879, allowing seamless changes to execution methods should one be disallowed or become impractical.

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In The Know: The ‘Teachers Caucus’: Game Changer or Quixotic Quest?

by | October 26th, 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

The ‘Teachers Caucus’: Game Changer or Quixotic Quest? As the election approaches, one of the big questions is whether many of the educators running for the Oklahoma Legislature for the first time will win or lose. These candidates, part of the so-called “teachers’ caucus,” jumped into the race saying they were fed up with low teacher salaries and wanted more funding for schools. In this Oklahoma Watch radio report, Brad Gibson spotlights the campaigns of three of these political rookies [Oklahoma Watch].

Vote yes on all judicial retention nominees: Two judges on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, two on the Court of Criminal Appeals and three on the Court of Civil Appeals appear on November’s retention ballot. While we haven’t been pleased with every decision that has come out of the state’s court system in recent years, we support retaining all the judges. We were disappointed when the Supreme Court ordered a privately funded Ten Commandments monument off the state Capitol grounds [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Here’s what you need to know about judges on the ballot in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Penny Sales Tax For Education Spurs Debate: Voters on Nov. 8 may feel like they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to State Question 779, the proposed 1 percent sales tax increase for education. If enough votes are yes, Oklahoma’s public education will get a critically needed infusion of funds, said David Boren, one of the main crafters of the initiative, who said he was speaking to The Lawton Constitution as a private citizen, not as University of Oklahoma president. Enough yes votes will also add 1 percent to every municipality’s sales taxes, raising Lawton’s total sales tax rate to 10 percent, which can seriously affect the city and its citizens, said Fred Fitch, who said he was speaking as a private citizen rather than Lawton’s mayor [Lawton Constitution]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet about SQ 779 here.

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