In The Know: Oklahoma state agencies give raises despite executive order

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 state agencies give raises despite executive order: Thousands of Oklahoma state employees were given raises last year, despite dire warnings of an approaching budget shortfall and a salary freeze ordered by the governor. State agencies also promoted more than 1,000 employees and hired several thousand to fill vacancies, even though those types of employment actions were included in the freeze — with notable exceptions [NewsOK].

Education savings accounts called vouchers by another name: Proponents call it an educational savings account to benefit both urban and rural families who want more choices for their children’s schooling. But opponents say it is simply a voucher with just another name to take dollars away from public schools. Authors of the legislation will not be caught calling it a voucher bill [Tulsa World]. The Executive Director of the United Suburban Schools Association argued yesterday that school vouchers don’t promote equality or higher standards for Oklahoma children [Sandra Park / Oklahoman]. OK Policy has argued that tax-funded vouchers for private schools would undermine our common goal of providing for public education.

Oklahoma’s teen birth rate is declining, but it’s ranked 49th in U.S.: Efforts throughout the state to reduce birth rates among teenagers are showing positive results but not enough to move Oklahoma forward in state-by-state comparisons. In fact, it’s moving backward. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that Oklahoma dropped one spot to 49th in the number of births to teens ages 15 to 19 with a rate of 38.5 per 1,000 teens. Only Arkansas has a higher rate at 39.5 [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma has a chance to improve protections for pregnant workers: Pregnant women can be forced to choose between their job and their health — between following a doctor’s orders for the safety of their child and bringing home money to provide for that child — even when employers could accommodate those women at little to no expense. HB 2897 by Rep. Scott Inman (D-Del City) requires employers to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations if the employee, employer, or a health provider believe the work could cause injury to the worker or their baby [OK Policy].

Is Oklahoma’s Budget Crisis A Threat To Public Health?: At the Oklahoma Watch-Out public forum last month, two prominent state health officials described the impact the state budget crisis and the oil-and-gas downturn could have on residents’ physical and mental health. As the Legislature prepares to assemble in February, the state’s two primary agencies that deal with health care for the impoverished and the mentally ill are bracing for cuts to services. At the same time, losses of jobs threaten to strain physical and emotional health for families at all income levels [KGOU].

Bill would require informed consent for child vaccines: Parents against the state’s vaccination mandates now have a political action committee and legislation to bolster their efforts. Oklahomans for Vaccine and Health Choice will support lawmakers and candidates who keep the state out of a parent’s health care decisions, chairwoman Liza Greve said. Exemptions in state law let children attend private, public and religious schools without getting their shots. The exemptions allow parents to cite medical reasons, religious observance or personal preference [Journal Record].

Oklahoma voters to decide school board races, tax issues: A hospital sales tax election in Chickasha, a Midwest City mayor’s race and school board races will highlight Tuesday’s elections in central Oklahoma. Voters in Grady County will consider a 20-year, quarter-cent sales tax to pay for a new surgery center at Grady Memorial Hospital. The hospital’s surgery center was shut down last year after the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services inspectors found problems with the hospital’s air handling system [NewsOK].

Uptick in quakes could prompt action from Oklahoma lawmakers: The power and frequency of earthquakes in Oklahoma have been increasing, but the Legislature has done little to try to curb the temblors that scientists have linked to the underground disposal of oil and gas drilling wastewater. That could change this year, as angry residents have been increasingly turning up at town hall meetings and legislative hearings to call for state leaders to address the problem [KOCO].

DHS works to find homes for children as local shelter is set to close: The clock is ticking as DHS works to find homes for two dozen kids still in the Laura Dester Shelter. The initial plan was for the shelter to close by January 1, but DHS officials said the shelter in north Tulsa will stay open until every child is placed. They said foster homes are ideal, but some of the children will wind up in a group home if they have mental health needs. FOX23 previously investigated foster parents’ complaints that they were not getting enough background information concerning sexual abuse when they opened their homes to kids [Fox 23].

OU president to recommend pay cuts for himself, other top administrators: University of Oklahoma President David Boren announced today that he will recommend the OU Board of Regents cut his pay and that of other top OU administrators by 3 percent for the budget year beginning July 1. Boren has previously announced a $20 million plan to cut OU’s budget, including a voluntary retirement plan, reductions in purchases and travel and a reduction of faculty and staff by attrition [NewsOK].

Senate bill targets $150 million in tax credits: Three programs utilized mostly by poor and working poor families would bear the brunt of $150 million in cuts to tax credits being considered Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee. Senate Bill 977 by Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, would suspend 23 tax credits for two years, beginning July 1. Included are the state earned income tax credit, low-income sales tax relief and the state child care tax credit [Tulsa World].

Grand jury witness: Glanz requested $5,000 campaign contribution for appraiser appointment: A witness told a grand jury investigating operations of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office that former sheriff Stanley Glanz once told him he would consider appointing the witness’ brother to appraise foreclosed properties, for a price. In testimony obtained by the Tulsa World, former Sheriff’s Maj. Shannon Clark said he broached the subject of filling vacant sheriff appraiser posts with Glanz in 2010 or 2011 [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“When a private school is given public dollars without the same state and federal reporting or testing standards as public schools, there is no way one can fairly evaluate how the funds are being used to serve the student. There is no measurement or accountability, which is required of public schools. Simply put, vouchers don’t promote equality or higher standards for Oklahoma children.”

-Sandra Park, Executive Director of the United Suburban Schools Association (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of farmed bison in Oklahoma in 2012.

Source: USDA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Money Matters for K-12 Education: A careful study reaches a conclusion that comports with common sense: better funding for schools leads to better long-term outcomes for students. With state legislative sessions beginning around the country this month, that’s a timely and important message, especially in the many states that haven’t restored funding cuts they enacted due to the Great Recession. The study, by researchers from Northwestern University and the University of California, Berkeley, examined data on more than 15,000 children born between 1955 and 1985. During these children’s school years, some states raised funding for high-poverty schools due to court orders and other states didn’t, creating a fruitful environment for studying the impact of increased funding [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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