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The Weekly Wonk: Child care subsidy remains on thin ice; a win-win for wages; & more

by | July 17th, 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

On the OK Policy Blog, Policy Analyst Carly Putnam explained how lifting the child care subsidy remains on thin ice, even with the enrollment freeze lifted. Putnam previously wrote that child care is getting less accessible for working parents. In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt described a recent article by a venture capitalist calling for a higher minimum wage. The article, titled “Confronting the Parasite Economy,” is available here.

A guest post by Brian Ted Jones of the Kirkpatrick Foundation analyzed the precipitous decline in agricultural employment. The second post in a two-part series by OK Policy intern Kylie Thomas reviewed a new federal education law’s affect on testing and teachers. The first post is available here. Steve Lewis’s weekly blog post discussed privilege and oppression

OK Policy in the News

Writing for the Huffington Post, John Thompson quoted Blatt’s blog post on how poverty in Oklahoma is compared to a developing country. Oklahoma Observer editor Arnold Hamilton cited OK Policy in a Journal Record column arguing that the legislature needs more thinkers, rather than more think tanks. Policy Analyst and Oklahoma Assets Network coordinator DeVon Douglass spoke to the Tulsa World about a panel on police violence she organized and moderated. 

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‘When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality seems like oppression.’ (Capitol Updates)

by | July 15th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates | Comments (5)

flesh crayonsSteve 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 not much news out of the Capitol this week, so I thought I’d reflect on the traumatic national week we had.

I recently saw a posting on Facebook that keeps coming back to me. It’s not among the ones you might think I’d be talking about. It’s not the picture of Alton Sterling lying on the ground dead with a bloody chest. It’s not the one of Philando Castile dying before my eyes and the eyes of his 4-year old daughter. It’s not the one of Dallas Police officers ducking behind buildings trying to figure out where the bullets are coming from. Horrible as all of those are, I’ve seen plenty of those kinds of pictures before. Repulsive as they are, they are unfortunately not out of the ordinary. I’ve seen it all before, way too often.

I don’t know if you saw the one I’m talking about or not. It was a picture of an open box of crayons. There is perhaps a half dozen crayons showing, of different colors, black, brown, tan, and several others including the one that more or less matches my skin that is usually labeled “flesh.” Except in this box of crayons ALL the crayons were labeled “flesh.” The black one was labeled flesh; the brown one was labeled flesh; and the flesh one was labeled flesh. The caption at the bottom of the picture was “when you’re accustomed to privilege equality seems like oppression.”

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In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin to speak on final night of GOP convention

by | July 15th, 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

Gov. Mary Fallin to speak on final night of GOP convention: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma City energy executive Harold Hamm are on the list of speakers for the Republican National Convention released Thursday morning. Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt said the governor is tentatively scheduled to speak on July 21, the last night of the convention. It was not known immediately when Hamm will speak. Fallin’s appearance apparently will be part of the build up to the Donald Trump’s first appearance as the GOP nominee [Tulsa World].

One inmate dead after knife fight at Oklahoma prison: One inmate was stabbed to death and three others hospitalized after a fight in a day room filled with temporary bunk beds at the Mack Alford Correctional Center. The fight began about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday in a day room where bunks were set up to deal with overcrowding, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said. Gregory Smith, 29, suffered stab wounds and was pronounced dead at Mary Hurley Hospital in Coalgate. He had been serving a life sentence for murder [NewsOK]. The effects of budget cuts on Oklahoma prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

State Says 3-Year-Old Probe into Virtual School Continues: Nearly three years ago, Gov. Mary Fallin requested an investigation into allegations of fraud against the state’s largest virtual charter school. State agents launched the probe of Epic Charter Schools and, about a year later, turned their findings over to the Attorney General’s Office. Since then, no charges have been filed against Epic or its employees, and no announcement has been made about the case. But after recent inquiries about its status by Oklahoma Watch, an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman revealed agents are now “re-interviewing” people in connection with the investigation [Oklahoma Watch].

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The decade Oklahoma’s ag jobs vanished (Guest Post: Brian Ted Jones)

by | July 14th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Economy, State Questions | Comments (0)

Corporate-FarmingBrian Ted Jones is director of education for Kirkpatrick Foundation. Data on farm employment is from census records accessed through the Oklahoma Department of Libraries.

Since 1990, the number of agricultural jobs in Oklahoma has declined by 77 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Census. This period of employment decline in the farming and ranching industry—once a pillar of the state’s job market—coincides with the expansion of corporate-industrial agriculture that began with the legalization of corporate agriculture in 1969 and accelerated with the arrival of concentrated swine and poultry production in the early 1990s.

Oklahoma is currently engaged in a heated debate over agriculture policy, as voters consider State Question 777, a controversial amendment to the state’s constitution that would provide members of the agriculture industry with a private right of action to challenge laws that restrict their technology and production practices. As director of education for Kirkpatrick Foundation, I’ve spent the last few months exploring the potential impact of SQ 777 on Oklahoma, which has led me to a deep study of Oklahoma’s agricultural economy going back to the territorial period.

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In The Know: Prison guards more likely to stay on the job

by | July 14th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, 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

Prison guards more likely to stay on the job: As the economy sputters and unemployment creeps up, more prison guards are staying on the job. The Department of Corrections hired 1,052 new employees this past budget year — and kept 452 of them. That’s a marked improvement from the 70 officers gained the prior year, according to an analysis by the state Public Employees Association. Though positive news for prisons, which have long struggled to hire and keep officers, those who monitor staffing there is still much work to be done. “Our concern is, we still lose way too many of them,” said Sean Wallace, policy director for the Public Employees Association [Norman Transcript]. While prisons are filled to 122 percent of their operating capacity, DOC is funded for only 67 percent of its staffing needs [OK Policy].

Challenge seeks to keep Oklahoma farming measure off November ballot: Opponents of State Question 777 have filed an appeal to try and keep the measure on farming practices off the statewide ballot in November. Attorneys for opponents of the ballot measure have filed an accelerated appeal in the case, in hopes the Oklahoma Supreme Court will take up the matter before a deadline in late August for the Oklahoma Election Board to print the November ballot, said Heather Hintz, an attorney for plaintiffs in the case [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Corporation Commission investigating Blanchard earthquakes: A spate of earthquakes in the Blanchard area has Oklahoma regulators scratching their heads, since there’s not any active, deep disposal wells in the area. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission said Wednesday it is investigating all oil and gas activity in the area after United States Geological Survey data shows nine recent earthquakes near Blanchard. The earthquakes have been about 5 miles southeast of Blanchard in the old North Dibble Oil Field, according to USGS data. Blanchard is about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City [NewsOK].

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What the new federal education law means for Oklahoma (part 2)

by | July 13th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)

Children With BooksKylie Thomas is an OK Policy intern and a Master’s student in economics at American University. She previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

This post is part two of a two-part series which explains the new federal education law that replaces the No Child Left Behind Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Part one looked at ESSA’s effects on accountability and standards. This part examines ESSA’s effects on testing and teachers.

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In The Know: Oklahoma City school officials releasing new details on massive budget cuts

by | July 13th, 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 City school officials releasing new details on massive budget cuts: Budget cuts continue to have negative effects on local school districts, even though students are not in the classroom. The Oklahoma City Public School District recently informed principals that they would be hit with specific budget cuts that will impact schools next year. The Fine Arts budget will be cut by 50 percent, resulting in a loss of $195,000. District officials say those cuts will impact supplies and transportation expenses. However, they say it was necessary to keep Fine Arts in the classroom [KFOR].

Breaking the cycle: Midwest City offers mental health treatment in jail: Midwest City jail officials are trying to break the cycle of offenders returning to their custody. The Police Department partners with Red Rock Behavioral Health Services in Oklahoma City to provide mental health and substance abuse programs to prisoners. Chief Brandon Clabes said the services are offered in almost every county in Oklahoma, but Midwest City is the only place that does it at a municipal level. “Our diversionary program is a part of a criminal justice reform dedicated to making lives whole,” Clabes said [Journal Record].

Challenge seeks to keep Oklahoma farming measure off November ballot: Opponents of State Question 777 have filed an appeal to try and keep the measure on farming practices off the statewide ballot in November. Attorneys for opponents of the ballot measure have filed an accelerated appeal in the case, in hopes the Oklahoma Supreme Court will take up the matter before a deadline in late August for the Oklahoma Election Board to print the November ballot, said Heather Hintz, an attorney for plaintiffs in the case [NewsOK].

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In The Know: Low pay sends teachers out of Oklahoma, profession

by | July 12th, 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

Low pay sends teachers out of Oklahoma, profession: Salaries that rank near the bottom nationally, combined with growing frustration among public educators over budget cuts and what they perceive as a lack of respect from policy makers, have led to the migration of Oklahoma teachers to other states, or a departure from the profession altogether. The specific number of teachers leaving Oklahoma or leaving the education field is hard to determine. But interviews with dozens of educators by The Oklahoman revealed stories of teachers at all stages of their career seeking a change or uprooting their families in search of a higher income [NewsOK].

Beer, farming, religion, education among load of state questions likely on November ballot: Although only two state questions have officially been put on the ballot, prospects are nearly certain that several more will await voters at the polls on Nov. 8. Gov. Mary Fallin must issue a proclamation to put the measures on the ballot after passage by the Legislature or the successful circulation of an initiative petition. Officially on the ballot by order of the governor are state questions 777 and 776. Both were put on the ballot by lawmakers [Tulsa World].

Homework for the House: 71 interim studies slated: The 71 interim studies requested by state House members range from broad to specific, from odd to critical. State Rep. Dennis Casey wants to examine a practice that allows subcontractors and lumberyards to put liens on homes when a contractor skips town. State Rep. John Bennett asked to study radical Islam, Shariah law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicalization process [Journal Record].

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Frozen child care subsidy thaws, but remains on thin ice

by | July 11th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

girl in skates sit on ice rink after fallIn welcome news for working families, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) announced at the end of June that it would lift the freeze on child care subsidy enrollment by August 1. In any given month, more than 30,000 Oklahoma kids get child care through the subsidy program; it’s a crucial support for these children and working parents. It’s good that the freeze has been thawed – but that a freeze was necessary highlights how Oklahoma’s revenue gaps directly harm working families.

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In The Know: Departing lawmakers launch conservative think tank

by | July 11th, 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

Departing Lawmakers Launch Conservative Think Tank: Three veteran state lawmakers whose government service careers are about to end are launching a new think tank that promotes conservative fiscal policies. The Oklahoma Opportunity Project, a Tulsa-based nonprofit, is headed by state Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, who is leaving the Legislature in January because he has reached the statutory limit of 12 years of legislative service. At least two other departing legislators will serve on the board: Sen. Jim Halligan, a former Oklahoma State University president who currently chairs the Senate Appropriations education subcommittee, and Sen. John Ford, a retired ConocoPhillips executive who chairs the Senate Education Committee [Oklahoma Watch].

State budget crisis hurts well-plugging program: Kevin Stonecipher received about $2.5 million worth of contracts from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission in 2015 to safely close old oil and gas wells. The state’s budget crisis brought that work to a grinding halt at the end of the year, but he says he’s happy to work with the agency and its hardworking, dedicated employees. Plugging an old oil well isn’t easy. Contractors pour cement into wellbores that are about 4,000 feet deep to ensure no petroleum products, toxic wastewater or flammable gas escapes to the surface. Oklahoma Corporation Commission employees estimate there have been about 500,000 wells drilled since 1907. The state has records for about 350,000 that have been plugged [Journal Record].

State budget crisis forces DEQ to delay cleanup projects: The state’s budget crisis has forced the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to delay some cleanup projects across the state. According to department officials, the state cut the DEQ’s general fund by $3 million and the department’s revolving fund was cut by an additional $4 million. Jimmy Givens, deputy director of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, said several projects will be delayed as a result of the recent budget cuts: Pink tire dump cleanup, Catoosa tire dump cleanup, Hugo Water Treatment Plant improvements, Wagoner County road project, Oklahoma State’s University’s research on wastewater plants and septic assistance grants [KOCO].

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