In The Know: Gov. Fallin signs bill targeting teacher union dues

In The KnowIn 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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Note: Yesterday’s Quote of the Day incorrectly identified Emily Durbin as a Teach for America corpsman. We apologize and regret the error.

On Thursday, Gov. Fallin signed a bill prohibiting schools from automatically deducting union dues from educators’ paychecks. We’ve previously discussed why the bill runs directly counter to legislators’ claims of supporting teachers. The Tulsa World wrote that changing the legislature’s attitude toward education will require time and repetition. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board argued that the Governor’s signature on a prescription drug monitoring program is worth celebrating. We’ve explained some of the benefits of the program here.

TU professor Jeremy Kuzmarov wrote in the Tulsa World that small electoral reforms are “baby steps” toward fixing Oklahoma’s democracy. We’ve made suggestions about repairing Oklahoma’s broken democracy before, and this page from Together OK shares concrete reforms to boost electoral participation. On the OK Policy Blog, we noted that while “Rural Opportunity Zones” aren’t helping Kansas, this hasn’t stopped lawmakers from trying to implement them here. We’d previously written that rural opportunity zones are an unproven tax break. Writing in the Tulsa World, Wayne Greene explained that the state’s failure to expand health coverage to low-income Oklahomans means that the state’s hospitals are missing out on many of the law’s benefits. We’ve written before that expanding coverage is a good deal for Oklahoma, and that failure to expand is devastating the state’s rural hospitals.

A new report argues that Oklahoma schools aren’t producing enough workers with the education or training to work highly-skilled jobs in the state. Tulsa Public Schools is considering getting rid of year-round school at six elementary schools. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board warned that growing unmet need for mental health care in the state’s prison system is a recipe for trouble. Gov. Fallin has named former Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins as special adviser to the Governor on child welfare and Pinnacle Plan implementation. A new report from the American Journal of Transportation has found that over 4,000 bridges in Oklahoma are “deficient” and in need of repairs. Read the report here.

A bill that would require school districts to report accusations of sexual misconduct by teachers to state education officials has passed the House and has been sent to the Senate. Advocates say that sexual assault is an epidemic in Indian country, with Native Americans two and a half times more likely to experience sexual assault than any other group. A longer interview on the topic with Shawn Partridge, Program Director of the Family Violence Prevention Program of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, can be found here. The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank among all 50 states and Washington DC for voter turnout in 2014 elections, down from 33rd in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, The Atlantic argues that a strong welfare system makes America more entrepreneurial.

In The News

Fallin Signs Bill Targeting Teacher Union Dues

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill Thursday prohibiting school districts from automatically deducting union dues from teachers’ paychecks. The bill is similar to legislation that was signed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and ultimately upheld by that state’s highest court.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: Oklahoma Legislature has a funny way of supporting education from the OK Policy Blog.

Changing Legislature’s attitude about schools will take consistent, disciplined effort

Here’s something every good teacher knows: Repetition is a key to learning. No one intuitively knows their multiplication tables, for example. No one picks them up on one review. It takes time and consistent effort. That’s true of elementary students and legislators.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Passage of Oklahoma prescription monitoring bill is worth saluting

Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday signed a bill that has the potential to save lives. It reached her desk a year later than hoped for, and it doesn’t go as far as backers of the original bill had wanted, but it’s a victory nonetheless for those concerned about Oklahoma’s significant prescription drug problem.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Opportunity Missed: the Prescription Monitoring Program in Oklahoma from the OK Policy Blog.

Baby steps toward democracy in Oklahoma

When President Jimmy Carter warned last year that the “U.S. does not currently have a functioning democracy,” his comments were especially applicable to Oklahoma. Here are a few quick, sad statistics. Last November, fewer than three in 10 eligible Oklahoma voters went to the polls.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: “Repairing Oklahoma’s Broken Democracy” from OK Policy and Together OK’s page on boosting electoral participation.

‘Rural Opportunity Zones’ aren’t helping Kansas

We recently wrote about another tax break moving through the Oklahoma Legislature without any evidence that it will work or how much it will cost. HB 1747, by Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole), would create “Rural Opportunity Zones” where anyone moving from out-of-state to a county that is projected to lose population would be exempt from paying state income tax for five years.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: Lawmakers pushing another unproven tax break with no idea what it will cost from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma hospitals benefit from ‘Obamacare,’ but not as much as they should

Nationally, hospitals are reporting dramatically lower amounts of uncompensated care, bad debt and demand for charity care. In a March 23 report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that as a victory for “Obamacare,” and they have a point: Because of the federal health-care law, more people have health coverage, especially in states that have accepted Affordable Care Act funding to expand Medicaid coverage.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Medicaid Expansion’s Track Record Shows It’s a Good Deal for Oklahoma from OK Policy and Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma schools are not turning out enough workers to fill highly skilled state jobs, according to new report

Oklahoma schools are producing only half the workers needed for high-skilled state jobs that require formal learning, a trend that could result in more than 500,000 such jobs going unfilled by Oklahomans by 2020, according to a new report. Oklahoma’s Business Case for Education Reform was researched by two members of the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tulsa Public Schools wants to get rid of year-round school at six Tulsa elementaries

Tulsa Public Schools officials want to end the use of a “continuous learning” calendar at six elementary schools in spite of parent and teacher belief in the model. About 3,160 students at Chouteau, Eugene Field, Gilcrease, Kendall-Whittier, Mark Twain and Marshall elementary schools start school two weeks earlier and end the year two weeks later than all other schools in TPS.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Sure recipe for trouble ahead inside Oklahoma prisons

Here’s a sure recipe for trouble down the road with Oklahoma’s already beleaguered prison system. According to data from the state Department of Corrections, about one-third of its inmates exhibit a serious mental illness — and that total has grown by nearly a third, to roughly 9,400 inmates, in the past two years alone.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

Governor Mary Fallin names Jari Askins special adviser on child welfare and pinnacle plan implementation

Governor Mary Fallin today named former Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins as special adviser to the governor on child welfare and Pinnacle Plan implementation. Askins will primarily be responsible for overseeing implementation of the Pinnacle Plan, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’(DHS) ongoing effort to reform the state’s child welfare operations.

Read more from the Edmond Sun.

Study: 4,200 Oklahoma Bridges Need Structural Repairs

An analysis of 2014 federal data shows Oklahoma has the third highest number of structurally deficient bridges in the U.S., according to the American Journal of Transportation. The group says according to the U.S. National Bridge Inventory database, 4,216 bridges in Oklahoma have the deficient classification.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Read the report here.

House Passes Teacher Sexual Misconduct Bill

Local school districts would report accusations of sexual misconduct by teachers to state education officials under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House. House members voted 61-29 for the measure Thursday and sent it to the state Senate.

Read more from KGOU.

Advocates Say Sexual Assault At Epidemic Level In Indian Country

Sexual assault survivors and agencies that advocate on their behalf gathered at the state capitol in Oklahoma City on Thursday to share their stories of sexual violence in Indian country. American Indians are two and a half times more likely to experience sexual assault crimes compared to any other group, and one third of native women will be raped during her lifetime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Read more from KGOU.

See also: An Interview With Shawn Partridge on Violence Against Native Women from the Huffington Post.

‘Start By Believing’ Campaign Supports Oklahoma Sexual Assault Victims

A new effort announced on Friday will bring attention and support to survivors of sexual assault. The goal of the “Start by Believing” campaign is to educate Oklahomans about the appropriate response to victims. When a person is accused of lying or told they brought the assault on themselves, they often won’t get help or take steps to have their attacker arrested, experts say.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Quote of the Day

“Having a skilled workforce and having the workers that they need is definitely a bottom-line issue for companies. And it’s something that we’re facing in Oklahoma as far as we’re having a challenge finding the skilled workers that we need to fill the jobs that we have.”

– Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative Executive Director Jennifer Monies, responding to OEWI’s findings that Oklahoma schools are producing only half the workers needed for highly-skilled jobs in Oklahoma (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank among all 50 states and Washington DC for voter turnout in 2014 elections, down from 33rd in 2010

Source: Nonprofit VOTE.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Welfare Makes America More Entrepreneurial

In 1988, Ronald Reagan traveled to the Soviet Union and gave a speech at Moscow State University, making the case for capitalism. America’s secret, he argued, was its entrepreneurs, whose “courage to take risks” was responsible “for almost all the economic growth in the United States” and much of its technological edge. This risk-taking was made possible, he continued, by economic freedom, which he associated with “limited, unintrusive” government. Reagan was right about the link between startups and growth, but wrong in assuming that small government was the way to encourage them.

Read more from The Atlantic.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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