In The Know: An attack on Oklahoma’s poorest parents; OK nearing 2,900 nonaccredited teachers; legal settlement increases voter registration…

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.

New from OK Policy

Fine arts education matters: how shrinking budgets deepen inequalities: Oklahomans know every student needs access to quality public education.  Unfortunately, our state has struggled to uphold this commitment.  While all areas of public education have suffered from slashed education funding over the past decade, budget cuts have hit fine arts education especially hard.  In the 2017-2018 school year, Oklahoma had 1,110 fewer art and music classes than four years prior, leaving 28 percent of all Oklahoma public school students without access to fine arts classes. [OK Policy]

In The News

Medicaid work requirements target Oklahoma’s poorest: Oklahoma is joining a short list of states pursuing Medicaid work requirements without expanding access to the program, meaning the requirements will apply only to very low-income parents. More than a dozen states have sought the necessary permission from the federal government to require residents to work or volunteer as a condition for Medicaid coverage. [Journal Record] Previously on the OK Policy blog, why Oklahoma’s plan for Medicaid work requirements is a dangerous experiment that will put the health of thousands of Oklahomans at risk.

Teacher shortage: Oklahoma nearing 2,900 nonaccredited teachers working with emergency certification: Oklahoma’s public schools are edging toward 2,900 nonaccredited teachers working in classrooms with emergency certifications from the state. The slate of items the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved Tuesday morning included 36 such emergency certifications. This growing reliance by school districts on these new hires who have not yet completed the state’s requirements for either traditional or alternative certification is one of the strongest indicators that the statewide teacher shortage has not yet reached bottom. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma voter registration increases after Election Board settlement: The number of Oklahomans registering to vote at public service agencies has tripled over the last three years with voting rights advocates crediting a settlement with the state Election Board. In 2014, a coalition of state and national organizations threatened the Oklahoma State Election Board with a lawsuit unless it did more to help citizens register to vote at various public offices, such as those that administer food assistance, as required by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). [NewsOK ????]

Federal homeless report shows successes, deficits in Oklahoma: Although the state’s homeless population declined over the past year, more people are spending nights on Oklahoma’s streets, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Oklahoma saw a 7.8 percent decline in overall homelessness over the past year, and a 26 percent drop since 2010, according to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, released Monday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. [NewsOK ????]

McCall announces leadership appointments: House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall, R-Oklahoma City, has announced the first round of leadership appointments to serve during the 57th Legislature, naming the majority floor leader, majority whip, budget chair, majority leaders and deputy floor leaders. [Journal Record ????]

2 bills would update state’s election laws: Two lawmakers hope their colleagues finally will agree to update two of the state’s election laws in 2019. While one measure would eliminate the state’s straight-party voting option, the second seeks to expand a law that requires employers give employees two hours paid time off to vote on Election Day. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Legislation calls for stronger oversight of virtual charter schools: An Oklahoma state senator wants to place more accountability on virtual charter schools, but it will likely be an uphill battle. State Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, has authored several pieces of legislation that would alter regulations governing the state’s virtual charter schools. [Journal Record ????]

Commission recommends overhaul of Oklahoma Investment/New Jobs Tax Credit, repeal of others: The group reviewing Oklahoma’s various economic incentives is recommending lawmakers overhaul one the state has $557 million in liabilities for and fully repeal three others. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Unprecedented jump in teen vaping concerns local officials: Broken Arrow High School Senior Principal Larry Lewis has observed more students with e-cigarettes this year than ever before. Some students attempt to vape in restrooms, during passing periods and, brazenly, in the classroom. [Tulsa World]

More Oklahomans get flu shot after severe flu season last year: It’s too early to know whether Oklahoma will face another difficult flu season this year, but reports suggest more people are trying to protect themselves. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 152 people had been hospitalized with complications from flu between Sept. 1 and Dec. 11. Seven people have died. [NewsOK]

A misguided targeting of Oklahoma prenatal care funding: In 2003, a conservative member of the Legislature authored a bill to provide in-state college tuition to Oklahoma children of illegal immigrants, arguing the youths shouldn’t be punished for their parents’ actions. He was right. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Family seeks answers after son’s death in Grady County jail: Oklahoma and the Grady County Law Enforcement Center was only supposed to be a short layover for Justin Xaochay Thao. Instead, Thao died in an Oklahoma hospital after jailers found him unresponsive in a jail shower. He never regained consciousness, leaving his family with unanswered questions about what happened. [The Frontier]

Supreme Court reiterates its opinion that counties can’t regulate oil and gas operations: Kingfisher County commissioners were able to get Oklahoma’s Supreme Court to reconsider an order it issued in mid-November that handed a victory to oil and gas operators by ruling state law gives the Oklahoma Corporation Commission exclusive authority to oversee the industry’s operations. However, an order it issued Monday to replace the original added more specificity to its decision favoring the industry in a battle that pits it against both regulators and at least some residents in the county. [NewsOK]

Tulsa Area United Way funding upstart programs to offer new solutions to old problem: Funding efforts to create “new and exciting” ways to address long-term problems, the Tulsa Area United Way will give nearly $300,000 to help four start-up social service programs get off the ground in 2019, officials announced Tuesday. The winners include Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, which will develop a mediation program to help families facing evictions to stay in their homes. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“This is squarely directed at the poorest families in Oklahoma. They rarely say the word ‘parents,’ but that’s who we’re talking about here. We’re talking about families who are homeless, who are near homeless, who are in a great deal of turmoil already.”

-Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, speaking about the Oklahomans who are threatened with losing their health care under Oklahoma’s proposed Medicaid work reporting rules [Source: Journal Record]

Number of the Day


12-month growth in jobs in Oklahoma’s mining and logging sector (which includes the oil and gas industry) as of October 2018.

[Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The benefits of this ‘strong economy’ have not reached all Americans: Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve and one of the world’s top economic leaders, has spent much of 2018 telling people that the U.S. economy is strong and almost “too good to be true.” But last week, he stressed a different message — not everyone has been lifted by faster growth. “The benefits of this strong economy and sound financial system have not reached all Americans,” Powell said in Dec. 3 speech. “The aggregate statistics tend to mask important disparities by income, race and geography.” [Washington Post]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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