In The Know: New academic standards clear hurdles

In The KnowIn 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.

Thanks to everyone who turned out to our 2016 State Budget Summit yesterday, and participated in the discussion with the #okbudget16 hashtag on Twitter! Yesterday’s presentations are linked here

Today In The News

New academic standards clear hurdles at state board of education, higher education regents: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved proposed new academic standards in English and mathematics. In a separate but simultaneous meeting, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education certified the standards as adequate for preparing students for college and careers. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said she will next deliver them to a joint session of both houses of the Legislature in a presentation Monday morning [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Resists Push for Enrollment in Affordable Care Act Coverage: A resolute band of insurance counselors, undeterred by the politics of health care in this staunchly conservative state, is increasing its efforts to find people who are uninsured and enroll them in coverage before the Affordable Care Act’s third annual open enrollment period ends on Sunday. But the push is facing Dust Bowl-force headwinds in one of the states most hostile to the health law – from some Oklahoma officials and residents who mistrust all things federal [The New York Times]. 

Oklahoma falls to 34th in nation for financial security: Nearly half (49 percent) of Oklahoma’s households are locked into a “new normal” of perpetual financial insecurity, unable to build the savings needed to last even three months in the event of an emergency, according to a new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). The research, reflected in CFED’s 2016 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard, also found that state policies can do much more to improve the financial security of Oklahomans [OK Policy].

Initiative to address prison overcrowding, spending launches with petition effort: A coalition on Wednesday announced it will pursue a vote of the people in an effort to reduce the prison population, save money and help low-level offenders get treatment and find employment. The coalition announced the initiative petitions, State Questions 780 and 781, during a Capitol press conference and filed the paperwork with Secretary of State Chris Benge [Tulsa World]. Here’s how Texas got it right on prison reform – and how Oklahoma can follow in its footsteps [Julie DelCour / Tulsa World].

Gov. Mary Fallin approves transfer of emergency funds to help quake response: Gov. Mary Fallin announced Thursday she has approved the use of almost $1.4 million from the state emergency fund to help the efforts of regulators and earthquake research in Oklahoma. The funds will be directed to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Geological Survey. OCC and the Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity presented Fallin with a list of needs that totaled $1.378 million in one-time costs, according to a news release. OGS will receive $1 million in funding, and OCC will get $387,000 [KOCO].

Fallin to propose teacher pay raise during Monday’s State of the State address: Despite a challenging budget year, Gov. Mary Fallin will propose a pay raise for teachers on Monday when she gives her State of the State address to a joint legislative session in the House chamber. “There are going to be a lot of different proposals this year for giving teachers a pay raise,” Fallin said during an interview Thursday. “You will see me propose a plan this year, also, to help give our teachers a pay raise they need” [Tulsa World]. In an interview Wednesday, Gov. Mary Fallin said she hopes that cuts in education, corrections, human services and some other areas can be minimized [Oklahoma Watch].

2nd Revenue Failure Likely, Oklahoma Speaker Says: Oklahoma House Speaker Jeff Hickman says a second revenue failure is likely this fiscal year in Oklahoma, which would prompt deeper cuts to state agency budgets before June. The Republican from Fairview says the Legislature may consider revising the current fiscal year allocations to agencies when it convenes next week, rather than waiting for a second revenue failure to be declared [KWGS].

Really, governor? To interpret General Electric’s recent decision to move its headquarters from Connecticut to Massachusetts as any kind of justification for tax cuts in Oklahoma is a mistake. Still, Gov. Mary Fallin seized on GE’s announcement to defend her decision to push ahead with an income tax cut in the midst of a massive budget shortfall. “This is precisely why we know lower taxes influence where businesses go,” she said [David Blatt / Journal Record].

OU Regents Approve $20 Million Voluntary Retirement Plan Ahead Of State Budget Crisis: The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents unanimously approved a $20 million budget reduction plan Thursday morning. The proposal includes a voluntarily retirement incentive that’s expected to save $10 million. The other $10 million would come from eliminating vacant faculty and staff positions, and reducing purchasing and travel expenses in department budgets [KGOU].

The program known as ‘welfare’ barely exists in Oklahoma: From its creation in 1934 to the mid-1990s, the Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program was a major component of America’s safety net, providing cash assistance to low-income families with children. In 1996, President Bill Clinton and a Republican-controlled Congress approved reforms to “end welfare as we know it.” AFDC became Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), with much stricter limits on who can receive aid and for how long and much greater leeway for state officials to use federal funds for welfare as they see fit [OK Policy].

Cigarette Tax Hike Proposed To Fund State Programs: Oklahoma’s health commissioner is proposing a $1.50 increase to the price of a pack of cigarettes. Dr. Terry Cline says the tax increase would generate about $182 million per year. About $120 million would fund teacher compensation, and nearly $58 million would go toward Insure Oklahoma. Another $3.6 million would go to pediatric cancer treatment and research [KGOU].

Oklahoma Academy recommendations include tax reform, budget transparency and Medicaid Expansion: The Oklahoma Academy has released policy recommendations and ideas for the Sooner State’s government. The resulting report was condensed from views of involved citizens, expressed at a series of town hall meetings across Oklahoma in the latter part of 2015. Recommendations from the organization include tax reform in a manner likely to result in tax increases, and concentration of limited government resources in priority areas [The City Sentinel].

Innocence Project gets hearing that could free two men: A judge could decide this week that Malcolm Scott and Demarchoe Carpenter aren’t the ones responsible for the death of a young Tulsa woman 22 years ago. Both men were 17 when someone killed Karen Summers in a drive-by shooting. The Oklahoma Innocence Project will present evidence on Friday that someone else pulled the trigger. Vicki Behenna, executive director of the OKIP, said the two men have maintained their innocence through trials and appeals that led to life sentences for both [Journal Record].

Regulator Says Budget Cuts Could Imperil Vital Water-Monitoring Programs: Water contaminated by algae blooms or choked by sediment and pollutants kills wildlife and isn’t healthy for humans. It’s up to the state to make sure Oklahoma’s lakes and rivers are safe, but budget cuts are threatening that mission, officials say [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“If we have an ice storm, the governor is on the phone begging for federal money. If we have a tornado, everyone is lining up for federal money. And we take federal highway funds. It’s just the Obamacare dollars that are radioactive.”

– Former Oklahoma Gov. David Walters, on state leadership’s refusal to accept an infusion of federal funds to expand health coverage to 100,000 uninsured Oklahomans (Source)

Number of the Day


Hospital emergency room visits per 1,000 people in Oklahoma in 2014, slightly above the national average of 428 and 19th overall.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How mass incarceration is spreading to rural counties and the suburbs: Mass incarceration has made the United States the world leader in inmates per capita. A  few decades ago, urban counties were the epicenter of that phenomenon, incarcerating the largest proportions of their residents. Yet new data suggests the population of jailed or imprisoned Americans is increasing most rapidly outside major cities. In fact, people living in suburban and rural areas are more likely to see the inside of a cell than those in urban centers [Washington Post].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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