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 Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon said he is “not particularly a fan” of electing state Supreme Court justices, but he does favor revamping the selection process and limiting terms. Oklahoma Supreme Court justices questioned provisions in a new workers’ compensation law that allow employers to opt out of the system. A Hindu organization announced it would like to build a monument at the state Capitol near the Ten Commandments monument. Oklahoma lawmakers said a previous request to build a Satanic monument was unlikely to be approved.
Oklahoma ranks 44th in the nation in overall health, according to an annual nationwide rankings report. The state Health Department likely will see a flat budget “at best” when the Legislature approves its budget for the next fiscal year, according to Health Commissioner Terry Cline. Capital City OK examined Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s last ditch attempt to block Oklahomans from receiving subsidies for health care. The Department of Human Services said about $8 million will be available across the state to help low-income families with heating bills.
The University of Central Oklahoma is offering a special degree program for teachers going into urban schools. OK Policy analyst Gene Perry writes in the OK Gazette about why we should focus on helping English Language Learners with bilingual education. A plan to restructure elementary and middle school grade configurations in the Oklahoma City district is on hold because elementary schools are too crowded. The OK Policy Blog discussed why the state’s A-F grades for schools discriminate against high poverty districts, and what we can do to fix it. The Tulsa World did a Q&A with Glenpool school leaders about the A-F grades.
The Number of the Day is the percentage of students in Oklahoma City Public Schools who are Latino. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post reports on how government programs have made significant progress in easing the plight of the poor in the half-century since the launch of the war on poverty.
In The News
House Speaker TW Shannon opposes electing Supreme Court Justices
Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon said he is “not particularly a fan” of electing state Supreme Court justices, something that has been suggested after a series of decisions that frustrated Shannon and other state Republican leaders. Instead of direct election of justices the practice in Oklahoma from statehood until a bribery scandal in the 1960s Shannon said he favors revamping the selection process and perhaps limiting terms or instituting a mandatory retirement age for justices.
Oklahoma workers’ compensation opt-out sparks judicial questions
Oklahoma Supreme Court justices peppered attorneys with questions about opt-out provisions in a new workers’ compensation law Tuesday during oral arguments on a challenge to the law’s constitutionality. The new law enacted by the Oklahoma Legislature would convert the state from a judicial workers’ compensation system to an administrative one. It would allow employers to opt out of the system and operate their own. Oklahoma City attorney John McMurry, who is challenging the law on behalf of two state lawmakers and the Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma, argued that employees of companies that opt out of the system would have fewer rights.
Hindu group proposes monument at Oklahoma state capitol
Just days after the news broke that a Satanic Temple in New York City is seeking to build a monument to Satan on the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol, a Hindu organization announced this week that it, too, would like to build a monument there, to one of its chief deities. Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, emailed his request to the Oklahoma State Capitol Preservation Commission. Zed, of Nevada, said in a press release that Hindus want to erect a statue of Lord Hanuman, a Hindu deity “who was greatly revered and worshipped and known for incredible strength and was (a) perfect grammarian.”
See also: Oklahoma leaders say Satanic monument unlikely from the Associated Press
Oklahoma ranks 44th in overall health
Oklahoma ranks No. 44 in overall health, according to an annual nationwide rankings report. At first glance, the ranking — provided through United Health Foundation’s annual survey — looks like a drop in the state’s score. Last year, state leaders hailed Oklahoma’s No. 43 ranking as a success, proof that the state’s health initiatives were working. It was the highest ranking the state had received in eight years. However, over the past year, United Health Foundation’s analysts changed what data they include in the report and re-evaluated each state’s ranking.
Oklahoma Health Department expects a flat budget at best
The state Health Department likely will see a flat budget “at best” when the Legislature approves its budget for the next fiscal year, the state’s health commissioner said Thursday. Photo – Terry Cline, Oklahoma’s Commissioner of Health, is seen in this file photo. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed its lawsuit against Cline in federal court on Friday. “We’re on high alert as we usually are at this time of year,” Dr. Terry Cline said at the state Health Board meeting Thursday. Along with the budget, the agency’s 2014 legislative priorities also will include getting a law passed to ban selling electronic cigarettes to minors.
The last chance against Obamacare?
President Obama’s message to opponents of his signature health care law has been to get over it. Of course, many Republican leaders have not adhered to the President’s suggestion and the fight against the Affordable Care Act continues. The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling last year that the controversial law is constitutional seemed to give Republicans little hope to bring down ACA, and Obama’s reelection in 2012 was another blow to the anti-Obamacare effort. But opposition remains and lawsuits filed by Oklahoma’s attorney general – and several others states – may represent the last real threat to cripple the law.
$8 million set aside to help low-income Oklahomans with heating bills
A local state agency is working to help low-income Oklahomans stay warm. Officials with the Department of Human Services say about $8 million will be available for families across the state through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Beginning Tuesday, DHS is accepting applications to help cover heating bills. Experts stress that only one payment per household is allowed each year through the program.
UCO offers prep academy for teachers in urban schools
Teaching in an urban school district like Oklahoma City often is viewed as challenging or even a last resort for some, but first-year teacher Heather Berry says it’s “fun.” Maybe that’s because she’s a product of an urban district, or perhaps it’s because she sends all four of her children to OKC schools. Still, one part of her story is certain: After graduation later this month, she’ll be ready for that first teaching job at U.S. Grant High School thanks to the Urban Teacher Preparation Academy (UTPA) at the University of Central Oklahoma.
In education reform, focus on needs of real students
Oklahoma’s education debate spends a lot of time on a few familiar subjects: education funding vs. tax cuts, vouchers and charters vs. traditional public schools and high-stakes testing vs. letting teachers teach. Oklahoma’s education debate spends a lot of time on a few familiar subjects: education funding vs. tax cuts, vouchers and charters vs. traditional public schools and high-stakes testing vs. letting teachers teach. What’s too often missing from these debates is any consideration of the needs of real students.
Oklahoma City calls off plan to reconfigure middle schools
A plan to restructure elementary and middle school grade configurations in the Oklahoma City district is on hold for now, meaning Classen School of Advanced Studies will continue to offer a sixth-grade curriculum in the coming school year. Interim Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Dave Lopez, speaking at Monday night’s school board meeting, said the plan to return sixth-grade classes to elementary schools is not practical because of overcrowding at those schools.
How Oklahoma’s A-F grading system discriminates against high poverty schools — and how to fix it
The debate over Oklahoma’s A-F grading system has in large part centered on a debate over the effects of poverty on student performance. Whatever you think about how much we can expect schools to overcome the effects of poverty, one point is not in dispute — that children living in poverty start from behind. On average, they have greater stresses and fewer learning opportunities at home before they ever enter the school doors. With low-income children making up 61 percent of all the students in the state, this achievement gap is a serious problem.
See also: Q&A with school administrators about Glenpool school grades from the Tulsa World
Quote of the Day
We have a wide diversity of adversity. We have kids who are in gangs, trying to stay out of gangs, some who don’t eat at night or maybe their parents are working late into the night at a second job. Making these kids’ lives better has to start somewhere.
-Nicole Foust, a first-year English teacher at U.S. Grant High School and a graduate of UCO’s urban education program (Source: http://bit.ly/18BBIyh)
Number of the Day
The percentage of students in Oklahoma City Public Schools who are Latino.
U.S. poverty rate decreased over last half century thanks to safety net programs
Government programs such as food stamps and unemployment insurance have made significant progress in easing the plight of the poor in the half-century since the launch of the war on poverty, according to a major new study. But the nation’s economy has made far less progress lifting people out of poverty without the need for government services. The findings paint a mixed picture of the United States nearly 50 years after Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would wage a war on poverty. They also contradict the official poverty rate, which suggests there has been no decline in the percentage of Americans experiencing poverty since then.
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