In The Know: April 29, 2011

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, twenty Tulsa-area parents are suing 4 Oklahoma school districts that have refused to comply with a new state law creating vouchers for special-needs students to attend private schools. House Speaker Kris Steele said there won’t be further disciplinary action against Rep. Sally Kern after she apologized for comments on the House floor that women and African Americans don’t work as hard as white men. The OK Policy Blog discusses the negative effects of growing inequality in Oklahoma. Sara Jane Rose of Sally’s List questions whether Oklahoma’s low percentage of women in the state legislature may be contributing to some chronic problems for the state.

The State Regents have formed a group to reassess the formula for how higher education funding is divided between Oklahoma colleges and universities. A new statewide initiative is seeking to reduce the number of optional early deliveries in Oklahoma, which may be contributing to the state’s high infant mortality rate. NewsOK looks at a dispute over releasing Merit Protection Commission records and calls for state officials to improve their understanding of the Open Records Act.

In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities gives 5 reasons why cutting state taxes on businesses won’t create jobs.

In The News

Parents of special-needs students sue 4 districts

Twenty Tulsa-area parents are suing Broken Arrow, Union, Jenks and Tulsa public school districts for refusing to provide scholarships to their special needs children to attend private schools. The lawsuit was filed Monday in the Tulsa-based U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma. It names each school district, its school board clerk and its superintendent as defendants. The lawsuit follows a protracted fight after five area school boards voted last fall not to comply with the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act, or House Bill 3393.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Rep Kern apologizes for comments, won’t be disciplined

State Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, apparently faces no disciplinary action after issuing an apology Thursday for her controversial statements on the House floor. The state NAACP had called for Kern’s resignation over a 10-minute speech Wednesday night in which she said women and minorities generally earn less than white men because they don’t work as hard or have as much initiative. House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said he did not think disciplinary action was warranted. Steele said he thought the apology was enough, that she handled it appropriately and that a public reprimand was not necessary.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: Video of the debate on the House floor

Inequality Matters: How growing disparities erode public structures and political community

David Stockmann was director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Reagan and once a leading advocate of supply-side economics. Yet In a recent New York Times op-ed, he makes a point most frequently heard from liberals and progressives: America is in a period of rapidly and steeply rising inequality. Stockmann contends that both federal budget proposals, one by President Obama and the other by Republican Congessman Paul Ryan, would bring the nation “dangerously close to class war.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Oklahoma 49th for proportion of women in state legislature

If a society’s health were measured by the health of its women and children, then Oklahoma is on life support. The statistical rankings regarding (#1)women’s incarceration (#1), child abuse deaths (#5), and teen pregnancy to mention a few, consistently designate us as one of the nation’s unhealthiest states for women and children (and by extension, men.) While the reasons for this sad state of affairs are many, there is one area in particular that is being directly addressed by Sally’s List, a group founded in 2010. Neighboring states (Kansas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Texas) all boast anywhere from 21-28 percent female representation in their legislatures, while Colorado comes in at a whopping 40 percent. At 12.8 percent female representation, Oklahoma ranks 49th in the country.

Read more from this City Sentinel article at

Oklahoma college presidents will evaluate higher ed funding formula

The State Regents for Higher Education have formed a group to evaluate the funding formula that determines how much money regents allocate to each public college and university. Eleven presidents from Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities will serve on the committee, called the Higher Education Funding Formula Task Force. The current formula is designed to provide schools with a consistent funding base so they can plan their budgets. Each school receives a base allocation that remains about the same from year to year. To calculate how they will distribute new money that is allocated from the Legislature, regents consider program growth and funding levels at peer institutions within the state, as well as in other states.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma initiative targets option early births

An increase in the number of early Cesarean deliveries and induced labor without a medical cause is a factor in Oklahoma’s high infant death rate, medical experts said at a news conference Thursday. Health Commissioner Terry Cline said inducing labor or scheduling Cesarean births before 39 weeks of gestation when there are no medical reasons to do so can have health and economic consequences for newborns and their families. The Oklahoma Hospital Association, state Health Department, March of Dimes, OU Health Sciences Center Office of Perinatal Quality Improvement and members from 55 hospitals launched a statewide initiative called Every Week Counts to eliminate early optional deliveries and improve the health of the state’s newborns.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

NewsOK: Abiding by Open Records Act should matter to officials

There appear to be at least three factors at play in the case of a state commission head who initially thwarted the Tulsa World’s efforts to obtain public records from the body. One is a distrust of the media. In explaining why she wouldn’t give the World some of the data it requested last week, Susan Bussey, executive director of the Merit Protection Commission, said she didn’t want the newspaper to be reckless with it and perhaps harm an employee’s career. However, the law doesn’t allow public officials to deny an Open Records request because of concerns over how that data may be used.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

I taught school for 20 years, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t want to work as hard. They wanted it given to them. … Women usually don’t want to work as hard as a man. Women tend to think a little bit more about their family, wanting to be at home more time, wanting to have a little more leisure time.

State Rep. Sally Kern, who apologized for her comments made during debate in the House after they received national attention.

Number of the Day


Visits to state parks in Oklahoma in 2007.

Source: U.S. Census, State and Metropolitan Area Data Book

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Five reasons why states can’t create jobs by cutting business taxes

Despite large budget shortfalls, states like Florida, Michigan, and New Jersey are considering new business tax cuts in the hope that this will generate job growth.  This strategy isn’t likely to work, for several reasons. States’ balanced-budget requirements mean that they will have to pay for this loss of tax revenue by raising taxes elsewhere or reducing services.  But if states have to cut way back in the number of teachers or cops on the beat or do without needed maintenance for roads and bridges, they’ll become less competitive.  Businesses aren’t attracted to states that lack services that they value, from good schools to well-maintained infrastructure.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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