In The Know: ‘Difficult’ budget cuts expected to hurt vulnerable Oklahomans; As criminal justice laws take effect, uncertainty surrounds bigger changes; and more
In 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
‘Difficult’ budget cuts expected to hurt vulnerable Oklahomans: By the end of the week, Lola Edwards expects she’ll have to lay off 12 employees who work for her home health agency. Letters, meanwhile, will be going out to more than 100 parents whose children attend Leteria Battle’s Oklahoma City child care facility warning that access to licensed care soon could be in jeopardy. And thousands of the state’s poorest senior citizens now face going hungry. [CNHI] Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall [OK Policy]
Area agencies express concern after latest $30 million in DHS cuts: The nearly $30 million in cuts announced by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services on Tuesday spared any one program from elimination. Even with spreading the funding reductions throughout various programs that provide assistance to vulnerable adults and children, the impact will be hard when felt. One of the largest cuts is a $9.2 million reduction in billable hours through the ADvantage Medicaid Waiver program [Tulsa World]
Short-funded senior meal programs in Oklahoma face prospect of cutting back: Seniors in western Oklahoma are primarily at risk from budget cuts that might shutter meal sites. The cuts, announced this week at the Department of Human Services, will come at the expense of 277,000 meals that won’t be served during the next year. [The Oklahoman]
Negative childhood experiences have serious education consequences, experts say: One expert calls negative early childhood experiences the most important public health issue of our time. Amanda Sheffield Morris, speaking last week in Oklahoma City, said bad experiences set the stage for academic struggles in school and possible substance abuse during the adolescent years. [The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma ranks high on fiscal health. Seriously?: Unless it’s about football or methamphetamine, Oklahomans will instinctively read a list from the bottom up when the states are being ranked on something. When it’s a ranking of “workforce education,” for example, you know you’re not going to see us in the Top 10. So you start at 50 and work your way up and you’ll quickly find us at No. 41. Health and fitness? We’re barely ahead of Mississippi and Kentucky. Public schools? We recently slipped one place to No. 47. Infrastructure and bridges? 42nd. [Michael Overall/Tulsa World]
Oklahomans point to Texas in debating criminal justice reforms: Oklahoma’s criminal justice reform efforts bear similarities to policies Texas has implemented, with some legislators using that comparison to oppose new laws here. As the 2017 legislative session drew to a close, state Rep. Scott Biggs blocked several measures from a hearing because he opposed the changes. Supporters of criminal justice reform, he said, are trying to finish in one year what Texas took six years to accomplish. [The Oklahoman] Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy]
As criminal justice laws take effect, uncertainty surrounds bigger changes: Criminal justice measures approved by Oklahoma voters in November will take effect later this week, testing predictions that fewer people will go to prison and taxpayers will ultimately save millions of dollars. But even before those laws kicked in July 1, questions were swirling as to whether they will be undermined in part by local prosecutors or a lack of funds and won’t fully achieve their stated purpose. [Edmond Sun]
Will New Laws Ease Crowding In Packed County Jails?: Some local officials worry that two state questions approved by Oklahoma voters could strain already packed county jails, although supporters believe the new laws will actually reduce jail populations. Some are also skeptical that counties will see significant funding for treatment programs that are supposed to provide an alternative to incarceration for those convicted of simple drug possession or low-level property crimes. [Lawton Constitution] State Question 780 should save Oklahoma millions next year [OK Policy]
Oklahoma Programs to Lose $3.9M as Trump Administration Cuts off Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grants: Oklahoma programs to prevent teen pregnancy will lose $3.9 million dollars in federal funding each of the next two years after the Trump administration suddenly decided to end early five-year grants supporting such programs nationwide. Youth Services Tulsa Executive Director David Grewe said Oklahoma’s teen birth rate has gone from 50 per thousand in 2010 to 35 per thousand — still the second-highest in the U.S. [KWGS] Oklahoma’s teen birth rate is near the highest in the country. We can do better. [OK Policy]
Oklahoma City’s School for Homeless Children a Lifeline for Many: Positives Tomorrows is a school in Oklahoma City that caters exclusively to the needs of homeless children — a lifeline in a city with more than 5,000 homeless students. [NBC Nightly News]
State-Funded Private School Vouchers Expand to Foster Children: Foster children will soon be able to receive state funds to attend private school. The change represents the first time that a state school voucher program, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program, has been expanded beyond students who are disabled or have special-needs. It could foreshadow future efforts to open the program up to more children. [Oklahoma Watch]
Feed hungry children at school, don’t shame them: For many children, school is the only reliable source of good food, and some of those same children have parents who can’t, or won’t, reliably fund their cafeteria accounts, which puts the school cafeterias in a modest financial pinch. Financing food for hungry students has been a matter of recent controversy with some districts taking actions that embarrass students whose parents haven’t tended to unpaid cafeteria accounts — “lunch shaming.” [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World] Oklahoma school meals programs bring new strategies to fight child hunger [OK Policy]
A little-known clause was keeping consumers from suing companies. Not anymore.: This week, after more than a year since the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau posted a rule change on the Federal Register, the director of the agency announced that companies can no longer use mandatory arbitration clauses to deny groups of people their day in court. These are those little-noticed passages in contracts that prevent consumers from banding together in class-action lawsuits and, instead, forces them into arbitration. [Ginnie Graham/Tulsa World]
Quote of the Day
“There are winners, but they aren’t people in need. The winners are corporate and moneyed interests who get tax breaks, and yet the Legislature has deemed that’s the way they want to go.”
Don Hudman, executive director of the Areawide Aging Agency, speaking about the programs that will be cut as the Department of Human Services determines how to deal with a budget that is $33 million below the cost of operation this year (Source)
Number of the Day
Share of U.S. workers earning at or below the minimum wage who are age 25 or older, 2016.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Medicaid Worsens Your Health? That’s a Classic Misinterpretation of Research: What is the basis for the argument that poor Americans will be healthier if they are required to pay substantially more for health care? It appears that proponents have looked at research and concluded that having Medicaid is often no better than being uninsured — and thus that any private insurance, even with enormous deductibles, must be better. But our examination of research in this field suggests this kind of thinking is based on a classic misunderstanding: confusing correlation for causation. [New York Times]
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