In The Know: How Oklahoma abandoned class size limits; parent groups join forces; voter registration tops 2.1 million…

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.

New from OK Policy

Kicking the can down the road: How inadequate funding dismantles data-driven education reform: There is a saying that “what gets measured, gets done,” and in 1990, our state Legislature seemed to understand this adage. That year, they passed HB 1017, which dedicated $560 million dollars over five years to implement historic education reforms including class size reduction, curriculum standards, testing, and early childhood programs. Since that time, state funding gains have severely eroded, and Oklahoma has not been able to maintain many aspects of HB 1017 including class size limits. [OK Policy]

In The News

State voter registration topped 2.1 million, most ever following gubernatorial election : The Oklahoma State Election Board’s annual Jan. 15 voter registration count topped 2.1 million, the most ever following a gubernatorial election. “Our state saw a big increase in voter engagement in 2018, and I am hopeful that this trend will continue through 2019 and into the 2020 elections,” said election board secretary Paul Ziriax. [Tulsa World]

Parent groups advocating for more public education funding join forces across Oklahoma: Grassroots parent organizations that have been advocating for improved state funding for public education in recent years are forming a new coalition ahead of the next legislative session. Organizers say the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee, or OKPLAC, aims to unite the efforts of thousands of parents to create a collective voice on behalf of students and schools. [Tulsa World]

Stitt asks banks to help federal employees: Gov. Kevin Stitt instructed the state’s banking agency to encourage financial institutions to accommodate federal employees not receiving a paycheck during the ongoing federal government shutdown. “It could be a hardship for people and we need to work with them,” said Stitt, who became governor Monday. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma joins states issuing February food benefits early: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services will distribute February’s food assistance benefits early due to the partial government shutdown. The agency says those already receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as food stamps, will begin receiving February benefits by Jan. 20. [AP News]

Collections to Oklahoma general fund keep climbing: Collections to Oklahoma’s main government operating fund are continuing to outpace the estimate, but state finance officials are cautioning that lower oil prices are expected to start driving some of those collections down. [AP News]

Woman dies after ‘critical incident’ at juvenile center: An 18-year-old woman died earlier this month after a “critical incident” at the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center, the state Office of Juvenile Affairs confirmed. The woman, a juvenile offender who was being housed at the Tecumseh facility, was taken to a hospital after the Jan. 1 incident. [NewsOK]

Mothers plan to open OKC crisis nursery to ease DHS caseload: A new kind of nursery is coming to Oklahoma City next month, and it aims to help ease the caseload at DHS. Three local moms are creating the facility, which will provide a safe place for children of families experiencing various crises. [News9]

State regulators seek changes in railroad rules in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission staff holds its first technical conference on Wednesday as it makes changes to its rules regarding railroads. Some changes apply to trains blocking a crossing. The Commission wants the ability to conduct a compliance audit should a train block a crossing more than 10 minutes. [OK Energy Today]

Environmental groups tell water board proposal would gut scenic river protections: Environmental groups warned Tuesday that a proposed rule by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board would give industry a pass on polluting Oklahoma’s most pristine waterways, while groups representing industry praised the proposed rules as a tool to help bring companies that discharge into the state’s waterways into compliance. [The Frontier]

Hospital lawsuit could go to trial this fall: A federal lawsuit involving one of Oklahoma’s recently shuttered rural hospitals could head to trial this fall. The Pauls Valley Regional Medical Center announced its closure in October. City officials, who double as hospital authority members, had been trying to find ways to keep it open, using everything from city-backed loans to donation campaigns, but that didn’t work. [Journal Record]

Same faces, with some new roles: Cleveland County’s five district and one associate district judge all retained their judgeships for 2019. On Monday, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals swore in judges Thad Balkman, Michael Tupper, Jeff Virgin, Lori Walkley and Stephen Bonner. Gavin County Judge Leah Edwards also was sworn in. [Norman Transcript]

OKC Council adopts ordinances for short-term rentals: After more than a year of negotiations, the Oklahoma City Council adopted new ordinances on short-term rental property networks such as Airbnb Tuesday. Those ordinances address safety standards, the presence of hosts while renting and annual license fees. However, property owners who can prove they’re already actively renting are protected from most of the changes under a so-called grandfather clause for at least 10 years, city officials said. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma City School District to encourage early retirement for principals, assistants: The Oklahoma City School Board on Monday night approved an incentive program for principals and assistant principals to retire early in anticipation of school closures and consolidations. [NewsOK ????]

13 people apply for vacant Tulsa school board District 5 seat: The Tulsa school board will choose from 13 applicants to fill its recently vacated District 5 seat. School board members are expected to appoint the replacement for Cindy Decker, who resigned during the Jan 7. meeting, in the coming weeks. The appointee will serve the remainder of Decker’s term, which expires in 2020. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Transit Pursuing $4M Line of Credit as Federal Government Shutdown Continues: The federal government shutdown is in its fourth week, and that has Tulsa Transit coming up with a contingency plan: a $4 million line of credit. Federal grants account for about 34 percent of Tulsa Transit funding. [Public Radio Tulsa] More than two dozen bus rapid transit stations will pop up along Peoria Avenue in the coming months. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tulsa art project in Greenwood District awarded $1 million: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced a $1 million gift to The Greenwood Art Project in Tulsa. Bloomberg, a potential candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, joined Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum on Tuesday in announcing the gift from the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 Public Art Challenge. [AP News]

Quote of the Day

“For years, rural, suburban, and urban parents across Oklahoma have been united in their request for an investment in public education. We want to build on the first steps which were taken during the last legislative session and look forward to working with our elected leaders to create the education system every Oklahoma student deserves.”

Jenks school board member Melissa Abdo, speaking about the new Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee that is uniting grassroots parent organizations across the state [Source: Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage increase in the suicide rate in Oklahoma from 2009 to 2016

[Source: NewsOK]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How rural America is saving itself: While rural regions may not be swimming in investment capital, they are awash in local pride and tight-knit communities. Many research studies have found that connections within a local community (i.e., bridging social capital) are one of the most valuable assets leading rural businesses to success. Place-making, a collaborative process to rethink public spaces to maximize their value for everyone, has become another favorite tactic of rural economic developers. Public land and other land-based amenities are boons for rural communities, increasing populations in amenity-rich rural counties. [CityLab]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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