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 proposal to drastically cut and eventually eliminate the state’s top personal income tax rate won’t be a priority again next year for the conservative think tank that was pushing it. Governor Fallin is advocating a new method of calculating school grades after a coalition of superintendents complained about problems with the first method. With the opening of a new school, Tulsa is now the first city in the country with three Educare schools.
The OK Policy Blog found that the state Health Department’s claims for why they terminated a contract with Planned Parenthood to provide nutrition assistance for low-income mothers with young children do not add up. The principal accused of fixing grades and hiding absences at Douglass Mid-High School has resigned. Oklahoma’s college students carry the eighth-lowest average student debt, according to a new report. The University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine has received a $6 million grant to establish a medical simulation center that will promote training in lifelike circumstances.
In the Journal Record, Andrew Spiropoulos argued that approving the parole and DHS state questions will improve Oklahoma’s political system and David Blatt explained why the two property tax state questions create winners and losers. The Number of the Day is the number of counties in Oklahoma where 10 percent or more of the residents are employed in agriculture. In today’s Policy Note, Bruce Bartlett explains why the mandate for hospitals to treat emergency room patients is not even remotely a substitute for health insurance.
In The News
Conservative group to scale back income tax attack in Oklahoma
A proposal to cut the state’s top personal income tax rate by more than half and eventually eliminate it won’t be a priority again next year by a conservative think tank, which made it the centerpiece of its legislative agenda this year, a policy impact director with the group said Wednesday. “We’ll leave that proposal as it is, but we’ll be spending most of our time in our efforts advocating for other OCPA priorities, including workers’ compensation reform, pension reform,” said Tina Dzurisin after discussing tax changes in a debate sponsored by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. “Our priority has shifted. We just think that there are more common-sense reforms that we can make in other areas that will strengthen Oklahoma’s economy and make us more competitive without expending so much energy on a proposal that the Legislature didn’t feel like they were quite ready to put through.”
Governor proposes new formula for A-F grading system
The state Board of Education is expected to decide the fate of a new A-F school report card system Thursday, and when it does, it may have not two but three choices. Gov. Mary Fallin is advocating a new method of calculating school grades and referring to it as a “compromise” between the method first used by the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the way a coalition of more than 300 superintendents has sought. Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said he disputes its characterization as a “compromise” at all, because it reportedly doesn’t include any of the suggestions the coalition of superintendents submitted. State education officials had thrown out the scores of all students who performed the same as or worse than they had on the previous year’s tests and thus were not comparing schools against a true state average, they argued.
TPS opens Tulsa’s third Educare school
Tulsa is now the first and only city in the country with three Educare schools. The school provides early childhood learning for low-income families, in hopes of ending the poverty cycle through education. Wednesday was the grand opening of Tulsa’s third Educare school near 21st and Sheridan. In an environment where form follows function and spontaneous play is encouraged, children in Tulsa’s Educare are constantly learning and may not even realize it. Studies show, the earlier a child enters the program, the more likely they are to succeed in Tulsa Public Schools, which is important, since recent reading scores for TPS showed most elementary students – 62% – are below grade level.
What really happened with WIC?
The Oklahoma State Health Department (OSDH) recently terminated Planned Parenthood’s contract to administer a federal program called Women, Infants & Children (WIC). The notification letter sent to Planned Parenthood does not provide a reason for ending the contract. Planned Parenthood has been administering WIC for 18 years and operates three Tulsa County clinics serving 3,000 low-income women, children, and babies each month. The abrupt termination comes on the heels of a failed legislative attempt to target Planned Parenthood’s WIC funding. The WIC program is not and should not be controversial.
Principal accused of fixing grades resigns
The principal accused of fixing grades and hiding absences at Douglass Mid-High School resigned Wednesday. Brian Staples was suspended with pay two weeks ago. His resignation will go into effect Nov. 15, a date agreed upon by Staples and district officials. Superintendent Karl Springer declined to say the results of the four-month investigation, citing laws governing personnel issues. Springer said the investigation will be given to the U.S. Department of Education, the state Education Department and the Oklahoma County district attorney.
Oklahoma college students have eighth lowest college debt, report says
Oklahoma’s college students carry the eighth-lowest average student debt, according to a new report. The Project on Student Success, an initiative headed by the nonprofit Institute for College Access and Success, released its Class of 2011 report Oct. 18. The report is the organization’s seventh annual survey on the level of student debt for recent graduates from four-year public and private colleges. The report includes the 10 states where students carry the most debt and the 10 states where students owe the least. According to the report, Oklahoma’s 2011 college graduates left school with $20,897 in student debt on average, placing the state in eighth place on the report’s low-debt states list.
OU receives grant for medical simulation center
The University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine has received a grant to establish a medical simulation center that will promote training in lifelike circumstances, officials announced Wednesday. The equipment and building renovation will be paid for through a $6 million grant from the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Foundation. The University of Oklahoma-Tulsa is working with the University of Tulsa to establish the Tulsa School of Community Medicine, a four-year medical school that will focus on creating primary-care doctors for underserved areas of the state. Officials hope the new medical school will accept its first class in fall 2015.
Vision2 critic says cities would be better off pursuing their own sales tax measures
Cities should “cut out the middle man” and pursue their own visions rather than voters approving the $748.8 million Tulsa County Vision2 tax proposal, an opponent of the effort said Wednesday. As Vision2 is structured, Bates said, the seven largest municipalities in the county would be donors to the package based on their sales-tax strength. For example, he said, the city of Tulsa is allocated $158 million for quality-of-life improvements in Vision2, but if it had its own 13-year tax, it would generate roughly $553 million. Even adding in the $254 million in Vision2 for airport industrial park improvements, which would benefit tenants such as American Airlines, the city’s share falls about $140 million short, Bates said.
Andrew Spiropoulos: Taking the chance for change
Whenever I teach a class in which we read the speeches and articles of the Founding Fathers generation, many students are surprised by our ancestors’ nearly universal rejection of the idea that citizens ought to vote directly on policy proposals. Most years, a review of the state questions on the ballot justifies their skepticism. The issues are too often a potpourri of political pandering and posturing. This year, however, there are two questions that present not only serious policy proposals worthy of study and debate, but also, if adopted, promise to significantly accelerate our progress toward an effective and accountable political system.
David Blatt: Winners and losers
When they go to the polls in less than two weeks, Oklahoma voters will decide the fate of six state questions. Last week I looked at two measures – State Question 762 and SQ 765 – that involved gubernatorial powers. Two other measures, SQ 758 and SQ 766, would affect property taxes paid by homeowners and businesses. In both cases, approval would mean a property tax cut for some, but would lead to fewer local services and higher property tax assessments on others.
Quote of the Day
Predictably, and unfortunately, some of our state’s prosecutors have opposed this reform because they absurdly believe that allowing the Pardon and Parole Board to exercise the same power it does in nearly every state makes us soft on crime. Our Legislature, which never misses the chance to mine votes by treating criminals harshly, will control the parole system and can exempt any category of offender it wishes from the more streamlined process.
-OCU law professor Andrew Spiropoulos, on State Question 762
Number of the Day
Number of counties in Oklahoma where 10 percent or more of the residents are employed in agriculture
The health mandate Romney still supports
Republicans have a dilemma on health policy. They are adamantly opposed to government paying for health care or a mandate requiring people to buy health insurance. At the same time, they recognize that they cannot say to the world that if a dying person shows up at an emergency room without insurance, that person will be left to die in the street. Thus they support a little-known mandate requiring hospitals to treat the uninsured, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.
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