In The Know: Legislature begins moving on bills educators want but rules out capital gains tax increase

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Legislature Begins Moving on Bills Educators Want but Rules out Capital Gains Tax Increase: The Oklahoma Legislature began moving on additional revenue Wednesday, with the House passing a $20.5 million internet sales tax measure and the Senate agreeing to bring a “ball-and-dice” gambling bill to the floor Thursday. A separate internet tax bill went through the House Appropriations and Budget Committee Wednesday night and appears headed for a floor vote Thursday or next week. That bill has already passed the Senate. The measures do not add up to the $120 million capital gains tax exemption some advocated, and they are a little more uncertain than the $45 million or so lost by the expected repeal of a lodging tax [Tulsa World]. High-earners’ tax break could be key to ending teacher walkout [Oklahoma Watch]. The capital gains tax break benefits a small number of households at the expense of most Oklahomans [OKPolicy]. 

Statement: Oklahoma Should Not Waste Millions on Capital Gains Tax Break to Protect Small Part That Might Benefit Agriculture: Oklahoma’s capitol gains deduction is poorly targeted and poorly monitored. This tax break was never intended or designed to support agriculture, and the five-year holding period for qualified property means that most cattle operators already do not qualify. Instead of helping ranchers or small family farmers, two-thirds of this deduction is taken by just over 800 wealthy households who have no responsibility to report how they use their benefit. The vast majority of Oklahomans in both rural and non-rural areas are not receiving any benefit from this costly tax break [OKPolicy].

We’re Hiring! Apply to Be an Operations & Development Associate or Summer Intern: OK Policy is seeking an experienced and effective Operations & Development Associate to provide support for our day-to-day operations, donor and grant management, and event coordination. We’re also accepting student applicants for paid part-time or full-time internships during the summer of 2018! [OKPolicy].

Prosperity Policy: A Job Partly Done: The passage of last week’s funding package for education and state employees was a genuine achievement. It marked the first time that lawmakers have approved a major tax increase in over a quarter-century and provides the first raise for most teachers and state employees in over a decade. Despite the temptation to celebrate, the package does not resolve all of Oklahoma’s serious fiscal challenges and, in some ways, exacerbates them [Journal Record].

Striking a Match: What started in West Virginia has spread. This week, partly inspired by the teacher walkouts across every county in West Virginia, teachers in both Kentucky and Oklahoma have left the classroom to protest (the issues vary state to state) low pay, abysmally low school funding, and inadequate benefits—but fundamentally, the attacks on public education. As was much the case in West Virginia, the blame for these states’ defunding of public services like education can be placed on a history of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. [The American Prospect]

Day Three of Teacher Walkout: The Students Speak: As the education walkout continued Wednesday, the voices blaring from the speakers on the Capitol’s south plaza shifted their focus. Until then, teachers and education officials were largely responsible for delivering the message. But on Wednesday morning, high school students furious with the level of education they’ve been offered took the stage. They were angry at their classroom conditions, at the way their teachers had been portrayed throughout the walkout and how little their schools’ support staff had been paid [Journal Record].

Updated: What’s the Status of OEA’s Three Demands of the Oklahoma Legislature: The Oklahoma Education Association has listed three demands of the Legislature to call off the walkout that brought state teachers to the Capitol for a second day on Tuesday. Here is a look at where those demands stand [Tulsa World]. ‘They’ve given us a raise and nothing for students’; Teacher walkout shows no sign of ending [Tulsa World]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

OEA Says Public Supports Teacher Walkout: The Oklahoma Education Association says the public is on the side of teachers as a statewide walkout reaches its third day. In a poll released Wednesday, OEA said 68 percent of Oklahoma midterm voters support the teacher walkout, an increase from 58 percent just a week earlier. Republicans favor the walkout by 58 percent and public school parents support the walkout by 76 percent, according to the OEA [NewsOK]. Teachers pledge to wait out lawmakers [NewsOK].

Teachers Continue Walkout Despite District Threatening Disciplinary Action After Reopening Western Heights Schools: Western Heights Public Schools resumed classes Tuesday, but about 30 teachers and support staff stayed away, choosing instead to return to the state Capitol to protest education funding. The educators ignored the school board — which voted 4-1 Monday night to limit the district’s support of a teacher walkout to one day — and the threat of disciplinary action if they skipped school [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Teacher Pay Dispute: Factoring in Cost of Living: The calculations that take average teacher salary and divide it by a correction factor are easy to do and understand. For sure, if a teacher were weighing competing offers from Kansas City and Oklahoma City, the standard cost-of-living indexes would be helpful. But applying that to statewide rankings misses many factors. Cost of living overlooks that part of the compensation package for working in a city is the city itself. States with larger rural populations face different issues than more urban states, and that plays out in teacher pay. It takes more than a simple formula to sort that out [Oklahoma Watch].

Fallin Calls for Sides in Teacher Walkout to ‘Lower the Tempo of Disrespect’; Has Message for Teachers: Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday called for a lowering of the heat on the rhetoric that has been coming from many groups and people during the teacher walkout. “We should all lower the tempo of disrespect … that I have seen around the Capitol and heard from many different sources,” Fallin said [Tulsa World]. Governor clarifies controversial comment and addresses talks to end teacher walkout [FOX25]. Gov. Fallin greeted by education funding protesters at business event in McAlester [Tulsa World].

Rep. John Enns Claims Some Protestors Are Paid Actors: Another video has shown up on Facebook of a lawmaker telling teachers they wouldn’t be voting for another bill, Wednesday. The new video posted by Enid Republican Representative John Enns is driving another wedge between lawmakers and teachers. Enns said 25 percent of roughly 5000 protestors were paid actors, bussed in from Chicago [News9].

An Oklahoma Lawmaker Criticized Teachers in a Facebook Video. Now One Is Aiming for His Job: An Oklahoma second grade teacher announced she would run for her state representative’s seat, after he posted an angry Facebook live video criticizing teachers for their behavior on Tuesday during the walkout. In the video, which has since been deleted, Rep. Kevin McDugle said he had been fighting for teachers for the year and a half he’d been in office, but that he would not vote “for another stinking measure when (teachers) are acting the way they are acting” [CNN].

Okla DPS Cites “Outside Protest Groups” in Vague Statement: The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety issued a vague news release about “outside protest groups” around 4:30 p.m. CST Wednesday after their staff had already gone home for the day. In part, it said the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety “has identified a growing number of outside protest groups, not involved with the ongoing teachers’ rally, present at the State Capitol” [Free Press OKC]. Fact check: Antifa, paid protesters and death threats at the Oklahoma teacher walkout [The Frontier].

Creeks, Fearful of ‘Losing Children from the Tribe Forever,’ Sue Opioid Makers and Distributors: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation on Tuesday became the second of Oklahoma’s tribes to sue manufacturers and distributors of opioids — along with large pharmacies — for their alleged role in an epidemic of deadly overdoses. “Manufacturer defendants have engaged, and continue to engage, in a massive marketing campaign to misstate and conceal the risks of treating chronic pain with opioids,” the lawsuit claims [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“We’ve proven that we will not watch as our state’s education system degrades on a perpetual downfall. They will fear us hashtag-wielding teenagers more than they do oil and gas companies.”

– Ravi Patel, a student at Southmoore High School, speaking to the crowds rallying at the state Capitol during a teacher walkout [Source]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s state mental health agency mental health service expenditures per capita, 2013. Oklahoma ranked 46th at the time, and the US average was $119.62

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Think Income Inequality Is Bad? Retirement Inequality May Be Worse: The outlook is particularly bleak for those on the lower rungs of the income ladder. A steady shift away from guaranteed pensions to defined contribution savings plans has contributed to more savings inequality over the long term. Escalating housing costs and stagnant earnings for many lower- and middle-income families are further squeezing their retirement accounts. Meanwhile, wealthier households are reaping the benefits of climbing investment values [Governing].

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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