In The Know: Oklahoma child welfare reforms are falling short

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

Oklahoma child welfare reforms are falling short, report shows: Oklahoma children in state care continue to be abused and neglected at a rate that is much too high, according to a new report issued Wednesday by a panel of three experts retained to monitor the state’s progress in implementing court-ordered reforms. Nearly four years into a settlement agreement to fix Oklahoma’s broken foster care system, the state has failed to make sustained progress in several key areas, although it has made good faith efforts toward achieving substantial progress toward a majority of its 30 goals, the report said [NewsOK].

Oklahoma DHS must find way to lower child maltreatment rate: Perhaps it’s to be expected that the Department of Human Services is making only halting progress in improving care for foster children. After all, DHS is a giant agency with a giant workload, the latter the result of myriad societal issues that have long plagued Oklahoma. There are no easy fixes. Yet that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to read what three experts have to say in parts of their latest report about DHS [NewsOK].

A new face to oversee Oklahoma’s child welfare reforms: Governor Fallin has demonstrated her continued support for the Pinnacle Plan by appointing a new special adviser to replace former Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins, who is leaving the job to become the administrative director of the courts. Jari traveled the state, learned a lot and, with her longtime dedicated public service and interest in children, no doubt made a valuable contribution to the ongoing implementation of the Pinnacle Plan [OK Policy].

Oklahoma college students’ poor math skills traced to teacher shortage: More than one-third of freshmen at Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities can’t handle the mathematics courses because there are not enough good high school math teachers to prepare them. Educators at two forums last week acknowledged the crisis and talked about the challenge of turning it around [NewsOK].

Teachers need to be part of the skills gap conversation: This week I had the privilege to attend the Workforce Skills Gap forum hosted by The Oklahoman. I was intrigued by the responses that each panelist gave when asked to tackle tough issues regarding education funding, teacher pay and the skill sets our students will need when they enter the workforce. The panel consisted of officers of the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative and representatives from the State Chamber of Commerce, higher education, CareerTech and the State Department of Education. There wasn’t one classroom teacher on the panel, nor a parent with children in public schools, and no students [Katherine Bishop / NewsOK].

Lawmaker pushes plan to abolish income tax, expand sales tax to services: A tax on service transactions would be a more reliable revenue stream for the state and could potentially replace the corporate income tax and possibly the individual income tax, state Rep. Mark McCullough told colleagues in the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation during an interim study at the state Capitol Wednesday. McCullough said a service tax would levy a tax on transactions between service providers and customers, including everything from oil changes and legal services to air conditioning installations and medical care [The Daily Ardmoreite].

Oil-field activity takes a toll on northwest Oklahoma roads: Brent Kisling, executive director of the Enid Regional Development Alliance, said the roads in northwest Oklahoma were built on an expectation of traffic that has now been exceeded. “With the Mississippi Lime oil play, and the fact that we had a lot of those service companies and a lot of those rig crews were living in Enid, we got a lot of traffic on that road over the past five years,” he said. That traffic, often with heavier trucks, has shortened the life span of certain roads [Journal Record].

Emails show state officials initially criticized Blue Bell listeria warning: When lab tests last March linked Blue Bell ice cream manufactured in Broken Arrow to a Kansas listeria outbreak, state officials here were worried. But the worry wasn’t initially about the outbreak. It was about what Kansas health officials were considering saying to the public: Stop eating Blue Bell ice cream. Emails obtained from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry through a Tulsa World Open Records Act request show state officials expressing concern that Kansas Health Department officials were considering issuing a news release that some deemed “inflammatory” [Tulsa World].

State auditor touts unicameral legislature to Tulsa Republicans: State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, who has feuded with lawmakers off and on through much of his four-plus years in office, wants a constitutional amendment on the November 2016 ballot to essentially eliminate the state Senate. “It would save a minimum of $15 million to $20 million a year,” Jones said. “I can’t think of anything else we could do that would (negatively) affect core services less” [Tulsa World].

Jail medical provider sues county for $3 million: The Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners has been sued again by its county jail health care services provider, this time for allegedly failing to pay a nearly $3 million contract. Commissioners Brian Maughan, Ray Vaughn and Willa Johnson were served notice Wednesday as defendants of the lawsuit filed in district court. The plaintiff, Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., is based in Florida. The lawsuit was not a surprise, as Armor sued the county in March for a $660,000 breach-of-contract complaint [Journal Record].

OTC limits mean windfall for Oklahoma cities, counties: A new law that took effect this summer puts a new limit on how much money the Tax Commission can retain from cities and counties to cover its own costs of taking in, tabulating and then sending back local sales and use taxes collected on a month-to-month basis. In the past, the commission, working in accordance with local contracts, retained anywhere from 1 percent to 1.75 percent of the money it administered on behalf of cities and counties (most contracts, including Lawton’s, allowed for 1 percent retention). Now, by law the agency can retain a maximum of only half of 1 percent [The Lawton Constitution].

Quote of the Day

“For most of the period that is the subject of this report, DHS did not have a thoughtful, data-informed plan to reduce child maltreatment in care and, in fact, child maltreatment increased.”

-A report by court-ordered expert monitors of Oklahoma’s child welfare reform efforts. Oklahoma’s failure to meet reform targets likely means that the state will now have to remain under court-ordered supervision for at least an extra year (Source).

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children who did not have access to fluoridated water in 2012.


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What we get wrong about lobbying and corruption: To judge from polls, Americans are deeply concerned about political corruption. They share a widespread belief that members of Congress are unethical, with lobbyists as the only group seen as more unethical. The implicit understanding of politics is that the “special interests” and their lobbyists “buy” politicians, sort of like you’d buy a candy bar or a bag of chips out of a (very high-dollar) vending machine. The problem with this view is not only that is it wrong, but also that it misdirects us [Washington Post].

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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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