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Today you should know that July was the hottest month ever recorded in Oklahoma. OK Policy spoke with the Director of the Economic Research and Analysis Division of the Oklahoma Economic Security Commission, who says that Oklahoma’s economic recovery may be weaker than we think. Federal funding cuts are endangering an Oklahoma program that pairs mentors with children of incarcerated parents.
The Sand Springs School Board voted to sue the state Board of Education to force it to fully fund health insurance premiums. Several Tulsa-area schools are saving millions due to an energy conservation program. The Director of Oklahoma’s CareerTech system says technical education is under attack in Oklahoma and across the country.
The last juvenile offender has been transferred out of the L.E. Rader Center in preparation for the facility’s closing. A challenge to the pet breeders act will be heard in Leflore County. All of Oklahoma’s U.S. House delegation voted for the debt limit compromise reached yesterday. Copper thieves are increasingly targeting Tulsa substations, and Sunday night they were responsible for leaving 8,000 homes were without power.
NewsOK warns that ending DHS child care subsidies could push low-income parents out of the workforce and make them even more reliant on government assistance. OK Policy previously discussed the impact of these cuts. In today’s Policy Note, economist Simon Johnson explains why there’s no way to make the Balanced Budget Amendment work. Today’s Number of the Day is the unemployment rate for black workers in Oklahoma in 2010, which is nearly twice as much as the state’s overall unemployment rate.
In The News
July was hottest month on record in Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s record-breaking heat wave made July the hottest month on record in the state. According to data from the Oklahoma Mesonet, the average temperature in Oklahoma in July was 89.1 degrees, breaking the previous record of 88.1 degrees set in July 1954, said Gary McManus, associate climatologist at the Oklahoma Climatological Survey in Norman. Records have been kept of statewide averages since 1895. The statewide average rainfall total was 0.70 inches, more than 2 inches below normal and making it the fourth-driest July on record.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/july-was-hottest-month-on-record-in-oklahoma/article/3590733.
Labor force data casts doubt on real strength of Oklahoma’s recovery
June’s jobs report saw Oklahoma’s unemployment rate hold steady at 5.3 percent, the fifth lowest rate in the nation. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ household employment survey showed that the number of employed Oklahomans declined by 6,900. To try to make sense of the numbers, I spoke with Lynn Gray, Director of the Economic Research and Analysis Division of the Oklahoma Economic Security Commission. This is an abridged and edited transcript of our conversation.
Read more from the OK Policy Blog at https://okpolicy.org/labor-force-data-casts-doubt-on-real-strength-of-oklahoma%E2%80%99s-recovery/.
Federal funding runs out for mentoring children of inmates
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma lost the last two years of its federal funding for a program that pairs mentors with children of incarcerated parents. Cuts to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services have eaten away $40 million in funding nationwide for mentoring children of incarcerated parents, also called Amachi, said Sharla Owens, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma will have received about $500,000 of its three-year, $1.6 million grant when funding is cut off Saturday, Oct. 1, Owens said. About 600 children with at least one parent in prison are partnered with mentors through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma at any one time. The grant constituted about 20 percent of the agency’s annual budget.
Read more from this NewsOK article at http://newsok.com/federal-funding-runs-out-for-mentoring-children-of-inmates/article/3590736.
Sand Springs school board votes to sue state
The school board voted Monday to begin preparing a lawsuit against the state Board of Education to force it to fully fund health insurance premiums for educators and support staff. According to local officials, the state school board has decided not to fund health insurance premiums for school employees for July and August of this year, as well as for July and August of next year. Even though teachers work for 10 months out of the year, their salary is pro-rated on a 12-month basis, and up until now, the state school board has been funding their health-insurance premiums for the summer months. Sand Springs School Superintendent Lloyd Snow said the state school board’s action, if left unchallenged, could end up costing the Sand Springs district a total of $700,000.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=11&articleid=20110802_12_A9_SANDSP936149.
Energy Education saves schools millions
Tulsa-area school districts have saved millions of dollars over the years through energy conservation, and many credit the efforts with saving jobs and programs that otherwise would fall victim to state budget cuts. Six area school districts are working with the national consulting firm Energy Education to carve savings from each district’s energy use. According to Energy Education figures, Tulsa, Jenks, Bixby, Bristow, Sapulpa and Sand Springs districts have saved more than $15.5 million by changing how and when energy is used.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=19&articleid=20110802_19_A5_CUTLIN39483.
Oklahoma CareerTech director says technical education is under attack
Despite its national reputation, Oklahoma’s CareerTech education system – along with other technical education systems across the country – is under attack by those who don’t understand its history or its function, the system’s executive director said Monday. Speaking to an audience of more than 2,000 educators, staff members and administrators, Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Executive Director Phil Berkenbile said the system must get better at telling its story to the public. Citing data from an Oklahoma State University study, he said each class of technology center graduates generates more than $2 billion for the state’s economy during their years of work.
Read more from this Journal Record article [subscriber only] at http://journalrecord.com/2011/08/01/tough-lessons-to-teach-capitol/.
Last juvenile transferred from Rader
No more juvenile offenders are housed at the L.E. Rader Center in Sand Springs, Office of Juvenile Affairs Executive Director Gene Christian said Monday. The last resident was transferred Friday as the agency moves to close Rader by Sept. 30. About 100 staff members are still working to review records and pack up state property, Christian said. A few transferred to other facilities, but the majority will be subject to a voluntary buyout offer or layoffs. When the facility is officially closed on Sept. 30, it will be razed with the land being declared surplus and reverting back to the state.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=326&articleid=20110801_326_0_OKLAHO614139.
Challenge to pet breeders act will be heard in Leflore County
LeFlore County is the proper venue for a challenge to the rules newly enacted under the Oklahoma Commercial Pet Breeder’s Act, a judge ruled Monday. Charles Evans, a bulldog breeder from Wister, is challenging the rules of Oklahoma Commercial Pet Breeder’s Act. Evans’ attorney, Misty Fields, said that pet breeders could be charged $500 per dog for every day they operate without a license, which would bankrupt Evans and many other breeders. Assistant Attorney General Devan Pederson argued that the damage to Evans’ business had not been proven. “Obtaining a license is not expensive. There’s no irreparable harm that hasn’t been brought on by the plaintiff’s own decision not to obtain a license,” he said. Fields said that to date only about 135 of the estimated 1,500 pet breeders in the state have sought a license.
Read more from this Tulsa World article at http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=14&articleid=20110802_14_A9_POTEAU49520.
Oklahoma US House members vote for debt measure
Members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation have voted for an agreement between the White House and congressional leaders that would allow the nation’s debt ceiling to be raised. This bill passed on Monday evening includes an increase of at least 2.1 trillion dollars in the government’s borrowing limit, and a promise of an equal level of spending cuts over the next decade. Democratic Rep. Dan Boren and Republican Reps. Tom Cole, James Lankford, Frank Lucas and John Sullivan joined 264 other U.S. House members in approving the proposal on Monday. There were 161 opposed to the measure.
Read more from this NewsOn6 article at http://www.newson6.com/story/15190203/oklahoma-us-house-members-vote-for-debt-measure.
Copper thieves increasingly target Tulsa power substations
Public Service Company of Oklahoma says someone stealing copper wire caused a major power outage in Tulsa Sunday night. More than 8,000 homes were without power for up to three hours. PSO has substations all over town and lately they’ve been having averaging a copper theft about once a week. But they say it’s getting more dangerous, with thieves cutting into energized cables and causing significant power outages. Sometime before Sunday night someone broke into the substation building to get to heavy, pure copper wire called 4-0 stranded. It’s worth $3.50 a pound as scrap, but to get it, criminals have to take a life or death chance.
Read more from this NewsOn6 article at http://www.newson6.com/story/15189161/copper-thieves-strike-tulsa-substation-knocking-out-power-for-thousands.
NewsOK: Debate over child care subsidy payments important, regardless of outcome
When the state Human Services Commission met in June, it voted to make parents using the child care subsidy program pay more. Last week the commission backtracked a bit, deciding to delay the scheduled co-payment increases to Nov. 1 while it reconsiders the process used in enacting the change. State budget cuts have been tough for many Oklahomans. Increasing the co-pays will present a challenge for many families. Those seeking child care assistance are working, trying to find a job or in school — certainly activities taxpaying Oklahomans would encourage. Without help, they might not be able to afford reliable child care, drawing them out of the workforce and making the family even more reliant on government assistance.
Read more from this NewsOK editorial at http://newsok.com/debate-over-child-care-subsidy-payments-important-regardless-of-outcome/article/3589986.
Previously: Child care cuts deal a blow to low-income working families and kids from the OK Policy Blog
Quote of the Day
The number of unemployed has fallen by 30,000, but the number of employed is only up by 6,400… This tells me that this really is a weaker recovery than just the unemployment rate by itself would indicate.
–Lynn Gray, director of the Economic Research and Analysis Division of the Oklahoma Economic Security Commission
Number of the Day
The unemployment rate for black workers in Oklahoma in 2010, compared to an overall unemployment rate in the state of 7.2 percent.
Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute
Three problems with the Balanced Budget Amendment
Some House and Senate Republicans have pushed hard to include a “balanced budget” constitutional amendment as part of any agreement on a debt ceiling. Its supporters say such an amendment is a way to keep spending and deficits under control by requiring that federal spending not exceed revenues. But there are three main problems with this potential approach as it is currently articulated. The first issue is that there is no way to make this amendment work.
Read more from the Economix blog at http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/is-a-balanced-budget-amendment-a-good-idea/.
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