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In The Know: Higher education regents seek $128 million budget increase

by | December 8th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

Today In The News

Higher education regents seek $128 million budget increase: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education will ask the Legislature for a $128 million increase in funding to the state’s colleges and universities. The regents voted Thursday to request $901.9 million for fiscal year 2019, an increase of 16.6 percent over the current fiscal year’s appropriation of $773.6 million. [AP] Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education request funding increase to restore lost faculty, scholarships [The Oklahoman]Higher education funding cuts continue to drive up tuition and threaten college access [OK Policy]

Fallin sets second special session date: Gov. Mary Fallin has called for a second special session of the 2017 Oklahoma Legislature, announcing today that lawmakers will return Monday, Dec. 18. Her press release noted she has not yet filed an executive order for the second special session. [NonDoc] Blue Christmas: Legislature summoned to Capitol for another try [Journal Record] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]

Prison population continues to test limits: The state’s prison system as a whole is packed past capacity, but the women’s institutions are even more so. There are about seven times as many men incarcerated in Oklahoma as there are women. But when the Department of Corrections made its budget request for the next fiscal year, officials asked to increase beds by the same amount for each population. Officials recommended building two medium-security facilities with 2,000 beds, one for women and one for men. [Journal Record] Despite warnings, little has been done to ease prison and jail overcrowding [OK Policy]

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Oklahoma’s urban justice systems are set for big changes. But who will fix rural jails?

by | December 7th, 2017 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (0)

While Oklahoma’s overcrowded prisons get most of the attention, nearly all of the important decisions on a criminal case have been made long before a person enters prison. Local law enforcement is responsible for arresting people who break the law and deciding who goes to jail, who receives a citation, and who gets a warning. Local District Attorneys decide who gets charged and how serious those charges are. Local judges and jail officials decide who gets released and who stays in jail as a person waits for their case to be resolved.

Fortunately in the last few years, stakeholders in both Oklahoma County and Tulsa County have begun large-scale projects to study the challenges facing their justice systems and to propose changes aimed at reducing jail populations and making court processes more efficient. The efforts, largely funded and spearheaded by philanthropists in each city, are broad, ambitious, and likely to have deep and positive impacts on the way justice is done in Oklahoma’s two urban counties.

While these efforts should be celebrated, they also raise important questions. Are the issues with our two urban justice systems, as identified by researchers (detailed below), also present in suburban and rural counties? If so, who will champion local justice reform there? As our urban counties embark on their justice reform efforts, Oklahomans must demand that these issues are also addressed for the majority of citizens who live outside Oklahoma and Tulsa counties. 

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In The Know: Governor To Call Special Session Before End Of The Year

by | December 7th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

Today In The News

Governor To Call Special Session Before End Of The Year: Governor Fallin says she will call a special session this month to fill a roughly $110-million budget shortfall. Lawmakers couldn’t agree on tax increases during regular session, the main sticking point, the tax on oil and natural gas, called gross production tax. With the clock running down, Republicans pulled a Hail Mary and passed an unconstitutional tobacco tax. That left the state $215-million in the hole. [News9] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]

House committee to hold first meeting in Dept. of Health investigation Monday: The House Special Investigation Committee plans to meet Monday to begin discussions on apparent mismanagement at the Oklahoma Department of Health. The committee, headed by State Rep. Josh Cockroft, is looking into the mismanagement of $30 million taxpayer dollars at the OSDH. [Fox25]

More than a million children could lose their health insurance next year: Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program ran out at the end of September. Though the program enjoys bipartisan support, it has still gotten caught up in the political battles playing out on Capitol Hill. [CNN Money] State Plans for CHIP as Federal CHIP Funds Run Out [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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Spending labeled ‘non-instruction’ is wrongly characterized as waste (Guest post: Senator Ron Sharp)

by | December 6th, 2017 | Posted in Education | Comments (1)

Senator Ron Sharp

Senator Ron Sharp is a Republican representing Senate District 17, which includes parts of Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties. Senator Sharp is now in his sixth year in office. He is Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Governor Fallin has requested through an Executive Order that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) submit a report showing non-instructional costs compared to instructional costs of the state’s 515 public school districts. This report is due to her office by September 2018.

Legislators debated during special session that before additional revenue is raised, any waste in spending should be eliminated. One concern by some legislators was the lack of efficiency of public school districts that were not using at least 60 percent of state funding on classroom instruction. Gov. Fallin used this 60 percent mark in her Executive Order.

The purpose of this report requested by the Governor is to consider the forced consolidation of school districts that fail to meet the 60 percent instructional threshold. However, there is a problem.

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In The Know: Oklahoma County DA charges OKC police officer with second-degree murder

by | December 6th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

Today In The News

Oklahoma County DA charges OKC police officer with second-degree murder: An Oklahoma City police officer was charged Tuesday with second-degree murder, accused of unjustly shooting a suicidal person last month. Keith Patrick Sweeney, 32, is charged in Oklahoma County District Court. District Attorney David Prater filed the charge himself Tuesday morning. Sgt. Sweeney fatally shot Dustin Pigeon, 29, early Nov. 15 after the victim called 911 threatening suicide, police reported [NewsOK]. Building trust with communities can create a safer environment for both law enforcement agencies and citizens [OK Policy].

Oklahoma opponents of federal income tax bills plan state Capitol rally: Some Oklahomans were not happy with the income tax overhaul narrowly approved by the U.S. Senate last Friday night. How many and how angry may be clearer after a 1 p.m. Saturday rally at the state Capitol. Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford were lambasted on Twitter for voting in favor of the GOP-backed bill. Lankford, especially, became the target of stinging and sometimes profane criticism, most of which appeared to come from actual people living in Oklahoma and not bots or professional trolls [Tulsa World]. How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan [OK Policy].

House committee to hold first meeting in Dept. of Health investigation Monday: The House Special Investigation Committee plans to meet Monday to begin discussions on apparent mismanagement at the Oklahoma Department of Health. The committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 11 with the former director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services Preston Doerflinger, acting director of the Department of Health, Denise Northrup, acting director of the OMES, and Chris Benge, chief of staff for Governor Mary Fallin [KOKH].

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The cost of denying paid sick leave

Am I too sick to work? Can I take the day off? For many Oklahomans, the answer to these questions is usually “no.” Private employers are not required to offer paid sick leave to their employees in Oklahoma. In the last legislative session two bills that would have required paid sick leave in the state were introduced — HB 1310 by Rep. Walke (D-Oklahoma City) and HB 1536 by Rep. Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City). Neither bill was even allowed a vote in their House committees, and that’s unfortunate. Sick leave will be needed by almost all workers at some time – to recover from an illness or to care for a sick child or family member. Denying workers the right to paid sick leave creates big costs for all of us.

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In The Know: Legislature in limbo as Fallin delays calling second special session

by | December 5th, 2017 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

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.

Today In The News

Legislature in limbo as Fallin delays calling second special session: Lawmakers and their families are living in a state of limbo as Gov. Mary Fallin continues to delay calling a second special session. Family trips have been postponed or are on the chopping block and outside jobs are stalled as Oklahomans wait on Fallin to announce when she’d like lawmakers to return to the Capitol to hash out a new budget agreement. “Honestly, it’s frustrating,” said state Rep. John Paul Jordan, R-Yukon. “It makes it very difficult planning-wise. We’re hopeful that the dates for special session get called with a plan in place this time.” [CNHI] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Q&A: Tax bill impacts on health law coverage and Medicare: The tax overhaul Republicans are pushing toward final votes in Congress could undermine the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance markets and add to the financial squeeze on Medicare over time. Lawmakers will meet this week to resolve differences between the House- and Senate-passed bills in hopes of getting a finished product to President Donald Trump’s desk around Christmas. Also in play are the tax deduction for people with high medical expenses, and a tax credit for drug companies that develop treatments for serious diseases affecting relatively few patients [AP]. How Oklahomans would fare under the Congressional GOP tax plan [OK Policy].

House Speaker blaming Medicaid provider cuts on Gov. Fallin’s budget veto: An Oklahoma lawmaker is calling out Gov. Mary Fallin, blaming her for recent Medicaid provider cuts. On Friday, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority voted to reduce reimbursement rates for its providers. The board passed a 6% reduction for medical care and 1% for nursing facilities Friday [KFOR].

Inside a judge’s rehab: Unpaid work at a local Coca-Cola plant: Retired Oklahoma Judge Thomas Landrith is hailed as a hero of criminal justice reform. He started the first rural drug court in the nation and has reaped awards for sending defendants to treatment rather than prison. Most judges in the state model their drug courts after his. But Landrith also is involved in a more sinister byproduct of criminal justice reform [Reveal].

Oklahoma City halfway house contract canceled after inmate death: The Oklahoma Department of Correction has ended its contract with the operator of an Oklahoma City halfway house after officials say lax oversight led to an inmate’s death. Department Director Joe Allbaugh said Monday that Catalyst Behavioral Services did not “conduct necessary functions effectively,” including allowing inmates to come and go without accountability. Allbaugh says inmate Justin Sullivan left the facility Nov. 11 and was not noticed missing until after Ardmore police found his and a woman’s burned bodies in a charred vehicle [AP].

Despite Objections, Oklahoma Schools Use ‘Seclusion Rooms’ to Isolate Students: A controversial practice of shutting children alone in small closet-like rooms to control their behavior has led Oklahoma parents to withdraw their children from school, seek police intervention and take legal action. School officials give the rooms benign-sounding names like “blue room,” “cool-down room” or “de-escalation room” and say they’re intended to provide a healthy temporary separation. But many parents and child advocates say the practice is like being locked in a closet, and some liken it to solitary confinement in prison [Oklahoma Watch].

OKC school board votes to keep existing calendar: Oklahoma City Public Schools, at the request of its leader, will reprise a committee to study the district’s calendar in an effort to find a model that maximizes student learning and teacher retention. School board members debated the pros and cons of the continuous calendar — which includes an early August start date and two-week breaks in October and March — before voting 7-1 to keep it for the 2018-19 school year and reinstate the district’s calendar committee in the spring [NewsOK].

Indian education officials meet with school leaders in Oklahoma: Long accused of under serving thousands of Native American students, the federal agency that oversees 183 Indian schools across the country — including five in Oklahoma — is working to establish a new direction. Officials with the Bureau of Indian Education held a town hall Tuesday at Riverside Indian School in Anadarko to present a draft of a new strategic plan, inviting feedback from educators and tribal leaders [NewsOK].

12 States Launch New Legal Challenge To California Egg Law: A dozen states want the U.S. Supreme Court to block a California law requiring any eggs sold there to come from hens that have space to stretch out in their cages. The Missouri attorney general says a lawsuit will be filed Monday alleging California’s law has cost consumers nationwide up to $350 million annually because of higher egg prices since it took effect in 2015. The lawsuit claims California’s requirements violate the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and are pre-empted by federal law [AP].

Quote of the Day

“We send them into school, and we trust these other adults have been trained to deal with these problems … and they do these outrageous things and we don’t know.”

– Jennifer Ashford, a mother who in 2010 sued the Edmond Public Schools district over their practice of shutting students alone in small closet-like rooms to control their behavior (Source)

Number of the Day

45%

Percentage of school-age children in the Idabel Public Schools district living in poverty, the highest percentage of all districts in Oklahoma.

Source: OK Policy analysis of U.S. Census data

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Bronx Charity Founder Wants to Pay Bail for Poor Defendants Nationwide: In the last 10 years, a small charity called the Bronx Freedom Fund has donated bail money to thousands of poor New Yorkers charged with crimes, freeing them from jail and helping them avoid the dispiriting delays of backlogged local courts as they wait to go on trial. Now, after a decade in operation, the founder of the Freedom Fund is set to announce a new and unprecedented effort: the nation’s first fund designed to post bail for more than 150,000 indigent defendants being jailed across the country [New York Times].

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In The Know: SoonerCare providers get smaller rate cuts, but warn it’s not enough

by | December 4th, 2017 | Posted in Blog | Comments (2)

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.

Today In The News

SoonerCare providers get smaller rate cuts, but warn it’s not enough: SoonerCare providers won’t lose as much as they had expected to, but neither they nor the state board that pays them were satisfied with going halfway. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority lost $70 million when the state Supreme Court struck down the $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax. A budget bill at the end of the special session in November restored $22.8 million for the authority, which oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, called SoonerCare [NewsOK]. McCall ousts OHCA chairman [Journal Record]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]. 

Governor Pushes For Consolidation, But School Leaders Say ‘Administration’ Isn’t Waste: Education leaders in Oklahoma say Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order on school consolidation oversimplified a very complicated issue. The November 21 order directs school districts that don’t spend at least 60 percent of their budget on instruction to consolidate administrative staff with other districts. A strict interpretation of this rule would force most Oklahoma school districts to cut an administrator, or a support staff person, and then find a way to split that cost with a neighboring district [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy]. Two big myths that distort Oklahoma’s education funding debate [OK Policy].

Can small-town Oklahoma be saved by its immigrants? When Soila Medina arrived in rural Texas County, Oklahoma, in the 1990s, the seventh-grader, daughter of two Mexican immigrants, looked around her classroom and saw hardly anybody who looked like her. That is no longer the case. The schools in Guymon, the county seat, are now 70 percent Hispanic and have expanded English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for their students, who at home speak some 27 different languages, from Armenian and Arabic to Burmese and Tagalog [OZY]. The average Oklahoman probably doesn’t know much about Texas County, OK (other than that it is next to Texas) [OK Policy].

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The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education

by | December 1st, 2017 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

Due to holiday and staff travel, this is the first Weekly Wonk in two weeks, and as such, it’s a big one. 

This Week from OK Policy

 Oklahoma once again leads the nation in education cuts and Policy Director Gene Perry wrote about it. Perry also wrote that the Congressional tax plan would take  Oklahoma’s budget woes national and that the state EITC has been an unfortunate victim of the state’s budget gridlock. A new report by Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler examines options to rebuild trust between law enforcement and Oklahoma communities.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt argued that, despite appearances to the contrary, the tax debate has shifted enormously at the state Legislature. Our post responding to frequently asked questions about the special session(s) has been updated

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam described how one Oklahoma school district is using school meals to fight childhood hunger. In a World AIDS Day guest post, Andy Moore urged Oklahomans to speak up about HIV. On Black Friday, we introduced our first OK Policy Holiday Gift Guide, which is entirely books. 

OK Policy in the News

Recent Democratic wins in Oklahoma drew the attention of both The Atlantic and New York Magazine, and Blatt is quoted in both. He also spoke to NewsOK about why Senator Lankford should oppose the Congressional tax bill, defended Governor Fallin’s veto of the Legislature’s “cash and cuts” bill at the end of the first special session, disputed suggestions that lawmakers should have greater control over program spending, and weighed in on a recent downgrade of Oklahoma’s credit rating. Perry’s analysis of education funding was cited in Ben Felder’s Morning Bell blog on NewsOK. 

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On World AIDS Day, a call to speak up

by | December 1st, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Andy Moore is the Clinic Administrator for the Infectious Diseases Institute at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, organizer of the OKC AIDS Coalition, and member of the board of trustees for the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund.

In June of 1981, five men walked into a Los Angeles emergency room and were diagnosed with a rare type of skin cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Over the next several months, dozens more presented with either KS or a similarly rare type of pneumonia, pneumocystis carinii. Questions swirled even as words like “wasting,” “AIDS,” and “death” became used with increased frequency on the evening news. By 1995, more than half a million people in the U.S. were infected with HIV. Today, that number is closer to 1.2 million, including an estimated 6,000 Oklahomans.

A lot has changed over the 36 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. What began as an unknown virus with no treatment that killed patients within a few years is now an intensely-studied, well-understood, chronic infection that can be managed by multiple advanced medication regimens that are tailored to the individual patient. Testing for the disease can be done for as little as $5 and as quickly as one minute, making outreach and diagnosis easier than ever. Smartphones and social media enable the public to find testing and treatment near them by simply sending a text. And due to these advancements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, people are living with HIV not just for years, but for decades.

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