In The Know: August 12, 2011

In 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 you should know that the Oklahoma Land Office made a $37 million distribution to common schools, the largest monthly allocation in the agency’s history.  A petition-drive organizer has delivered 25,000 signatures to the governor’s office seeking a pardon for pharmacist Jerome Ersland, convicted of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a wounded, unarmed intruder.  Preliminary state test scores reveal mixed results for Tulsa Public Schools, with more than forty percent of third graders reading below grade level.                    

Oklahoma City officials ended mandatory water rationing, but still encourage voluntary adherence.  Recent rain and cooler temperatures are bringing much-needed relief to local farmers.  Hundreds lined the streets along the funeral route of Edmond-native Jered Ewy, an Oklahoma National Guard soldier killed in combat in Afghanistan.  The Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs writes in The Oklahoman about the difference between farm subsidies for corporate agribusiness, and important investments in rural community development.

A proposal for a 150-megawatt wind farm on Osage County’s prairie was green lighted by the County Board, but still faces stiff opposition from the Osage Nation.  In today’s Policy Note, Energy Secretary Steven Chu released a report detailing consensus-based recommendations for shale gas production.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of registered voters in Oklahoma.

In The News

Oklahoma Land Office makes $37 million schools distribution

The head of an Oklahoma state agency that oversees hundreds of thousands of acres of state-owned lands said a record-level distribution has been made to public schools in the state.  Commissioners of the Land Office Secretary Harry Birdwell said on Thursday the $37 million distributed to public schools last month is the largest single monthly allocation in the agency’s history. More than $29 million of the money went to K-12 schools. The rest went to public colleges and universities.  Land Office officials attribute the boost to increased oil and gas production on school land and higher prices on agriculture and hunting leases.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Preliminary 2011 State Test Scores Show Mixed Results For Tulsa Public Schools

The second largest school district in the state is touting improvements, but a closer look at the numbers reveal Tulsa Public Schools made strides in some areas and lost ground in others. Nearly half of TPS elementary and middle school students who took state tests failed to meet state standards. These are preliminary results and the district is quick to point out some highlights, like a 20 point gain on Algebra One End-of-Instruction exams. But more than 40 percent of third graders are not on grade level and roughly half of sixth-graders are failing.  According to a news release from Tulsa Public Schools, 16 of the 24 schools on last year’s federal needs improvement list increased their total Academic Performance Index scores this year.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Governor gets more petitions supporting former city pharmacist

Petitions delivered Thursday to Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin’s office bring the total to nearly 25,000 seeking a pardon for pharmacist Jerome Ersland.  Jerome Jay Ersland, 59, is serving a life sentence after being convicted last month of first-degree murder for fatally shooting a wounded, unarmed robber two years ago. Ersland maintained he was defending himself and two female co-workers when he shot the robber.  The petition-drive organizer, Karen Monahan, gave petitions signed by 7,252 people to a staff person in Gov. Mary Fallin’s office at the state Capitol. She delivered petitions with 17,066 signatures last month.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma City ends mandatory water rationing; voluntary rotation still encouraged

Oklahoma City ended its mandatory water rationing program Thursday — for now at least — because of a drop in water usage.  Officials still encourage voluntary adherence to the odd-even watering rotation. Water customers with even-numbered addresses are asked to use sprinklers only on even-numbered calendar days and the same for odd-numbered addresses on even-numbered days.  Water use by city utility customers soared to more than 190 million gallons per day in recent weeks, routinely breaking a daily record of 189 million gallons set years ago, city utility spokeswoman Debbie Ragan said. A record of 202 million gallons was set last month.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Rain, Cooler Temperatures Bring Relief For Oklahoma Farmers

Just days ago, it looked like every plant in Oklahoma needed rescuing, but just a few days of rain is enough to help.  Inside his market, you’ll find more vegetables grown in other states.  “It was really difficult to have a crew here and not much to harvest,” Stan Conrad, with Conrad Farms, said.  “We were a little more dependent on them this year,” he said.  So it might surprise you that he’s not expecting to lose any money. Conrad says a few days of good, steady rain is enough to erase the effects of the drought.  He says if cooler weather’s here to stay, even his tomato plants will prosper.  “So if we get this break in the temperature as well as the moisture, this is a healthy enough field to really make a nice fall crop,” he said.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Hundreds Ignore Rain, Show Support For Edmond Soldier Killed In Afghanistan

More than 1,000 people showed up with American flags, signs and pictures to support an Oklahoma National Guard soldier killed in Afghanistan.  A funeral was held Thursday for 2nd Lt. Jered Ewy at Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond. The 33 year old grew up in Edmond. He was killed July 29 when his unit was attacked with homemade bombs. Twenty-two-year-old Oklahoma National Guard Spc. Augustus Vicari of Broken Arrow was also killed in the same attack.  Ewy died during his third tour of Afghanistan.  Hundreds of people lined the street along Ewy’s funeral route to show their support, despite the stormy weather. They waved American flags, signs and pictures of the fallen hero.  President Barack Obama awarded Ewy the purple heart.

Read more from NewsOn6 at

Oversubsidizing and underinvesting in rural America

Federal farm spending will be cut to reduce the federal budget deficit. The question is how.  To date, Congress has oversubsidized the powerful and underinvested in our future. A 2007 Center for Rural Affairs study found that U.S. Department of Agriculture spent more than twice as much to subsidize the 20 largest farms in Oklahoma as it invested in rural development programs to create economic opportunity for the quarter of a million people and 119 towns in the 20 rural Oklahoma counties suffering the worst population loss.

Read more from NewsOK at

Wind farm plan gets OK from Osage County board

A proposal for a 150-megawatt wind farm on Osage County’s prairie was given the green light Thursday night after a public hearing at which sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of the development.  After listening to proponents and opponents of the project, the Osage County Board of Adjustment voted 4-0 to grant a variance to Wind Capital Group of St. Louis to erect 94 wind turbines on land zoned for agriculture west of Pawhuska, near the town of Burbank, on land owned by the Kane, Weyl and Bowen families.  The Osage Nation is powerfully opposed to the wind farm and vowed to stop it by obtaining an injunction in U.S. District Court.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

Quote of the Day

How can we turn something down that’s so clean?

Cathy Bowen, local rancher on plans to develop a 150-megawatt wind farm on Osage County’s prairie

Number of the Day


Registered voters in Oklahoma as of January 2011.

Source: Oklahoma State Election Board

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Subcommittee Releases Shale Gas Recommendations

A diverse group of advisors to Energy Secretary Steven Chu today released a series of consensus-based recommendations calling for increased measurement, public disclosure and a commitment to continuous improvement in the development and environmental management of shale gas, which has rapidly grown to nearly 30 percent of natural gas production in the United States.  Increased transparency and a focus on best practices “benefits all parties in shale gas production: regulators will have more complete and accurate information, industry will achieve more efficient operations and the public will see continuous, measurable, improvement in shale gas activities,” the report says.  The report calls for industry leadership in improving environmental performance, underpinned by strong regulations and rigorous enforcement, evolving to meet the identified challenges.

Read more from the Department of Energy at

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