In The Know: June 14, 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, Tulsa Public Schools will eliminate 65 out of 140 special education positions and cut $1.3 million from student counseling to cope with state budget cuts. State revenue improvements are expected to more than double the previous estimate of $71.1M going into the Rainy Day Fund this year. Oklahoma civil rights leader Clara Luper will lie in repose at the state Capitol Thursday afternoon. A public wake will be held Wednesday and a public funeral service will be Friday at the Cox Convention Center.

The Osage Nation is speaking out against planned wind farms because of concerns that they will interfere with oil and gas extraction, which pays royalties to tribal members. Oklahoma soldiers in the 45th Infantry have begun deploying to Afghanistan. Former State Senator Debbe Leftwich’s request for a dismissal of charges that she accepted a bribe in exchange for not running for reelection was denied. The OK Policy Blog assesses last session’s record on stopping the runaway train of tax expenditures.

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft will run in a special election for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Reynolds. The seat will move due to redistricting in 2012, after which Wesselhoft says he will run for another seat currently held by term-limited Sen. Jonathan Nichols. Out of the 51 largest metro areas, Oklahoma City was one of only three that saw its core city grow faster than the suburbs. In today’s Policy Note, the Economix blog explains how Britain has been able to reduce its child poverty rate by half since 1994, even as child poverty in the United States has gone up.

These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Tulsa Public Schools makes cuts to special education, student counseling

Tulsa Public Schools is preparing for state funding reductions and the expiration of federal stimulus funds by slashing $4.2 million from its special education budget. The cuts include 65 of the 140 special education employee positions that were being paid for with stimulus funds and $1.3 million for student counseling services provided by mental health agencies. Kay Sandschaper, director of special education at TPS, said she was careful to spread out the $2.3 million in employee position cuts to stay in compliance with the district’s own policies, as well as federal legal requirements for student-teacher ratios. And cutting $1.3 million in mental health services for students who don’t qualify for Medicaid reimbursements prevented the loss of even more teachers and paraprofessionals.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Strong revenue collections expected to help replenish Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund

Continued brisk state revenue collections in May will result in the state’s depleted savings account getting a much bigger deposit than expected, the state’s finance director said Monday. Led by strong income and sales tax receipts, state revenue collections for the first 11 months of this fiscal year are outpacing receipts of a year ago by almost 10 percent, according to the state finance office. State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger said the deposit into the state’s Rainy Day Fund could be more than double the $71.1 million estimated earlier this year. The state’s savings account now contains $2.03.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Oklahoma civil rights leader Clara Luper to lie in repose at state Capitol

The body of Clara Luper will lie in repose at the state Capitol on Thursday afternoon to allow individuals to pay their respects to the revered Oklahoma civil rights leader, who died Wednesday at age 88. The public viewing is part of a celebration of life for Luper that will include events scheduled for Wednesday through Friday. Events will begin Wednesday with a public wake from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Fairview Baptist Church, 1700 NE 7. Thursday, Luper’s body will lie in repose from noon to 4 p.m. at the state Capitol, 2300 N Lincoln Blvd. The funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. Friday at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. Public admittance will begin at 9:30 a.m. and a celebration of life musical prelude will start at 10 a.m.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Osage Nation speaks out against proposed wind farms

The Osage Nation, largely left out of discussions regarding commercial wind farms planned west of Pawhuska, is taking a stand against them. On Monday, Principal Chief John D. Red Eagle said the tribe – although not opposed to alternative energy development in general – has found significant reasons to oppose wind farms on the tallgrass prairie of Osage County. The tribe owns all mineral rights in Osage County and fears that large wind farms will interfere with extracting oil and gas, from which royalties are paid in support of tribal members.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oklahoma soldiers begin deployment to Afghanistan

The first batch of soldiers from Oklahoma are headed to Afghanistan. The soldiers left Camp Shelby in Mississippi where they’ve been training. It will take about three weeks to get all of the soldiers from Oklahoma to Afghanistan, where they’ll serve for nine months. A Tulsa woman hopes it’s a safe and speedy deployment. She has twice the worry. Debbie Griffith’s husband, Eric, left Camp Shelby Mississippi a week ago and is now in Afghanistan. Her son, Mark White, is home on leave for a few days before he also heads to the war zone with the 45th Infantry.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

Leftwich request for case dismissal denied

Former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich will have to go to court. Leftwich, the former south Oklahoma City Democrat charged with accepting a bribe in exchange for not running for office, lost her appeal to have the case thrown out of Oklahoma County District Court. By a 4-1 vote, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals voted to deny Leftwich’s request to dismiss the felony charge of soliciting or accepting a bribe. The ruling – issued June 9 – was endorsed by judges Arlene Johnson, David B. Lewis, Gary Lumpkin and Clancy Smith. Judge Charles A. Johnson did not vote.

Read more from this Journal Record article [subscriber only] at

Can we stop the runaway train of tax expenditures?

In an earlier post, we discussed tax breaks that had been extended or newly created in the most recent legislative session. The governor promised to eliminate tax credits that “do not create jobs,” but there were no successful bills to end credits or any other tax expenditure this year. The unwillingness so far of state leaders to rein in tax expenditures is a serious problem. As OK Policy pointed out in a pair of issue briefs, Oklahoma’s tax code is full of holes created by numerous exemptions, deductions, and credits. The estimated cost of all these tax breaks is $5 billion a year.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Rep. Wesselhoft files for state Senate seat

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft filed Monday for the soon-to-be vacant Senate District 43 seat in southern Oklahoma County and northern Cleveland County. Wesselhoft, R-Moore, was the first to file for the post about 9 a.m. Monday, about an hour after the filing period started. Wesselhoft, 64, said he will run for the one year remaining in the Senate District 43 term now held by Sen. Jim Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. Reynolds was elected Cleveland County’s treasurer in November; he will start his new duties in early July. The Senate District 43 will be up for election again in November 2012, although it will move south to McClain, Garvin and Stephens counties.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Downtown projects sell Oklahoma City with urban success

Confession time: in the hustle and bustle of trying to keep up with the rapid changes downtown, it’s easy to lose one’s view of the big picture. Devon Energy Center, SandRidge Commons, Project 180, MAPS 3, Core to Shore, MidTown, Automobile Alley, Bricktown — it’s like a 10-ring circus everyday, with the show consisting of hundreds of yellow vested construction workers. At times like this, the big-picture reminders sometimes come from far away. The New York Times this past week noted that of the 51 metropolitan areas with more than 1 million residents, only three — Boston, Providence, and Oklahoma City — saw their core cities grow faster than their suburbs. Oklahoma City, long criticized for its size and sprawl, suddenly shows up as an urban success story.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Quote of the Day

These are very necessary services for kids, but the Oklahoma Legislature is determined to have smaller government. This is what smaller government looks like.

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard, who says state budget cuts have forced the district to eliminate 65 of 140 special education employees and $1.3 million from student counseling.

Number of the Day


Number of states since 1996 to exempt qualified medical marijuana patients and providers from criminal penalties; Oklahoma is not one of them

Source: National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How to cut child poverty in half

Cutting child poverty in half sounds like a magician’s trick, or some miracle of rapid economic growth. But Britain has used standard policy tools to reduce its child-poverty rate by more than half since 1994 and has effectively defended this progress against the pressures of the Great Recession. By contrast, the child poverty rate has trended upward in the United States since 2000, and children have proved economically vulnerable to increased unemployment. The ordinary policies in Britain that led to what many Americans would consider extraordinary results were these: an increase in the national minimum wage (currently about $9.70 an hour, compared with our $7.25), tax incentives to encourage single parents to move into paid employment, increased public benefits for parents, provision of universal preschool and regulations making it easier for parents of young children to request flexible work schedules.

Read more from the Economix blog 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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