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 lawmaker overseeing budget hearings has asked state agencies to discuss how they will handle budget cuts ranging as high as 5 percent. An Oklahoma mom will testify at a Senate Committee meeting that medical marijuana could save her daughter’s life. An upcoming public lecture will discuss challenges dealing with “dual status youth”, who have contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
The okeducationtruths blog analyzed what’s in a bill that would send public education dollars to private schools. Oklahoma Watch examined the state of sex education in Oklahoma’s largest school districts. The Oklahoma City School Board is considering a $1 million plan to boost teacher and administrator training, modeled on a program that helped improve academics at U.S. Grant High School. The Tulsa World editorial board discussed why we can’t expect schools to improve while slashing their funding.
The number of registered voters in Oklahoma has fallen by several thousand to just under 2 million. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, has filed a bill that would call for a second vote to change the Oklahoma Constitution to ban gay marriage. A gay paramedic from Norman says he plans to seek the Republican nomination for Oklahoma’s open U.S. Senate seat.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon is forming an exploratory committee to look at running for U.S. Senate. Corporation Comissioner Patrice Douglas announced she will run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by James Lankford, who is running for the Senate. Several state lawmakers are considering running for Douglas’ vacated Corporation Commission seat, including Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman.
The Number of the Day is the number of registered voters in Oklahoma, about 68 percent of the adult population. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examines the growing state cost of not expanding Medicaid.
In The News
Oklahoma budget hearings to focus on cuts
Oklahoma legislators will begin budget briefings with various state agencies amid projections they will have about $170 million less to spend on state programs this year. State Sen. Kim David said she has asked agency directors to discuss how they will handle budget cuts ranging as high as 5 percent for the fiscal year that begins July 1. David says lawmakers also are considering privatizing some Medicaid contracts as part of a move to a managed-care system.
Oklahoma mom says medical marijuana could save her daughter
An Oklahoma family is preparing to separate. They said moving their sick daughter to Colorado is the only way to save her life unless Oklahoma laws change. Avagrace Spencer, 9, rides her bike, likes playing with her brothers and sisters and looks like a healthy child. However, Avagrace could have less than a year to live due to an extremely rare condition. She was diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. Avagrace’s entire brain is slowing down, meaning her organs aren’t working well.
Upcoming Event: Policy & Practice lecture discusses dual status youth on January 28
On January 28, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) welcomes John Tuell, Executive Director of the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) National Resource Center for Juvenile Justice, for his lecture “Dual Status Youth and their Families: Altering the Human and Fiscal Toll” as part of its Policy & Practice lecture series. Dual status youth, or youth who have contact with both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, can present a variety of challenges, and the RFK National Resource Center provides guidance for state and local jurisdictions in improving outcomes for dual status youth.
More on the voucher bill
Since issuing a press release for the forthcoming school voucher bill, Rep. Jason Nelson has been all over Twitter engaging with various Oklahoma educators about it. While I often find his answers to be question-adjacent, and I usually disagree with him, he gets credit for being there and maintaining the conversation with critics. The first thing people need to do is read the text of proposed House Bill 3398 – it’s only 21 pages long, and most of that is double-spaced. If you’re responding to what you think is in it, rather than to what actually is, you probably serve neither side of the discussion well. Below is my summary of key points of the bill.
Sex ed and public schools
Q: With Oklahoma’s high teen birth rate, are many schools providing comprehensive sex education to students? A: Oklahoma schools vary widely in the amount of sex education they provide, with some of the largest districts offering limited or no programs, according to a check of nearly a dozen districts by Oklahoma Watch. Among the state’s five largest districts, the largest, Oklahoma City Public Schools, provides no sex-education classes to students at any grade level, although the district used to offer a comprehensive program two decades ago.
Oklahoma City School Board to consider $1 million plan to boost academics
A former high school principal who led the turnaround at U.S. Grant High School is spearheading a plan to revive other struggling schools in the Oklahoma City district. Tamie Sanders, now the district’s director of secondary school reform, wants to implement the same strategies used while she was Grant’s principal during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. The school board, meeting Tuesday night, will consider spending nearly $1.1 million to implement the same professional development plan used by Grant to train teachers and administrators at 18 middle schools and high schools beginning with the 2014-15 school year.
Money does matter in child’s education
Some Oklahomans act as if 44th nationally in per-pupil spending is good enough. That rating comes from the latest Education Week Quality Counts report. Money does matter, especially when your state receives one of the sixth-lowest grades on spending for public schools. Keeping company with Oklahoma in bargain-basement per-pupil funding were Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee, Utah and Idaho. All received a D or lower. That’s a entire letter grade below the C that represents the national average. Here’s the difference: National per-pupil spending average, $11,864; Oklahoma, $9,075. So how does that translate into the classroom? Not well.
Number of registered voters in Oklahoma falls
The Oklahoma Election Board says the number of registered voters in the state has fallen to just under 2 million. Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax released the agency’s annual voter registration statistics Wednesday. They show the state has 1,978,812 registered voters including 885,609 Democrats, 854,329 Republicans, 238,870 independents and four Americans Elect registrants. The total is down slightly from just more than 2 million registered voters in the state in 2012.
Edmond lawmaker files bill for second vote to ban same-sex marriage
An Oklahoma lawmaker has filed a bill that would call for a second vote to change the Oklahoma Constitution to ban gay marriage. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Edmond, on Tuesday said he filed the measure, House Joint Resolution 1076, in anticipation that the state’s current constitutional ban on gay marriage would be struck down. A federal district judge in Tulsa on Jan. 14 tossed out a 2004 voter approved constitutional ban on gay marriage. However, U.S. Senior District Judge Terence Kern stayed his ruling pending an appeal, which has been filed.
Norman paramedic to seek open US Senate seat
A 31-year-old paramedic from Norman says he plans to seek the Republican nomination in the race for Oklahoma’s open U.S. Senate seat. Jason Weger, who is gay, told The Associated Press on Tuesday he’s running in part because of a lack of diversity within the GOP. A native of Valliant in southeast Oklahoma, Weger said he has never sought political office before. He describes himself as a “non-establishment” candidate who believes in individual freedom and a smaller government.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon exploring bid for US Senate
House Speaker T.W. Shannon inched closer to a decision on whether he will run for the U.S. Senate, with one of his advisers saying Tuesday that the Lawton Republican is forming an exploratory committee to explore the feasibility of such a campaign. Trebor Worthen, a former state representative who has been a campaign consultant to Shannon as well as 2nd District U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, among others, said Shannon would file the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission.
Corporation Commissioner announces for Oklahoma Congressional seat
Saying she wants to take “business sense to Washington,” Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Patrice Douglas announced Tuesday she will seek the 5th District congressional seat that Rep. James Lankford will vacate at the end of this term. Douglas, 51, is seeking to fill the opening created when Rep. Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, decided to run for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s Senate seat rather than seek re-election. Numerous other Republicans are considering entering the fifth district race.
Several Oklahomans weigh Corporation Commissioner race
Oklahoma Corporation Commission Chairwoman Patrice Douglas’ decision to run for Congress opens up a six-year term on the three-person commission, and the list of possible candidates to replace her is already lengthy. Corporation commissioners run statewide for six-year terms. Because of its closeness to the energy and telecom industries, the office has historically been a springboard for ambitious Oklahoma politicians, including former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, issued a statement Tuesday saying he may consider the race.
Quote of the Day
All those tired arguments that across-the-board budget cuts would not hurt outcomes are completely unfounded.
-Rutgers University Professor Bruce D. Baker, who assessed numerous studies on the connections between school funding and student outcomes (Source: http://bit.ly/1fZSlMP)
Number of the Day
Number of registered voters in Oklahoma, about 68 percent of the adult population.
Source: Oklahoma Election Board
The growing state cost of not expanding Medicaid
Policymakers in some of the 25 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid as part of health reform (see map) are putting expansion at the top of this year’s legislative agenda. The New Hampshire House passed an expansion bill on the first day of its session last week, for example, and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe advocated for expansion in his first address to lawmakers. These policymakers are wise to prioritize the Medicaid expansion, as the costs of not expanding have begun to accrue.
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.