In The Know: June 27, 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, John Baker won the election for Cherokee principal chief, defeating three-term incumbent Chad Smith by just 11 votes. Court challenges are being planned for the state’s voter ID law and puppy mill regulations. OPEA is pushing back against criticism of longevity pay for state workers. NewsOK examines an OKC elementary school that feeds into one of the state’s lowest performing middle and high schools. Educators are upset about budget cuts that eliminate bonuses for National Board Certification, and school administrators say that contrary to claims from Superintendent Barresi, the state has not fully funded teacher health insurance costs.

The Tulsa World examines how cuts to DHS child care subsidies are affecting some Oklahoma families. The OK Policy Blog previously analyzed these cuts here. Despite little action at the legislature to rein in tax expenditures, Sen. Mike Mazzei says he remains optimistic. As Oklahoma contemplates requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine tablets, an example from Oregon shows that the measure may significantly reduce local meth labs but not cut down on the amount of meth in the state.

Analysis by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy found that teen pregnancies cost Oklahoma taxpayers at least $190 million in 2008. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which serves Nebraska and Iowa, is merging with Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. An Oklahoma federal circuit court judge was reprimanded for appointing friends as special judges in settlement proceedings even though they were unqualified. NewsOK considers how competition for public dollars may increase as populations age.

In today’s Policy Note, the Economix blog provides charts showing the value of a college education. These stories and more below the jump.

In The News

Baker wins election for Cherokee principal chief by 11 votes

After a bitter campaign in which the candidates attacked each other on everything from job creation to use of a private plane, one of the nation’s largest American Indian tribes chose a new leader in an election decided by 11 votes. Longtime councilman Bill John Baker unseated three-term incumbent Chad Smith and will be sworn in as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation on Aug. 14. The tribe has nearly 300,000 members, making it one of the biggest in the nation and the largest in Oklahoma, where it has a 14-county jurisdiction. More than 15,000 votes were cast this year, and the margin between Baker and Smith had been fewer than 30 since late Saturday. Tribal election officials spent the night behind closed doors, scrutinizing so-called “challenge” ballots, which are similar to provisional ballots, before determining the winner early Sunday.

Read more from this Associated Press article at

Challenges planned for voter ID law, pet breeder regulations

Voters will be required to present identification before casting ballots and pet breeders will face new rules and licensing requirements under new laws taking effect Friday. Oklahoma is behind only Missouri in the number of puppies sold by breeders to wholesalers and on the Internet. Oklahoma consistently has been in the top five with the number of problem breeders, or those reported by buyers who can’t find the breeders after a puppy bought from them turns up sick or dies. Federally licensed pet breeders, who sought exemption, have to meet the state’s rules and regulations. The requirements do not apply to breeders with 10 or fewer nonspayed female animals. Misty Fields, a Tulsa lawyer, filed a lawsuit last month in Le Flore County District Court that claims legislation regulating pet breeders is unconstitutional.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

See also: Oklahoma pet breeders law establishes abuse hotline from NewsOK

OPEA responds to criticism of longevity pay program

The group that represents Oklahoma’s state employees was quick to rebut a news story regarding a program that gives those workers extra pay based not on performance but on longevity. OPEA boss Sterling Zearley made some valid points in his counter to the recent Tulsa World report. Zearley noted that in 1984, step increases were removed from most state jobs, leaving the majority of state employees to depend on the Legislature for any bumps in pay. The last time the Legislature did that was five years ago. He also cited data from the Office of Personnel Management in making the point that state employees aren’t exactly getting rich — according to OPM, compensation for state workers is 16 percent below that of similar Oklahoma workers in the private sector.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

OKC elementary school that feeds into low performing middle and high school works to change the pattern

Just inside the entrance of Britton Elementary School, a baby bison looks up to his full-grown brother. The buffalos also are a nod to the Oklahoma Centennial Bisons, the mascot of the middle school and high school Britton Elementary students are zoned to attend. Centennial will be on a plan for improvement next year as the school works to improve test scores that in 2009-10 school year were the worst in the state of any regular-academic school. The federal government is providing $11 million to help Oklahoma City Public Schools turn around the academics at Centennial, and next year the school will be under new leadership with a principal coming from Texas.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Budget cuts slash stipend for Oklahoma teachers

The budget axe is gutting several programs at Oklahoma schools. The education budget was approved Thursday. Adult education, incentives for charter schools, robotics programs, middle school math labs, and stipends for National Board Certified teachers were cut out completely. Davis, a former early childhood Educator of the Year, is also a National Board-certified teacher. She called the process, which includes a portfolio and a battery of exams, tougher than getting her master’s degree. And she credits it with her classroom success.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

See also: Educators decry cuts to bonuses, insurance from The Tulsa World

Cuts to child care subsidy already affecting Oklahoma families

In the last year, Stella Wilson’s monthly bills increased by more than $50 for housing, $100 for gas and $60 for her groceries. Now, the single mother of a 3-year-old son may have to pay up to 30 percent more for child care. “I’ve eliminated everything I possibly can,” she said. Wilson is one of thousands of Oklahoma parents receiving a state subsidy to help with child care. The co-payments for more than 39,000 children are scheduled to increase July 1, as approved earlier this month by the commission overseeing the state Department of Human Services.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Previously: Child care cuts deal a blow to low-income working families and kids from the OK Policy Blog

Sen. Mazzei works to thin tax exemptions

The recently completed legislative session began with a promise by leadership, including Gov. Mary Fallin, to thin out the hundreds of tax exemptions, credits and rebates costing the state billions of dollars a year in lost revenue. That didn’t happen. In fact, one of the first things done by the Legislature was to reinstate a temporarily suspended tax credit program for the aerospace industry. But Sen. Mike Mazzei, a Tulsa Republican advocating substantial reform of the system, said he remains optimistic. Gene Perry of The Oklahoma Policy Institute is skeptical but said the most promising development is a committee meeting over the next several months to study the situation.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Oregon a test case for pseudoephedrine drug law

In 2005, lawmakers made Oregon the first state to require a prescription for the purchase of the tablet form of pseudoephedrine … and the state’s drug and crime statistics plummeted. Based on the success of the law there, legislators, prosecutors and others are pushing a similar law for Oklahoma, but not everyone in Oregon agrees that all the state’s good news in crime is the result of the pseudoephedrine restriction. One statistic that almost everyone credits to the law is that meth labs have essentially disappeared from the state. U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency statistics for 2004 show the state had 467 meth lab incidents – including police busts and dumped labs. Last year, there were only nine. But there is still plenty of meth on the streets of Portland – smuggled in from Mexico – and drug addicts continue to commit crimes to support their habits.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Teen childbearing in Oklahoma cost taxpayers at least $190 million in 2008

Teenage mother Kali Bowdler isn’t surprised by the statistic: teen childbearing in Oklahoma cost taxpayers about $190 million in one year. Total costs are based on expenses such as Medicaid, child welfare, increased incarceration rates and lost tax revenue due to decreased earnings and spending, according to the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. Of the more than 7,500 teen births in 2008, four out of five were to unmarried teens. Like Bowdler, many of those teen mothers had not yet even completed high school.

Read more from this NewsOK article at

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland to merge with Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, which serves Nebraska and most of Iowa, announced Friday it intends to expand again, this time bringing in a Planned Parenthood affiliate in Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Jill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the organization signed an agreement Friday to manage the Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma affiliate with the intent to merge into one by Jan. 1. Eastern Oklahoma has four clinics — one in Broken Arrow and three in Tulsa — and Arkansas has one in Little Rock and one in Fayetteville, June said. June said the proposed merger came about when the Arkansas-Eastern Oklahoma president announced her retirement for Aug. 1. Her board of directors decided it could be more effective by consolidating with the Iowa-Nebraska affiliate. The expanded organization will offer new services, including adoption, sexual assault exams, male services, lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender care and age-appropriate education programs.

Read more from this Lincoln Journal Star article at

Federal judge from Oklahoma reprimanded for scheme to get friends paid through courts

From the Federal Courthouse in Muskogee, Judge Ronald White has presided over several of Oklahoma’s most high-profile federal cases: the corruption case involving former State Senator Gene Stipe, the John Grisham libel suit and the dispute over the Ten Commandments monument at the Haskell County Courthouse. But when it comes to Judge White’s own conduct, he’s kept a low profile, until now. We discovered a document from the Tenth Circuit Court in Denver reprimanding Judge White for misconduct. An investigation found White used his power to appoint friends to be special judges in settlement proceedings even though they were unqualified.

Read more from this NewsOn6 article at

NewsOK: As populations age, competition for public dollars could increase

The “old-age dependency ratio,” explored recently by The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies, is a term for the number of people older than 65 divided by the number of people between 20 and 64. The ratio affects government spending on services catering to the young versus those catering to the old. For some jurisdictions, particularly sparsely populated Cimarron County, the dependency ratio is a blowout. A report cited by Monies says the ratio “is the most critical” of dependency measures because it involves the number of potential Social Security beneficiaries compared with the number of younger workers who pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Naturally, places with a higher old-age dependency ratio want more funds for services aimed at older adults. Yet populations are aging everywhere. Thus, the competition for scarce public dollars could heat up.

Read more from this NewsOK editorial at

Quote of the Day

They are not acknowledging teachers are paid on a 12-month basis, and that leaves two months unfunded.

Tulsa Public Schools chief financial officer Trisha Williams, who says that despite claims from Superintendent Barresi, the state is not fully funding teacher health insurance costs.

Number of the Day

$12 million

Amount cut from the state education budget in bonuses and scholarships to teachers who obtain National Board Certification.

Source: NewsOK

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why college brings a huge return

My column in the Sunday Review section makes the case for going to college and cites two just-released reports, one by two Georgetown University researchers and the other by two Hamilton Project researchers. The Georgetown paper, by Anthony Carnevale and Stephen Rose, estimates the demand for and the supply of four-year college graduates, both past and future. The supply of graduates is easy enough to measure; it is simply the number of graduates. To estimate demand, the two economists look at the wage premium for graduates. When the premium is rising, demand is outstripping supply. When the premium is falling, demand is rising more slowly than supply. The bottom line is that, unless the country begins producing more graduates, supply is unlikely to catch up to demand — and income inequality is unlikely to fall by much if at all.

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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