Don’t ban bilingual education (Guest post: Shannon Guss and Ryan Gentzler)

by | March 31st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)
Photo by Texas A&M University

Photo by Texas A&M University

Shannon Guss is the Educare Project Director at the Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) at the University of Oklahoma  – Tulsa. Ryan Gentzler is a Research Associate at ECEI and an OK Policy Research Fellow.

With two bills from 2011 and again this year with SB 522, Oklahoma legislators have proposed to ban bilingual education in Oklahoma. These bills would have dramatically expanded the impact of State Question 751, which established English as the official language of the state. Although the bills failed both this year and in 2011, we should be troubled by these repeated attempts to ban a proven, effective method for educating students.

For all students, and especially those in early childhood (birth to eight years of age), a large and growing body of evidence shows that learning two languages offers a wide array of enduring benefits. Dr. Linda Espinosa, the keynote speaker at the Early Childhood Leadership Institute at OU-Tulsa in 2008 and 2009, completed a synthesis of research on the subject that highlights cognitive, academic, and social benefits of learning two languages from an early age. Below, we summarize some of the most important takeaways from her 2013 report.

continue reading Don’t ban bilingual education (Guest post: Shannon Guss and Ryan Gentzler)

In The Know: Thousands rally at Oklahoma Capitol for education funding

by | March 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.

Thousands of educators, parents and schoolchildren rallied at the state Capitol on Monday seeking restored funding for public schools. Speakers at the rally said lawmakers had ignored the demands of last year’s education rally. For the second year in a row, Gov. Mary Fallin was absent from the state Capitol during the rally. On the OK Policy Blog, we made the case for halting a scheduled tax cut that is adding more than $50 million to next year’s budget shortfall and was never meant to take effect in these conditions.

A lawsuit now before the Oklahoma Supreme Court will decide if energy companies can be forced to pay for damages from earthquakes that are linked to oil-and-gas activity. StateImpact Oklahoma discussed evidence that University of Oklahoma President David Boren and Continental Resources Chairman Harold Hamm had sought to intimidate a geologist investigating the link between earthquakes and the energy industry. In a response much different from Oklahoma’s, Kansas officials declared earthquakes in two counties “an immediate threat to public health, safety and welfare” and ordered dramatic reductions in the volume of oil- and gas-production wastewater being injected underground.

A legislative committee declined to support a bill that would require notification of the state Board of Education when a teacher is fired after being accused of a crime. State Treasurer Ken Miller has announced an initiative to bring a Web-based financial education program to high school students across the state through a partnership with private company EverFi. An Oklahoma City “dinner club” is fighting a cease and desist order from the state Health Department, which stated the club’s owners were operating without a license as a food establishment.

OU President Boren said members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity apparently learned a racist chant that recently got their chapter disbanded during a cruise that was sponsored by the fraternity’s national administration. The fraternity’s national president criticized Boren in a letter posted on Facebook. The US Justice Department is suing Southeastern Oklahoma State University on behalf of a transgender woman fired from her teaching job after an administrator said her “lifestyle” offended him.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma’s 77 counties that saw population growth between 2013 and 2014. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that in four out of five states with major income tax cuts in recent years, private-sector job growth has been slower than in the U.S. as a whole.

continue reading In The Know: Thousands rally at Oklahoma Capitol for education funding

Halt the tax cut

by | March 30th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Taxes | Comments (3)

picnic in the rainNote: This is an updated and expanded version of a column that ran in the Journal Record.

Faced with a $611 million budget shortfall, elected leaders have many tough decisions to make. But one decision should be easy: halting a tax cut that was never meant to take effect in these conditions.

Lawmakers approved the quarter-point drop in the top income tax rate, from 5.25 to 5.0 percent, last session in SB 1246. But since they knew they’d be unable to balance this year’s budget if the tax cut took immediate effect, they deferred it a year and made it contingent on revenue being back to prior year levels. That way, if revenues were falling, the tax cut would be delayed.

When the tax cut passed, House Speaker Jeff Hickman commented, “This measures provides a responsible means to lower the tax burden on our citizens, while making sure there is sufficient revenue growth to fund core government services.” (emphasis added)

Yet somehow, we’ve ended up in the precise situation that legislators who crafted and  supported last year’s bill promised to avoid.

continue reading Halt the tax cut

In The Know: Oklahoma education advocates rally at the Capitol today

by | March 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, thousands of Oklahoma teachers, administrators, parents and students will rally at the Capitol in support of better teacher compensation and a stronger teacher pipeline. Writing in The Oklahoman, State Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister called on lawmakers adopt her plan to put high-quality teachers in every classroom. The Tulsa World reported that polls show that 86 percent of Oklahomans support Hofmeister’s plan for teacher pay raises. Wayne Greene wrote in the Tulsa World that proposals to exempt educators from the state income tax would cost the state millions of dollars, and opens the door to other groups demanding similar exemptions.

A growing inmate population combined with difficulty hiring mental health professionals have led the state Department of Corrections to cut nearly half its group therapy sessions and offer fewer individual therapy sessions, resulting in fewer offenders receiving preventive mental health treatment. However, more offenders are receiving mental health services after release, due to a partnership between the Department of Corrections and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Writing on the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis shared what’s left for the legislative session, now that it’s halfway through.

In the Tulsa World, Mike Jones discussed a viral video called “The Village is Burning,” which encourages more Oklahomans to get out and vote. You can watch the video here. Julie DelCour pointed out that more the number of people who voted in a recent Tulsa Public Schools bond election could fit in the BOK Center with room to spare, and urged lawmakers to pass reforms aimed at boosting electoral turnout. We’ve suggested ways to repair Oklahoma’s broken democracy before. Oklahoma’s mining and logging sector, which includes the oil and gas industry, lost 2,400 jobs in February – the worst month for the industry since 1990.

New Census Bureau data shows which Oklahoma counties have experienced population growth and loss from 2013 to 2014. According to new county health rankings, Kingfisher County is the healthiest in Oklahoma. You can read the report here. Proposed legislation would seek to develop policies to protect and promote the state’s declining honeybee population. The Number of the Day is the median income in Oklahoma in 2013, down from $46,025 in 2000 (adjusted for inflation). In today’s Policy Note, The Washington Post argues that underutlization of the School Breakfast Program means schools are failing students before they even get to class.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma education advocates rally at the Capitol today

The Weekly Wonk March 29, 2015

by | March 29th, 2015 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe 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 on the OK Policy Blog, we wrote that lawmakers are pushing another unproven tax break, with no idea what it will cost. We fact-checked a legislator and found that no, school consolidation would not boost teacher salaries. We explained that Kansas is considering expanding health coverage to low-income residents, and discussed why Oklahoma should do the same.

Steve Lewis shared what’s left for the legislative session, now that we’ve reached the halfway point. Lorraine Minnite of Rutgers University discussed that while voter fraud in the US is a myth, the myth is dangerous because it’s too often used to restrict access to voting.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wrote in praise of the teachers who will rally for better education funding at the Capitol on Monday. In the Tulsa World, Blatt described seven things Oklahoma can do to balance its budget without damaging health, safety or economic well-being, and policy analyst Carly Putnam explained why Governor Fallin should drop her opposition to affordable health insurance if she’s serious about making Oklahoma a healthier state. OK Policy staffer and Oklahoma Assets Network coordinator Kate Richey was quoted in a NewsOK article on payday lending. Oklahoma Watch quoted Policy Director Gene Perry in an article on the Quality Jobs Program.

Upcoming Events:

  • Together Oklahoma will hold a general meeting on Thursday, April 2nd, at the Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City to discuss what we can do to improve the budget situation.
  • A forum hosted by the Scholars Strategy Network will discuss balancing public engagement and an academic career on  April 6 at 6pm in the Associate’s Room in OU’s Oklahoma Memorial Union.
  • The University of Tulsa will host Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Researcher, for his lecture “Inequality in American Society – Should We Blame the Market?” on April 9 at 7pm in the Chapman Lecture Hall.
  • Oklahoma Assets Network will present “Who Pays More? A Town Hall Forum on Predatory Lending in Oklahoma” on April 15th at 6:30pm at the OU Faculty House.

Weekly What’s That:

Board of Equalization

The State Board of Equalization was established in 1907 by the Oklahoma Constitution. The Board is responsible for providing an official estimate of how much revenue will be available for the Oklahoma Legislature to budget for the coming year. Read more.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk March 29, 2015

What’s left for the legislative session at the halfway point (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

by | March 27th, 2015 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (0)
Photo by Becky McCray.

Photo by Becky McCray.

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 not a lot to report from the legislature this last week. It was spring break in schools so most committee meetings were cancelled and little floor action was scheduled. This is a new, more family friendly tradition that has developed in the past few years allowing legislators time with their families while the kids are out of school. Not long ago spring break was just another week in the legislative process. I think the common school date for spring break has made this possible.

The next legislative deadline will be April 9th in the Senate and April 10th in the House to pass bills out of their assigned committees. Many of the bills that got the controversial headlines at the beginning of the session didn’t make it through the process in their own house of origin. However, some of those bills, because they are hot-button issues or because of the author, made it to the other side where they’ll have to be dealt with. I’ve often wondered how they get rid of good-sounding bad bills in Nebraska where there’s only one legislative body.

continue reading What’s left for the legislative session at the halfway point (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: Bill banning automatic dues deduction for teachers to go before Governor.

by | March 27th, 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.

A bill that would ban school districts from automatically deducting union dues from teachers’ paychecks (HB 1749) passed the Senate on Thursday and will next go before the Governor. We’ve previously argued that the bill is a funny way to support education. Because Tulsa Public Schools cancelled classes on Thursday following severe weather, the  district has reversed its decision to cancel classes on Monday to allow faculty and staff to attend Monday’s education rally at the Capitol, although TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard said that principals will work with staff members to allow a few per school to attend. School leaders are bracing for possible budget cuts this year, which they warn could lead to larger class sizes and fewer programs. We’ve shown before that Oklahoma’s school funding situation is even worse than you thought.

A guest post on the OK Policy Blog argues that voter fraud in American elections is a myth, and that the real threat to elections is that the myth of voter fraud is used to make voting more restrictive. A bill that would ban texting while driving has passed out of committee and is headed for the full Senate. A Senate panel also approved a bill that would prevent insurance companies from making it harder for patients to access proton radiation cancer therapy. A bill that would regulate homebuilders and commercial contractors passed a Senate committee, but some lawmakers complain that it invites government intrusion into business, even though the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association wants the bill. Morton Comprehensive Health Services has reversed a January decision and will now accept new uninsured patients, although the state funding problem that had prompted the January decision has not yet been solved. You can read more about how funding cuts threaten the state’s community health centers.

State officials have expanded the number of counties included in earthquake “areas of interest” and are now requiring companies to prove that their disposal wells are not too steep. StateImpact reports that a major oil storage hub in Cushing is nearly full, because the oil industry is storing crude oil rather than selling it at low prices. Experts estimate that a record 54 million barrels of oil are stored at the Cushing hub. Samson Resource Co., a Tulsa oil and gas giant, is laying off nearly 200 Tulsa workers and 270 company-wide.

OU journalism students and Oklahoma Watch, have launched “Talk With Us: Poverty in Oklahoma City Neighborhoods,” a  mobile video project. The project is available at talkwithus.net. The Number of the Day is the percentage of 25-34 years olds in the Oklahoma City metro area with a 4-year degree in 2012, up from 24.4% in 2000. In today’s Policy Note, NPR reports that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is preparing to unveil new rules to regulate payday lenders.

continue reading In The Know: Bill banning automatic dues deduction for teachers to go before Governor.

The misleading myth of voter fraud in American elections (Guest Post: Lorraine Minnite)

by | March 27th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Elections | Comments (0)

Lorraine Minnite is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Director, Undergraduate Urban Studies Program at Rutgers University – Camden. She is a member of the Scholars Strategy Network Working Group on Expanding and Protecting the Right to Vote. This is an edited version of a 2014 brief for the Scholars Strategy Network and is reposted with permission. Sources for all data and claims asserted in this post are available on request.

I VotedAre fraudulent voters undermining U.S. elections? The simple answer is no. Rather, the threat comes from the myth of voter fraud used to justify rules that restrict full and equal voting rights.

A concerted partisan campaign to erect more restrictive voting rules is apace in many states. Thousands of changes to state election codes have been proposed since the contested presidential election of 2000. Far fewer have been signed into law, but those put in place – such as rules that people have a certain kind of photo identification card available from specific government offices – are making it more difficult for many citizens to cast ballots, including longtime voters as well as new ones.

continue reading The misleading myth of voter fraud in American elections (Guest Post: Lorraine Minnite)

In The Know: Fallin emails undercut lawsuit against Obamacare

by and | March 26th, 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.

A Huffington Post examination of more than 50,000 previously released emails from the Governor’s Fallin’s office, as well as record requests from multiple states and the Department of Health and Human Services, found that state officials did not once consider that if they chose not to run their own health care exchanges, their citizens would not be eligible for the tax credit subsidies. Nearly 100,000 Oklahomans could lose access to affordable health care if a Supreme Court case claiming the subsidies are only available on state exchanges succeeds. In a Tulsa World op-ed, OK Policy analyst Carly Putnam wrote that if Governor Fallin is serious about her goal of improving Oklahoma’s health, she needs to stop opposing affordable health insurance. On the OK Policy Blog, Carly discussed how Kansas is considering accepting federal funds to expand health coverage as a way to reduce the state’s budget shortfall.

The Tulsa World reported that after years of doing just about all it could to restrict voting, the Oklahoma Legislature is now trying to encourage it. Several of the proposals moving through the Legislature to encourage voter participation were recommended by OK Policy’s report on repairing Oklahoma’s broken democracy. A bill to move Oklahoma’s 2016 presidential primary back a month was laid over after running into stiff opposition in a House committee. A Senate panel on Thursday is now expected to take up a measure banning texting while driving.

The Senate Appropriations Committee questioned Oklahoma’s $2.9 million support for Amtrak service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth. The Oklahoman editorial board defended the scheduled $59.7 million increase in roads funding next year that will bring Oklahoma’s annual off-the-top funding for roads to $472 million. NewsOK reported that numerous proposals from Democratic lawmakers died without getting a hearing in Republican-controlled committees, including a bill that could have produced $150 million in federal funds for Native American health care at no cost to the state.

Together Oklahoma is asking Oklahomans to contact lawmakers and ask them to halt an income tax cut scheduled for next years that is adding tens of millions to the state’s already large budget shortfall. A Together Oklahoma general meeting will be held next Thursday in Oklahoma. In the Journal Record, David Blatt encouraged Oklahomans to join the March 30 rally at the capitol in support of public education and good teachers. Tulsa World columnist Ginnie Graham wrote that if you don’t rally for education, then at least write a letter or make a call.

A review website ranked the Tulsa Union high school cafeteria fourth best out of nearly 4,000 districts across the country. The Delaware Tribe of Indians’ Tribal Council passed legislation to increase the minimum wage for the tribe’s employees to $1.25 more than the federal minimum. As earthquakes continue to surge in Oklahoma and seismologists warn of more frequent and more damaging shaking, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is issuing new orders to companies operating wells in seismically active regions of the state. A former University of Oklahoma student captured on video leading a racist chant apologized Wednesday at a joint event with African-American community leaders.

The Number of the Day is the value of ornamental fish sold in Oklahoma in 2012. In today’s Policy Note, Mother Jones discusses how Utah has decreased the number of homeless by 72 percent—largely by finding and building apartments where they can live, permanently, with no strings attached.

continue reading In The Know: Fallin emails undercut lawsuit against Obamacare

Kansas is considering expanding health coverage. Oklahoma should, too.

by | March 25th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)
Photo by  Theophilos Papadopoulos used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Theophilos Papadopoulos used under a Creative Commons license.

It’s no secret that Kansas’s budget is in crisis. Following years of tax cuts and fiscal mismanagement, the state finds itself in a $600 million budget shortfall. The state is scrambling to fill the gap, including across-the-board budget reductions and further cuts to public schools that the Kansas Supreme Court has already ruled are constitutionally underfunded.

If you think this sounds familiar, you’re right. Oklahoma is in a similar situation – a $611 million budget hole, agencies facing devastating budget cuts, and a public education system badly in need of an infusion of funds.

However, unlike Oklahoma, Governor Brownback and the Kansas legislature are showing signs of being willing to consider the full range of options available to them. This includes boosting the state budget by working with the federal government to expand health coverage to the state’s low-income uninsured.

continue reading Kansas is considering expanding health coverage. Oklahoma should, too.

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