Introducing our new class of Research Fellows and interns

by | September 23rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (1)

graduation-cap-10Oklahoma Policy Institute is very pleased to announce the selection of four Oklahoma graduate students as our second class of OK Policy Research Fellows.

The 2014-15 Research Fellows are all distinguished by a combination of strong research interests and an active personal commitment to improving the well-being of disadvantaged Oklahomans:

continue reading Introducing our new class of Research Fellows and interns

In The Know: Dorman, Fallin launch TV ads in governor’s race

by and | September 23rd, 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.

With about six weeks left before the general election, state Rep. Joe Dorman and Gov. Mary Fallin have launched new TV ads for their campaigns. KGOU shared audio from a panel at OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute, which discussed the state’s fiscal policy challenges and how massive education cuts may cost the state jobs. The state will ask the Oklahoma Supreme Court to validate the legality of a $120 million Capitol repair bond measure after an attorney challenged its constitutionality.

In an interview with Huffington Post Live, state Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) said he stands behind his comments that be believes Islam is a cancer, and he argued that Islam is not a religion. Meanwhile, the director of an Oklahoma Muslim group said he received a threat calling for his death and the death of all Muslims in America. Heavily armored military vehicles purchased this summer by Tulsa police and the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office are each expected to be operational within the next 30 to 60 days. The Oklahoman previously reported on how Oklahoma law enforcement agencies are stocking up on military-grade equipment through a Defense Department program that offers the equipment at a small fraction of its original price.

Prosecutors filed charges Monday against a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office deputy who is accused of committing sexual misconduct while on duty. The OK Policy Blog discussed how a push by lawmakers to expand the taking of DNA samples from anyone who has been arrested could end up sending innocent Oklahomans to prison. A Pittsburg County district judge will hear arguments today from attorneys seeking to force the state to release a report that allegedly recommended closure of the Narconon drug rehabilitation facility after three patients died. The lawsuit claims that the state concealed the report because they did not want to get involved with litigation involving the Church of Scientology, which runs Narconon.

On the A View From The Edge blog, Jenks principal Rob Miller showed what it might look like if we discussed doctors the same way we discussed teachers in Oklahoma. This Land Press examined how Tulsa and other U.S. cities have struggled with the legacy of race riots and massacres of African-Americans. Oklahoma City Public Schools officials are considering pre-employment and post-employment drug testing for teachers, administrators and support staff. Oklahoma’s Alcoholic Beverage and Laws Enforcement Commission said they may become “more aggressive” over funds diverted from the agency by the federal government if the money is not reimbursed. A potential water emergency faces the City of Cleveland in Pawnee County, after a drought has caused a lake that is the town’s only water source to drop 11 feet below normal.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma nursing homes with “severe deficiencies,” defined as violations of state or federal law that resulted in resident injury, abuse, neglect or death. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute discusses what we can do about the stagnating wages for most Americans.

continue reading In The Know: Dorman, Fallin launch TV ads in governor’s race

Indiscriminate DNA testing could put innocent Oklahomans in prison

by | September 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (0)
Photo by John Goode used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by John Goode used under a Creative Commons license.

For several years, Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing) has proposed legislation to require taking DNA samples from everyone who has been arrested in Oklahoma (more recent attempts scaled it back to those arrested and held over for trial). These samples would be checked against a large database to see if the DNA shows up in crime scenes nationwide. 

The bill has never garnered enough votes to pass, though Rep. Denney is continuing to push — this year she’s holding an interim study to build support for the idea. Meanwhile, a recent Journal Record column by law professor Andrew Spiropoulos attempts to back her up.

continue reading Indiscriminate DNA testing could put innocent Oklahomans in prison

In The Know: Despite good grades, suburban districts unhappy with A-F report card

by and | September 22nd, 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.

Despite scoring high marks on the most recent A-F grades for schools, officials with the Edmond, Moore and Norman districts say the grades don’t paint a complete picture of their schools because they are based on state-mandated standardized test scores and little else. The okeducationtruths blog pointed out that the grades are once again strongly correlated with poverty levels in schools. The latest episode of the OK PolicyCast discusses new Census data that shows what’s happening with poverty in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate increased slightly in August

Attendees at the 20th annual Zarrow Mental Health Symposium discussed how law enforcement officers and society as a whole can learn how to effectively respond to mentally illness. You can follow tweets from the conference using the hashtag #AllThingsPrevention. An Oklahoma County district judge ruled that a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol can stay. The Tulsa World discussed three separate cases this summer of Oklahoma law enforcement officers being arrested for serial sexual assaults while on duty. The OK Policy Blog discussed how a new domestic violence lethality assessment being used by law enforcement could save lives.

Oklahoma district attorneys are speaking in frustration over what they say is a severe underfunding of their offices in the face of “staggering” caseloads. A group of residents living south of two Cleveland County prisons must continue their search for drinkable water after the Oklahoma Corrections Department said it lacked the authority to partner with them to build a new well system. NewsOK is running a series on small towns in Oklahoma. NewsOK also examined the troubles of prominent Oklahoma Republican political consulting firm A.H. Strategies, which is facing a criminal investigation and has lost its three most high-profile races this year.

Tulsa World editor Julie Delcour wrote that Oklahoma’s refusal to adopt new federal ID requirements is about to become real, when Oklahomans can’t board a plane using their driver’s license. The Environmental Protection Agency and state officials are commemorate the completion of major cleanup efforts in nine communities near the Tar Creek Superfund site. While more than 300,000 people congregated in New York City for the world’s biggest march about climate change, about 150 Tulsans marched in support. Continental Resources has unveiled a new oil formation in south-central Oklahoma that its CEO says will elevate the state as an oil producer.

The Number of the Day is the poverty rate for women in Oklahoma, which is 1.5 percentage points higher than the state as a whole. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post shares what some of the millions of Americans who have enrolled in Medicaid under that Affordable Care Act think of the program.

continue reading In The Know: Despite good grades, suburban districts unhappy with A-F report card

The Weekly Wonk September 21, 2014

by | September 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | 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, we examined new Census Bureau data and found Oklahoma’s poverty rate declined only slightly from 2012 to 2013, and that median incomes have yet to reach pre-recession levels. Policy Director Gene Perry was quoted in the Tulsa World’s coverage of the new data.

We explained Oklahoma’s broken electoral system and reviewed implications that the Governor’s office may be willing to restart criminal justice reform efforts. A guest blog post discussed how new domestic violence assessments performed by police could save Oklahoma women’s lives.

On this week’s PolicyCast, we talked about the new Census data, controversy over special needs students and newly released A-F grades for schools, the health of Oklahoman people and democracy, and more. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS.

In his Journal Record column this week, Executive Director David Blatt shared the story of a conservative, wealthy businessman’s reasoning behind supporting a minimum wage increase. KWGS watched a presentation Blatt gave on Oklahoma’s health issues and concluded that the state has a long way to go. 

In our Editorial of the Week, The Tahlequah Daily Press wrote that comments by state Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) are advancing unfounded hatred and suspicion against Oklahoma’s Muslims.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk September 21, 2014

OK PolicyCast: Episode 8

by | September 19th, 2014 | Posted in Podcast | Comments (0)

radio micYou can subscribe to the podcast on iTunesStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

This week we discuss new Census data that shows what’s happening with poverty in Oklahoma; controversy over special needs students and newly released A-F grades for schools; how Oklahoma’s doing on the health of our people and the health of our democracy; & more…

Download the podcast here or play it in your browser:

Domestic violence assessment could save lives (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

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.

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

Sometimes, by coincidence or otherwise, I get to have a fresh appreciation for the clients I’m fortunate enough to represent.  I was at a meeting last week at which part of the program included a presentation on the Attorney General’s Batterers Intervention Program (BIP).  With a little research I learned the BIP was created in 2005 and was originally administered by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.  In 2007 it was transferred to the Attorney General along with some money to contract with certified private providers to conduct group and individual educational programs for batterers who have been ordered by a court to attend. 

continue reading Domestic violence assessment could save lives (Steve Lewis Capitol Updates)

In The Know: New Census data reports 1 in 6 Oklahomans in poverty in 2013

by | September 19th, 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.

Yesterday, new data released by the Census Bureau revealed that 1 in 6 Oklahomans lived in poverty in 2013. The Tulsa World used the new data to examine poverty in Broken Arrow, Tulsa and Muskogee. Journal Record columnist Arnold Hamilton argued that the movement pushing to raise the minimum (and sub-minimum) wage is gathering steam. A federal judge has expressed concerns that the state Corrections Department will be unable to revise its executions protocol before a scheduled November execution.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is searching for more women who may have been attacked by a deputy who was recently arrested on on-duty sexual battery allegations. Fort Sill has been officially released from its mission to provide temporary housing for unaccompanied children. We’ve previously debunked myths about the children who were housed there this summer, and discussed what may happen to them next.

Following five patient overdose deaths, a Shawnee doctor has surrendered his medical license. The Rogers County Sheriff’s Office is holding a “mobile take-back event” tomorrow where task force officers in marked vehicles will drive to the homes of residents who have arranged a pick-up to collect unused prescription medications. We’ve written about Oklahoma’s prescription drug problem before. The Cherokee Nation has opened a career services center in Tulsa to help the long-term unemployed locate work.

Oklahoma oil and gas regulators are struggling with oversight of the state’s growing and contentious wind industry. Environment activists are planning a demonstration in Oklahoma City on Sunday to call for greater action to combat climate change. Owasso officials say that a Macy’s distribution center under construction could employ 5,000 people, twice as many as had been expected. Public Radio Tulsa attended a presentation Executive Director David Blatt gave on the state’s health issues and concluded that Oklahoma isn’t doing so well.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans in poverty in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discusses the growing movement to end lending discrimination against women who are pregnant or on maternity leave.

continue reading In The Know: New Census data reports 1 in 6 Oklahomans in poverty in 2013

New Census data shows Oklahoma’s economy is leaving too many behind

by | September 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (2)

New data shows that poverty remained high in Oklahoma last year, highlighting that many people have not yet recovered from the recession and underscoring the need for Oklahoma to do more to help people struggling to afford basics like decent housing, affordable health care, nutritious food, reliable child care and transportation.

poverty rate 2Just over 625,000 Oklahomans lived in poverty in 2013, or about one in six residents, according to Census Bureau data released today. That’s less than $24,000 a year for a family of four. Oklahoma’s poverty level declined slightly to 16.8 percent in 2013 from 17.2 percent in 2012, but has increased 0.9 percentage points since 2007. The child poverty rate in 2013 was 23.5, a decrease of 0.3 percentage points since 2012. The rate of families in poverty grew 0.6 percentage points from 2012, to 12.5 percent in 2013.

Despite sound bites about low unemployment from politicians, these numbers make it clear that too many families are working hard but not getting ahead. Continuing to block minimum wage increases, underfunding education, and refusing billions of dollars to expand health coverage won’t make it any easier for Oklahomans to get ahead.

continue reading New Census data shows Oklahoma’s economy is leaving too many behind

In The Know: New A-F school grades released; ‘F’ grades skyrocket following testing changes

by | September 18th, 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.

The number of schools deemed failing by the Oklahoma State Department of Education soared from 163 to 200 after the state Board of Education voted to certify the 2014 A-F school grade cards. The Peckham School District in northern Oklahoma has gone from an A district to an F in two years, which the superintendents attributes to the district enrolling many special needs transfers. A heavily-Hispanic Oklahoma City Elementary School has begun a new dual-language program, teaching simultaneously in English and Spanish. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why Oklahoma needs bilingual education in schools to close gaps for English Language Learners.

The full Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on October 14 in attorney Jerry Fent’s constitutional challenge to cutting income tax rates. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how Fent’s legal challenge could dramatically change the politics of tax cuts in Oklahoma. KJRH reported that Oklahoma is paying 75 percent of ad revenue from blue highway signs to a private contractor, a far higher percentage than other states contracting with the company. The economy in Oklahoma’s two largest metropolitan areas outpaced national growth in 2013. David Blatt’s Journal Record column shared the story of a conservative businessman who has become a champion of increasing the minimum wage.

The Tahlequah Daily Press wrote that comments by state Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) are advancing unfounded hatred and suspicion against Muslims. State prison officials are seeking to dismiss a federal lawsuit that argues journalists should have an unobstructed view of Oklahoma’s executions. Oklahoma Watch reported that the witness brought in by state Rep. Mike Christian to make a case for executing prisoners using nitrogen gas is not a doctor, but he was involved with Rep. Christian’s 2010 campaign for state House. Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel suggested in a public meeting Monday that the county might consider hanging people in the city square as a means of reducing crime.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma pregnant women who receive first trimester prenatal care. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress shows that the share of national income going to corporate after-tax profits has reached an all-time high.

continue reading In The Know: New A-F school grades released; ‘F’ grades skyrocket following testing changes

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