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 okeducationtruths showed that the new A-F grades for schools show a bias against high-poverty schools, with only 10 of the poorest 100 schools making an A or B, compared to 94 of the most affluent. Both candidates competing for House District 14 agreed that funding education is the key to economic development. The Oklahoma Board of Education requested a $284 million increase in state funding to Oklahoma schools for the 2014 school year.
Oklahoma Watch reported on cultural divides in Heavener, OK, which after an immigration influx is about 41 percent Hispanic. The Oklahoma Attorney General said that no one in state government has the authority to enforce a law requiring state and local government contractors and vendors to verify the immigration status of new employees. Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez said companies that were contemplating setting up shop in Oklahoma have reconsidered because of concerns that the state doesn’t welcome diversity.
Sen. Jim Wilson has written to Governor Fallin to urge her to allow Oklahoma to join the Medicaid expansion. The state’s seven veterans centers could soon be subject again to inspections by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce soon whether it will wade into the controversy over an effort to define “personhood” in the Oklahoma Constitution. Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Michael Carnuccio said the group will continue to push for elimination of the Oklahoma’s income tax.
A dozen members of Oklahoma’s appellate courts are seeking voter approval Nov. 6 to remain in office under the state’s retention ballot system. Homeowners and locally assessed businesses could see property taxes go up if Oklahomans approve State Question 766, officials say. Current and former DHS commission members debated State Question 765 to abolish the commission. Find more on all of the state questions at OK Policy’s 2012 State Questions page.
The Number of the Day is the number of counties won by Roosevelt in 1936 and Nixon in 1972, the first time each party swept Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog examines how the fiscal cliff would affect the poorest Americans.
In The News
A-F poverty bias
Friday’s editorial in the Oklahoman praising all things A-F tried to throw cold water on the idea that poverty matters. We’ve heard State Superintendent Janet Barresi do it. We’ve heard State Board of Education member Bill Price do it too. When someone mentions poverty, they usually say they don’t want to hear the myths and excuses. Ok, then. Maybe facts will be more compelling. I took the 100 schools with the highest poverty rates (as indicated by free/reduced lunch participation) in the state and the 100 schools with the lowest poverty rates in the state and explored how the grades fell among them. Ten of the poorest 100 schools made an A or B. Of the most affluent, 94 did.
HD 14 contenders come out for education
Economic development and education are seen by some as two sides of the same coin. Cuts to education funding during the past few years have decimated reforms put in place two decades ago. Figures provided by the Oklahoma Policy Institute show funding through the state aid formula has been reduced by $222 million while enrollment has grown by 22,000 students. Candidates competing for the House District 14 post in the Oklahoma Legislature see skilled and educated workers as a key to economic development. Funding education, they say, is key to creating that workforce. Republican contender Arthur Hulbert said education, job creation and economic development go hand-in-hand. Jerry Rains, the Democratic nominee, said a quality, public education system is vital to the state and economic development.
Oklahoma Education Board requests $284 M budget increase
Area school officials and legislators welcome a proposed $284 million increase in state funding but wonder what strings are attached. The Oklahoma Board of Education agreed to seek more than $2 billion in state funding to Oklahoma schools for the 2014 school year. The request marks a $284 million increase from the 2013 school year’s $1.8 billion allocation. The requested increase is subject to the state Legislature’s approval. In making the request, State Superintendent Janet Barresi said funds for schools would be tied to “detailed performance metrics,” including performance in reading and math, results of a statewide teacher effectiveness system and progress made by minority students.
Immigration influx divides Heavener
Atop Poteau Mountain, cloaked by white oak, black locust and other towering trees, sits the mysterious runestone. Ever since its discovery in 1874, experts have passionately debated whether the runic carvings on the stone were actually created by Viking explorers. Today, a new dispute grips this southeastern Oklahoma community of 3,414 residents. Only this debate strays far from the intellectual trenches of academia, and is laced with a mixture of warmth, frustration, compassion and anger. At its center are an estimated 1,410 Hispanic residents who account for 41% of Heavener’s total population, according to the 2010 Census.
Oklahoma law on checking employees’ immigrant status is called unclear
No one in state government has the authority to enforce a law requiring state and local government contractors and vendors to verify the immigration status of new employees, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office said this week. The matter came to light after questions about 2nd Congressional District candidate Markwayne Mullin’s statement that his companies don’t use E-Verify, a federal electronic system for verifying employees’ immigration status. Until this week, it was generally believed that a provision of HB 1804, a 2007 state immigration law also called the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, required state contractors to use E-Verify. In fact, the law says state vendors and contractors may use an “independent, third-party system with an equal or higher degree of reliability.” When asked to clarify what constitutes an acceptable alternative to E-Verify, Diane Clay of the state Attorney General’s Office said “the law doesn’t say” how that is determined or by whom.
Survey finds many Oklahomans believe state doesn’t welcome diversity
A more open-minded Oklahoma would produce a more prosperous state, according an unscientific survey of more than 600 state residents. The online survey, which is not a scientific poll, shows that the state has some perception problems when it comes to dealing with people of different races, cultures and lifestyles. While there have been instances where intolerance has affected economic development, officials who are or have been responsible for recruiting and retaining businesses and workers say Oklahomans generally do a great job of selling their state. Commerce Secretary Dave Lopez said that in at least a couple of instance, companies that were contemplating setting up shop in Oklahoma reconsidered or asked for more information based on diversity issues.
State legislator makes case to Fallin for expanded Medicaid
A few days after U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn wrote a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin urging her to reject a massive federal expansion of Oklahoma’s Medicaid system, state Sen. Jim Wilson has written to the governor to urge her to accept it. Fallin must choose whether to accept the federal offer to expand the Medicaid program so it will cover households up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The expansion is the primary means of extending health care coverage to the poor under the Affordable Care Act. Although some other Republican governors have rejected the money, Fallin has said she will wait until after November’s presidential election to make her decision.
Oklahoma may resume inspecting veterans centers
The state’s seven veterans centers could soon be subject again to inspections by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Following an interim study on veterans care spurred by allegations of neglect and abuse, Sen. Kim David, R-Wagoner, said she plans to sponsor legislation to return the centers to the inspection process conducted by the State Department of Health. Legislation in 2003 removed the centers from that process following a dispute between the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and the Oklahoma State Department of Health over a remodeling project. “It was ego-driven,” David said. “People at that time in charge of the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs had the political stroke to get it done and they did. It was a mistake.”
U.S. Supreme Court to decide if it will hear Oklahoma’s ‘personhood’ dispute
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce soon whether it will wade into the controversy over an effort to define “personhood” in the Oklahoma Constitution. Proponents of a personhood amendment want the justices to determine whether the Oklahoma Supreme Court wrongfully blocked a petition drive to get the question on a statewide ballot. The Oklahoma court ruled the initiative, aimed at outlawing abortion, would violate the U.S. Constitution. Four of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices would have to agree to hear an appeal of the Oklahoma court’s decision.
OCPA president insists tax cuts still a top priority
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which pushed hard for a reduction in Oklahoma’s income tax rate during the 2012 legislative session, wants you to know it has no plans to give up that fight. OCPA President Michael Carnuccio issued a statement Thursday seeking to make that point clear. One day earlier Tina Dzurisin, a policy impact director for the think tank, had said the OCPA would focus more of its time on other areas such as workers’ compensation reform and pension reform as opposed to “expending so much energy on a proposal that the Legislature didn’t feel like they were quite ready to put through.” Carnuccio says his group is working to conduct new research with Arthur Laffer, to be released soon, and will “continue to build the case for Oklahoma becoming the next no-income tax state.”
12 court justices seek voters’ OK to keep jobs
A dozen members of Oklahoma’s appellate courts are seeking voter approval Nov. 6 to remain in office under the state’s retention ballot system. Four justices on the nine-member Supreme Court – Noma Gurich, James Edmondson, Yvonne Kauger and Douglas Combs – are up for consideration under a “yes-no” system where each candidate needs majority voter support to retain his or her office. Three judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals – Clancy Smith, David Lewis and Arlene Johnson – face retention reviews this year. Five judges on the Court of Civil Appeals – Tom Thornbrugh, Robert Bell, William Hetherington Jr., Kenneth Buettner and E. Bay Mitchell III – also need the necessary ballot-box support to keep their jobs. No Oklahoma justice or judge has been defeated through the statewide retention voting process. If any office-holder is rejected by voters, Gov. Mary Fallin will appoint a replacement.
Oklahoma’s vote on intangible property tax exemption to have uncertain financial impact on homeowners
Homeowners and locally assessed businesses could see property taxes go up regardless of whether Oklahomans vote Nov. 6 to exempt all intangible personal property from state property taxes by approving State Question 766, officials say. “We have no clue what the impact is going to be,” admits Garfield County Assessor Wade Patterson, who has an advantage over most folks because he served on a committee that studied the issue. The Oklahoma Tax Commission’s best estimate is that 251 centrally assessed companies like AT&T, Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., American Airlines and Cox Communications will receive a collective $50 million tax break if voters approve State Question 766. Patterson said he has seen other estimates ranging from $12 million to more than $60 million.
Current and former DHS commission members debate state question that would abolish it
A Sunday debate over a proposal to do away with the Oklahoma Human Services Commission boiled down to a dispute over how well that panel has done overseeing the state’s largest bureaucracy – the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. State Question 765 effectively would eliminate the commission and give greater authority over DHS – including the right to hire and fire its director – to the governor. Eight-year commission member Aneta Wilkinson and former commission member Steven Dow, executive director of Tulsa Community Action Project, debated the proposal at Temple Israel.
See also: 2012 State Questions from Oklahoma Policy Institute
Quote of the Day
In Mexico,you have to pay to go to school. Only the wealthy could afford to send their kids to school. If you couldn’t come up with the money, you didn’t go. My dream is for my children to go to college.
-Minerva Martinez, who immigrated to the United States in 1997 and today runs a store in Heavener, OK
Number of the Day
Number of counties won by Roosevelt in 1936 and Nixon in 1972, the first time each party swept Oklahoma
Source: Tulsa World
How the fiscal cliff would affect the poorest Americans
The fiscal cliff would hit the richest Americans harder than the poorest ones. If all of the tax changes happen on Dec. 31, the top 20 percent of Americans would see their effective tax rate rise about 5.8 percentage points on average, while the bottom 20 percent of Americans would see their tax rate rise about 3.7 percentage points, according to the Tax Policy Center That’s largely because of the Bush tax cuts to income, capital gains and the estate tax. But certain parts of the fiscal cliff have would have a much bigger impact on poor Americans than rich ones. Both the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit were expanded under Obama’s 2009 stimulus to help lower-income Americans—and despite being scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, these extensions have seen less attention than other elements of the fiscal cliff.
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