In The Know: August 17, 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 you should know that the new Kids Count Data Book ranks Oklahoma 43rd in the nation for child well-being. More than 61 percent of Oklahoma children are in free or reduced school lunch programs. Oklahoma ranked average in the region but below the national average for high school seniors’ ACT scores. Superintendent Barresi says the state is not getting the job done in teaching science and math.

The OK Policy Blog explains why Oklahoma is on a path to having the federal government run the state’s health exchange. Urban Tulsa Weekly discusses factors helping Oklahoma to weather the recession with former state Treasurer Scott Meacham. Two voters in a recent Senate primary who completed provisional ballots because they lacked IDs will have their votes included in the official total.

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association has filed its lawsuit against the Tourism Department for not offering severance packages to employees at closing state parks if they did not want to relocate. An Edmond native became the 7th Oklahoma soldier to die in Afghanistan since July 29. The man accused of planting a pipe bomb on a natural gas pipeline near Okemah pleaded not guilty.

The Metropolitan Tulsa Urban League is trying to fight Oklahoma’s high rate of infant mortality. In today’s Policy Note, Jared Bernstein shows that nearly half the government jobs added between 2007 and 2010 went to Texas, and Texas depended more on federal stimulus money to plug its budget shortfall than any other state. Today’s Number of the Day is the total number of separate tax breaks and exemptions authorized by Oklahoma law.

In The News

Oklahoma ranks 43rd in child well-being

Oklahoma showed slight improvement yet remains one of the worst states in the country for child well-being, according to a national report that ranks states on 10 health indicators. Oklahoma ranked 43rd, up from the 44th rank it held for two years, according to the 2011 Kids Count Data Book released annually by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The state ranked 42nd in 2007 and 38th 2003. The study, which considered data from 2000 to 2009, found that Oklahoma improved in only one indicator and worsened in six. Oklahoma ranked in the upper half of states in only two categories: percent of teens not attending school and not working, and percent of families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment where it ranked 23rd and 19th respectively. The state’s lowest rankings were in child death rate (47th), teen birth rate (46th) and infant mortality rate (45th).

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

See also: 2011 Kids Count Data Book Oklahoma State Profile


Barresi: 61 percent of Oklahoma students on meal aid

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi will report to the U.S. Department of Education this year that more than 61 percent of Oklahoma’s children are on a free or reduced lunch. Most of these impoverished children are living in rural Oklahoma, she said. More than 50 percent of indigent children are living with a mother who was never married, Barresi said. The majority of those mothers are working two jobs to keep food on the table, she added. “We also know that those children, when they enter kindergarten, will have less than one-third of what we call an academic vocabulary that any other child would,” Barresi said. These children spend the rest of their lives trying to meet that capacity, Barresi said. The overwhelming majority of data shows a strategy of early interaction with these at-risk children to follow them through the eighth grade, they will continue to improve, Barresi said.

Read more from this Norman Transcript article at

ACT by the numbers: Oklahoma students average in the region, below national average

ACT test data for the 2010-11 academic year in the United States became available early today (Wednesday, August 17). A review of the information as provided by ACT, Inc. puts Oklahoma’s graduating seniors who took the examination in roughly the same place their predecessors have garnered for most of the past two decades – below the national average, and near the middle of the regional average in most categories. While reading and English scores in Oklahoma fall just a bit below the national average, the state comparatively “tanks” in Mathematics and Science. Oklahomans taking the ACT scored 19.9 in Math, the state’s lowest score on any of the four subject areas. 19.9. Only 35 percent of Oklahoma students met the national benchmarks the testing organization assumes are needed for success in college. In Science, the Oklahoma average was 20.6, with only 25 percent of graduating seniors tested meeting the ACT’s college preparatory threshold.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

See also: State superintendent, Oklahoma City teacher union leader respond to ACT data from CapitolBeatOK

Feds promise flexibility on state insurance exchanges, but not complaisance

Oklahoma’s plan for implementing a health insurance exchange is due in less than a year and a half, yet so far planning efforts are stuck in the earliest stages. Ever since Governor Fallin and legislative leaders decided to give back the $54 million competitive grant Oklahoma had been awarded to design a state-of-the-art exchange, the nascent planning process has come to a virtual halt. The Oklahoma Insurance Department, which seem to have assumed responsibility for the planning process, canceled meeting after scheduled meeting of stakeholder work groups in May and June, while the intricate blueprints and timelines developed for putting an exchange in place by the deadline are gathering dust. Meanwhile, both of the bills introduced this past session attempting to authorize Oklahoma’s Health Insurance Exchange failed to pass, and seemed to fall well short of federal standards designed to ensure an affordable and consumer-friendly exchange.

Read more from The OK Policy Blog at http://health-care-reform-10-feds-promise-flexibility-on-state-health-insurance-exchanges-but-not-complaisance/.

Oklahoma wallows through the economic downturn while other states drown

Scott Meacham, former Oklahoma Treasurer from June 2005 to Jan. 2011 and current director of Crowe & Dunlevy Law Firm, explained Oklahoma’s financial outlook to UTW recently. “The story in Oklahoma and Tulsa is better than the national landscape,” Meacham said. Citing good sales tax numbers, he said, “People are still buying things and feeling good.” Meacham said he thinks Tulsa’s large oil and gas industry has helped keep our economy afloat. Add to that the city’s focus on the aerospace industry and we’ve got an effective insulator from a sour national economy. At least for now. “Tulsa’s aerospace focus and especially the maintenance side of that works as a kind of counter-cyclical balance for the Tulsa economy,” Meacham said. “When the economy isn’t as good, the big airlines put off buying new airliners. So they spend more on maintenance,” he said.

Read more from this Urban Tulsa Weekly article at

Provisional ballots from voters without ID get counted in Senate primary

Two voters during last week’s state Senate District 43 Republican primary election failed to present proper identification but were allowed to cast provisional ballots that were included in the official results, the state’s head of elections said Tuesday. Two voters without required identification were allowed to sign sworn statements and cast provisional ballots. If the voters were determined to be registered to vote in that precinct, their ballots would be counted later and would be part of the final election tally. “The election board in each county investigated the affidavit and compared it to the voter registration record and confirmed that it was a valid registration, and they counted the ballot, just like they’re supposed to,” Ziriax said.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma Public Employees Association files lawsuit against Tourism Department

The Oklahoma Public Employees Association has filed a lawsuit over the way employees at state parks scheduled for closure have been treated. The association — and state Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore — also questioned Tuesday why the Tourism and Recreation Department hired an Oklahoma City-based law firm to fight the lawsuit when it has a staff attorney. In its lawsuit, the employees association said about 10 Tourism Department workers were sent letters in July telling them they would be transferred to other state parks. The association said the department violated state law by not offering severance benefits if employees weren’t willing to transfer.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Seventh Oklahoma soldier dies in action

Another Oklahoma soldier is killed in action. According to a family memorial page on Facebook, 1LT Damon Leehan of Moore died on Sunday, August 14, while serving with the Army National Guard in Afghanistan. Leehan leaves behind a wife, Audrey, and two young children, Emma, 4, and Ethan, 1. He was raised in Edmond but lived in Moore with his family. He was born on September 11 and was about to celebrate his 6th wedding anniversary. Leehan’s wife is on her way to Dover, Maryland to get his remains. Leehan’s body will return to Oklahoma and be buried next to his father-in-law, who was also in the military. This is the seventh Oklahoma soldier killed in Afghanistan since July 29.

Read more from this News9 article at

Man accused of planting bomb on Okemah gas line appears in court

An Oklahoma man accused of attaching a homemade bomb to a natural gas pipeline has pleaded not guilty. Forty-year-old Daniel Herriman entered the plea Tuesday before Magistrate Judge Kimberly West in U.S. District Court in Muskogee. The FBI says Herriman was arrested Friday after calling 911 and telling the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office he had placed a bomb on the pipeline and wanted to surrender. The FBI alleges Herriman admitted making the device and placing it on the pipeline Aug. 7 with a timer set to detonate at 2 a.m. The device did not explode and there was no damage. FBI spokesman Clay Simmonds said the agency doesn’t know of a motive.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Urban League program fights infant mortality

Each year, four out of 10 mothers fail to receive the recommended level of prenatal care, and more than 400 of Oklahoma’s infants do not live to see their first birthday, according to the Kids Count 2010 Factbook. Tulsa County ranks 50th out of the state’s 77 counties in infant mortality rates, and combined, Tulsa and Oklahoma counties account for about two of every five infant deaths in Oklahoma. This is a startling fact, and the rate gets worse for minority children. In 2008, the infant mortality rate among African-American babies was almost triple that of any other race. As the statistics begin pouring in, the picture grows worse, but it all comes back to one thought: Something must be done.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Quote of the Day

We have some kids that enter kindergarten that can barely speak.
State Superintendent Janet Barresi

Number of the Day


The total number of separate tax expenditures (tax breaks and exemptions) authorized by Oklahoma law, 2010

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Texas and the gov’t: Better friends than you’d think

At least better than you’d think listening to Gov Perry’s anti-government rhetoric. When he announced his candidacy for President the other day, he growled that his goal as president would be to make Washington “as inconsequential in your lives as I can.” Except when it comes to job creation. Over the last few years, government jobs have been awfully consequential in Texas: 47% of all government jobs added in the US between 2007 and 2010 were added in Texas. The chart shows that Texas employment wasn’t down much at all in these years, as the state lost only 53,000 jobs. But looming behind that number are large losses in the private sector (down 178,000) and large gains (up 125,000) in government jobs.

Read more from Jared Bernstein at’t-better-friends-than-you’d-think/.

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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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