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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today, thousands of Oklahoma teachers, administrators, parents and students will rally at the Capitol in support of better teacher compensation and a stronger teacher pipeline. Writing in The Oklahoman, State Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister called on lawmakers adopt her plan to put high-quality teachers in every classroom. The Tulsa World reported that polls show that 86 percent of Oklahomans support Hofmeister’s plan for teacher pay raises. Wayne Greene wrote in the Tulsa World that proposals to exempt educators from the state income tax would cost the state millions of dollars, and opens the door to other groups demanding similar exemptions.
A growing inmate population combined with difficulty hiring mental health professionals have led the state Department of Corrections to cut nearly half its group therapy sessions and offer fewer individual therapy sessions, resulting in fewer offenders receiving preventive mental health treatment. However, more offenders are receiving mental health services after release, due to a partnership between the Department of Corrections and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Writing on the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis shared what’s left for the legislative session, now that it’s halfway through.
In the Tulsa World, Mike Jones discussed a viral video called “The Village is Burning,” which encourages more Oklahomans to get out and vote. You can watch the video here. Julie DelCour pointed out that more the number of people who voted in a recent Tulsa Public Schools bond election could fit in the BOK Center with room to spare, and urged lawmakers to pass reforms aimed at boosting electoral turnout. We’ve suggested ways to repair Oklahoma’s broken democracy before. Oklahoma’s mining and logging sector, which includes the oil and gas industry, lost 2,400 jobs in February – the worst month for the industry since 1990.
New Census Bureau data shows which Oklahoma counties have experienced population growth and loss from 2013 to 2014. According to new county health rankings, Kingfisher County is the healthiest in Oklahoma. You can read the report here. Proposed legislation would seek to develop policies to protect and promote the state’s declining honeybee population. The Number of the Day is the median income in Oklahoma in 2013, down from $46,025 in 2000 (adjusted for inflation). In today’s Policy Note, The Washington Post argues that underutlization of the School Breakfast Program means schools are failing students before they even get to class.
In The News
Oklahoma educators hope Monday’s rally at the Capitol will yield more results
One year ago, an estimated 25,000 teachers, parents, administrators and students descended on the state Capitol for an unprecedented public education rally. The Oklahoma Legislature may not have written common education a $230 million check to return appropriations to prerecession levels, but educators and lawmakers alike say the 2014 rally wasn’t for naught — and that’s precisely why they’re planning to return for a second rally on Monday.
Bold leadership sought to tackle teacher shortage
Oklahoma is in the midst of a historic teacher shortage that has reached crisis proportions. Experienced educators are leaving our classrooms in droves for other states or other professions altogether. At last count, more than 1,000 teacher positions remain vacant statewide in spite of the best efforts of school districts.
Public strongly supports Joy Hofmeister’s plan for teacher pay raises
Oklahomans seem to want to pay teachers more — at least in theory. Shortly after state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister announced her proposal to increase base pay by $5,000 and the school year by five days over the next five years, almost 86 percent of all Oklahomans — and almost 94 percent of Tulsans — told SoonerPoll.com they liked the proposal.
How not to give teachers a raise
Two Republican legislators have a provocative idea for how to deal with Oklahoma’s shortage of teachers — exempt them from state income taxes. Sen. A.J. Griffin and Rep. Leslie Osborn made the proposal in a March 18 op-ed column in The Oklahoman.
In Prisons, Fewer Therapy Sessions for the Mentally Ill
Despite escalating numbers of mentally ill prisoners, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has slashed by nearly half its group therapy sessions and pared back individual therapy for inmates, resulting in fewer offenders receiving preventive treatment. The department’s psychologists, psychiatrists and related staff members instead are focusing on crisis intervention, reacting to things like suicide attempts and erratic or violent behavior.
Mentally Ill Inmates Get More Post-Release Services
Despite fewer offenders being able to receive preventive treatment for mental illnesses in prison, more are getting set up with services when they leave. To help mentally ill offenders transition back into society, the Corrections Department partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services in 2006 to create a mental-health reentry program.
What’s left for the legislative session at the halfway point
There’s not a lot to report from the legislature this last week. It was spring break in schools so most committee meetings were cancelled and little floor action was scheduled. This is a new, more family friendly tradition that has developed in the past few years allowing legislators time with their families while the kids are out of school.
Put out the fire: Oklahoma’s young people must vote
The presidential election season officially kicked off last week when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, waded into the fray. For the next 19 months we’re going to hear a lot of campaign promises. It’s an exciting time (exasperating for some) in politics and for the country.
MIA: Where have all the voters gone?
With 19,119 seats, the BOK Center holds nearly 3,000 more people than bothered to vote in a March 3, four-proposition, $415 million Tulsa Public Schools bond election. That’s the same arena that Garth Brooks filled six times in January — more than 120,000 people. So why can’t we fill our voting booths?
See also: “Repairing Oklahoma’s Broken Democracy” from OK Policy.
Oklahoma Oil Jobs Evaporating Because of Low Crude Price
Oklahoma’s mining and logging sector, which includes the oil and gas industry, lost an estimated 2,400 jobs in February as the state’s overall jobless rate remained steady. The Tulsa World reports that the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the job losses Friday.
Tulsa metro population growth slows in 2014, Census Bureau says
Population growth in the metro area may be slowing. The Tulsa metropolitan area grew in population from 2013 to 2014, but at a slower rate than the prior one-year period, new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate.
New County Health Rankings report lists Kingfisher County as the healthiest in Oklahoma
A new study of county health rankings lists Kingfisher County as the healthiest in Oklahoma. Kingfisher County snagged the top ranking thanks, in part, to its low rates of smoking, child poverty and single-parent families.
See why bees are the big buzz this legislative session
There’s a different buzz at the Capitol this session. Faint and low, it hums through the great halls and bounces lightly from Senate to House. It is the bee bill. Bees — and other “pollinators” such as butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles and even lizards — are important because many plants, including fruit and nut trees, cannot produce without them.
Quote of the Day
“Imagine a state with no general taxes, but a thousand inequitable fees, fines and charges that it uses to fund government services. That encourages cheating and bootlegging (Remember when half the cars on Oklahoma roads seemed to have Texas tags?) and creates a system that is less efficient, less equitable and less business-friendly. The solution is a graduated general tax system with rational user fees set at levels needed to support specific services and no more.”
– Tulsa World columnist Wayne Greene, arguing against a bill that would exempt Oklahoma public school teachers from paying income taxes (Source)
Number of the Day
The median income in Oklahoma in 2013, down from $46,025 in 2000 (adjusted for inflation).
Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts.
How our schools fail poor kids before they even arrive for class
One of the simplest ways to put poor kids in a position to succeed is to make sure they eat breakfast. Studies have shown that eating the day’s first meal is not only associated with nutritional benefits, but also cognitive ones — especially for children. A 2013 study, for instance, linked breakfast consumption among children to higher IQs later in life. A group of researchers in 1989 found that students who ate breakfast tended to perform better on standardized tests.
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