In The Know: August 8, 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 Oklahoma Watch has profiled Oklahoma teachers and school administrators who are defending the rights of immigrant children to an education. The Supreme Court previously ruled that public education must be provided under the equal protections of the 14th Amendment. NewsOK warns about harms to the economy caused by hard-line immigration laws in other states.

The energy-efficient home tax credit will among those considered for elimination at the next tax credit task force meeting. OK Policy previously reported on what happened at the task force’s first meeting. Though most attention has gone to drought issues and the prospect of selling water to Texas, the recent algae outbreak shows that quality issues will be the greatest threat to the Tulsa-area’s long-range water supply. Sixty-four Oklahoma National Guard troops have returned from Afghanistan. A federal program is helping keeping Oklahoma veterans and their families from falling into homelessness.

Another Oklahoma lawmaker is calling for mandatory drug-testing of welfare recipients. OK Policy previously explained why this idea is a waste of money and unconstitutional. Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, wants a summit to look at ways to cut education in Oklahoma. The number of criminal and civil cases involving Medicare fraud in Oklahoma has more than tripled over the last three years. NewsOK asks legislators to stop sending out press releases aimed only at calling attention to their ideological leanings. The Tulsa World discusses why Oklahoma is the only state that saw life expectancies for women decline in the last decade.

The 23rd and Lincoln blog shares perspectives from a recent workshop on employing ex-felons and the long-term unemployed. The OK Policy Blog rounds up links to the best summaries and analysis of the federal debt limit deal. The OkieWomen blog reports that the OSU School of Entrepreneurship is accepting a grant from the Koch Foundation to incorporate “liberty modules” into their curriculum. In today’s Policy Note, a Harvard study finds that the decline of organized labor held down wages in union and nonunion workplaces alike. Today’s Number of the Day is the average temperature in July in Oklahoma, breaking the previous record for the hottest month.

In The News

Some teachers, students give Oklahoma immigration laws a bad grade

When Chris Brewster was a new schoolteacher and soccer coach, he was worried when a 14-year-old player disappeared from practices. The other boys joked he would be back in a couple of weeks. He was. “He and his family had been deported to Mexico,” Brewster said. “I don’t know how he handled me yelling at him to run harder in practice when he could go home that evening and find his mom and dad deported or he could be picked up. “From that day forward, I knew this was something we had to deal with.” In 2001, Brewster started the Santa Fe South charter school — with a majority of students Hispanic, either immigrants or first-generation Americans. The Oklahoma City school does not keep track of whether students are living in the country legally. But educators estimate up to 25 percent may be undocumented.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: U.S. Supreme Court: Education is for all children from The Tulsa World; With immigration laws, be careful what you wish for from NewsOK

Energy-efficient home credit could be target for elimination

The merits of a state tax subsidy for energy-efficient home construction will be examined this week by a legislative task force assigned to identify tax breaks that are candidates for elimination. The energy-efficiency tax credit became law in 2005. It provides a subsidy of up to $4,000 per home to builders who meet certain efficiency standards for heating, cooling, insulation, roofs, doors, windows and appliances. The credit is available for new homes measuring 2,000 square feet or less. To qualify, they must be at least 20 percent more efficient than the standards required by the International Energy Conservation Code of 2003. The energy-efficiency credit reduced state revenue collections by $3.8 million last year, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. In 2010, the credit was suspended for two years as part of a budget-balancing deal. It is scheduled to go back into effect July 1, 2012.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Previously: Task force begins work scrutinizing tax credits from the OK Policy Blog

Algae outbreak a warning to Tulsa’s long-range water supply

Drought and the prospect of selling water to Texas has made quantity the public focus of the state’s comprehensive 50-year water plan. But this summer’s brush with toxic blue-green algae raised another issue addressed by the water plan that is particularly applicable in northeast Oklahoma. Draft copies of the plan, which will not be final until October, show Tulsa and the rest of northeastern Oklahoma should have sufficient water through 2060. But the quality of that water is more problematic.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Sixty-four Oklahoma National Guard soldiers return from Afghanistan

Sixty-four Oklahoma National Guard soldiers return from Afghanistan The soldiers, who were gathered at the Norman Armed Forces Reserve Center, had just returned from a 10-month deployment to Afghanistan. Their families and friends were waiting to greet them with signs, cameras and balloons. Before the team left for Afghanistan in September 2010, Col. Robert Roshell, the team’s commander, said their primary mission was to return everyone home safely. “Sir,” Roshell said, turning to Maj. Gen. Myles Deering on Saturday. “Mission accomplished.” The soldiers’ return was bittersweet. Four Oklahoma National Guardsmen with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team were killed in Afghanistan within seven days of each other, and 30 U.S. special operation troops died this weekend when their helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Housing program gets veterans, families off the streets

Eshauriah Staley straightened her younger sister’s hair with a flat iron while their other two sisters sat nearby, watching cartoons and giggling. They live in a tidy, three-bedroom house in a quiet Del City neighborhood, and their modest rooms have beds neatly made with girlie comforters. Just six months ago, the four Staley girls and their parents were days away from living on the streets. Eshauriah’s father, E.L., suffered flashbacks and short-term memory loss after three tours in Iraq. He lost job after job. He was frustrated. He was angry. He was broke. He retreated into himself. He and his wife decided to split up. An eviction notice came. The Staley family was dissolving. Today, E.L. Staley is one of about 70 veterans in the Oklahoma City area who receive housing assistance through the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, also known as HUD-VASH.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Welfare recipient drug testing again proposed by Oklahoma lawmaker

Taking a cue from Florida lawmakers, Oklahoma representative Guy Liebmann wants mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. He will introduce the bill in the 2012 legislative session. Applicants who test positive for controlled substances will have to get treatment or give up their benefits for a year. Drug testing may pose a huge burden for an already cash strapped Department of Human Services. DHS spokesperson Guy Beutler said DHS is willing to work with Liebmann’s office to ensure the bill doesn’t prevent some 18,000 Oklahoman children from getting benefits. Some taxpayers say its an invasion of privacy. Liebmann’s proposal may be redundant since all states already require initial drug screening for TANF recipients. According to DHS, that program has a 98 percent success rate.

Read more from News9 at

Previously: If it ain’t broke, don’t break it from the OK Policy Blog

Lawmaker calls for summit on cutting education

A state lawmaker called Friday for a summit to look at ways to tighten what he called Oklahoma’s bloated educational system. Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Arcadia, said he would ask Gov. Mary Fallin to attend as well as state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson and Phil Berkenbile, director of the CareerTech system. Moore, speaking as part of a legislative panel on education to the High Noon Club, a group of mostly social conservatives, said the state spends too much money on buildings and has an overabundance of public school districts, university and branch campuses and CareerTech campuses. “CareerTechs in Oklahoma are nationally recognized; our college system does a great job; common ed needs help, but they’re asked and tasked to do a lot of things besides teach,” he said. “Some of those things could be picked up by churches, church involvement, neighborhood involvement, parental involvement for sure.”

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma seniors urged to report Medicare fraud and abuse

Oklahoma senior citizens are being urged to recognize and report — without fear of recrimination — suspected cases of Medicare fraud and abuse. Some 1.1 million Oklahomans 65 or older or disabled receive $3.9 billion in Medicare medical services annually. In the past three years, the number of criminal and civil cases involving Medicare fraud in Oklahoma has increased by 350 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. There have been seven criminal prosecutions and 38 civil settlements, with more are expected in the future. Federal officials report collecting settlements of $22.4 million. Cases involve bogus companies, scheming individuals and medical practitioners who overcharge Medicare for prescription drugs, bill for services or medical equipment never received, and commit other unlawful health-care practices.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

J.E. McReynolds: Stop the pressers (please)

Your tax dollars at quirk. In July, the state House of Representatives media office issued 27 news releases, many of which were really press releases, most of which should have been handled by individual lawmakers — on their own time and their own dime — and some of which were downright quirky to boot. In terms of taxpayer-funded media releases, what’s the difference between a news release and a press release? Government news releases tend to actually make the news. Government press releases are attempts by politicians to call attention to themselves or their ideological leanings. This might be of interest only to journalists except that taxpayers are funding both types of releases.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Oklahoma women’s health status worsening

The federal health care reform act includes significant new provisions that will benefit women, which ought to be great news for Oklahomans, and here’s why: Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S. that saw life expectancies for women decline at the state level during part of the last decade, according to a new study. But the new provisions, announced last week, won’t be welcome news in Oklahoma, and here’s why: Past history suggests the health of women is not a high priority in this state, and anything tied to the Obama administration, no matter how worthwhile it might be, is automatically reviled around these parts. The new study, “Falling Behind: life expectancy in U.S. counties from 2000 to 2007 in an international context,” was conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

Read more from this Tulsa World editorial at

Barriers and bridges for ex-felons

“How long does a person pay?” That’s the questioned posed Friday by keynote speaker Wynema Ra to participants in the Barriers and Bridges conference about employment of disadvantaged individuals. Ra was executive director of the Norman Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment Center for more than seven years until it closed its doors last year. Closure of the center deleted 74 treatment beds and several jobs, including Ra’s. She figured that with her professional background– she had also served as substance abuse coordinator with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services–she would have little trouble finding a new position. That did not turn out to be the case, even after four months of job hunting. Even with her professional credentials, Ra ran up against what turns out to be a job-stopper issue for so many: She is an ex-felon.

Read more from the 23rd and Lincoln blog at

Understanding the debt deal

Now that default has been averted and the agreement to raise the federal debt limit has been signed into law, attention here in Oklahoma has shifted, at least temporarily, from politics back to the weather (or, from the debt ceiling to the sweat ceiling). Although the full implications of the agreement will not be understood for months, or years, it is clear that the deal to lower the deficit will have far-reaching consequences for federal and state budgets and the economy. For those looking for concise analysis of the agreement’s fiscal and economic implications, here are a few pieces worth reading.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

OSU School of Entrepreneurship receives Koch Foundation grant

I understand Oklahoma State University has received a $36,400 grant from the Koch brothers – well, actually, the Charles G Koch Charitable Foundation. The Koch brothers are the money behind the Tea Party movement and many other arch conservative movements. Given the millions and millions of dollars the Koch brothers spend supporting arch conservative movements, it is remarkable what they are getting from OSU for a measly $36,400 grant.

Read more from the OkieWomen blog at


Quote of the Day

Our philosophy is … that education is a fundamental human right rather than a privilege of citizenship. It’s like food, water and medical care. Others don’t see it that way. We look at it as an American ideal of defending those who cannot defend themselves.
Chris Brewster, superintendent of Santa Fe South charter school, which has a majority of Hispanic students.

Number of the Day

89.1 degrees

The average temperature in July in Oklahoma, breaking the previous record for the hottest month – 88.1 degrees, July 1954.

Source: The Oklahoman

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Labor’s decline and wage inequality

The decline in organized labor’s power and membership has played a larger role in fostering increased wage inequality in the United States than is generally thought, according to a study published in the American Sociological Review this month. The study, “Unions, Norms and the Rise in U.S. Wage Inequality,” found that the decline in union power and density since 1973 explained a third of the increase in wage inequality among men since then, and a fifth of the increased inequality among women. The two professors found that the decline of organized labor held down wages in union and nonunion workplaces alike. Many nonunion employers — especially decades ago, when unions represented more than 30 percent of the private sector work force — raised wages to help avert the threat of union organizing.

Read more from the Economix blog at

See also: The full study from the Harvard University Department of Sociology

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.