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
School Funding Cuts Expected to Deepen: Another $19 million could be cut from Oklahoma’s public schools as early as next month, potentially raising the total mid-year revenue reduction to $66 million. The additional cut would fall on top of $47 million in cuts enacted last week by the state Board of Education, acting on advice from state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. Shawn Hime, director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said if additional cuts occur, as projected by the state Board of Equalization, he would not be surprised to see layoffs at schools [Oklahoma Watch]. Oklahoma leads the nation in per-pupil education cuts since the start of the recession [OK Policy].
Oklahomans Donate Tax Cut To Education: At the beginning of this month, a tax cut went into effect for most Oklahomans. But some are upset that legislators are moving forward with a tax break, while education faces huge cuts. So they’re asking you to donate your tax cut to a school. Using this calculator from Oklahoma Policy Institute you can calculate just what kind of tax cut you are going to get [News9].
Oklahoma schools see increase of 4,370 students as TPS enrollment dips: While schools statewide added students, Tulsa Public Schools saw a dip in enrollment, according to figures released Monday. Enrollment for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade across Oklahoma increased by 4,370 students this academic year, according to the State Department of Education [Tulsa World].
Still waiting for a workable school funding alternative to the Boren plan: University of Oklahoma President David Boren stirred up a hornet’s nest with his proposal to raise the state sales tax rate by 1 percent. We’ve yet to see anyone make a plausible argument that the money isn’t needed, and more desperately so since the state started shorting schools on their already inadequate budget due to a revenue failure [Editorial Board / The Tulsa World]. This initiative can help Oklahoma’s dire education funding crisis, but does nothing to fix Oklahoma’s unfair and inadequate tax system [OK Policy].
Edmond residents file earthquake lawsuit against 12 oil companies: A group of Edmond residents filed a lawsuit Monday against a dozen energy companies, claiming their saltwater disposal wells were in part to blame for earthquakes that hit central Oklahoma in recent weeks. The lawsuit, filed in Oklahoma County District Court, said the companies acted negligently and their use of disposal wells constituted an “ultrahazardous activity.” The nine homeowners said disposal wells operated by the companies “caused or contributed” to earthquakes [NewsOK].
Officials say shelter’s closing resulting in children waiting in offices, police cars, for hours: The closure of the Laura Dester Shelter has caused some foster children to be removed from their homes to wait for hours in office buildings and cars at odd times while placements can be found, say Tulsa police and prosecutors. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services agreed to shutter the state’s two emergency shelters for abused and neglected children as part of the Pinnacle Plan, which is the improvement plan from a negotiated settlement agreement to a federal lawsuit approved in 2011 [Tulsa World].
Women are severely underrepresented in leadership of state agencies: Oklahoma is falling behind in involving women in its government and policymaking. While women make up slightly more than half of the state’s total population (50.8 percent) only 14.1 percent in the Oklahoma House and Senate, or less than one in seven, are women – the third lowest rate of female representation in the nation. Oklahoma is making gains in some areas of elective representation, but primarily in offices tasked with implementing policy, such as county clerks and treasurers. Women are still highly underrepresented in offices that develop policy, such as legislators or county commissioners [OK Policy].
Millennial generation isn’t well represented in Oklahoma Legislature: One demographic group is sorely under-represented in Oklahoma’s Legislature. We’re not referring here to women — although the claim is often made that the Legislature has a serious gender imbalance. The group of citizens who can count few of their own in the halls of state is the so-called millennial generation, or those who were born after 1980. The average age of state lawmakers nationwide is 56, which makes the baby boom generation well represented. The average age of the U.S. voting population is nearly 10 years younger [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].
Dan Boren Contemplating Governor’s Run; David Boren Advises Against It: Dan Boren, a former Democratic congressman from one of Oklahoma’s most distinguished political families, says he’s actively exploring a run for Oklahoma’s open governor seat in 2018. After spending the last three years working on business development for the Chickasaw Nation, Boren told The Associated Press that he’s started meeting with state political and business leaders and developing policy proposals in preparation for a potential candidacy [KGOU].
State ranks 39th in weekly wages: Oklahoma ranks 39th nationally in average weekly wages, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Oklahoma’s average weekly wages in June totaled $818, up 1.4 percent from June 2014. Average weekly wages in Oklahoma were $150 less than the national average of $968 [Journal Record].
Legislature Should Move To Expand Medicaid, ACLU OK Executive Director Says: The Oklahoma Legislature should move quickly to expand Medicaid, using the extra funds for health care coverage and to address criminal justice issues, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma said Monday. By expanding Medicaid coverage ACLU Oklahoma leader Ryan Kiesel said the state would receive millions in much-needed cash which could be used to increase mental health coverage, a key component in modernizing Oklahoma’s criminal justice system [ACLU of Oklahoma]. This report by the ACLU makes the case for the Affordable Care Act as a tool to make communities safer. Other states’ experiences show that expanding coverage is a good deal for Oklahoma [OK Policy].
Lawmakers’ bills include fines for students who misbehave, electromagnetic pulse attacks: Lawmakers have filed dozens of measures before the beginning of the Feb. 1 legislative session. Lawmakers will revisit agency and school consolidation, attempt to make the state compliant with Real ID and consider measures that deal with guns and same-sex marriage. Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, has a bill, Senate Bill 911, that would let school districts fine parents of children who misbehave [Tulsa World].
Quote of the Day
“It doesn’t plug our hole. It doesn’t solve our deficit problem that we have. But what it shows is that to me the tax cut isn’t as important as helping public education.”
– Rick Cobb, Superintendent of Mid-Del Schools and blogger at okeducationtruths, on Oklahomans donating their income tax cut to public schools. The median Oklahoma household will get only $29 from the cut to the top rate (Source)
Number of the Day
Oklahoma’s high school graduate rate for the 2013-14 school year, slightly above the national average of 82.3 percent.
Make housing vouchers an entitlement—we can afford it: There are a million different housing assistance programs, but all of them are quite limited in scope: if you apply and you qualify, you are simply one of many such people fighting over a much smaller number of vouchers or set-aside affordable units. In some cases, this makes housing assistance more like a lottery game than a social service, as when nearly 2,600 people applied for just 18 homes in San Francisco, 58,000 people applied for 105 homes in New York, or nearly 300,000 people were placed on the waitlist for a Chicago Housing Authority unit. Nationwide, about 20 million people qualify for housing assistance but don’t receive it. But how much would food-stampifying housing policy cost? Surely an unreasonable, pie-in-the-sky amount, right? [City Observatory]
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