In The Know: Superintendent Barresi requests $175 million budget increase

In The KnowIn 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.

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Today you should know that State Superintendent Janet Barresi is requesting a funding increase of nearly $175 million for public schools in next year’s budget. You can see the Department of Education’s budget request presentation here. Lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow parents who remove their children from public schools to receive up to 90 percent of the state funds dedicated to their children’s education.

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry was quarantined while police investigated a suspicious substance mailed to the agency. It was eventually identified as glitter. The FBI is investigating allegations against a Tulsa halfway house run by Avalon Correctional Facilities following several incidents of reported misconduct. State Attorney General Scott Pruitt has appealed the EPA’s rejection of Oklahoma’s regional haze plan to the US Supreme Court. New legislation imposes more stringent screening requirements on prospective nursing home employees.

President Obama has declared a major disaster in a handful of Oklahoma counties in the wake of December storms, making available federal funds to aid with repair efforts. M. Scott Carter discussed the Department of Corrections’ funding crisis. The OK Policy Blog reported that nearly half of Oklahoma families have little or no savings and are one job loss or health crisis away from poverty. Advocacy groups in Oklahoma City and in Tulsa are preparing for overnight point-in-time counts of homeless populations in those cities.

The Number of the Day is the number of homeless people counted in an overnight Oklahoma City census in 2013. In today’s policy note, a report from the National Women’s Law Center demonstrates the risk the insurance coverage gap poses to low-income women’s health.

In The News

Oklahoma Education Boss Requests Funding Increase

Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi is outlining the agency’s request for nearly $175 million in new funding for public schools in next year’s budget. Barresi testified Thursday before a House budget subcommittee responsible for overseeing funding for K-12 schools in Oklahoma. The Department of Education received about $2.4 billion appropriation for the current fiscal year. The agency is requesting $2.57 billion for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Read more from NewsOn6

See also: Oklahoma Department of Education FY 2015 Budget Request

Seeking more positive tomorrows, Oklahoma school choice leaders push Arizona model

The architect of Oklahoma’s historic Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program benefiting special needs children has crafted a new bill to create Education Savings Accounts, patterned after a successful Arizona program. State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, is lead sponsor of the bill, with state Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, as co-sponsor. “If you are a parent who has the means to pay for education alternatives, you have true freedom over how your child is educated. If you have a lower income, your options are more limited. This legislation is about expanding those options for low-income families,” Rep. Newell said.

Read more from CapitolBeatOK

Suspicious substance in Oklahoma Capitol area identified as glitter

An envelope full of glitter caused a state agency to be quarantined Thursday morning while law enforcement officials investigated. A state Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry employee working in the mailroom opened an envelope about 10 a.m. and a substance spilled out onto her hands and clothes, department spokeswoman Kirby Smith said.

Read more from NewsOK

Federal Investigators Look into Avalon’s Tulsa Halfway House

Federal investigators are looking into allegations against a Tulsa halfway house that resulted in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections pulling its inmates from the facility, Oklahoma Watch has learned. Edward Evans, acting director of the Corrections Department, told legislators at a House public-safety subcommittee meeting Tuesday that the federal government was investigating issues at the Avalon Correctional Services facility in Tulsa.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Attorney General Asks U.S. Supreme Court To Review Air Pollution Ruling

State Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Oklahoma’s largest utility company, OG&E,have been fighting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Haze Rule since the federal agency rejected Oklahoma’s plan to reduce sulfur dioxide pollution at its coal-fired power plants in 2011.

Read more from KGOU

Oklahoma nursing homes, others soon must use stringent screening for certain workers

The Oklahoma Long Term Care Security Act (HB 2582) prohibits certain employers from hiring, retaining, or granting clinical privileges to individuals who’ve been convicted of designated criminal offenses, sanctioned by their applicable licensing body, or listed on offender registries. The act mandates that the employers perform a screening and fingerprint-based national background check prior to employment. A “name-based” criminal background check by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will no longer be sufficient. 

Read more from NewsOK

President Obama issues disaster declaration for handful of Oklahoma counties

A handful of Oklahoma counties are included in a disaster declaration from the White House after a winter storm moved through the state last month. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that federal aid is available to tribal, state and private organizations that were affected by a storm on Dec. 5, 2013..

Read more from KFOR

A tough lesson not yet learned

On Monday, the second session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature will start at the state Capitol. Like they do every year, lawmakers will wrangle over money and policy and then, on the last Friday of the last week of May, they’ll go home. But this year, before the session begins, each of the Legislature’s 149 members would do well to remember the connection between 7-Eleven and the legacy of Judge Luther Bohanon.

Read more from The Journal Record

Nearly half of Oklahoma households are one misstep away from financial insecurity

Despite an improving national economy and a (deceptively) low statewide average unemployment rate, nearly half (49.1 percent) of Oklahoma households are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). The percentage of households with little or no savings to cover emergencies or to invest in building a better life has jumped from last year’s 43.8 percent level.

Read more from OK Policy

Oklahoma City advocacy groups hope to see homelessness numbers decline

Kim Woods stood in a gas station parking lot across from a Greyhound bus terminal Thursday afternoon, looking for a group of men she knew probably weren’t there. The intersection of Martin Luther King and Reno avenues, near the Interstate 35-Interstate 44 interchange, was once home to a bustling homeless camp. But Woods, deputy director of the Homeless Alliance, said the nonprofit group has helped most of the men who used to stay in the camp find housing.

Read more from NewsOK

Tulsans join national effort to count, survey homeless

Parked behind a vacant warehouse, the team ducked through a hole in the fence and scrambled up a rocky hill, grabbing branches to keep from falling. The police escort brought flashlights, painting bright circles on the dark underbrush. Traffic roared overhead on the Eighth Street on-ramp to the Broken Arrow Expressway. “Nobody’s here,” announced Allison Huckabee, a caseworker for Family & Children’s Services. “That’s good.” Part of a nationwide effort to count the homeless population, organizers chose late January for a reason:— the overnight temperatures drive people into shelters, where head-counts are easy.

Read more from the Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

For years, the Legislature has taken a tough-on-crime stance, adding felony after felony to the criminal code and applauding every time the state sentences another nonviolent offender to 20 years in prison. At the same time, our Legislature has also cut public safety funding and told corrections employees and Highway Patrol troopers they’d have to wait on pay raises, but they could apply for food stamps.

– Journal Record columnist M. Scott Carter in a recent editorial

Number of the Day


The number of homeless people counted in an overnight Oklahoma City census in 2013

Source: Homeless Alliance via NewsOK

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Mind the Gap: Women in Dire Need of Health Insurance

This report demonstrates the risk the coverage gap poses to low-income women’s health by examining the dramatic differences in health care access and preventive services utilization between low-income women who will be stuck in this coverage gap — unless their state changes course — versus those who have access to coverage. More specifically, this analysis of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data from 2012 finds that women in the coverage gap also experience a health care gap. In general, low-income women without health insurance are significantly less likely to access basic health care services on a regular basis and are less likely to use important preventive services than women who have similarly low incomes but who are covered by public or private health insurance.

Read more at the National Women’s Law Center

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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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