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In The Know: Teacher’s union ends walkout, switching focus to elections

by | April 16th, 2018 | 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.

In The News

Teacher’s union ends walkout, switching focus to elections: Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest said educators were able to secure $479 million in funding for the upcoming school year, and will now shift their focus to the upcoming election season and sending smaller delegations of teachers to continue to advocate at the Capitol. [CNHI] ‘We have unfinished business’: Despite calls from union to end walkout, teachers return Friday to the Capitol [Tulsa World] Walkout resulted in major victories for education, but the work is not done [OK Policy]

Skyler Moore and more than 7,000 Oklahomans have been waiting for years for state help, but will the Legislature come through?: In Oklahoma, 7,634 people with IQs below 70 are on a waiting list for Medicaid-funded Department of Human Services assistance. Like Skyler, nearly 1,700 of those people have been waiting more than 10 years. It’s a statewide problem. In Tulsa County, 1,379 people are on the waiting list and 325 of them have been pending for 10 years or more. [Wayne Greene/Tulsa World] Take a number: Oklahomans with disabilities face devastating delays [OK Policy]

Oklahoma colleges enroll record numbers of Hispanic students: As Oklahoma’s Hispanic population grows, so does the number of Latino students at the state’s public colleges and universities. Many report they are the first in their family to attend college. [The Oklahoman]

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The Weekly Wonk: Education funding package a good start, but there’s still work to do

by | April 14th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Weekly Wonk | 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.

OK Policy is hiring! Click here for more information or to apply to be our new Operations & Development Associate.  Applications are due by April 23rd.

This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy released a new fact sheet on the recent education funding package – the funding approved by lawmakers for education is just a start and doesn’t come close to fully funding education. Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite has said they will lead an initiative to overturn the tax increases in that funding package, and Executive Director David Blatt explained how that might work. Blatt’s Journal Record column reminded us that the education movement we’ve been watching for the last weeks was a long time in the making.

Policy Analyst Ryan Genztler updated us on the progress in criminal justice reform – the now watered down Justice Reform Task Force measured will not be enough to avoid the need for at least one new prison. Blatt pointed out that Oklahoma has made progress on collecting sales tax on online purchases. And don’t forget to check out our Bill Watch post to see what we’ll be following next week.

OK Policy in the News

Genztler spoke with Public Radio International about the dysfunction in Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. Blatt talked with the Washington Post and The Intercept about the connection between years of tax cuts and the recent teacher walkout. Blatt also spoke with CNHI about ending the capital gains deduction in Oklahoma. OK Policy data was used by Vox, Think Progress, the Tulsa World, and KFOR.

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Bill Watch: Next week in #okleg | April 13, 2018

by | April 13th, 2018 | Posted in Bill Watch | Comments (3)

In our weekly Bill Watch post, we discuss what happened and what to look for in the bills we’re following most closely in the Oklahoma Legislature. Next Thursday (April 19th) is the deadline for Senate bills assigned to make it through the House Appropriations and Budget committee. As of yesterday, all other bills are dead unless they have passed one chamber and their assigned committee in the opposite chamber (except some special cases that are exempt from the deadlines). See our advocacy alerts page for more ways to take action on these issues. 

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In The Know: OEA says capitol rallies ‘have achieved all that we will be able to accomplish’

by | April 13th, 2018 | 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

OEA: Capitol Rallies ‘Have Achieved All That We Will Be Able to Accomplish’: On day nine of the Oklahoma teacher walkout, the Oklahoma Education Association held a press conference this afternoon to announce that classes will be resuming across the state and that educators “must turn our attention towards November” [NonDoc]. OPEA: State employees will no longer participate in walkout at Capitol [KFOR]. Oklahoma house, senate adjourn with no new action on school funding [News6]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Statement: Walkout Resulted in Major Victories for Education, but the Work Is Not Done: Teachers and other participants in the historic walkout to save Oklahoma schools deserve our thanks. This walkout was responsible for breaking years of legislative gridlock and motivating a supermajority of lawmakers to approve the tax increases needed to raise teacher pay for the first time in a decade. During the walkout, advocates delivered a loud and clear message heard by the whole state that we must do more to support schools. The walkout was the continuation of years of growing action by a broad coalition of educators, parents, school boards, and regular Oklahomans. These efforts will continue, because the work of funding core services is not done [OKPolicy]. 

Fact Sheet: Is Education Fully Funded?: Last month, lawmakers approved a package of funding increases that included pay raises for teachers (HB 1023xx), school support staff (HB 1026xx), and state workers (HB 1024xx), along with additional money for school operations and increases in the flexible benefit allowance for school employees (HB 3705). They have also passed a number of measures that generate new tax revenues (HB 1010xx, HB 1011xx, and HB 3375) to pay for the additional funding. There has been considerable debate as to whether the new revenue fully funds the new spending commitments. Here’s what you should know [OKPolicy]. 

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Will the teacher raise be delayed by a veto petition?

by | April 12th, 2018 | Posted in Education, Taxes | Comments (19)

Tom Coburn speaking at OK Taxpayers Unite press conference

[Note: The post has been edited to correct the information regarding HB 1024xx]

On March 28th, just hours before Oklahoma Senators were to vote on pay raises for teachers and other employees funded by new taxes, a group calling themselves “Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite” held a press conference at the State Capitol. Led by former-U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, the group warned lawmakers that they would lead a citizen initiative to overturn any tax increase. Senators disregarded the warning by approving HB 1010xx with the three-quarters support needed for revenue bills, and the Governor quickly signed the measure into law on  March 29th. But is the tax increase – the first to be approved by Oklahoma lawmakers in over 25 years – now in danger of being overturned at the ballot and dragging the pay raises down with it?

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In The Know: More than 450 file to run for state, federal offices

by | April 12th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know].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

Candidate Filing Day 1: More Than 450 File to Run for State, Federal Offices on Wednesday: The line stretched far out the west entrance of the Capitol when filing for state and federal offices began at 8 a.m. Wednesday. When the doors closed nine hours later, 458 Oklahomans had passed through the portal from bystander to candidate. The figure was by far the highest single-day total since at least 2000 [Tulsa World]. Two ‘Big Tent’ parties draw candidates for first day of filing [NonDoc]. A still unknown yet rapidly multiplying number of teachers will run for office this year [The Frontier]. See the list of candidates who have filed here.

Oklahoma Teachers Strike Set to Enter Ninth Consecutive Day: Massive teacher protests at the Oklahoma state Capitol have done more than put political pressure on lawmakers: The situation has forced school districts, churches, community organizations and parents to improvise to take care of students. The state’s largest two school districts will be closed for a ninth consecutive day Thursday, matching the length of a walkout in West Virginia earlier this year that started a rebellion of teachers in some Republican-led states including Kentucky and Arizona [USA Today]. Oklahoma’s striking teachers seek more funds, republicans say they are done [Reuters]. Walkout Day 8: Some teachers vowing to continue as OEA signals possible end to work stoppage [Tulsa World]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Sources: House GOP, OEA Working on Deal to Potentially End Walkout: Oklahoma House Republicans and the Oklahoma Education Association are working on a deal that could potentially end the teacher walkout, sources confirmed with KOCO 5. House Republicans and the OEA are working out language to a House resolution, which lawmakers could vote on this week. Multiple sources said that lawmakers would take $100 million from growth revenue next year and appropriate it to education in 2020’s budget [KOCO]. After demands are rebuffed, Oklahoma teachers union issues new demand [KOSU].

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Passing revised justice reform measures is necessary but not nearly enough

by | April 11th, 2018 | Posted in Criminal Justice | Comments (1)

After criminal justice advocates’ hopes of real reform were dashed at the end of the 2017 session, many were hopeful that 2018 would be the year Oklahoma got serious about criminal justice reform. With the governor and legislative leaders expressing their support and key obstacles out of the way, things appeared to be lining up for the proposals put forth last year by Gov. Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force (JRTF). Although those bills now appear to be advancing towards final passage, they have been weakened to overcome the opposition of District Attorneys. Though the bills are expected to avert most, but not all, prison growth over the next 10 years, the Department of Corrections (DOC) will still require one new prison.

Simultaneously, legislative leaders have also signaled in recent weeks that they could issue a bond to build new prisons at a cost of up to $800 million. While DOC is in desperate need of space to reduce the dangerous overcrowding in its facilities, it is disappointing that this is being considered when there are hugely significant and relatively cheap solutions to reduce the number of people in Oklahoma’s prisons.

While even the weakened task force measures represent a significant accomplishment, it’s far from sufficient to confront the deep problems in our justice system. If new prison facilities are approved, they must be tightly paired with closing old ones. The worst possible outcome would be to increase our capacity to incarcerate more Oklahomans while settling for weakened reforms with no next steps.

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In The Know: Over teacher objections, Fallin signs hotel tax repeal

by | April 11th, 2018 | 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

Over teacher objections, Fallin signs hotel tax repeal: Gov. Mary Fallin has signed the repeal of a hotel/motel tax, rejecting one of the demands made by teachers who have spent more than a week marching on the Oklahoma Capitol. Teachers asked the governor to veto the bill, which amends an earlier revenue measure adopted by lawmakers and signed by Fallin. Conservative members of the Senate agreed to support a new 5 percent tax rate on oil and gas production if Republican leadership promised to advance this measure [NewsOK]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Key revenue measures hit roadblocks in Oklahoma: As teachers pinned their walkout hopes on the repeal of a controversial capital gains deduction, the measure’s author said Tuesday that it should not advance. “I have no desire to run the bill or vote for the bill,” said state Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville. Also on Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin approved the repeal of a $5 per night hotel/motel occupancy tax [CNHI]. The real cost of the capital gains deduction could be much more than $100 million, but we have good options for reform [OK Policy].

Moody’s says tax increase does not solve Oklahoma’s ‘structural deficit’: A report by Moody’s Investors Service said Tuesday that recent million tax increases expected to raise more than $500 million are “a credit positive” for Oklahoma but do not completely solve the state’s “structural deficit.” “The matching of new expenditures with new revenues demonstrates fiscal responsibility, but a moderate structural deficit persists,” the report says [Tulsa World].

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Oklahoma makes progress on collecting taxes from online sales

by | April 10th, 2018 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (0)

This session has seen the Oklahoma Legislature take a couple of important steps towards addressing the problem of untaxed online sales. These bills and reforms from earlier sessions are moving Oklahoma closer to an even playing field when it comes to taxation of online purchases versus purchases in brick-and-mortar stores. But it’s an impending decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that offers the best hope for a real and lasting solution to the problem.

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In The Know: Oklahoma teachers’ walkout gains momentum in its 2nd week

by | April 10th, 2018 | Posted in In The Know | Comments (1)

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 teachers’ walkout gains momentum in its 2nd week: Emboldened by support from across the country, Oklahoma teachers swarmed the state Capitol for a second week in their unrelenting quest for more school funding. And by some accounts, Monday’s crowd was the biggest yet. Hundreds of schools closed Monday as teachers demanded $150 million more to replace dilapidated, decades-old textbooks and fund elective courses [CNN]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Nearly 200 female attorneys march to statehouse as protesters crowd Capitol again: Nearly 200 female attorneys descended Monday on the state Capitol in an attempt to resolve a statewide teacher walkout that appeared to surge in strength in its sixth day. Dressed in all black and led by a high school drumline, the lawyers made their way about 10 a.m. from the Oklahoma Bar Association’s office through thousands of cheering teachers who lined their path along Lincoln Boulevard to the Capitol [Tulsa World].

State agencies say they have funding needs, too: Teachers rallying for education have been grabbing the headlines, but other state agencies say they have funding needs, too. Following years of budget cuts, the heads of agencies that serve the state’s most vulnerable populations of mentally ill, abused children and prison inmates talk of the need for millions of dollars in additional funding [NewsOK].

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