In The Know: New research shows racial gaps in Oklahoma student test scores, criminal justice reforms are working, Oklahoma youth arrests show big decline in incarceration

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.

New from OK Policy

Oklahoma faces serious challenges. Together, we can rise to meet them: Throughout the past week, we’ve highlighted multiple facets of poverty in Oklahoma. We hope we’ve demonstrated that while poverty is a complex issue, Oklahoma has the power to provide real solutions. [OK Policy]

In The News

New research shows racial gaps in Oklahoma student test scores: A pioneering study of Oklahoma student test scores revealed troubling results while setting the path for public education in the state for the next decade. New state research found minority children had lower test scores than their white peers, even when the only differentiating factor was the color of their skin or their ethnicity, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Education. [The Oklahoman]

Despite criticisms, Oklahoma policy analyst says criminal justice reforms are working: Oklahoma Policy Institute analyst Damion Shade says recent criminal justice reforms are working despite claims to the contrary. He points to the number of felony property-crime charges that have dropped by 29% from fiscal year 2017 to fiscal year 2018 after examining figures compiled by the Bureau of Justice. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma voters have changed several low-level felonies to misdemeanors, and the Legislature raised the felony theft threshold from $500 to $1,000. Data shows these reforms are working. [OK Policy]

Ginnie Graham: Oklahoma youth arrests show big decline in incarceration but racial disparities remain: Good news has emerged among the thick weight of dire reports about Oklahoma’s incarceration rates. This bit of positivity shows that philosophical and program changes for Oklahoma’s youth are paying off. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World] A few things that Steve Buck said recently about his agency’s budget request for next year should be noted by lawmakers as they consider their appropriation to the Office of Juvenile Affairs. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman] Juvenile crime plummets in Oklahoma, but racial and local disparities remain. [Open Justice Oklahoma]

‘A world of difference’: Sheriff’s office to upgrade computer systems: After gaining approval from the Oklahoma County Commissioners at their Sept. 25 meeting, the sheriff’s office has accepted a bid to update its record and jail management systems to the latest available software in an effort to streamline data collection and sharing between the sheriff, public defenders and the district attorney’s office. [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Stitt orders research into tech-based solutions to combat contraband cellphones in Oklahoma prisons: Oklahoma’s governor ordered several of the state’s top officials on Friday to begin looking into technological solutions, including signal jamming, to eliminate the threat of contraband cellphones in prisons. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County jail has second death in week: A drug offender awaiting trial for burglary died Friday at the Oklahoma County jail. Ryan Andrew Melton, 33, had been jailed since June 6 after being charged with second-degree burglary. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt to seek 2nd change in law to qualify agency director: He has a law degree, decades of experience and a proven track record in public health. But Gary Cox, the governor’s pick to run the Oklahoma State Department of Health, doesn’t have a master’s degree in science, one of the statutory requirements to serve as health commissioner. [Oklahoma Watch]

Risha Talks: The ‘most qualified’ candidate can be a diverse applicant, even if governor’s Cabinet doesn’t reflect that: “We’re looking for the most qualified people.” Before you read any further, take a few minutes and let that sink in. In the almost 25 years that I have worked in this field, I can say this statement is pervasive. [Tulsa World]

Lawmakers, party heads want fairness in redistricting: Talk regarding the state of Oklahoma’s future makeup has begun among lawmakers, as the state’s redistricting process is slated to begin in early 2020. While the lines of Oklahoma’s legislative map won’t actually be redrawn until 2021, legislators have to prepare for the process by creating committees to make populations equal across each district. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Capitol Insider: Getting ready for redistricting: Oklahoma lawmakers are preparing for redistricting in 2021, but how does the process actually work? University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie explains how census data, computers and bargaining come together to make new political maps. [KGOU]

Nonprofit registered Oklahoma high school students to vote as part of ‘action civics’ initiative: A national nonprofit with local ties is educating Oklahoma City Public Schools students on how they can effect change in state and local government. [The Oklahoman]

TPS hits impasse in contract negotiations with support workers: Contract negotiations with a local union representing 2,600 support employees at Tulsa Public Schools have reached an impasse after union leaders rejected the district’s offer for a raise. [Tulsa World]

May storms: FEMA sends 1 in 5 disaster aid dollars to one Oklahoma ZIP code: In all, disaster relief payments to individuals in the 74063 ZIP code through Aug. 9 accounted for about 1 in 5 dollars of the $14.4 million spent by FEMA in 27 counties designated to receive aid. [Tulsa World]

Low-barrier night shelter to fill homeless service gap in Oklahoma City: For the last few years, there has been a gap in how Oklahoma City serves people experiencing homelessness. This leaves many — roughly 384 individuals this year — to continue to sleep on the street, under bridges or in tents, according to the 2019 Point-In-Time count. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City Planning Committee spends hours debating rezoning, historic preservation: In a historically long meeting, the Planning Commission reached an impasse on a controversial proposed ordinance to curtail historic preservation efforts, and heard two controversial cases for rezoning that included passionate opposition speeches. [Free Press OKC]

One year of strong beer and wine has brought surprises, struggles: It’s been one year since shelves and convenience store beer caves sat empty, the last of 3.2% beer running dry in most cities on the eve of strong beer and wine sales. [Tulsa World]

How far can medical marijuana advertising go? State panel to study issue: Lawmakers next month are expected to study advertising for medical marijuana. The interim study was requested by Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore, who said constituents had called for the study. [Tulsa World]

Encentus backing out of cannabis banking in Oklahoma: One of the few banking options for Oklahoma medical marijuana businesses says financial challenges have forced it to back out of the industry less than a year after taking on its first cannabis-connected clients. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma delegation comments on impeachment, votes on marijuana banking: Members of the Oklahoma delegation responded to the start of an official impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump this week. Lawmakers also voted on a marijuana banking bill and the emergency declaration at the southern border. [NonDoc]

Lankford bill would help students after felony drug convictions: U.S. Sen. James Lankford introduced a bill this week that would make a higher education tax credit available to students with a felony drug conviction. [The Oklahoman]

Lankford slams Trump plan to reduce refugee admissions: Sen. James Lankford on Friday came out against the Trump administration’s plan to reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“We can look at this data and see disparate outcomes for populations of color and wonder: Is the school failing? But really, there are systemic inequities that compound, that are impacting student achievement even outside of the four walls of a classroom.”

– Carlisha Bradley, the only African American member of the state Board of Education, on new state data showing that children of color have lower test scores than their white peers, even when the only apparent differentiating factor was the color of their skin or their ethnicity [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The average median household income in North Tulsa in 2018, less than half that of South Tulsa ($59,908)

[Source: City of Tulsa]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The collapse of a hospital empire — and towns left in the wreckage: At the height of his operation, Perez and his Miami-based management company, EmpowerHMS, helped oversee a rural empire encompassing 18 hospitals across eight states. Perez owned or co-owned 11 of those hospitals and was CEO of the companies that provided their management and billing services. He was affiliated with companies that owned or managed the rest. Now, with funding from the lab-billing venture dried up, 12 of the hospitals have entered bankruptcy and eight have closed their doors. [Kaiser Health News]

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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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