In The Know: June 2, 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, a federal program is helping feed low-income children during summer months when they do not have access to school lunch programs. The Chickasha School Board voted to eliminate one principal and two assistant principal positions, in addition to a number of other cutbacks to deal with cuts in state funding. The OK Policy Blog has a guest post on Oklahoma’s leadership in alternative education programs for high-risk students. A new state law cracks down on debt collectors who harass debtors.

OKC metro-area municipalities are setting aside money to plan for commuter rail lines to and from downtown Oklahoma City. In the Oklahoma Gazette, the administrator of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority calls for making transit a bigger priority. A judge threatened to arrest journalists and banned cameras from a courthouse hallway, even though the rules he relied on to justify the ban are no longer in effect. The Cimarron Alliance is launching a public awareness campaign to show that Oklahoma’s LGBT community is part of the fabric of the state.

Donor records, photocopies of checks, blank checks, and other items were burglarized from the Sooner Tea Party headquarters. NewsOK explains why the next round of federal Race to the Top grants focusing on early education will be a good fit for Oklahoma. The Tulsa World highlights new state laws benefiting military families. Andrew Spiropoulos writes in defense of the runoff system. In today’s Policy Note, the Associated Press reports on how half of the serious crimes occurring on Native lands go unprosecuted.

These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Federal program helps feed low-income children during summer

Children in the Tulsa area don’t need to go hungry just because school’s out for the summer. A little-known federal program to ensure that low-income children get proper nutrition during summer months will kick off at Tulsa-area schools, churches and community centers next week. The Summer Food Service program was created as part of a larger pilot project in 1968, becoming separate in 1975. The U.S. Department of Agriculture funds the program, and in Oklahoma, the state Department of Education manages it. Any child 18 years of age and younger is welcome to eat for free at any site.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Chickasha school board approves cuts to deal with budget reduction

The Chickasha School Board on Tuesday approved Superintendent Jim Glaze’s budget reduction plan, which will pare $817,000 in expenses from the 2011-12 budget. The plan approved Tuesday night includes the elimination of the Chickasha Quality Academy principal position and two elementary school assistant principal positions, as well as the retirement of a central office administrator who will not be replaced. Other components of the budget reduction plan, necessary because of cuts in state funding, include: $170,000 in cutting use of temporary teachers; $240,000 in savings for teachers who have retired or resigned; $98,000 in savings by not rehiring probationary support employees; $200,000 reduction in day-to-day operational expenses; $45,000 from building and central office administrators, each taking a $2,700 pay reduction and foregoing a step increase in 2011-12

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Alternative education — Oklahoma leads the nation

When people think of alternative education, they may imagine “punishment schools” or theSweathogson Welcome Back, Kotter.  In many states, they’d be right.  But in most of Oklahoma, alternative programs are true alternatives – schools of opportunity for some of our highest-risk students.  A national study of alternative education conducted in 2010 concluded, “Only two states – Oklahoma and Minnesota – have set the policy conditions necessary to encourage the development and sustainability of innovative alternative education models.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

New Oklahoma law aimed at punishing ‘scum bag’ debt collectors, backer says

A new state law that prohibits debt collectors from cursing and threatening improper legal action against debtors is aimed at punishing “scum bags,” said a Tulsa man who made and lost a fortune in the business. Bill Bartmann, who founded a Tulsa debt collection company that made him a billionaire before its collapse, said he lobbied hard for passage of Senate Bill 398. It was adopted unanimously. The measure makes it illegal for debt collectors to threaten a debtor with a lawsuit after the debt’s statute of limitations has passed, or to use “obscene or profane language” to threaten a debtor. The law also expands the state’s “no-call” list to include texts unless a consumer has opted in for such messages.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

OKC metro area municipalities planning for commuter rail

Several metro-area municipalities are setting aside money in their upcoming fiscal year budgets to help pay for a study that could lead to commuter rail lines running to and from downtown Oklahoma City. The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, a voluntary membership organization comprised of several local governments, has secured about $1 million in federal funding to perform a commuter corridor alternatives analysis study, said Doug Rex, director of transportation and planning services for ACOG.
To receive the federal funds, local governments must come up with 20 percent of the funds, which would bring the total available to around $1.25 million, Rex said.

Read more from this Oklahoma Gazette article at

See also: Transit should be a priority from The Oklahoma Gazette

Judge threatens to arrest journalists, refuses to hear legal arguments against his ban on cameras in courthouse hallway

Judge Paul Woodward wouldn’t hear legal arguments on Tuesday against his order banning TV cameras in the same courthouse hallway as a criminal hearing involving an Oklahoma County judge and her husband. Woodward threatened to hold TV crews in contempt and confiscate cameras if he sees them again in the hallway outside the courtroom, KFOR and KOKH Fox 25 reported. Woodward’s order relies upon a judicial canon no longer in effect. A Garfield County judge, Woodward was assigned the case after Oklahoma County judges recused themselves. Oklahoma County Judge Tammy Bass-LeSure and her husband are charged with perjury and making a fraudulent claim against the state for taking payments for children they adopted but who don’t live with them.

Read more from FOI Oklahoma at

Cimarron Alliance launches LGBT public awareness campaign

The Cimarron Alliance Foundation is launching a public awareness campaign aimed at showing Oklahoma’s LGBT community as just that – everyday Oklahomans who are part of the fabric of the state. Scott Hamilton, executive director of Cimarron Alliance, said the “And I Am a Gay Oklahoman” campaign will begin with a series of short videos featuring people of various backgrounds and professions telling a bit about their lives. The videos first will be posted to social networking sites and websites, then the campaign will roll out into billboards and print advertisements. A fundraising effort is under way to buy TV spots, he said.

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

Sooner Tea Party headquarters burglarized

One or more burglars bashed in a steel door at the Sooner Tea Party’s Oklahoma City headquarters over the Memorial Day weekend and escaped with donor records, photocopies of checks, blank checks and other items, the leader of the conservative political organization said Wednesday. “It was definitely political,” said leader Al Gerhart, 53, noting that the burglars took a lot of Sooner Tea Party records, but passed over expensive tools and equipment in the west Oklahoma City carpentry shop where he kept the records. An air-conditioner and a laptop computer Gerhart used for his business were the most expensive items Gerhart mentioned as being taken.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

NewsOK: New Race to the Top a good fit for Oklahoma

Oklahoma seems a natural fit for a newly announced round of federal money to improve early childhood education programs. The Obama administration said last week it will award up to $500 million in the early learning Race to the Top competition before year’s end. Critical details about the program haven’t yet been announced, but the inclusion of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests the focus will rightly expand beyond traditional schools. But here’s what we do know: There is strong support in Oklahoma among communities, businesses and educators for early childhood programs. They understand the investment has long-term benefits for children, families and communities.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Tulsa World: New state laws offer much-deserved aid to military families

Among the worthwhile measures that were signed into law recently by Gov. Mary Fallin were several that represent significant steps for helping Oklahoma’s military families. House Bill 1343 will provide college scholarships to children of military personnel killed in the line of duty after Jan. 1, 2000. The program will be administered through the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program. House Bill 1603 will prohibit the use of military deployment as a cause for changes in child custody agreements. Senate Bill 115 will make it easier for those serving in the military to be able to vote by requiring compliance with federal laws relating to voting practices for active-duty military personnel.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Andrew Spiropoulos: In defense of the runoff system

I find it interesting that one of the themes emerging in commentary about the recently concluded legislative session is that some of the Legislature’s most shining moments were the times they refused to consider or defeated a particular bill. One scheme I hope stays in the legislative dustbin is the proposed elimination of runoff elections for nomination to state elective and legislative offices. For several years, there has been talk about the expense and bother of runoffs and some have suggested that we should declare the primary candidates with the most votes the nominee, whether they received a majority or not.

Read more from this Journal Record editorial at

Quote of the Day

We are attorneys, doctors, people who deliver your mail, collect your garbage, care for your children, mow your lawns and paint paintings. We are older and younger, we are every race, every religion, every ethnicity, every nation of origin, and the one thing that binds us all together goes beyond our sexual orientation. It is the fact that we are all Oklahomans.

Scott Hamilton, executive director of Cimarron Alliance, which is launching a campaign to raise awareness about LGBT Oklahomans.

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma offenders in the custody of contract correctional facilities as of May 23rd, 2011.

Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

U.S. declines to try half of Native crimes

There was swelling on the little girl’s skull and hemorrhages around her brain. There was a tear between her right ear and scalp. The scars on her 36-pound body were consistent with burns from a space heater, a curling iron and hot noodles. The mother said she had accidentally rolled over onto her daughter in bed, smothering her. The medical examiner concluded that the brown-eyed toddler with the wavy dark hair had been beaten, declaring her death a homicide. Had 2-year-old Kiara Harvey died elsewhere the case likely would have been handled by the county sheriff or police, and the local district attorney. But Kiara was a Navajo and she lived on the expansive Navajo Nation. On tribal lands, only federal prosecutions can lead to serious penalties for major crimes involving Native Americans. Those prosecutors, however, end up declining to pursue half of the cases nationally.

Read more from this Associated Press article 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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