In The Know: Group Seeks to Overturn Oklahoma Tax Hikes for Teacher Raise

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.

Today In The News

Group Seeks to Overturn Oklahoma Tax Hikes for Teacher Raise: An anti-tax group filed paperwork on Tuesday seeking a public vote on whether to overturn a package of tax increases approved by the Legislature this year to pay for teacher pay raises and fund public schools. The group Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, which includes former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, now has until July 18 to gather about 41,000 signatures needed to place the question on the ballot. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith of Tulsa, who co-founded the group with GOP political consultant Brooke McGowan, said the Legislature should have looked for waste and fraud within state government instead of seeking more money from taxpayers [AP]. Revenues bill is a good start and lawmakers can do more [OK Policy].

Chairman of Oklahoma Ethics Commission accuses legislators of retaliation: The chairman of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission is accusing legislators of retaliating against the watchdog agency by illegally cutting its budget. “I am appalled,” the chairman, John C. Hawkins, wrote in an email sent Sunday to state senators and House members. “The retaliation on a state agency by cutting their budget for doing their job is unconscionable.” The Ethics Commission may sue [NewsOK].

Oklahoma House passes stipend for pensioners, turns down cost of living adjustment: Most pensioners in the state’s retirement systems would get a one-time stipend of at least $350 under a measure sent to Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives. House Bill 1340, by Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Edmond, authorizes stipends of, in most cases, 2 percent but with an absolute minimum of $350 except for volunteer firefighters, who would get $100 [Tulsa World].

Teacher: Veto referendum ‘feels like an attack on public education’: Leaders of the group Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite attempted to file the necessary paperwork at 1 p.m. today for a veto referendum that, if successful, would repeal the funding mechanisms for Oklahoma’s impending teacher raises. But the group had its proposed ballot language printed on the wrong size of paper, forcing a trip to Office Depot for Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, Brooke McGowan, Adrian Otap and a bearded man who identified only as “Moto” and said he was attending to provide the other three with security [NonDoc].

Effort to impeach OEA leaders reveals divide among educators after walkout: Some educators are at odds over the conduct of the Oklahoma Education Association’s two highest-ranking leaders during the statewide teacher walkout and have conflicting statements regarding the impeachment effort against those executives. A petition began to circulate on social media and at an OEA meeting in Norman on Friday as the rifts among educators spilled into public view in the walkout’s aftermath [Tulsa World].

After going on strike, one Oklahoma teacher is ready to run for office: What erupted in West Virginia this winter has become what some call a movement: public school teachers striking for higher pay and more funding for education. A strike of 50,000 teachers in Arizona now enters its fourth day after a big rally in downtown Phoenix yesterday, but conservatives argue taxes can’t keep getting higher. This strike follows a nine-day walkout in Oklahoma, which happened earlier last month. Among the Oklahoma marchers was Craig Hoxie, a military veteran and high school physics teacher in Tulsa with 18 years of experience working in public schools [Marketplace].

In defense of my Oklahoma public-school education: There is a running joke in my family that after I graduated from a teacher’s class, the teacher would leave the school. I thought the joke was supposed to be about my behavior in class, but now it has come to embody my experience as an Oklahoma public school student. While I would smirk, my younger brother scowled as we watched the same teachers’ positions being filled by young graduates, then coaches, then student teachers, then… no one [Ari Papahronis / Columbia Spectator].

A High Schooler Has Upended a Fundamental Chemistry Theory: You may not remember much from high school chemistry, but you probably recall learning the fundamental lesson that carbon, the quintessential element of life, can form four bonds with other molecules. Carbon’s four bonds are responsible for the structure of diamonds, methane, and alcohol, to name a few. Recently, however, a high school teenager from Oklahoma rebelled against this doctrine [Inverse].

Juvenile life sentence bill would be a return to outdated thinking: SB 1221 was introduced to require that all Parole Board members receive training on best practices for reforming criminal behavior and that two members have experience in mental health services, substance abuse services, or social work. After quietly passing the Senate, however, SB 1221 was amended on the House floor to include a process to allow juvenile offenders as young as 13 years old to be sentenced to life without parole. The thinking behind the amended SB 1221 is severely misguided, moving against a strong national current that has seen many states ban life without parole for juveniles [OK Policy].

ODOT: Fund for county roads, bridges has been raided by Legislature: Funding for county road and bridge improvements hasn’t been mismanaged but instead redirected to other uses by the state Legislature, state transportation officials said Tuesday. Oklahoma State Department of Transportation officials said they expect a report from the state auditor to back that claim when it is released in coming days [Tulsa World].

OKC budget funds Sunday bus service: City Manager Jim Couch proposed Tuesday that Oklahoma City add bus service on Sundays. Sunday transit would erase a long-standing blot on Oklahoma City as an outlier among major cities. “That deserves a round of applause, really,” Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer told Jason Ferbrache, the city’s public transportation director [NewsOK].

Cornett leads first quarter fundraising from donors, as Lamb maintains cash advantage: Mick Cornett raised more money from donors than his rivals for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, but Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt maintained their cash advantage after the first three months of the year. Cornett, the former Oklahoma City mayor, collected $439,000 from Jan. 1 through March 31, and ended the quarter with nearly $800,000 in his campaign account, according to a report filed Monday with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“It seems like they’re undercutting all the progress we made this session. It’s hard not to take it personally.”

– Cheryl Fentress, a ninth-grade teacher from Bartlesville, on an effort led by former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn to overturn the tax increases that funded a $6,100 teacher pay raise (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s national ranking for suicide deaths rate in 2016, with a rate 55 percent higher than the national average.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What Adult Learners Really Need (Hint: It’s Not Just Job Skills): More than 2 out of 3 college students today are not coming straight out of high school. Half are financially independent from their parents, and 1 in 4 are parents themselves. David Scobey says that, as an American studies and history professor at the University of Michigan for decades, he was “clueless” about the needs of these adult students. But then, in 2010, he became a dean at The New School, a private college in New York City, heading a division that included a bachelor’s degree program designed specifically for adults and transfer students [NPR].

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


Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.