In The Know: Oklahoma school funding is still way down; Money matters for child development; Gov. Stitt requests Health Care Authority audit

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

Report: Despite gains from teacher walkout, Oklahoma school funding is still way down: For the past five years Oklahoma has led the nation for the largest per-pupil cuts to education funding since the Great Recession, according to an annual report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). This year’s report, released today, finds that Oklahoma has finally moved out of the bottom spot in per pupil formula funding cuts thanks to last year’s teacher pay raise funded by the Legislature on the eve of the statewide teacher walkout. However, despite these gains, Oklahoma remains well below pre-recession levels in per-pupil funding and still has cut more than any state other than Texas. [OK Policy]

Money matters for child development. Healthier finances means a healthier future for children in Oklahoma: Policies that support low-income families improve the well-being of children. Policymakers have a number of options for improving economic prospects for Oklahoma’s working families and in turn improving health – including their mental health. Two practical changes are to restore the refundability of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and increase the minimum wage. Bills that would make these changes are no longer active this legislative session, indicating they are not a priority for legislators, but they should be. [OK Policy]

Prosperity Policy: A middle ground on agency appointments: From his first days on the campaign trail, Kevin Stitt’s highest priority has been to give the governor power to hire and fire state agency directors. “Our state constitution vests supreme executive power in the Office of the Governor, but too often that executive power has been delegated by statute to boards that are not directly accountable to the citizens of Oklahoma,” Gov. Stitt declared in his State of the State address. “By granting the governor hiring authority, you will know exactly where the buck stops – at my desk.” [David Blatt / Journal Record]

In The News

Oklahoma K–12 funding up big after teacher walkout but still lagging: Oklahoma teachers’ walkout last year led to big funding gains, even more than in other states where teachers demonstrated. Formula funding went up 19 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Public school funding, however, is still below pre-recession levels when adjusted for inflation. [Public Radio Tulsa] 2018 teacher protests had limited impact on state ed funding. [Education Dive]

Oklahoma ranked among worst states for babies: Oklahoma ranks as one of the worst states in the nation for children up to 3 years old, according to an inaugural and recently released study. Zero to Three, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit childhood advocacy group, and Child Trends, a Bethesda, Md.-based research organization, teamed up to release The State of Babies Yearbook: 2019. [Enid News & Eagle] The full report is available here.

Project Oklahoma: Report finds minority schools receive less funding in Oklahoma: Oklahoma spends less money per student if that student is in a poor minority community according to a newly released study by the national nonprofit EdBuild. The research took aim at gaps in funding that exist in how states fund public schools. [FOX25]

Stitt financial disclosure shows wide-ranging investments: Gov. Kevin Stitt ran for office on his business acumen and background in building a national mortgage company. His recently filed financial disclosure forms provide a glimpse at how Stitt has invested some of his wealth. [Oklahoma Watch]

Gov. Kevin Stitt requests Health Care Authority audit: Gov. Kevin Stitt has asked State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd to begin an Oklahoma Health Care Authority audit. The agency manages Medicaid, a state-federal partnership that provides health insurance coverage for low-income children, parents and disabled adults. [NonDoc]

Bills giving governor more power over state agencies move through Oklahoma Legislature: Bills giving the governor the power to hire, fire and set the salaries of directors at five state agencies moved through the Legislature on Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

Under the mattress: Legislature has options for savings: Leaders of the Oklahoma Legislature agree that stashing away additional savings in preparation for future fiscal downturns should be a priority this session, but details on how much money they will save and where they will put it are still being negotiated. [NonDoc]

Bill would cut credit period for affordable housing program: A 10-year tax credit for affordable housing in Oklahoma would be cut to five years under legislation being considered by state lawmakers. The Oklahoma Coalition for Affordable Housing is working to derail Senate Bill 416, which would cut the credit period for the state’s affordable housing tax credit program to five years. [Journal Record]

House passes two bills giving more rights to children in DHS custody: State Rep. Mark Lawson, R-Sapulpa, today commented on the passage of two bills that would grant more rights to minors in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. House Bill 1273 and House Bill 1279 both passed the House unanimously Wednesday morning. They now move to the state Senate. [Skiatook Journal]

House bill seeks to lure doctors to rural areas with tax breaks: The Oklahoma House passed a bill Monday health care providers and advocates hope will help alleviate a shortage of physicians in rural areas. House Bill 2511, by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, would reduce a doctor’s tax liability by up to $25,000 annually, for up to five years, if they practice in a rural community. [Enid News & Eagle]

Bill banning red-light cameras passes Oklahoma Senate: A bill prohibiting the use of red-light cameras in the state was approved Tuesday by the Oklahoma Senate. Senate Bill 260, authored by state Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, would forbid the use of the devices, which are automated to take photos of vehicles that pass through intersections during a red traffic light. [NewsOK]

Bill targets shortage of truck drivers in state: A bill gaining traction at the Oklahoma Legislature could potentially ease a shortage of commercial truck drivers at work in the state. Senate Bill 378, authored by state Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, would allow for third-party final testing of applicants for commercial driver’s licenses. Currently, such testing is handled exclusively by the Department of Public Safety. [Journal Record ????]

156 ex-employees sue Oklahoma State Department of Health for wrongful termination after funding woes disproved: More than 150 former and current employees have accused the Oklahoma State Department of Health of wrongful termination in a petition filed Monday in Oklahoma County District Court. [Tulsa World]

Editorial Board: Hats off to Cherokee Nation: At at time when Oklahoma schools and teachers are hurting for funding, the Cherokee Nation provided a $5.7 million boost to 108 school districts. Eleven Muskogee County school districts will benefit from the Cherokee Nation’s donation to them totaling $552,280.63. [Editorial Board / Muskogee Phoenix]

Lankford proposes reforms in ‘Federal Fumbles’ report: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) released his annual Federal Fumbles report that highlights cases of government inefficiency and proposes solutions on Tuesday. Chock-full of football analogies, stock photos and colorful block letters, the 60-plus page document nevertheless confronts serious issues head-on, including a broken budget process and a $22 trillion national debt. [Gaylord News]

‘Where I’m supposed to be:’ New Still She Rises director ready to face Oklahoma’s challenges head-on: Aisha McWeay didn’t start law school intending to become a public defender, it just kind of happened. Likewise, after more than a decade at the public defender’s office in Nashville, Tenn., she didn’t intend to move to Tulsa. [The Frontier]

Quote of the Day

“Each of the 157,083 babies in Oklahoma was born with a bundle of unlimited potential and the first three years of their life will shape every year that follows. But, far too many babies face persistent hardships — such as food insecurity, unstable housing and exposure to violence — that undermine their ability to grow and thrive.”

– Myra Jones-Taylor, chief policy officer of Zero to Three, a nonprofit child advocacy group. Research by Zero to Three and Child Trends found that Oklahoma was one of the worst states in the US for children up to three years old [Source: Enid News & Eagle]

Number of the Day

33.4 percent

Percentage of Hispanic U.S. citizens in Oklahoma who voted in the November 2016 election, compared to 56.6 percent voting in the state as a whole.

[Source: U.S. Census]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Here’s how one small town beat the opioid epidemic: Little Falls didn’t do anything revolutionary. They just spent real money — at least $1.4 million in state grants since 2014 — on basic public health measures: limiting prescription refills, increasing access to addiction medications, and putting drug users in treatment programs instead of jail. In other words, they began treating addiction as a disease instead of a crime. [BuzzFeed News]

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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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