In The Know: Oklahoma teacher shortage crisis grows

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

Crisis hits Oklahoma classrooms with teacher shortage, quality concerns: Oklahoma’s deepening teacher shortage has education officials trading in their “Help Wanted” signs for ones with a more urgent message: “Help Needed NOW.” As schools ring in the start of a new academic year, administrators are desperately trying to fill teacher vacancies amid a scarcity of applicants [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City school district begins discipline intervention training: The district is attempting to dig out from under one of the nation’s highest suspension rates and an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights division. A district audit found the school system suspends minorities at a much higher rate than white students, inconsistently punishes students for similar offenses and suffers from missing paperwork and rampant record-keeping discrepancies [NewsOK].

Thorny questions on role of law enforcement in schools: You can probably look for some attention to the issue of school discipline next session in the wake of a lawsuit filed in Kentucky after a “school resource officer” handcuffed an 8-year old, 52-pound boy. In Oklahoma use of mechanical restraints is regulated by statute in various juvenile and mental health facilities, but I found nothing in the school code or regulations dealing with the situation [OK Policy].

Oklahoma State students feeling effect of tuition increase: After state budget cuts to higher education, an Oklahoma State University degree has a higher price tag. In an attempt to balance a $600 million shortfall, the state reduced the amount of money allotted to higher education by $24 million for the 2016 fiscal year. The cuts resulted in OSU raising in-state undergraduate tuition for the first time since the 2013 fiscal year. Some students at OSU are already feeling the extra strain on their bursar accounts [O’Colly].

Why Oklahoma’s female incarceration is so high: Most women involved in the criminal justice system are suffering from untreated trauma, mental illness and or drug addiction. They are homeless, unemployed and oftentimes victims of domestic violence. They have on average two to three children. Once they enter the criminal justice system, they are assessed with multiple fines and fees, most of which support the criminal justice system itself. If they are arrested, jailed or sent to prison, they rarely receive services to address any of the issues that entangled them in the first place [Ed Martinez Jr. / Tulsa World].

Family with autistic child leaving state for insurance coverage: The McAdamses of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, have run into a challenge that other Oklahoma families of children with autism face: Applied behavior analysis is not covered by most health insurance providers. This is why the McAdamses plan to move to Texas at the end of the year, a state that requires insurance companies to cover applied behavior analysis, among other types of therapies for children with autism [NewsOK].

Open-government advocates push for disclosures from board members: Joey Senat, associate professor of media and strategic communications at Oklahoma State University, testified at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission that treating government officials like they are volunteering at a food bank is nonsense. “These state boards and commissions essentially run state government,” he said. “They decide how to spend large sums of government money. They administer public property. They set public policy and they transact the public’s business. They certainly should be revealing investments, sources of income, other financial ties they have that would represent a conflict of interest” [Journal Record].

Record-breaking El Nino could bring colder, wetter winter to Oklahoma: This year’s El Nino is still gaining strength, and could rival the strongest patterns on record, said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. Last month, a NOAA blog dubbed the pattern “Bruce Lee,” and countless media outlets have begun referring to it as a “Godzilla El Nino [NewsOK].

Oklahoma utilities plan for EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Politically, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan remains a pariah in Republican-dominated Oklahoma. But behind the scenes, officials and utility representatives are poring over the 3,000-page rule and finding the state could be well on the way toward meeting its greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2030 [NewsOK]. We pointed this out a month ago on the OK Policy Blog [OK Policy].

$3 million fine proposed against Hugo water supplier: The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality order should become final in a week or so and is considered to be a record-setting fine. The issue came to light in February when inspectors for DEQ discovered disinfection equipment at the Hugo water treatment plant was broken. They also discovered safety equipment did not function properly and that the city’s drinking water was too murky [OK Energy Today].

Quote of the Day

“I followed my partner to Tulsa, but compared to Texas and what I could have made had I stayed in Texas, it’s quite a shock. I would have probably started at $10,000 to $15,000 more in Texas. One of the other big differences I’ve noticed is a lot of the teachers in Oklahoma who are young tend to have second jobs just be able to make ends meet or to live well. That also affects the quality of teaching — if they could put that energy into their classrooms, imagine how much better their instruction could be.”

-Nadia Najera, a social studies and science teacher at Zarrow International School in Tulsa (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who have remained tobacco-free for one year or longer after accepting help to quit from the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline.

Source: Oklahoma Hospital Association

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Is the Oil Industry Off a Cliff or Just in a Down Cycle? With the oil industry facing what could be its worst downturn in more than 45 years, the major companies are taking extraordinary, perhaps even desperate, measures to preserve their dividends. This is raising the question of whether the current price slump is just another in a long history of down business cycles, from which oil companies always emerge victoriously, or a sign of more deeply troubled times ahead [Inside Climate News].

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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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