In The Know: Gamesmanship on education plans creates #okleg impasse | Delivering tax cuts for Oklahomans who need it | Vouchers have long-term fiscal impacts

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. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Modernizing the Sales Tax Relief Credit will cut taxes for those who need it: While cutting the grocery tax may be the politically popular choice, it could make inflation worse, it would provide little to no impact to the lowest-income Oklahomans, and it would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Lawmakers who truly want to provide meaningful inflation relief to Oklahomans who need it should instead opt to modernize the Sales Tax Relief Credit. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Long-term costs of private school tax credits: Instead of delivering inflation relief to everyday Oklahomans, lawmakers this session are hell-bent on moving forward with an educational voucher scheme — this time disguised as refundable tax credits — that would financially damage our public schools, leaving our state’s education system worse off in just a few years. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Of children and donuts: House sends Stitt proposal to Senate where it ‘isn’t going to pass’: With a Tuesday-morning meeting between Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislative leaders reportedly making little headway in the House and Senate dispute over a massive education funding and school choice reform package, House Republicans used the convoluted conference committee process Wednesday to advance a “compromise” proposal pitched by Stitt days prior. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat took a look and said it was the same unsatisfactory picture he had peeped Friday at Stitt’s show. [NonDoc]

  • House pressures Senate by adopting Stitt plan for teacher pay and tax credits [The Oklahoman]
  • House Republicans align with Stitt in education fight [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma House passes surprise bill tying teacher raises to Stitt’s voucher-like tax credit program [KOSU]
  • Update on education reform: Governor and House vs. the Oklahoma Senate [Fox 25]

Bill banning gender-affirming care for minors passes Oklahoma House: A bill banning gender-affirming care for minors and criminalizes care is nearing the finish line. Senate Bill 613 mirrors the state’s abortion bans, in that it makes performing the service — in this case, gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth — a felony, threatening medical providers with up to a decade in prison and $100,000 in fines. [KOSU]

  • Oklahoma House keeps alive ban on transgender procedures or treatments for minors [Tulsa World]

Addressing the teacher shortage: Oklahoma to offer bonuses up to $50,000: Citing the ongoing teacher shortage, State Superintendent Ryan Walters announced a pilot program Wednesday afternoon to provide one-time signing bonuses for specific instructional areas. However, with applications subject to review by the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the plan includes a cap on the total amount of signing bonuses awarded per district at $150,000. [Tulsa World]

  • Ryan Walters announces teacher pay recruitment incentives, merit bonuses [NonDoc]
  • Walters’ Oklahoma comprehensive teacher pay reform plan comes with caveats [Fox 25]
  • State Superintendent of Public Instruction unveils teacher bonus plan [CNHI via Muskogee Phoenix]

State Government News

Bill prohibiting denial of state funds based solely on religion heads to Stitt’s desk: As the Catholic Diocese of Oklahoma considers revisions to its application for a state-authorized charter school, a bill prohibiting the denial of state funding or services based solely on religious affiliation has passed the Legislature and is awaiting Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signature. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Lawmakers Try For Second Year To Expand Pregnancy Help: The slow pace of getting money to nonprofit organizations that provide crisis pregnancy care means that almost $8 million is sitting unused in a state account. Oklahoma’s abortion ban and the fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v. Wade in June 2022 adds to the urgency to provide more flexibility under the state’s Choosing Childbirth Act. [Oklahoma Watch]

Kasey Alerts for missing Oklahoma adults could start later this year: Oklahoma police may soon be able to send out alerts when adults vanish under suspicious circumstances. State lawmakers greenlit the public notifications earlier this week, voting to fill the age gap between existing alerts for missing children and elderly people. [The Oklahoman]

OK House approves travel allowance increase for county officials: Lawmakers have secured passage of a bill that would raise the monthly travel allowance by $300 for county officials. [Fox 25]

New state law assures protection for food donations: A new law in Oklahoma may help to get food to hungry people in need by assuring legal protections for restaurants that donate leftovers. [Journal Record]

Column: ‘Passing SB 621 is essential for Oklahoma to succeed’: As a business leader involved in one of the state’s most important — and short-staffed — industries, I regrettably must report that Oklahoma’s workforce development engine is in need of serious repair. [Kevin Gross Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma has few organic farms, but a USDA program could aid in changing that: As of 2021, there were only six certified organic operations in Oklahoma. The USDA is hoping to change that by assisting producers — here and across the country — through the Organic Transition Initiative. [KOSU]

Column: Oklahoma’s babies need investments, not cuts: We’re both proud to call Oklahoma home, but almost all of our state’s families with infants and toddlers are forced to make difficult decisions about care for their children and financial well-being. For many, it seems that neither is possible. Few have paid time off to spend with their newborns, but right away they are smacked with the high cost of going to work. [Alexis Barker and Paul Spicer Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Back to the future? Sharp cuts proposed for Indian Health Service: Republican proposal calls for spending cuts across all federal agencies. The sequestration of unspent COVID-19 funds could exceed several billion dollars There is no clear path leading to a resolution that would raise the debt ceiling and end a fiscal crisis. In fact, U.S. Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan could hit tribal communities and programs hard. [ICT]

Cherokee Nation absentee ballots mailed to voters: The Cherokee Nation Election Commission mailed out absentee ballots to voters on April 25 and 26. This year’s election will take place on June 3, a Saturday. The ballot will include principal chief, deputy chief and Tribal Council districts 1, 3, 6, 8, 12, 13 and 14, along with an at-large seat. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Sexual Assault Awareness Month brings light to serious issues: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Center for Victims Services utilizes the month of April to take part in the annual observance of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Native American women are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted compared to other ethnic groups. [Mvskoke Media]

Criminal Justice News

Despite Drummond request, Pardon and Parole Board denies Glossip clemency: After hearing from Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond and an array of speakers who questioned the quality of the trials that convicted Richard Glossip of first-degree murder, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board did not recommend clemency today for the death-row inmate during a meeting held at the Ted Logan Center in Oklahoma City. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board denies clemency for death row inmate Richard Glossip [The Oklahoman]
  • Attorney general says Oklahoma County is changing death penalty criteria [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma death row inmate Richard Glossip denied clemency [KGOU]

Economic Opportunity

OKC has struggled with providing for homeless population’s needs; more work required: There are quite a few nonprofit and religious resources for the homeless and unsheltered, offering hot meals, temporary shelter, etc. However, there are still many people who can be seen in empty lots or along the roadside while driving through downtown Oklahoma City. Instead of being content with the harsh reality of homelessness, communities should be informed, and officials should work on policies to help those who are unsheltered. [Jill Johnston Guest Column / The Oklahoman

  • Affordable houseing, homeless, and misinformation about the CDC: Your questions answered. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

State Superintendent Ryan Walters wants to expand DEI inquiry to K-12: State Superintendent Ryan Walters wants to require new special reports from public schools across the state in his quest to root out diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programming. At Thursday morning’s state board of education meeting, set for 9:30 a.m. in Oklahoma City, Walters will ask the state board to vote to mandate that local school districts detail their local, state and federal expenditures on staff, materials and any third-party contractors or vendors related to diversity, equity and inclusion. [Tulsa World]

Column: Diversity and inclusion are crucial in driving success: Diversity and inclusion are critical components of modern workplaces and educational institutions. These concepts refer to the value of promoting and celebrating individual differences, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and more. Diversity and inclusion are essential for creating a welcoming and supportive environment that encourages growth and success in both business and education. [Jennifer Krebs-Ellis Guest Column / Lawton Constitution]

Editorial: Overall education improvement faces a tough road in Oklahoma: We know on the local levels, school districts will take these reports and do what they can — within their constraints — to improve their outcomes and address troubling trends. But with such fractured leadership coming from the state level, it will continue to be a tough road to make significant improvements. [Editorial / Enid News & Eagle]

‘All of us belong’: Oklahoman celebrated at White House for winning top teacher award: The magnitude of the White House loomed large, and for a Swedish-Iranian immigrant hailing from Oklahoma, walking in as National Teacher of the Year was “powerful.” As she entered the West Wing on Monday, Rebecka Peterson, of Tulsa, said she thought of her immigrant students at Union High School and about her own past as a newcomer to the United States. [The Oklahoman]

Centers of strength: Oklahoma CareerTech sites aim to rebound after pandemic enrollment drop: After a loss of over 100,000 students during COVID-19, Oklahoma CareerTech officials say they’re optimistic participation in vocational programs will return to pre-pandemic levels as the state aims to meet demand for skilled labor. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Baptist University students to return to Shawnee campus for class after tornado: A week after a tornado tore through the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University, leaving damage in some form to every building, the school announced a return to in-person classes scheduled for next week. [The Oklahoman]

OU looking to ‘make an impact in Tulsa’ with upcoming plans, school president says: From the launch of a polytechnic school to its push for a new cancer hospital, the University of Oklahoma’s plans for Tulsa should only continue to expand, the school’s president told community leaders Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

OU’s swatting event was a hoax, but the trauma it caused was real: Last year, there were hundreds of swatting incidents at college and school campuses all over the country. And though these events turn out to be fake, the trauma people experience is real. [KGOU]

General News

Changing how U.S. forms ask about race and ethnicity is complicated. Here’s why: The first changes in more than a quarter-century to how the U.S. government can ask about your race and ethnicity may be coming to census forms and federal surveys. While this policy discussion is largely under the radar, the stakes of it touch the lives of every person in the United States. [NPR]

Polarization Means Punishment for Minority Party Lawmakers: Last month, Oklahoma Republicans formally censured a nonbinary Democratic colleague after state troopers said the lawmaker blocked them from questioning a transgender rights activist accused of assaulting a police officer during a protest over anti-trans legislation. [U.S. News & World Report]

Oklahoma Local News

  • ‘Coming after your balances’: Were alleged threats to Edmond workers followed through on? [Fox 25]

Quote of the Day

“I think they are still continuing the political games. I am still waiting for them to get out and do good policy discussion.”

-Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, in response to political maneuvering from the House and Gov. Stitt to link giving teacher raises to a plan for private school vouchers in the form of tax credits. [NonDoc

Number of the Day

$215 to $417 million

Proposals for Oklahoma education vouchers (in the form of private school tax credits) could reduce the Oklahoma state budget by $215-417 million annually by Fiscal Year 2029-30. [OK Policy Analysis]

Policy Note

The Fiscal Consequences of Private School Vouchers: In states enacting some type of voucher program, the number of vouchers distributed climbed sharply from 2008 to 2019. Expenditure of public funds on these voucher programs also climbed sharply, with voucher spending in all seven states more than doubling, and growth reaching 883% in Georgia. Florida leads the pack in terms of voucher spending levels, but nearly all the states were diverting hundreds of millions of dollars to voucher programs by the end of the period studied—and these voucher programs have continued to grow.[Public Schools Public Funds]

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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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