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Today In The News

Back in class but not backing off: Teachers remain committed to push for education funding: After 10 school days, including one holiday, Miami teachers returned to their classrooms. One by one many school districts across the state still participating in the walkout are making the decision to go back to school following the two week Oklahoma Teacher Walkout. Not all districts or teachers were ready to return feeling more could be accomplished by remaining on the walkout [Miami News-Record]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Ballot Questions Could Boost Teacher Pay or Put Raises at Risk: The end of the widespread teacher walkout doesn’t mean questions surrounding Oklahoma’s education funding are settled. Voters will head to the polls this November to chose Oklahoma’s next governor and elect a large swath of the Legislature. But it’s a pair of proposed state questions, which may or may not ultimately appear on the ballot, that could decide if teachers lose recently approved raises or possibly receive further pay increases [KGOU].

Advocates, Prosecutors See Promise in Revised Criminal Justice Reform Bills: Oklahoma’s prison population will continue to grow in the years ahead — the only question is how much. A marquee slate of criminal justice reform bills fall short of what Gov. Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force recommended a little over a year ago to curb incarceration rates and provide alternatives to prison. By 2025, the prison population will be 30,947 if the six bills pass as currently written, according to an analysis from FWD.us, a national group that specializes in immigration and criminal justice data [Oklahoma Watch]. Passing revised justice reform measures is necessary but not nearly enough [OK Policy].

Small delegations of educators continue presence at Capitol: Hundreds of teachers showed up Monday at the Capitol to let lawmakers know that even though classes are largely back in session across Oklahoma, educators aren’t finished. Teachers said they won’t stay silent and sit on the sidelines any longer. They promised to continue sending small delegations of teachers to press lawmakers for adequate funding of the state’s K-12 schools. And, they said those delegates would keep returning for as long as it takes [CNHI].

25-Year-Old Textbooks and Holes in the Ceiling: Inside America’s Public Schools: Broken laptops, books held together with duct tape, an art teacher who makes watercolors by soaking old markers. Teacher protests have spread rapidly from West Virginia to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona in recent months. We invited America’s public school educators to show us the conditions that a decade of budget cuts has wrought in their schools [New York Times].

What far-right Republican legislators don’t understand about Oklahoma conservatism: Philosophically, Oklahomans are conservative in their thinking. We see this in every poll that we conduct where roughly 55 percent of Oklahoma likely voters identify as conservative in their political beliefs. But, situationally, Oklahomans are much more pragmatic. If there is a core service funding problem and good teachers are leaving the state, Oklahomans say fix it — even if that means new taxes [Bill Shapard / Tulsa World].

As Oklahoma teachers declare victory, Colorado educators walk out of class: As Oklahoma teachers declared victory and returned to classrooms Monday after a nine-day school walkout, their Colorado counterparts were poised to stage their own labor action as a movement ignited by a successful strike by West Virginia educators continues to sweep the nation. The wave of teacher protests has mostly occurred in states dominated by Republicans in the legislature and governors’ offices, such as West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky. Colorado, which has a Democratic governor and a Democratic-controlled assembly, is the exception [WBAL].

Next year’s Legislature will look different (Capitol Update): No matter what happens in the elections — which promises to be plenty — the legislature next year is going to look, sound, and be very different. Thirty-two, nearly one-third, of the House seats are open. Many who are voluntarily leaving early have had an important impact. It will be strange indeed to see the legislature convene next year without the presence of these members [OK Policy]. Next Oklahoma Legislature will have many new faces [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Senate passes bill allowing Oklahoma farmers to grow hemp: A bill that would allow Oklahoma farmers to grow hemp is heading to Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk. The Senate voted 39-1 in favor of House Bill 2913. The bill would allow Oklahoma farmers to grow hemp, a plant that looks similar to marijuana but has differences when it comes to THC. Hemp has about 20,000 industrial uses, including cannabidiol, clothing and feed [KOCO].

Bill would set retention path for ex-commissioners: The Oklahoma Legislature passed a measure that would allow one of the state’s top law enforcement officials to take a lower rank when a stint in leadership ends. House Bill 2634 would allow the commissioner of public safety, once his or her term ends, to return to the post held before assuming that position. Supporters said the bill is necessary because it would hedge against administration changes. Opponents said it seemed too narrowly fitted to one official and that the bill’s text was vague [Journal Record].

Tulsa Public Schools could close for next election day; board could consider proposal at May meeting: Tulsa Public Schools could be out of class next Election Day, the school board president said Monday. President Suzanne Schreiber said the board could vote on closing school for Election Day at its next meeting, which is May 7. If approved by the board, the move would put Tulsa among the school districts that have decided to cancel school on Election Day to allow teachers to vote without worrying about work. Yukon Public Schools made the move last week [Tulsa World].

New law expected to bolster OKC sales tax collections: Oklahoma City will receive an estimated $4 million in new annual revenue under a state law aimed at collecting additional sales tax from online shoppers. Estimates were released as April sales tax numbers showed consumer spending remains on the upswing. The state law is one of the public education funding measures adopted this spring [NewsOK].

Former state lawmaker Penny Williams, advocate for education and women, dies at 80: Penny Williams, a former state lawmaker from Tulsa best known as a champion for public education and equal rights for women, died Monday, her family said. She was 80. A memorial service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church on April 28, with the time yet to be announced [Tulsa World].

Tulsa Republican Kevin Hern leads 1st Congressional District campaign fundraising: Tulsa businessman Kevin Hern continues to lead fundraising in the five-way Republican fight for the 1st Congressional District nomination, first-quarter reports to the Federal Election Commission show. Receipts to Hern’s campaign totaled just under $145,000 for the first three months of 2018 [Tulsa World].

E.P.A. Chief’s $43,000 Phone Booth Broke the Law, Congressional Auditors Say: The Environmental Protection Agency violated the law when it installed a soundproof phone booth for the administrator, Scott Pruitt, at a cost of roughly $43,000, a congressional watchdog agency ruled on Monday. The congressional agency, the Government Accountability Office, said in a report that the E.P.A. had not notified Congress as required before spending more than $5,000 on office equipment [New York Times].

Quote of the Day

“We learned several important takeaways throughout this process: (a) we live in a great community that cares deeply for its school children, and we are so thankful for that; (b) our staff is amazing and holds deep convictions for making our kids’ lives better; (c) our state legislature still has much work ahead of them to address funding issues in education.”

– Miami Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Hogan, in a letter announcing schools’ return to classes after the teacher walkout (Source)

Number of the Day

8%

Share of poor families in Oklahoma who received cash welfare assistance (TANF) in 2016. Since 2001, Oklahoma has slashed spending on this basic assistance, even as the number of families below 50 percent of the poverty line grew significantly.

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

When Bail Feels Less Like Freedom, More Like Extortion: Most bail bond agents make it their business to get their clients to court. But when Ronald Egana showed up at the criminal courthouse in New Orleans, he was surprised to find that his bondsman wanted to stop him. A bounty hunter was waiting at the courthouse metal detector to intercept Mr. Egana and haul him to the bond company office, he said. The reason: The bondsman wanted to get paid [New York Times].

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