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In The Know: State Supreme Court hears arguments on 1-cent tax increase

by | December 17th, 2015 | 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 Supreme Court hears arguments on 1-cent tax increase: The Oklahoma Supreme Court is deciding the constitutionality of a proposed initiative for a penny sales tax election to boost teacher salaries. Opponents say the proposal violates a part of the state constitution requiring that such measures embrace only one general subject. Backers say the subject is improving education in Oklahoma, even though the plan has several facets, including raising public school teacher salaries by $5,000, providing more money for higher education and vocational education and funding these changes through a penny increase in the sales tax [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s budget woes could hamper services, groups say: Groups expressed concern Wednesday that a revenue failure for the current fiscal year and large budget hole for the next fiscal year will seriously hamper the state’s ability to provide core services. Officials said the poor revenue outlook is a result of depressed oil prices. Others blamed revenue lost due to the Legislature’s unwillingness to reduce economic incentives that benefit certain groups and industries. Some pointed toward a series of cuts to the income tax [Tulsa World].

Study shows higher teacher pay would ease teacher shortage, boost student outcomes: Evidence of the teacher shortage crisis facing Oklahoma has become overwhelming and undeniable. Since 2008, Oklahoma has cut per pupil state aid funding for public schools by almost one-quarter after inflation, the most of any state in the nation. The average pay for Oklahoma teachers is now third lowest in the nation and well below that of neighboring states [OK Policy]. This post is the second in a three-part series examining the reasons behind Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and what we can do to fix it; you can read the first post here

Same foundation that helped OK implement A-F school report cards now involved in system’s revision: Recommendations for revising Oklahoma’s controversial A-F school report card system are set for public release Thursday, but state officials say real change to the system is unlikely in 2016. In a surprise twist, officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Education say Superintendent Hofmeister sought out and is considering the input of the Jeb Bush-founded Foundation for Excellence in Education, which was heavily involved with Oklahoma’s initial implementation of the controversial A-F system, as well as new Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist [Tulsa World].

Gratias Deus pro Mississippi: While Oklahoma’s official motto is “Labor omnia vincit,” or “Labor conquers all things,” last week brought another sad reminder of why our unofficial motto seems to be “Gratias Deus pro Mississippi,” or “Thank God for Mississippi.” In a national score card of state health system performance released by the Commonwealth Fund, Oklahoma dropped to 50th place among all the states and the District of Columbia, surpassing only Mississippi [David Blatt / Journal Record].

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Study shows higher teacher pay would ease teacher shortage, boost student outcomes

by | December 16th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

This is the second of a three-part series appearing this week on the OK Policy Blog examine the reasons behind Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and what we can do to fix it. You can see part one here and see part three here.

Ed_rallyEvidence of the teacher shortage crisis facing Oklahoma has become overwhelming and undeniable. Since 2008, Oklahoma has cut per pupil state aid funding for public schools by almost one-quarter after inflation, the most of any state in the nation. As a result, Oklahoma has not increased the pay schedule for teachers since 2009. The average pay for Oklahoma teachers is now third lowest in the nation and well below that of neighboring states.

At the same time, Oklahoma has had extreme challenges in filling classroom positions: districts started this year with 1,000 teacher vacancies, even after eliminating 600 positions last year.  More than one in six teachers in Oklahoma is “unqualified,” meaning they are teaching without a standard certification, according to the  Oklahoma Equity Plan submitted to the State Department of Education. This year the state issued close to 1,000 emergency teaching certifications.

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In The Know: State declares pending ‘revenue failure,’ forcing mid-year cuts

by | December 16th, 2015 | 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 Declares Pending ‘Revenue Failure,’ Forcing Mid-Year Cuts: Oklahoma will see a revenue failure this fiscal year after it was announce Thursday that November’s revenue was down $50.1 million, or 12 percent , from what was budgeted. State Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said in a press release the state will enact midyear budget cuts for “appropriated state agencies,” and that Oklahoma faces a $900.8 million budget hole heading into fiscal year 2017 [Oklahoma Watch]. OK Policy released a statement that Oklahoma can’t make it through this emergency by doubling down on deeper budget cuts and one-time fixes [OK Policy].

What state budget cuts could mean for mental health services: Terri White, commissioner at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said at a hearing Wednesday that thousands of low-income, uninsured Oklahomans do not receive the mental health and substance abuse treatment they need, a problem that continues to worsen over time thanks to a chronically underfunded state mental health system [NewsOK].

Oklahoma GOP says it won’t open its primary to independents: Democrats had previously announced that they would let independent voters take part in their primaries and the GOP had said it had no intention to follow suit. The state GOP made it official Tuesday in a letter to the state’s Election Board secretary. As of last month, Oklahoma had 261,199 registered independent voters, or about 13 percent of the state’s 1.9 million registered voters [NewsOK].

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Statement: Budget emergency won’t be solved by doubling down on cuts

by | December 15th, 2015 | Posted in Budget, Press Releases & Statements | Comments (4)

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to official projections that Oklahoma will enact midyear budget cuts this year and is expecting a $900.8 million budget hole next year:

The projected mid-year cuts and next year’s massive budget hole threaten to deepen the injury to our economy caused by a weakening energy industry. Schools, health and safety, and other core services were already cut to the bone when energy prices were high, and we can’t make it through this emergency by doubling down on deeper cuts and one-time fixes. The only responsible path forward is to put new recurring revenue on the table and to reassess tax cuts and tax breaks that are becoming more unaffordable every day.

In The Know: Judge rules in OG&E’s favor on solar power tariffs

by | December 15th, 2015 | 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

Administrative judge rules in OG&E’s favor on solar power tariffs: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission should approve a plan to levy demand charges on customers of Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. who install rooftop solar and other distributed generation, an administrative law judge recommended Monday. The judge, Jacqueline Miller, also said the commission should direct OG&E to provide further evidence of the costs distributed-generation customers impose on the grid in its upcoming rate case [Tulsa World].

Despite complaints, police investigators claim no proof of racial profiling: Over a four-year period, Oklahoma’s two largest police departments and two state agencies received about 60 complaints alleging illegal racial profiling by officers. Investigators substantiated none of the allegations, according to data obtained by Oklahoma Watch. The absence of any finding of profiling contrasts with assertions by many blacks that police detain, arrest, follow or frisk them for little or no reason except their race [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is not just about salaries: The consensus among researchers is that salary does play a critical role in combating teacher turnover—but it is not the most important factor. Teacher job dissatisfaction has four major causes — teacher salaries, administrative support for teachers (especially new teachers), student discipline problems, and levels of faculty influence on decision-making and autonomy. In other words, if teacher attrition is a problem, teacher working conditions are the greatest lever to address it [OK Policy].

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Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is not just about salaries (Guest Post: John Lepine)

by | December 14th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (7)

John Lepine

John Lepine

This is the first of a three-part series appearing this week on the OK Policy Blog that will examine the reasons behind Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and what we can do to fix it. You can read part two here and read part three here.

John Lepine is an OK Policy Research Fellow. He is pursuing a M.Ed. in Educational Administration, Curriculum, and Supervision at the University of Oklahoma. He is also a reading specialist and English department chair at the McLain Magnet High School for Science & Technology and a research associate with the Oklahoma Center for Education Policy.

The Oklahoma teacher shortage is well documented; reports describing the crisis have made news for nearly two years. The state began the school year with over 1,000 unfilled teaching positions, and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister recently announced that nearly 1,000 emergency teaching certificates* had been issued for the 2015-16 school year — over 25 times the number of emergency certified teachers approved just four years ago.

Oklahoma’s teacher pay undoubtedly contributes to the ever-deepening teacher shortage. Even after adjusting for the state’s relatively low cost of living, Oklahoma teachers are paid almost 15 percent less per year than their counterparts in other states, with an average public school teacher salary ranked 49th out of the 50 states and DC. However, teacher pay is not the only issue behind the shortage. Research shows that improving teacher working conditions — via state law, district policy, and building-level leadership — is equally important to retaining a stable, high-quality workforce in Oklahoma schools.

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In The Know: Teacher Shortage Task Force sends requests to Legislature

by | December 14th, 2015 | 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

Teacher Shortage Task Force sends incentives, recruiting requests to Legislature: Teachers seeking certification in Oklahoma would not have to pay for costly exams, and the tests would be waived for out-of-state teachers regardless of experience under recommendations made by a group studying the teacher shortage. A preliminary report was issued Thursday at a meeting of the Teacher Shortage Task Force and presented Friday to legislative leaders [Tulsa World]. You can read the full report here.

Topic of education spending heating up ahead of budget talks, legislative session: Education spending is a hot topic ahead of the new legislative session and midyear adjustments, which are expected to result in cuts for local schools. Moore Public Schools just released a slickly edited YouTube video titled “Breaking the Silence,” which has already been viewed 158,000 times. Over the course of 12 minutes, 15 teachers and administrators take turns sharing their struggles in and out of the classroom, as well as their concerns for the state of public education in Oklahoma [Tulsa World].

Fox 25 Special Report: the State of Education: From the teacher shortage, to freedom in the classroom, schools across Oklahoma are suffering as the state looks for solutions. Our journey begins in Alex, Oklahoma, as we head into the trenches, where teachers serve as the front lines of the education emergency. Schools today are called on to do more with less, especially in districts like Alex [Fox25].

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The Weekly Wonk: Per-pupil funding, the Rainy Day Fund, the end of poverty, and more…

by | December 13th, 2015 | Posted in Weekly Wonk | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly W onk 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, Policy Director Gene Perry shared a new report showing that Oklahoma’s per-pupil funding has dropped 24.2 percent since 2008, far more than any other state. In a guest post, State Treasurer Ken Miller argued that until the state proves it can live within its means, it needs to stop reducing them. Executive Director David Blatt wrote in his Journal Record column that running out of one-time revenue gimmicks means that new recurring revenues have to be on the table. 

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discussed whether expanding the Rainy Day Fund would help Oklahoma’s revenue problems. On the OK PolicyCast, OK Policy staffers talked about ending poverty with Stanford’s Dr. David Grusky. 

OK Policy in the News

The Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise covered a presentation on the state budget Blatt gave to the local Rotary Club. Perry spoke to the Tulsa World about education funding cuts. 

Opportunity Ahoy!

We are now accepting student applicants for paid, part-time internships focusing on research or advocacy during the spring of 2016. Our interns are treated as full members of the OK Policy team. Tasks may include collecting data, conducting research, writing blog posts or reports on state policy issues, strategizing policy goals, coordinating volunteers, and helping to organize events on a wide range of topics. Eligible students should have completed at least four semesters of college coursework or be pursuing a graduate degree. Learn more here.

Weekly What’s That

General Revenue Fund

The General Revenue (GR) Fund is the principal funding source for most Oklahoma government operations. Any revenue that is not restricted for a specific purpose flows into the general fund. The Legislature may direct money out of this fund for any legal purpose of the government. In budget year 2013, the biggest contributors to the General Revenue Fund were personal and corporate income taxes (46 percent) and sales taxes (34 percent). Read more.

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

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Would expanding the Rainy Day Fund help Oklahoma’s revenue problems? (Capitol Updates)

by | December 11th, 2015 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates | 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 sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Rep. Jon Echols (R-OKC) has said he plans to propose a constitutional amendment to remove the cap on how much of current revenues can be deposited into the Constitutional Reserve Fund which is sometimes called the state savings account or “Rainy Day Fund.”

The rainy day fund was set up by constitutional amendment in 1985 so in times of a negative economy the state would have savings to draw on for needed public services. I was on the conference committee that wrote that provision which became Article 10 Section 23 of the constitution. The scheme set up then remains substantially intact today.

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In The Know: Ex-cop Holtzclaw found guilty of rape in sexual assault case

by | December 11th, 2015 | 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 ex-cop guilty of rape in sex abuse case: A former Oklahoma City police officer was convicted Thursday of 18 of the 36 counts he faced, including four counts of first-degree rape, related to accusations that he victimized 13 women on his police beat in a minority, low-income neighborhood. Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, sobbed as the verdict was read aloud. He could spend the rest of his life in prison based on the jury’s recommendations, which include a 30-year sentence on each of the first-degree rape counts [NewsOK].

Study: Oklahoma maintains streak of deepest state-aid cuts to schools since ’08 recession: A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows Oklahoma’s cuts to per-pupil funding for public schools are nearing 25 percent, by far the deepest in the nation since the economic recession struck in 2008. Oklahoma is one of only a dozen states that continued to cut general support for schools this year even as the national economy recovered, according to the new analysis of state aid data [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma’s total state appropriations for the support of schools is $173 million below what it was in fiscal year 2008, even before accounting for inflation and enrollment growth of more than 45,000 students [OK Policy].

Oklahoma economy the nation’s worst in second quarter: Oklahoma’s economy shrank in the second quarter, posting the worst performance among all states, according to data issued Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Energy losses triggered by persistently low oil prices accounted for more than a 4 percentage point reduction in Oklahoma’s gross domestic product, a measure of the output of the state’s goods and services, the agency said [NewsOK].

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