In The Know: Oklahoma state officials skip Obama greeting

In 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 you should know that no state officials were on hand to greet the President of the United States when he arrived in Oklahoma.  President Obama directed federal agencies to expedite a 485-mile portion of the Keystone pipeline from Oklahoma to refineries on the Gulf Coast to alleviate a bottleneck in the nation’s oil transportation system.

A woman listed in documents as a member of a nonprofit board overseeing private funds used by Superintendent Janet Barresi to finance an education conference in 2011 disputes state Auditor Gary Jones’ claim that there was effective oversight; she had never even heard of the group.  State Mental Health Services Commissioner Terri White resigned as interim director of the Department of Human Services; State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger is temporarily stepping down from his post to serve as the interim director of DHS.

The Norman Transcript speculated that retirees who come back to Oklahoma after living elsewhere, ‘boomerangers,’ will think twice about relocating if the state eliminates tax breaks for seniors.  A poll of registered voters showed strong support for the alternatives to incarceration outlined in HB 3052, the Oklahoma Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

In today’s Policy Note, Education Week reports on how widening gaps in economic and social resources between rich and poor children have eroded public schools’ capacity to overcome those disadvantages.  Today’s Number of the Day is the number of nonelderly Oklahoma adults who are covered under employer sponsored health insurance.

In The News

No Oklahoma state officials planning to greet Obama

No state officials will be on hand to greet President Barack Obama when he arrives in Oklahoma on Wednesday.  Officials representing Gov. Mary Fallin and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb confirmed Wednesday that both Republicans were out of state and would not be available to greet the president.  Next in line as acting governor is Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, and a spokesman for Bingman says his office hasn’t been contacted by White House officials.  Tinker Air Force Base officials say several military leaders and two local mayors will be on hand to greet the president when Air Force One arrives about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Read more from the Associated Press at

Obama putting Oklahoma pipeline on fast track

Deep in Republican oil country, President Barack Obama is fending off criticism of his energy policies, pointing to plans to fast-track an oil pipeline that emerged after he delayed the larger Keystone XL project earlier this year.  “We’re drilling all over the place,” Obama said in Maljamar, N.M., on Wednesday, standing alongside oil rigs on federal land. The president was announcing his plans for the expedited pipeline, a southern portion of the original Keystone XL, in Cushing, Okla., where construction is expected to begin this spring.

Read more from the Boston Globe at

Education funding tied to audit faces new questions in Oklahoma

The investigation called the accounts “slush funds” that were used to expend $2.3 million over the course of 10 years on education conferences.  But state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said a similar account used under state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi to finance a conference in 2011 appeared appropriate because there was a legitimate, independent nonprofit governing board, and the board knew about the account and managed its finances.  Wednesday, a person listed as a member of a three-person board for the nonprofit organization said she has never heard of the group and was dismayed to see her name in The Oklahoman as a board member. “All of this is a complete shock,” said Jamie Dunnington, who was listed in documents as a board member.

Read more from NewsOK at

Oklahoma finance chief tapped to temporarily head Department of Human Services

Oklahoma Office of State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger is stepping down temporarily to serve as the interim director of the Department of Human Services.  Longtime DHS Director Howard Hendrick announced in January that he was resigning as head of the agency that had come under fire in recent years following the high-profile deaths of some children in its care.  The commission that governs DHS named Doerflinger to the post Thursday.   State Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Terri White resigned as interim DHS director after concerns were raised that her appointment violated state law prohibiting dual office holding.

Read more from the Associated Press at–DHS-Director-Doerflinger/

Retirees could pay more in income taxes

Oklahoma has long been a retirement destination for those who grew up here, went to school and then left the state for better career opportunities. Our relatively low taxes, breaks for retirees and affordable cost of living bring “boomerangers” back to the state.  But the legislature’s plan to cut and eventually eliminate the state’s income tax by removing exemptions could cause some of our recruited retirees to pay state income tax for the first time since moving here. They may think twice about staying.

Read more from the Norman Transcript at

Poll shows support for public safety policies

Poll results indicate the overwhelming majority of Oklahomans support the public safety policies in House Bill 3052, House Speaker Kris Steele said Wednesday.  A recent analysis of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system concluded that unless policymakers act the state’s high violent crime rate will likely remain unchanged, thousands of people will continue being released from prison unsupervised each year and state spending on prisons will increase by more than $225 million during the next decade.

Read more from the Edmond Sun at

Quote of the Day

All of this is a complete shock.  If someone had told me the name of it, I would have never even known I was on the board.

Jamie Dunnington, after seeing her name in The Oklahoman listed as a member of a nonprofit governing board charged with overseeing an education conference fund

Number of the Day


Number of nonelderly Oklahoma adults who are covered under employer sponsored health insurance, a little more than half (55 percent) of nonelderly adults in the state

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Growing Gaps Bring Focus on Poverty’s Role in Schooling

The fractious debate over how much schools can counteract poverty’s impact on children is far from settled, but a recently published collection of research strongly suggests that until policymakers and educators confront deepening economic and social disparities, poor children will increasingly miss out on finding a path to upward social mobility.  The achievement gap between poor children and rich children has grown significantly over the past three decades and is now nearly twice as large as the black-white gap, according to Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. He examined data on family income and student scores on standardized tests in reading and math spanning 1960 to 2007.

Read more from Education Week at

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