In The Know: OEA says capitol rallies ‘have achieved all that we will be able to accomplish’

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

OEA: Capitol Rallies ‘Have Achieved All That We Will Be Able to Accomplish’: On day nine of the Oklahoma teacher walkout, the Oklahoma Education Association held a press conference this afternoon to announce that classes will be resuming across the state and that educators “must turn our attention towards November” [NonDoc]. OPEA: State employees will no longer participate in walkout at Capitol [KFOR]. Oklahoma house, senate adjourn with no new action on school funding [News6]. State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy].

Statement: Walkout Resulted in Major Victories for Education, but the Work Is Not Done: Teachers and other participants in the historic walkout to save Oklahoma schools deserve our thanks. This walkout was responsible for breaking years of legislative gridlock and motivating a supermajority of lawmakers to approve the tax increases needed to raise teacher pay for the first time in a decade. During the walkout, advocates delivered a loud and clear message heard by the whole state that we must do more to support schools. The walkout was the continuation of years of growing action by a broad coalition of educators, parents, school boards, and regular Oklahomans. These efforts will continue, because the work of funding core services is not done [OKPolicy]. 

Fact Sheet: Is Education Fully Funded?: Last month, lawmakers approved a package of funding increases that included pay raises for teachers (HB 1023xx), school support staff (HB 1026xx), and state workers (HB 1024xx), along with additional money for school operations and increases in the flexible benefit allowance for school employees (HB 3705). They have also passed a number of measures that generate new tax revenues (HB 1010xx, HB 1011xx, and HB 3375) to pay for the additional funding. There has been considerable debate as to whether the new revenue fully funds the new spending commitments. Here’s what you should know [OKPolicy]. 

Will the teacher raise be delayed by a veto petition?: On March 28th, just hours before Oklahoma Senators were to vote on pay raises for teachers and other employees funded by new taxes, a group calling themselves “Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite” held a press conference at the State Capitol. Led by former-U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, the group warned lawmakers that they would lead a citizen initiative to overturn any tax increase [OK Policy].

Oklahoma teachers aren’t happy their union ended the walkout after nine days: Oklahoma’s main teachers’ union has called for an end to the nine day walkout — but many of their rank and file members are unhappy with the decision, pointing to holes in the legislature’s salary and school funding package. [Vice News]. Tulsa education marchers arrive at capitol, but to what? [OKC Free Press]. Teachers chant ‘take a vote’ as walkout continues [NewsOK].

Fewer Oklahoma School Districts Expected to Cancel Class Friday, Day 10 of Teacher Walkout: As Oklahoma teachers continue their walkout for another day, maintaining their pressure on state legislators for increased education funding, fewer schools across the state are expected to cancel class Friday. Oklahoma’s teacher walkout extended into its ninth day Thursday. Some school districts such as Tulsa’s and Oklahoma City Public Schools remain closed Thursday, while others moved to welcome students back into the classroom [KFOR]. 2 largest school districts to stay closed Friday [AP News]. Moore educators march to Oklahoma state capitol for teacher walkout as district resumes classes [KFOR]. More than 300 substitute teachers needed at Moore Public Schools during walkout [News9].

Teachers shift from marching to running for office: The teacher-led rebellion over low wages and funding cuts has spread from its genesis in West Virginia to Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma. Filing deadlines already have passed in Kentucky and West Virginia, but Oklahoma’s teacher walkout coincided with its three-day candidate filing period. The timing gave frustrated educators an outlet for their enthusiasm [Journal Record]. Hamilton: The start of a grass-roots revolution [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record]

Striking Teachers in Coal and Gas Country Are Forcing States to Rethink Energy Company Giveaways: At the center of all of these fights are long-standing issues: Teachers in each state have, for decades, been among the most poorly paid members of their profession around the country, and face mounting costs for basic health care and retirement benefits. That all three of these strikes have happened in states that have been historically dependent on the extractive industry is also no coincidence. The automation, and then decline, of the coal industry — due largely to the rise of natural gas — has led to shrinking tax bases in West Virginia and Kentucky, and in eastern Kentucky especially. In Oklahoma, massive tax giveaways to the oil and gas industry have landed the state in a budget crisis [The Intercept].

Not Just a ‘Red-State Revolt’: The Story Behind the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout: National news stories have frequently framed the Oklahoma teacher walkout as a “red-state revolt,” a sudden explosion of dissatisfaction with education funding in the Sooner State. Such a framing is understandable. After all, who expected deep-red Oklahoma to be the site of massive protests over the state of public services? Although the “red-state revolt” framing is intuitive, it greatly oversimplifies a highly complex issue [Brookings].

Revealed: Secret rightwing strategy to discredit teacher strikes: A nationwide network of rightwing thinktanks is launching a PR counteroffensive against the teachers’ strikes that are sweeping the country, circulating a “messaging guide” for anti-union activists that portrays the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and their children. The new rightwing strategy to discredit the strikes that have erupted in protest against cuts in education funding and poor teacher pay is contained in a three-page document obtained by the Guardian. Titled “How to talk about teacher strikes”, it provides a “dos and don’ts” manual for how to smear the strikers [The Guardian].

Candidate Filing Day 2: See Who Qualifies to Run for Office: Qualifiers for state offices continue to file on Thursday, the second day of filing for state and federal offices for fall elections. On Wednesday, the first day of filing, 458 Oklahomans filed for office, the most in one day since 2000. The three-day filing period that ends at 5 p.m. Friday is for all statewide offices, all 101 House seats, 24 Senate seats and all district attorney and district court slots. A large contingent of Tulsa County Judges filed for re-election Wednesday, as well as a handful of challengers [Tulsa World].

Video: Watch as State House Members Spar over Capital Gains Measure to Fund Education: House Republicans were on their way to a quiet end to a tumultuous legislative week Thursday until a rookie lawmaker walked straight into a left hook. The Democratic minority was going through its daily ritual of moving to suspend the rules to bring up bills the GOP majority has no intention of hearing when Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, decided to challenge Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, to a verbal duel over Senate Bill 1068, a measure that would repeal a capital gains tax exemption on state-based assets. It didn’t go well [Tulsa World].

‘I don’t want to miss any more’: One woman tries to stay clean and out of jail: The spring of 2016 was a rough time for now 33-year-old Cherise Greer. She’d just lost her job at Pizza Hut in Marlow, Oklahoma, where she was a regional manager. She couldn’t pay her rent and was evicted from her home. She and her daughter, Angelique, then 6, were couch surfing. Oftentimes, Angelique would stay with Greer’s grandmother in Duncan, a small town in Stephens County, about 10 minutes away. Then, Greer got arrested. [PRI]

Laws Keep Mentally Ill From Buying Guns, But Gun Suicides Continue Apace: The average age of the 433 Oklahomans who used a firearm to commit suicide in 2017: 46.5 years.  For Oklahoma, a state that already has a stubbornly high suicide rate, firearms are used to take one’s own life more than they’ve ever been used in mass shootings. And the figures raise questions about the effectiveness of suicide prevention efforts and whether laws should be changed to give police more leeway to confiscate firearms from people who may be at risk of harming themselves or others [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma Legislature Continues Push for Anti-LGBTQ Child Welfare Bill: Today, HRC President Chad Griffin and staff joined Freedom Oklahoma at the Oklahoma State Capitol to oppose SB 1140, a proposed license to discriminate in the provision of child welfare services. The House Judiciary Committee voted to advance SB 1140 with an amendment to the full House of Representatives for consideration–one step closer to the governor’s desk and becoming law [Human Rights Campaign]. 

Legislature Still Considering Best Wind Tax Formula: Industry representatives and legislative leaders have voiced support for a new gross production tax on wind energy, but legislation to cap credits is getting more traction so far. Lawmakers have passed a few bills out of committee that would effectively increase wind taxes. The most prominent one, Senate Bill 888, would end the refundability of the zero-emissions tax credit, prohibiting companies from getting credits that surpass their liability [Journal Record]. 

Bag Bill Would Wrest More Control from Cities: A conversation about disposable plastic products has ignited another local control debate at the Oklahoma Capitol. As cities in politically liberal areas of the country attempt to crack down on disposable plastic use, many have begun charging fees or placing restrictions on products such as grocery bags and straws. Some lawmakers and industry spokesmen said inconsistency in those policies could be damaging to business across the state [Journal Record].

Oklahoma City to See Estimated $4 Million Annual Revenue Increase Under New State Law: Oklahoma City will receive an estimated $4 million in new annual revenue under a state law aimed at collecting additional sales tax from online shoppers. The state law is one of the public education funding measures adopted this spring. It is intended to pressure “third-party” online retailers to charge tax on sales to Oklahoma customers [NewsOK]. Oklahoma makes progress on collecting taxes from online sales [OKPolicy].

Doctors Question Push for More Independent Nurses as Lawmakers Consider How to Fill Health Gaps: It’s hard to get basic health care like shots and x-rays in rural Oklahoma. The federal government considers all but one of the state’s 77 counties to have a primary care shortage. The problem is driving a legislative effort to allow highly educated nurses to fill that gap — but doctors and nurse practitioners are butting heads on who is qualified to help [StateImpact].

Medical Marijuana Could Bring Great Benefits, Challenges for Oklahoma: In June, voters will go to the polls to decide if Oklahoma should become the 30th state in America to legalize medical marijuana. In Colorado, that vote happened almost two decades ago. The process they’ve gone through could provide a window to Oklahoma’s future [News6]. Forum planned for medical marijuana question [NewsOK]. State Question 788: Medical marijuana legalization initiative [OKPolicy].

Why Did the EPA’s Scott Pruitt Suppress a Report on Corruption in Oklahoma?: An audit released this week found evidence of corruption in how contracts were awarded at the Tar Creek Superfund site in Oklahoma. Gary Jones, the state auditor and inspector who wrote the report, submitted it to then-Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt back in January 2014. But Pruitt inexplicably refused to release it [The Intercept].

Quote of the Day

“Some of us still feel like we are not done, but we know that we have started a movement that will continue past the end (of the walkout), whenever that is.”

-Greg Oppel, a social studies teacher at Edmond Memorial High School, reflecting on the teacher walkout and the movement it has spurred [NewsOK].

Number of the Day


Evictions per day in Oklahoma in 2016.

Source: Eviction Lab

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Rural health care is expensive, and Washington isn’t helping: Some of the Affordable Care Act’s biggest problems — rising premiums and lackluster competition among insurers — are most severe in rural areas. And those areas tend to be conservative, but there’s little serious effort among Republicans to address these problems. Rising premiums put health care further out of reach for middle-class people in these areas. At some point, they’re going to want to hear workable solutions from their elected representatives. [Axios].

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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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