In The Know: Class size matters; Tulsa schools oppose truancy criminalization; OKC looks at school closures…

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

Beyond Teacher Pay: Class size matters: Last April, the Oklahoma Legislature passed HB1010xx and other revenue measures, which restored $480 million dollars of education funding.  The majority of the new revenue is being used to fund a long-awaited pay raise for teachers.  HB1010xx also increased funding for school operations by $50 million, which is far less than the $200 million teachers demanded, and makes up less than one-third of the amount that has been cut from schools since 2008.  Now, as students across the state settle into the 2018-2019 school year, public school administrators must again struggle with how to allocate insufficient resources. [OK Policy]

TPS leaders oppose proposed school truancy ordinance, allege it disproportionately targets minorities: Top officials at Tulsa Public Schools have asked city councilors to hold off on approving a controversial ordinance that would impose fines on truant students and their families. Superintendent Deborah Gist, school board President Suzanne Schreiber and Vice President Cindy Decker this week penned a letter opposing the school truancy ordinance. [Tulsa World] We wrote about better options than punitive responses to truancy and homelessness here.

OKC schools chief seeks input on possible closures: Oklahoma City Public Schools is asking families, staff and others to weigh in on a far-reaching project that could lead to school closures and consolidations in the coming year. The district, which is operating at about 60 percent of capacity, is facing $11 million in cuts to state aid over the next two years based on projected enrollment declines. [NewsOK ????]

Education initiative aims for teacher incentives within the classroom: When Oklahoma teachers leave the classrooms for different jobs, other states can be an easy culprit to target, but sometimes they aren’t leaving the district. Promotions and pay increases are hard to come by, and for many, it means giving up teaching. Jobs within administration offer better salaries and more prestige. [Journal Record]

Candidates debate taxes, stand by attack ads: The top two candidates for governor clashed in a televised debate Tuesday, with each arguing they alone had the best plan to increase funding for Oklahoma’s core services. In a debate hosted by KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City, both Democrat Drew Edmondson and Republican Kevin Stitt agreed the state’s education and health care systems need more money but disagreed over where the funding should come from. [NewsOK] Polling released Wednesday pegs Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt to a 7-point lead over Democrat Drew Edmondson but suggests that Democratic enthusiasm for the Nov. 6 general election gives Edmondson a chance at the upset. [Tulsa World]

Split party power possible at top of state gov: A close gubernatorial race could result in split party representation at the top of state government for the first time in 12 years. Multiple polls show a close contest between Republican Kevin Stitt and Democrat Drew Edmondson in the race for governor. However, the lieutenant governor race is more one-sided with Republican Matt Pinnell holding a 19-point lead over Democrat Sen. Anastasia Pittman, according to pollster Pat McFerron, president of Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass and Associates, in Oklahoma City. [NewsOK ????]

In One Minute: State Question 800 – the ‘Oklahoma Vision Fund’: Learn the key elements of State Question 800, which proposes an Oklahoma Vision Fund designed to grow over time using gross production tax revenue with a portion available for spending every year. [Oklahoma WatchSee more background information and arguments for and against SQ 800 on OK Policy’s fact sheet here.

In One Minute: The Race for State Treasurer: If someone asks, “What does the state treasurer do?”, don’t go blank. This short video gives you the basics and tells you who is running for the office in the Nov. 6, 2018, general election. This series of short videos, intended to promote voter engagement and turnout, is presented by Oklahoma Watch and is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma. [Oklahoma WatchFind more about Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions at OK Policy’s resource page here.

CD 5 debate: Russell and Horn split on health care, more: A reactive crowd packed City Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City Wednesday night as the two Oklahoma Congressional District 5 candidates debated. The candidates shared their views on immigration, gun control, health care, social security and education while making their case to CD 5 voters. [NonDoc] U.S. Rep. Steve Russell predicted Tuesday that Democratic control of the House would bring about worsening incivility and suggested Democrats want to trash the country. [NewsOK]

State Sen. Kevin Matthews back in District 1 county commission race: State Sen. Kevin Matthews is back in the race for District 1 Tulsa County commissioner. Matthews suspended his campaign in September, citing personal reasons. But he said Tuesday that he has resolved those issues and is back running for the county seat. Matthews, a Democrat, is opposed in the race by Republican Stan Sallee. The election is Nov. 6. [Tulsa World]

Prosperity Policy: An upside-down tax system: Oklahoma has a reputation as a low-tax state. But while the wealthiest Oklahomans pay less taxes than the national average, low-income Oklahomans are paying a greater share of their income in state and local taxes than the residents of all but four other states, according to a recent study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. [David Blatt / Journal Record] We recently wrote about a new analysis that shows low-income taxpayers in Oklahoma pay more than twice the tax rate paid by the richest Oklahomans here.

Serving life without parole for drugs, Oklahoma man now hopes for release: In 1997, Kevin Ott was sentenced to life without parole for drug trafficking after police found 3.5 ounces of methamphetamine and a handgun in his Cleveland County mobile home. He now has a chance to be released. “I know my life was far from perfect, but I do not deserve to die in prison for my drug addiction,” Ott wrote in a letter to the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board earlier this year. [The Frontier]

State prepares to unveil license plate reading system to hunt for uninsured motorists: State officials Tuesday unveiled plans to implement an automated license plate scanner system designed to clamp down on uninsured motor vehicles. The system, the first of its kind in the country, will be operational by Nov. 1 and use technology that can issue up to 10,000 violation notices per day, officials said during a news conference held in Tulsa. [Tulsa World] We discussed why roadside cameras will not solve Oklahoma’s uninsured rate here.

Local drugstores prepared to meet demand for flu shots: A different segment within the health care industry is becoming more visible as a source for vaccines. Pharmacists are finding their customers are increasingly turning to the drugstore for flu shots. Though it’s still early in the influenza season, heightened awareness about vaccines at pharmacies means hundreds have already received the shot locally. [Journal Record]

Tulsa County judge says multicounty grand jury set to evaluate ‘false allegations’ that he paid for sex at massage parlor: A Tulsa County district judge who is accused of paying for sex at a massage parlor said the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office threatened to subject him to a grand jury investigation because he refused to resign. District Judge James Caputo spoke Wednesday morning on “The Pat Campbell Show,” a conservative talk show that airs on radio station KFAQ, about an ongoing inquiry tied to a racketeering case filed in Tulsa County District Court in February. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

”An ordinance that has the potential to increase negative interactions between young people and law enforcement could be a tragedy in the making… We all know that our beloved city has a long way to go to begin to unravel and resolve centuries of systemic racism, and an ordinance that reinforces racial and socioeconomic disparities is a step in the wrong direction.”

-A letter from Tulsa Public Schools leaders opposing a proposed ordinance by the City of Tulsa that would criminalize truancy with fines and and a new special court [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma’s population that lives in a “distressed” ZIP code, where the economy is performing in the bottom 20% of the U.S., compared to 17.2% that live in a “prosperous” ZIP code in the top 20%.

[Economic Innovation Group]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Miscarrying at Work: The Physical Toll of Pregnancy Discrimination: In every congressional session since 2012, a group of lawmakers has introduced a bill that would do for pregnant women what the Americans With Disabilities Act does for disabled people: require employers to accommodate those whose health depends on it. The legislation has never had a hearing. [New York Times]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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