In The Know: Oklahoma education department seeks to restore funding, state credit outlook improves, and more

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

Last day to RSVP for events celebrating longtime executive director David Blatt: OK Policy will host two farewell events for David next week in Oklahoma City (October 28th) and Tulsa (October 29th). The events are free and open to the public, but we ask that you RSVP by 5:00 pm today, October 24. Click here to RSVP.

Prosperity Policy: Thankful for the opportunity: Recently, supporters of State Question 802, the citizen-led campaign to expand Medicaid, announced they’d reached the 178,000-signature threshold needed to get on the ballot weeks in advance of their Oct. 28 deadline. [David Blatt / Journal Record]

In The News

State superintendent’s new budget request aims to restore state aid for Oklahoma public schools to 2009 level: State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is seeking new state funding to add more school counselors and restore state aid for public schools to the level they received a decade ago. The Oklahoma State Board of Education will be asked to approve Hofmeister’s education budget request to the Oklahoma Legislature for Fiscal Year 2021 at its monthly meeting on Thursday. [Tulsa World] OK Policy analysis shows that progress has been made recently on restoring funding for essential services like education, but it will be a long rebuilding project to full budget recovery.

State credit outlook upgraded to ‘positive’ by Moody’s Investors Service: State Treasurer Randy McDaniel announced Wednesday that Moody’s Investors Service has upgraded the state’s credit outlook from stable to positive. The rating agency concurrently affirmed Oklahoma’s credit rating of Aa2. While the state’s bond rating — two notches below the best possible — was not changed, Moody’s listed factors that could lead to a rating upgrade including, increases in financial reserves, enhancement of the state’s fiscal flexibility, and further economic diversification.[Tulsa World]

‘Largest single-day commutation in nation’s history’ expected to take place in Oklahoma next month: More than 400 Oklahoma prison inmates are expected to pass through an “expedited” commutation process on Nov. 1, a number believed to be the largest one-day total in United States history, Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board Executive Director Steve Bickley said. The accelerated process is thanks to House Bill 1269, a bi-partisan bill which was passed this summer and made retroactive a number of criminal justice reforms that reclassified some drug and property crimes. [The Frontier] OK Policy analysis has shown that HB 1269 made progress towards SQ 780 retroactivity, but there are still unresolved issues. 

McAlester students’ lunch debts on the rise: Lunch debts continue to accrue for students at McAlester Public Schools and cause concern for the school’s budget. Donna Green, director of child nutrition for the district, said the outstanding balance of students lunch debt as of Oct. 1 is $15,797.85 — which could add up by the end of the academic year. Research from the School Nutrition Association shows more than 75% of schools reported meal debts in 2017. [McAlester News-Capital]

Yes on 802 campaign ready to turn in signatures: The Yes on 802 campaign said it will turn in signatures for the petition on Thursday. Campaign manager Amber England said it’s worked across the state to gather the signatures. Carly Putnam with the Oklahoma Policy Institute said many in the state struggle to get the healthcare they need. She said State Question 802, if passed, would expand access to Medicaid. [Fox25] OK Policy supports SQ 802 and has provided information and resources to better understand the issue. 

Editorial Cartoon: Yes on 802: Tulsa World editorial cartoonist Bruce Plante takes a look at the issue. [Tulsa World]

Correctional officer shows what it’s like to work at an Oklahoma prison: KOCO examines what it’s like to work in an Oklahoma prison. The rigors of the job and the low pay are a barrier to getting new recruits through the doors. And that doesn’t just apply to correctional officers. At the moment, there are just nine psychologists serving almost 26,000 inmates through the Oklahoma prison system. [KOCO] An OK Policy analysis found several factors for Oklahoma’s prisons being dangerously understaffed. 

Oklahoma County sheriff tells jail trust it needs to take over Jan. 1: In a strongly worded letter, Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor said Wednesday his office will no longer assist in the day-to-day operations of the jail starting Jan. 1. He told the jail trust to take over operational authority of the 13-story jail in downtown Oklahoma City at one minute after midnight that day. [The Oklahoman]

Letter to the Editor: Support prison rehabilitative services and post-release supports for former inmates: Criminal justice reform is at the forefront of Oklahoma legislation because the current system of incarceration without rehabilitation is not serving communities fiscally or in crime prevention. [Brittany Graves / Tulsa World]

Bigger turnpike budgets expected for 2020: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has approved preliminary budgets for operations and maintenance and capital investments in 2020 that will be 8% higher than budgets for 2019. A spokesman said OTA members gave preliminary approval to a $109,522,785 budget for operations and maintenance of the state’s turnpike system in 2020. They also signed off on a proposed $118,396,578 capital budget. They scheduled a final vote on the budgets for Dec. 4. [Journal Record ????]

Oklahoma judge temporarily blocks abortion ‘reversal’ law: An Oklahoma County judge issued a temporary injunction Wednesday halting a controversial abortion reversal law from taking effect pending further litigation. At the end of an hour-long hearing, Judge Don Andrews said he still has many questions about an abortion reversal law slated to take effect Nov. 1 and halted the measure from taking effect until he can hear additional arguments at trial. [The Oklahoman]

Unaccountable: Oklahoma midwives oversaw at least seven out-of-hospital deaths last year but faced no repercussions: When a state senator in 2017 attempted to regulate out-of-hospital births for the first time in Oklahoma, a group of midwives reached out. The midwives ultimately opposed and helped kill the legislation. A subsequent bill introduced in 2018 also failed. Since then, at least seven additional babies have died during or after midwife-assisted out-of-hospital deliveries, GateHouse Media found. All occurred in 2018. Most were deemed preventable by medical experts who reviewed the cases at the request of reporters. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma ranked 47th among best states to have a baby: Oklahoma is the fifth-worst place to have a baby. Only Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana ranked worse, according to an analysis by the personal finance website WalletHub that probed a variety of measures including infant mortality rates, access to health care, the cost of having children, food security and how baby- and family-friendly states are. [CNHI] An OK Policy analysis showed Oklahoma’s high uninsured rate is a factor in the state’s high infant and maternal mortality rates. 

Relationship building: Lawmakers attend OU executive session: Three members of the Oklahoma Legislature sat in on the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents’ executive session Wednesday, listening to brief updates on pending and potential litigation facing OU and learning more about the regents’ governance duties. [NonDoc] OU leadership expressed confidence in the Board of Regents at its Wednesday meeting, wishing former regent and vice chair Renzi Stone the best after his sudden resignation from the board Tuesday night. [Norman Transcript]

OKC Fire Department in need of paramedics: Faced with a shortage of new paramedics available to hire and a forecast that indicates the problem could worsen, the Oklahoma City Fire Department is filling the gap by training its existing staff to become paramedics. [Journal Record ????]

Timeline: The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: One of the worst race massacres in the nation’s history occurred in Tulsa over a 14-hour period on May 31- June 1, 1921. Dozens of people were killed, hundreds were injured and thousands were left homeless. Most of the segregated black district, known as Greenwood, was destroyed. Although the massacre itself lasted only a few hours, its repercussions are still felt today. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We have made great strides in teacher pay and must now continue our investment in classrooms and student support. This budget request will help us reach the goals outlined in our eight-year strategic plan, Oklahoma Edge.”

-State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, speaking about the education department’s upcoming budget request. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Funded ratio of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System as of June 30, 2019, indicating the plan had virtually all the funding it needed to pay all future retirement payments earned as of that day.

[Source: Oklahoma Public Employees Association]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why are Pennsylvania judges sentencing people on probation for debts they won’t ever be able to pay? Though poor defendants are entitled to be provided legal representation, that does not mean access to the justice system is free. Court fees — even for indigent defendants — average more than $1,000 per case across Pennsylvania. The median court costs imposed on indigent defendants in the region range from $537 in Philadelphia County to $1,652 in Delaware County, an ACLU of Pennsylvania analysis found. That’s in addition to fines and restitution the court may impose. [Inquirer]

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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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