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 the latest Quality Counts report by Education Week gives Oklahoma a D grade for K-12 achievement and school finance, despite being ranked at or near the top for standards, assessments and accountability. You can read the full report here. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses how Oklahoma is fluctuating between tax cut years and budget cut years at the state Capitol. The OK Policy Blog shared stories of Oklahomans trying to support a family with a low-wage fast-food job.
The state has signed a new deal with the Comanche Nation on its tax rate on tobacco sales, after the tribe filed a lawsuit over other tribes receiving more favorable terms. The Norman Transcript looked at the history of liquor by-the-drink in Oklahoma. An advocacy group is calling for the resignation of seven high ranking state officials, including DHS director Ed Lake and state health commissioner Terry Cline, over accusations that the state is failing to protect nursing home residents.
The Oklahoma City council is exploring the idea of increasing its members by adding more wards. State Senator Nathan Dahm filed a bill aimed at blocking the NSA from gathering information about Oklahomans. Rep. Sally Kern filed a bill to make it illegal for an Oklahoma school official to punish a student for brandishing a toy weapon.
The Number of the Day is the poverty rate in Southeast Oklahoma, where President Obama is creating a “Promise Zone”, in partnership with the Choctaw Nation, to focus resources on improving life in chronically poor areas. In today’s Policy Note, a new study shows low-income families have higher incidents of dangerously low blood-sugar at the end of the month, when the food budget runs out.
In The News
Oklahoma ranks well below national average for academic achievement, school spending
While Oklahoma’s academic standards are among the best in the country, the state continues to lag behind in public school achievement and spending, a national report released Thursday shows. Oklahoma received D grades for K-12 achievement and school finance, despite being ranked at or near the top for standards, assessments and accountability, according to the annual Quality Counts report by Education Week. The report tracks key education indicators — including national exams — and grades the states on their performances and outcomes.
Prosperity Policy: Cutting common sense
Of late, there seem to be only two kinds of years at the Oklahoma Capitol. Some years the talk is all about budget cuts, others the talk is all about tax cuts. But this year we may be hearing a lot about both. When the Great Recession hit in the late 2000s, the impact on the state budget and the services it funds was severe. State tax collections fell by more than 15 percent and for three straight years, funding was slashed for schools, public safety and other critical priorities. . As soon as revenues began to recover, the clamor for more tax cuts started anew.
Do you want fries with that?
We huddled over drinks in the corner of the restaurant, our voices low so the manager or his coworkers couldn’t hear us. He introduced me to coworkers as his cousin. “Talking bad about this place will get you fired quick!” He talked fast because he gets only 30 minutes for lunch, on days when he works at least 6 hours — and a 15-minute break if he works less than that). He tells me he is 37. He has a 6-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter. His wife works at a mall and attends school. “People think everybody who works here is a kid, but most of us are grown with kids,” he tells me. “Several people are retired – just trying to make ends meet.”
Oklahoma governor, tribe work out tobacco tax terms
The state has signed a new deal with the Comanche Nation on its tax rate on tobacco sales. A signed agreement was filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State’s office. The tribe will receive 70 percent of all compact payment on cigarettes through the end of 2015, with the rate decreasing incrementally through 2018, when it reaches a 50-50 split. The Comanches in November filed a lawsuit in federal court in Oklahoma City after discovering several other tribes, including the Chickasaw Nation, were receiving more favorable terms. The new compact mirrors the Chickasaw tribe’s terms.
Liquor by-the-drink was a success in Oklahoma
In 1984, Oklahoma voters approved liquor-by-the drink — arguably the beginning of the state’s emergence into modern times and certainly the end of decades of hypocrisy. Before liquor-by-the-drink, we had liquor-by-the-wink. To get a mixed drink, you had to belong to a private club and have your own personal, marked bottle on the premises. At least that was what the law said. In practice, of course, things were very different. “Clubs” handed out membership cards at the door. Dusty sham bottles lined the back of bars, but who knew what drink came out of what bottle.
Nursing home advocate calls for resignation or removal of numerous state officials
One of the Oklahoma’s leading advocates for nursing home safety wants the resignation of seven high ranking state officials, including DHS director Ed Lake and state health commissioner Terry Cline. On Wednesday advocates with A Perfect Cause met with staff at the governor’s office to demand the resignation or termination of those employees from the Oklahoma Department of Health and Oklahoma DHS. The founder of A Perfect Cause, Wes Bledsoe, believes believes the state routinely fails to protect nursing home residents by not performing proper and independent investigations in cases of alleged wrongdoing.
OKC Council discusses adding more members
Oklahoma City’s council members appeared somewhat hesitant about increasing the number of wards, but all eight were at least willing to explore the idea. The council held a special meeting Wednesday morning to discuss the proposal, which was initially raised by Councilman Pete White. White was unable to attend the meeting, but the seven other members of the council and mayor took turns sharing their thoughts on growing the size of the council in a growing city. “I have a lot of neighborhood associations in ward 2 and it is very very difficult to get to all of them,” Councilman Ed Shadid said. “I think everybody is doing the best they can, but I think [more wards] would make it easier.” Shadid appeared to be the biggest supporter of increasing the size of the council, which has stood at eight members since 1966.
Sen. Nathan Dahm files bill to banish NSA
On Monday, Oklahoma Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow) filed a bill that would prohibit state cooperation with the NSA and limit some of the practical effects of its vast data collection program. The bill was similar to a measure filed by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) in California that same day. Based on model legislation drafted by the OffNow coalition, SB1252 makes it the policy of the state of Oklahoma to “refuse material support, participation or assistance to any federal agency which claims the power, or with any federal law, rule, regulation or order which purports to authorize the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant…”
Rep. Sally Kern files bill to protect students creating imaginary weapons
State Rep. Sally Kern wants to make it illegal for an Oklahoma school official to punish a student for brandishing a partially eaten pastry in the shape of a weapon. Kern said she was motivated to author a bill prohibiting punishment of students who sculpt pastries into the shape of weapons by an incident last March in which an 8-year-old Maryland boy was suspended from school for chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun. Kern said she’s not aware of any Oklahoma student ever being punished for such conduct, but she wants to make sure it doesn’t happen here.
Quote of the Day
My schedule is never the same from one week to the next. I can’t plan anything. I used to have another part-time job but I just couldn’t work out the schedules. And ordinary stuff like knowing when I can be home to take care of the kids and the house while my wife works or studies? – Forget it!
-Fast-food worker Maurice, whose story is told in the OK Policy Blog’s “Neglected Oklahoma” series (Source: http://bit.ly/1fdoaBw)
Number of the Day
The poverty rate in Southeast Oklahoma, where President Obama is creating a “Promise Zone” in partnership with the Choctaw Nation to focus resources on improving life in chronically poor areas.
Source: Choctaw Nation via NewsOK
Sometimes health policy can’t be about health care
A paper in this month’s edition of Health Affairs provides a stark reminder that many determinants of health lay well outside the boundaries of insurance and health care delivery. Hilary Seligman and her coauthors examined temporal trends in the incidence of hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar, usually associated with diabetes), stratified by income. Toward the end of the month, a household’s resources—income, SNAP, Social Security, and/or other benefits—can become exhausted, ostensibly changing food consumption patterns. Low-income individuals are at higher risk of hypoglycemia—and that risk changes over the course of a month, consistent with a hypothesis about exhausted food budgets. Their high-income counterparts exhibit no significant trend.
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