In The Know: July 7, 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, Oklahoma programs for at-risk students are suffering in the latest round of budget cuts. The OK Policy Blog previously featured a guest post on the success of these programs that are now being cut. The OK Gazette looks at cuts to teacher bonuses and the budget process that brought us here. The OK Policy Blog surveys court challenges to health care reform, finding that most federal courts are upholding the law as constitutional.

Senator Jim Wilson is planning to sue over what he says is an unconstitutional redistricting plan. A member of incumbent Principal Chief Chad Smith’s campaign says she witnessed serious problems with the hand recount that awarded the election to challenger Bill John Baker. Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid says he is concerned that construction of the convention center will wildly exceed its MAPS 3 budget. Mayor Mick Cornett expressed some concerns but said he is generally pleased with the MAPS 3 process.

State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft says he plans to introduce a “Caylee’s law” requiring parents to report the death or disappearance of a child within 24 to 48 hours. More Oklahoma lakes are being tested for toxic algae, though state officials will not say which ones pending the results. In today’s Policy Note, a report from the Southwest Institute for Research on Women examines the failure of immigration enforcement to work together with the child welfare system, resulting in abrupt separations of parents and children.

These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Oklahoma programs for at-risk students lose funding, support

For Amie Hardy, principal of Jenks Alternative Center, the hardest cut to her program this year is losing the statewide evaluator who pushed her program for at-risk youth to become its best. All alternative education programs across the state, received a direct 4.7 percent reduction in funding. Hardy said the Jenks School District is making up the shortcoming for her program so it won’t lose momentum. But the state also cut $1.2 million from the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center, which reviews the state’s alternative education programs. Hardy said that will be real loss. The center compiled a wealth of data from alternative education centers. It worked to track how students progressed once they entered the alternative programs, which are geared specifically toward keeping students in school and learning.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Previously: Alternative education–Oklahoma leads the nation from the OK Policy Blog

With an ongoing budget shortfall, the state Department of Education zeroed out funding for National Board Certified Teachers

Prior to the June approval of the budget, the State Board of Education had passed a budget request in December 2010, when former Superintendent Sandy Garrett was still over the department. That budget requested all funding levels be brought back up to 2008 levels — an increase of $381 million. However, when the budget request was submitted to legislative staff on Jan. 28, following Barresi’s swearing in, it included a notation stating that Barresi “does not support the request approved by the (State Board of Education) prior to her leadership.” Alongside the budget numbers approved by the board, labeled as FY 12 request, was a column titled “FY 12 Barresi Request.” Although Barresi presented a budget to the Legislature that kept funding levels flat, when the final budget numbers came in from lawmakers, funding for common education was cut 4.1 percent, leading to dramatic reductions that Barresi called “heartbreaking.”

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at

Most federal courts are upholding health care law

Legal challenges to national health care reform have proliferated since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law in March 2010. There have been 26 federal lawsuits filed seeking to overturn the legislation, most of them challenging the constitutionality of the ‘individual mandate’ – the requirement that all Americans carry health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty. With so many different cases working their way through our complicated judicial system, it’s easy to lose track of the big picture. Of the 26 lawsuits, nine cases have been dismissed (in one case the plaintiff has the right to refile), nine are awaiting a ruling, two rulings overturned all or part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and in six cases the court upheld the ACA as constitutional.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at http://keeping-score-most-federal-courts-are-upholding-health-care-law/.

State Senator to sue over redistricting plan

State Sen. Jim Wilson intends to file a lawsuit in the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking to overturn the state Senate’s redistricting plan, he said Wednesday. Wilson has scheduled a press conference for 1 p.m. Thursday at the Capitol to discuss the suit. Wilson, D-Tahlequah, said the state constitution calls for honoring political subdivisions in the redistricting process, something that was not done in the plan adopted by the Senate and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin. He said the approved plan has several districts where those requirements were not followed and where political subdivisions, such as cities and towns, were split.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Cherokee observer alleges recount problems

A member of Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith’s campaign who watched a hand recount in which challenger Bill John Baker was declared the winner in the chief’s election outlined voting irregularities in a court filing Wednesday. In an affidavit filed with the Cherokee Supreme Court, Val Giebel, a ballot-counting watcher representing the Smith campaign, said she observed disorganization among the counters that could have led to a shoddy result. Counters wrote tallies on their hands and on napkins while waiting for official tally sheets, the affidavit alleged. Giebel also alleges that absentee ballots had been marked in black ink, blue ink and pencil, and in some cases the counters said the pencil marks were too hard to read.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

OKC Council member criticizes MAPS 3 decision process

Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid said the MAPS 3 timeline vote at Tuesday’s council meeting would have turned out differently if he were there. And he said he wouldn’t have missed the meeting if he had known a delay to the vote was not as likely as he had been led to believe. However, if the vote were delayed two weeks, a second council member who was absent, Meg Salyer, would have been able to cancel out Shadid’s vote anyway. Shadid said his attendance at the meeting was paramount because he wanted to voice concerns about the new convention center included in MAPS 3 and its location, which also was approved Tuesday by the council. The councilman said he thinks the convention center is likely to wildly exceed its budget and will be built in an undesirable spot if the approved location west of Oklahoma City Arena remains the choice.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Cornett’s concerns about MAPS 3 from The Oklahoma Gazette

Oklahoma lawmaker plans to introduce “Caylee’s law”

An Oklahoma lawmaker said on Wednesday he planned to introduce a “Caylee’s law” in his state requiring parents to swiftly report the death or disappearance of a child in the first legislation stemming from the death of the Florida toddler. A jury found Casey Anthony not guilty on Tuesday of murder in the death of 2-year-old Caylee, whose skeletal remains were found in woods near the Anthony family home. Casey, who was convicted of lying to police, had initially said Caylee had been kidnapped by a nanny, triggering a nationwide search before her remains were found six months later. State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft said it was a problem that there were no laws regulating the timely reporting of a child’s death or disappearance, and that the law should give a parent 24 hours to report the death of a child and 48 hours to report a child under age 12 as missing.

Read more from this Reuters article at

Algae toxicity tests being done on other lakes

Since the outbreak of toxic blue-green algae blooms on Grand Lake, there have been reports of blue-green algae blooms on other Oklahoma lakes. State authorities, however, will not release information on which lakes are being tested for toxicity or how many. Officials said about a dozen individuals had contacted the Grand River Dam Authority saying they had reacted in some way to contact with lake water. Most reactions involved rashes or eye irritation. Meanwhile, federal officials did confirm that they are testing the Chouteau Lock and Dam.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Quote of the Day

Almost any program that is effective has some kind of intensity to it, it takes that intensity in order to really support youth and families … but that intensity is expensive.

Brent Wolfe, director of the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, speaking about budget cuts to programs for at-risk youth in Oklahoma.

Number of the Day


The average composite score on the ACT for Oklahoma high schools, 08/09; the comparable national average was 21.1.

Source: Education Oversight Board

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Disappearing Parents: Immigration enforcement and child welfare

A report released today by the Southwest Institute for Research on Women and the Bacon Immigration Law and Policy Program describes families entangled in two vast bureaucracies: the federal immigration enforcement system and the state child welfare system. The failure of these two systems to work together results in abrupt separations of parents and children after a parent is swept up in immigration enforcement and, at times, long-term stays in foster care for youth whose parents are detained or deported. The report, Disappearing Parents: A Report on Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System, is based on over a year of research, including over fifty surveys and twenty interviews with juvenile court judges, attorneys representing children and parents in juvenile court, and case workers in Child Protective Services.

Read more from the Southwest Institute for Research on Women 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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