In The Know: July 19, 2011

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, Gov. Fallin said she opposes using part of the Rainy Day Fund deposit to fully fund teacher health benefits. The OK Policy Blog gives a quick overview of how the Rainy Day Fund works and shows how we’ve designed it to depend on poor economic forecasting. The heat wave is doing damage to Oklahoma’s infrastructure, including a ruptured water main that shut down the Capitol yesterday and buckling roads and highways across the state. The Associated Press reports on how the heat hits hardest in the nation’s poorest communities, including in Oklahoma.

The OKC School Board is scrutinizing private after-school tutoring programs that receive state money after accusations emerged that companies may have charged the district for students that never received tutoring. More school districts are cutting teacher positions to cope with budget cuts. The tax credit task force is looking critically at the insurance premium tax credit that reimburses insurances companies for supplying a backup fund in case they go bankrupt and can’t meet claims.

The purchase of a downtown building by UCO could prohibit the opening of any new bars or clubs in half of Bricktown unless a law is changed. In today’s Policy Note, the AARP finds that overwhelmed family caregivers provided the equivalent of $450 billion worth of care to their adult parents and other loved ones in 2009. Today’s Number of the Day is the amount the legislature cut appropriations to the Department of Education for this fiscal year compared to FY ’11.

Read on for more.

In The News

Fallin opposes using Rainy Day Fund to close gap in teacher benefits

Gov. Mary Fallin said Monday that teachers’ benefits costs should be paid as per state law, but she shied away from saying precisely how they should be paid or by whom. Fallin sidestepped the question of whether the state’s constitutional reserve fund, recently refreshed with $219 million, should be tapped for the estimated $34 million needed to bridge the gap between the amount budgeted for benefits and the amount needed to pay them in full. Instead, Fallin echoed earlier statements by House Speaker Kris Steele and state Superintendent Janet Barresi that local districts could make up the shortfall by postponing textbook purchases – a proposal universally panned by school administrators.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

How the Rainy Day Fund requires us to make mistakes

Last Monday, State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger announced that the state would be depositing $219 million in the Constitutional Reserve Fund (commonly referred to as the “Rainy Day Fund”) this year. Seen alongside news that lawmakers had to overcome a $500 million budget shortfall, with resulting severe cuts to child care subsidies and teacher training, among others, it may seem strange that we are setting aside so much money that could otherwise be used to protect these important programs.

Read more from the OK POlicy Blog at

See also: Quick Take: Rainy Day Fund basics from the OK Policy Blog

Oklahomans swelter as infrastructure begins cracking in heat wave

A 60-inch water main broke during sweltering heat Monday, reducing water pressure in northern Oklahoma City, forcing the state to send workers home from the Capitol complex and leading to an outdoor watering ban. Monday marked the 28th day of 100-plus degree temperatures in Oklahoma City this year. The record for 100-degree days in a calendar year is 50, set in 1980. At least one person has died from heat stroke since the heat wave began, and the high temperatures are suspected in two other deaths. Dozens of people have required medical treatment. The heat wave is blamed for buckling on concrete roads and highways across the state.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Heat wave hardest on nation’s poorest communities from The Associated Press

Oklahoma City School Board scrutinizes providers of after-school tutoring program

With a federal investigation into several tutoring companies ongoing, the Oklahoma City School Board is scrutinizing the $3.1 million the district must allocate to outside providers for after-school tutoring. Under federal law, schools must provide supplemental education opportunities to students who attend schools that are underperforming and on a list of schools in need of improvement. Those after-school tutoring opportunities are provided by private, for-profit and nonprofit companies who then bill the school district a fee per child. The federal investigation is looking into whether some of the companies charged Oklahoma City Public Schools for children who never received tutoring.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

School districts cutting teacher positions

School districts all over Green Country are feeling the pinch after statewide budget cuts. Now some districts are being forced to take action and cut positions. Until now Jenks hasn’t had to cut teaching positions because of budget cuts. Now they are losing 19 positions in addition to 20 support staff positions. Most of the districts aren’t having layoffs, they are just not filling open positions. That doesn’t mean it won’t affect learning in the classroom. “We’re very fearful that with higher class sizes and higher expectations for our students to perform to be college ready that we’re really going to be taxing our teachers and our students,” said Dr. Cathy Burden, Union Public Schools superintendent.

Read more from this KJRH article at

Task force tackles insurance industry tax credits

In a rare interim meeting on a Friday afternoon (July 15), members of a task force looking critically at insurance premium tax credits heard from a wide range of industry representatives who more or less defended the status quo. Those witnesses spoke, however, in the face of often pressing questions from state Rep. David Dank and other members of the panel he chairs. For the insurance industry, focus of the afternoon session, the emphasis was on the $37.8 million in tax credits that help keep Oklahoma guaranty funds solvent. Dank and other members of the task force said the question was whether the industry itself, or taxpayers, should provide the financing for salvage operations.

Read more from this CapitolBeatOK article at

ACM@UCO building purchase could put freeze on openings of new bars and clubs along Bricktown Canal

Up to half of Bricktown could see a freeze on development of any new bars or clubs as the University of Central Oklahoma prepares to complete its purchase of the Oklahoma Hardware Building. The warehouse along the Bricktown Canal is already home to the Academy of Contemporary Music, but the school becoming a landowner next month unintentionally triggered a law that prohibits issuing licenses to new bars or clubs that derive more than 50 percent of sales from liquor if they are within 300 feet of a church or school. That law, if enforced, would prohibit the opening of any new bars or clubs on the Bricktown Canal between the Bricktown ballpark and the BNSF Railway viaduct.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Quote of the Day

I personally believe it’s a national issue. What we’re seeing right now across our nation is a patchwork of immigration (laws) in different states. Oklahoma has certainly taken a strong lead in that the past couple of years. There’s general frustration across the nation on the lack of security on our borders. We have a system that does not allow people to immigrate here legally in a timely fashion. It takes forever to get through the immigration process.
Governor Fallin, when asked whether she supports Arizona’s immigration law.

Number of the Day

$108 million

Amount the legislature cut appropriations to the Department of Education for this fiscal year compared to FY ’11.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Overwhelmed caregivers save the U.S. health care system billions in uncompensated care

Family caregivers provided the equivalent of $450 billion worth of care to their adult parents and other loved ones in 2009, an amount that makes caregivers one of the largest and most overlooked pillars of the U.S. health care system, according to a new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute, “Valuing the Invaluable: The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving, 2011 Update.” This figure, which puts a dollar value on every meal prepared, every call made to an insurance company and every time a caregiver helped an older adult bathe or dress, is nearly as much as the government spent on Medicare in 2009 and nearly four times what Medicaid itself paid for long-term care services.

Read more from the AARP at

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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