In The Know: Continued analysis on Oklahoma’s education report cards, Claremore teacher wins ‘Oscars of teaching,’ and more

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.

NOTE: ‘In the Know’ will be on hiatus until Dec. 9 while our staff takes time off for the holiday and then attends an annual conference in Washington, D.C. the following week. If you enjoy reading these weekly updates, we encourage you to make an online donation to support our mission.

New from OK Policy

Oklahoma college students are hungry, and there’s more we can do to help. The teacher walkout in 2018 brought much attention to the state of public education in Oklahoma, including food insecurity among students. Too many of our children are hungry – 60 percent of Oklahoma’s K-12 students rely on free or reduced lunch and other child nutrition programs to have enough to eat. Once these children transition to college, these programs no longer apply to them–but the hunger stays. [Naomi Curtis/OK Policy]

In The News

New state report cards show Oklahoma schools’ grades are slipping: A third of Oklahoma schools’ performance is slipping, based on metrics released by the State Department of Education. Of about 1,500 schools assigned grades on the annual report card, 493 saw a decrease in their overall letter grades. Only 234 schools saw an increase in performance, while a vast majority had no change. [KOSU] One-third of Oklahoma schools require ‘heavy focus’. [Oklahoma Watch] Overall, Oklahoma’s letter grades (A-F) have dropped from last year in most criteria, which is an average of five categories. [CNHI] 30 Oklahoma City public schools got F’s in annual report cards. [Oklahoman] Many suburban Tulsa schools see declines in overall state report card grades. [Tulsa World]

Claremore teacher surprised with prestigious Milken Educator Award: The Milken Educator Awards have been called the “Oscars of teaching,” and a Claremore teacher is the only one in Oklahoma to get one this season. Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister surprised Will Rogers Junior High English language arts teacher Brooke Lee with the award Tuesday morning in a school-wide assembly. [Public Radio Tulsa] She is among about 40 teachers being honored with Milken Educator Awards in 2019-20 and the only honoree in Oklahoma.[Tulsa World]

Tulsa World editorial: New state rules will put Oklahoma school back to a five-day week. Now how do we keep them open?: Proposed new state guidelines will almost certainly roll back the four-day school week trend that has brought embarrassment to Oklahoma. The new standards are appropriate, but they don’t do anything to address the greater problem that led to four-day weeks in the first place — the underfunding of Oklahoma public schools. [Tulsa World/Editorial] OK Policy analysis shows that progress has been made recently on restoring funding for essential services like education, but it will be a long rebuilding project to full budget recovery.

Despite move to new cells, struggle over solitary confinement for death row prisoners continues: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has moved 33 death row inmates into a new unit inside McAlester’s Oklahoma State Penitentiary following discussions with ACLU attorneys this summer. But the ACLU still believes the inmates’ constitutional rights are being violated, and the inmates are still technically being held in solitary confinement as well as being denied religious services. [The Frontier]

Citizen-led ballot measures gaining steam in Oklahoma: Apparently frustrated by years of inaction, Oklahomans increasingly are circumventing the Legislature and instead trying to create laws at the ballot box. Since January 2016, voters already have weighed in on five citizen-initiated ballot measures and gave their stamp of approval to three. A sixth ballot measure — tackling Medicaid expansion — seems all but guaranteed to make the 2020 ballot. [CNHI

Citing polling support for vaccines, health officials urge ‘education’ on vaccinations: Oklahoma health officials are highlighting the importance of vaccines as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the country is experiencing a massive influx of measles cases. [Oklahoman] Is Oklahoma an anti-vaccination state? Poll finds strong support for vaccines. [Tulsa World]

State in no rush to raise speed limits: Transportation officials aren’t rushing to raise speed limits to 80 mph on rural turnpikes in the state. However, important studies are examining factors ranging from road topographies to accident histories to determine if higher speed limits might be in order for some stretches of road. Most likely candidates include portions of the HE Bailey, Muskogee, Cimarron, and Indian Nations turnpikes. [Journal Record????]

Tulsa councilor headed to White House for conference with female municipal leaders: Tulsa City Councilor Jeanie Cue will join nearly 100 other female elected officials who will meet with senior administration officials for briefings and discussions on community revitalization, economic growth, child care and a number of other issues.  [Tulsa World]

Hoskin to serve on Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy board: January Hoskin, first lady of the Cherokee Nation, has assumed a leadership role on the Board of Directors for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Quote of the Day

“You’re seeing the people take it upon themselves to act. Oklahomans want to use their voice to change policy, and our constitution allows us to do that.”

-Amber England, spokesperson for Yes on 802 campaign to expand Medicaid discussing citizen-led ballot measures. [CNHI

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma students in 2018 who experienced homelessness of the state’s 695,298 students.

[U.S. Department of Labor]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The economic debate over the minimum wage, explained: For at least the last 25 years, labor economists have been compiling reams of evidence trying to answer one big question: Do minimum wage laws cost us jobs? [Vox]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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