In 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 you should know that a conservative think tank released a report claiming the University of Oklahoma gives black and American Indian students an advantage in admissions. University officials disputed the group’s claims, and the OU Daily pointed out flaws in the report. Tulsa Public Schools’ reading scores dipped dramatically when the state hiked its standards five years ago, and scores have continued to erode over the past four years. A coalition is pushing to ban texting while driving in Oklahoma.
American Airlines said they haven’t made any decisions about where future versions of 737 and 787 jets will be serviced, but a union official claims that some of the work that had been done in Fort Worth is headed to Hong Kong instead of Tulsa. Months of anxiety over expected American Airlines layoffs is taking a toll on Tulsa workers and their families. Chesapeake Energy Corp. said it has completed a series of deals worth roughly $7 billion to sell off vast portions of its land and infrastructure in Texas.
The Tulsa World writes that State Question 758 to reduce the property tax valuation cap could have unintended consequences. OK Policy previously discussed how proposed property tax “cuts” could create winners and losers. The Tulsa World criticized State Chamber rankings of judges that are based on how often they rule on the side of business owners. On the OK Policy Blog, we give a run-down of the resources available on our newly redesigned website.
In The News
Group alleges preferences for minorities in University of Oklahoma admissions
A conservative think tank released a report Monday claiming the University of Oklahoma gives black and American Indian students an unfair advantage in admissions. But university officials dispute that claim, saying their admissions policy encourages campus diversity without using racial preferences. Center for Equal Opportunity, a Virginia-based think tank, based its report on admissions data from OU’s undergraduate programs, law school and medical school. The study used data from students admitted to the law school in 2005 and 2006, the medical school in 1996 and 1999 and undergraduates admitted from 2005 to 2007. The organization wouldn’t provide the data on which the analysis was based.
EDITORIAL: OU admissions fair to applicants of all races
Does OU unfairly favor students from minority racial and ethnic backgrounds in its admissions decisions? If you read the report released Monday by the self-described conservative think tank the Center for Equal Opportunity, you might think so. But this study draws misleading conclusions from flawed data missing important context. The center’s study concludes OU gives preferrential treatment to African Americans — and to a lesser extent Native Americans — in admissions decisions. Specifically, the study aims this criticism at the College of Law and the College of Medicine primarily, and at undergraduate admissions. However, there are several flaws.
Tulsa Public Schools to study up on improving low reading scores
Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard pledged Monday that exhaustive studies of the continuous learning school calendar concept and ways to increase student access to technology will be conducted before any changes are recommended. At a special meeting, administrators showed the school board the latest student reading proficiency rates – 46 percent below or significantly below grade level districtwide – in making the case for the establishment of two new task forces. Tulsa Public Schools’ reading scores dipped dramatically when the state hiked its standards five years ago, and scores have continued to erode over the past four years.
Law to ban texting while driving pushed
Although several area groups think road safety would increase if drivers would put the phone away, they don’t believe that people will do so until law enforcement can impose actual consequences. Several partners of Drive Aware Oklahoma spoke Monday about their push for legislation to ban texting while driving and to educate the public in the meantime about the dangers of inattentive driving. “We’re working to make sure Oklahoma is not the last state to pass a texting while driving ban,” said Danial Karnes, a spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. Thirty-nine other states specifically ban sending text messages while driving, Karnes said.
American Airlines: Servicing site for new jets undecided
American Airlines hasn’t made any decisions about where future versions of 737 and 787 jets will be serviced – despite a union official’s claim that the work is not headed to the company’s Tulsa maintenance facility. The issue is a key one for Tulsa County voters considering Vision2′s economic development proposal because refitting the facility to accommodate 737s and 787s is a costly element of the package. Jeff Pike, president of the Transportation Workers Union Local 567 in Fort Worth, said he had been briefed on the airline’s plans and that they included moving maintenance on Boeing 777 jets – which had been done at Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport – to Hong Kong. Attempts to reach Pike concerning his comments were unsuccessful, but a statement from the airline said the company hasn’t decided where to maintain future versions of the 737 and 787.
Uncertainty over American Airlines layoffs is taxing Tulsa families
While the total number of layoffs targeted for the bankrupt airline‘s Tulsa maintenance has declined from thousands to hundreds, months of employment anxiety is taking a toll on workers and their families. American originally planned to cut about 2,700 jobs at the Tulsa base. That number was whittled down to 1,300, “and with early retirements and attrition, the actual number of layoffs will be less than 450,” officials tell the Tulsa World‘s Michael Overall. About 300 of those workers will likely take other jobs at American, the paper reports, which means only 140 workers would be left jobless. Still, layoff notices were sent to about 3,000 Tulsa workers, and no one really knows which — or how many — jobs will be cut.
Chesapeake Energy completes $7 billion deal
Chesapeake Energy Corp. said Monday that it completed a series of deals worth roughly $7 billion deal to sell off vast portions of its land and infrastructure in Texas to a number of buyers. The company is trying to shift its focus to oil drilling from natural gas, as the price for natural gas has plunged due to oversupply and soft demand. Chesapeake announced in September that it would sell assets in the Permian Basin through a series of deals with Royal Dutch Shell PC and Chevron Corp. That follows an earlier deal with EnerVest Ltd.
Tulsa World: No on SQ 758
State Question 758, which will be on the Nov. 6 election ballot, is one of those deals that looks good at first blush but not so good on further review. SQ 758 would cap at 3 percent the maximum annual property tax valuation increase on owner-occupied homes and rural farm land. The current cap of 5 percent was imposed by voters a few years ago. If approved by voters, the provision would benefit homeowners whose property values are increasing rapidly – say those in wealthy suburban neighborhoods – at the disadvantage of those whose property values are flat or stagnant, namely, homeowners in poor neighborhoods, small towns and rural areas. But it might even backfire on the presumptive beneficiaries.
Previously: Property tax “cuts” create winners and losers from the OK Policy Blog
Rating the judicial ratings
In the coming days, the Oklahoma State Chamber will begin publicizing its newfangled judicial rating scorecard for state Supreme Court justices who are up for retention. In two weeks, voters must consider whether to retain Justices Noma D. Gurich, Yvonne Kauger, James E. Edmondson and Douglas L. Combs. The State Chamber-backed Oklahoma Civil Justice Council recently released its evaluation of members of the court based on whether their decisions tended to broaden or restrict civil liability. This is a very strange way to evaluate judges and takes into account their rulings in favor of only one segment of the community – business. We would certainly hope that judges are fair to the business community and fair to other segments of the community. A judge can be fair and obviously still rule against a party.
Our new website is live!
Over the past several months, we’ve been hard at work on a total redesign of our website. Now the new site is live! If you’re not familiar with all of the resources at okpolicy.org, it’s a great time to check them out. On the new and improved website, you can: Get the Numbers You Need: The Number of the Day brings you one key statistic about Oklahoma, updated every weekday. With the County-Level Data App, you can easily access data on every county in Oklahoma and statewide. We’ve also prepared factsheets for each Oklahoma county with rankings and statistics on how they compare statewide.
Quote of the Day
Though the center represents this as a serious study, it’s clear the only intent was to misuse facts and ignore context in order to provide support for a pre-determined political stance.
-The OU Daily Editorial Board, responding to a report by a Virginia group that claims to show evidence of racial preferences in University of Oklahoma admissions
Number of the Day
Number of immigrants granted permanent residency in Oklahoma in 2011, down just slightly from 4,627 in 2010.
Source: Dept. of Homeland Security
The myth of job creation
The headlines from the last presidential debate focused on President Obama challenging Mitt Romney on issue after issue. There was a less noticed, but no less remarkable, moment when Mr. Obama agreed with Mr. Romney on something — and both were entirely wrong. They agreed that government does not create jobs. Except that it does, millions of them — including teachers, police officers, firefighters, soldiers, sailors, astronauts, epidemiologists, antiterrorism agents, park rangers, diplomats, governors (Mr. Romney’s old job) and congressmen (like Paul Ryan). First, the basics. At last count, government at all levels — federal, state and local — employed 22 million Americans, with the largest segment working in public education. Is that too many? No. Since the late 1980s, the number of public-sector workers has averaged about 7.3 for every 100 people. With the loss of 569,000 government jobs since June 2009, that ratio now stands at about 7 per 100.
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