In 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today you should know that Oklahoma’s Race to the Top early childhood grant application focuses on creating an entry exam for kindergartners and a better data system. OK Policy previously mapped out how federal, state, local, and private funds are supporting young children in Oklahoma. The Huffington Post interviewed Jean Hendrickson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma A+ Schools Program, which is becoming a national model for arts education.
The OK Policy Blog introduces the latest in our annual multi-year forecasts for the state budget. Oklahoma construction contractors told a legislative panel that lack of oversight on out-of-state companies is creating an uneven playing field. Gov. Mary Fallin stopped short of saying there should be age limits on the pilots and aircraft who are used to fly university coaches, but she said it was appropriate that Oklahoma State University review its guidelines for athletic travel.
Insurance premiums from employer-issued health insurance plans increased by about 45 percent in Oklahoma between 2003 and 2010. The Tulsa World warns that more cuts to the income tax could do irreversible damage to education and other state services. NewsOK criticizes the fact that Oklahoma is one of only four states with legislatures exempted from state open records laws and one of seven with total immunity from open meetings laws.
The Oklahoma Assets Coalition is looking to hire a Project Manager. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma City’s rank on a list of metropolitan areas with the largest increases in income segregation. In today’s Policy Note, The Century Foundation gives 7 reasons to celebrate the Supercommittee’s failure to reach a deal.
In The News
Entry exam for kindergartners, better data system part of Oklahoma’s Race to the Top application
Oklahoma’s application for almost $60 million in Race to the Top funding for early childhood education focuses on creating an entry exam for kindergartners and a better data system. The 300-page application was made available on the U.S. Department of Education’s website last week along with the applications of 34 other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Funding for Oklahoma wouldn’t necessarily mean any new prekindergarten programs, but rather it focuses on increasing the quality and accountability of programs. The Kindergarten Entry Assessment would begin in 2014 and would be used not only as a measure of how well the prekindergarten programs are preparing students but also as a benchmark to help kindergarten instructors focus their instruction on weaknesses.
Previously: Will Oklahoma continue to lead the way in early child education? from the OK Policy Blog
Oklahoma A+ schools network a leader in arts education
Upon visiting the Educare Center in Oklahoma City (home to one of the 68 schools in Oklahoma’s A+ schools network), U. S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan commented, “Oklahoma’s A+ school-network nurtures creativity in every student — and a recent evaluation shows not just that the program increases student achievement but boosts attendance and decreases discipline problems as well.” Sir Ken Robinson describes Oklahoma’s A+ school network as “a groundbreaking program emphasizing the arts as a way of teaching a wide variety of disciplines within the curriculum.” I had the privilege of speaking with Jean Hendrickson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma A+ Schools Program, an education movement that more and more American schools are replicating.
An incomplete recovery — and a chance to do better
Today we published “An Incomplete Recovery: The State Budget Outlook 2012-2015.” This is the third of our annual series of forecasts for the state budget. Our goals for this project are both to inform leaders and citizens about the state’s likely fiscal path and to advocate for better fiscal policies and decisions. “An Incomplete Recovery” sums up the forecast part of the story. Oklahoma’s state government is poised not for real recovery, but for continued stagnation. When the budget finally exceeds the pre-downturn level, it will not even begin to support the services we offered before the recession. The rest of the story is our recommendations for dealing with the incomplete recovery.
Playing field out of balance between Oklahoma, out-of-state contractors, panel told
If there was any point of agreement among speakers appearing before the Senate Business and Commerce Committee Monday morning, it was that currently unscrupulous contractors who do not properly register, pay taxes and carry workers’ compensation insurance have a substantial advantage over contractors that follow the law. Some speakers said there is a particular problem with some out-of-state companies. Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, said he requested a study of the issue at the request of the American Subcontractors Association of Oklahoma. Coates said there currently appears to be no way to ensure that everyone plays by the rules.
Governor encourages OSU to review guidelines for athletic plane travel
Gov. Mary Fallin stopped short Monday of saying there should be age limits on the pilots and aircraft who are used to fly university coaches on various trips, or whether the minimum standards should be the same as for those who fly the governor. Fallin said it was appropriate that Oklahoma State University review its guidelines for athletic travel after a second airplane carrying athletes or coaches crashed in 11 years to “make sure we’re protecting everyone.” The single-engine airplane would not meet the OSU team travel policy’s minimum requirement for aircraft to be powered by two or more turbine engines. OSU officials said the airplane wasn’t required to meet that standard because it was a recruiting trip and no student athletes were on board.
Employer-issued health insurance premiums rise
Insurance premiums from employer-issued health insurance plans have increased by about 45 percent in Oklahoma and have outpaced income growth in all 50 states, according to a report released recently by the Commonwealth Fund. The average premium for a single person increased 42 percent – to $4,658 a year – from 2003 to 2010. For families, the increase was 48 percent to $12,900, according to the report. The average in Oklahoma is still lower than in most states. The national average for family coverage is $13,871 a year. Eleven states have lower average premiums than Oklahoma, according to the report.
Tulsa World: Anti-income tax move threatens education, state services
The years-long, steady drumbeat to keep reducing or even eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax has not abated. But at least now there is a growing drumbeat from the other side. Perhaps there’s hope that the most rational and reasonable tax policy will prevail over the long run. The most recent chorus added to the long-running debate comes from some well-respected university economists, who recently spoke before a legislative committee looking into tax issues. Alexander Holmes, regents professor of economics and department chairman at the University of Oklahoma, was typically blunt. “It’s willful ignorance of somebody to propose abolishing the personal income tax. If you did abolish the personal income tax, you would have enough money probably to … get the roads paved, you could educate kids throughout the sixth grade and that would be it.”
NewsOK: Oklahoma lawmakers could do much more to foster transparency
The height of hypocrisy is for lawmakers to require nearly every other public official to abide by openness laws but fail to subject themselves to the same laws. The sooner this changes, the better. Oklahoma lawmakers can talk all they want about transparency — a popular word these days — but it means little until they do more than pay lip service to the idea. For now, we’d take putting the Legislature on equal footing with other public bodies. But a better sign of their commitment to openness would be to hold themselves to a higher standard than they do others. Oklahoma is one of only four states with legislatures exempted from state open records laws and one of seven with total immunity from open meetings laws.
Job Posting: Oklahoma Assets seeks project manager
Oklahoma Assets is seeking a Project Manager to support the development of its organizational structure and implementation of its program and partnership activities. Oklahoma Assets is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advocate policies and programs that can help create a more inclusive economy – one in which financial success, economic stability, and opportunity is available for all. The deadline for applications is December 6th, 2011.
Quote of the Day
You have to be sure you’re right before cutting tax rates or shrinking the tax base. The Legislature and the governor cannot say in following years, “Oops, we made a mistake.”
–Larkin Warner, an economist and regents professor emeritus at Oklahoma State University
Number of the Day
Oklahoma City’s rank on a list of metropolitan areas with the largest increases in income segregation – the concentration of households in either poor or affluent residential areas – between 2000 and 2007; Tulsa ranked 17th
Source: Stanford University
7 Reasons to Celebrate the Not-So-Super Committee’s Failure
“Hopes are Dashed,” The New York Times headline announces in one of the bajillion articles about the inability of the so-called Super Committee to reach a grand bargain to cut federal deficits. But outside of Washington’s insular preoccupation with government balance sheets, few actual citizens ever conjured anything resembling hope one way or the other related to the committee’s mission. What polling shows the public wants Washington to focus on — jobs — had been deemed a distraction as the futile deliberations dragged on. Now that the exercise is finally over, there are plenty of genuine reasons to be at least a bit more hopeful than before.
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