In The Know: Oklahoma to drop out of school testing consortium

In The KnowIn 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 you should know that State Superintendent Janet Barresi announced she is withdrawing Oklahoma from a consortium of 20 states that have been working to develop new standardized tests to coincide with Common Core standards, and Oklahoma will develop its own tests. The okeducationtruths blog writes that Barresi’s decision may have been motivated by her campaign for reelection.

The Tulsa World examined the large disparities in health between low-income and wealthier Oklahomans. Oklahoma Watch looked at who are the food insecure in Oklahoma and where do they live. The OK Policy Blog shows that Oklahoma has gone from providing cash assistance to half of all families in poverty in 1996 to just one in ten today. Dr. Ramona Paul, a longtime state education official who was a major leader in the development of the state’s nationally-recognized early childhood program, died Sunday night. Dr. Paul was profiled by Oklahoma Today as their 2009 Oklahoman of the Year. Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Karl Springer announced that he will retire at the end of August. The New York Times looked at Tulsa’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Grieving Tulsa parents have waited 7 months for an autopsy report on why their 5-year-old died unexpectedly, but the Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office remains backed up. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed how the plight of the Medical Examiner’s Office is a clear example of lawmakers’ neglect and underfunding of core public services. A Tulsa jail video shows an inmate suffering a mental breakdown was left for 51 hours lying naked on a blanket before he died. Tulsa police say they are frustrated by hours spent waiting to book prisoners in the Tulsa jail, and they have been forced to release prisoners instead of taking them to jail.

The number of structurally deficient bridges on the state highway system has dramatically dropped after lawmakers funneled more income tax revenue into repairs, but Oklahoma still ranks second in the percentage of bad bridges due to crumbling city and county bridges. Edmond schools are struggling to find enough special education teachers because they do not have the salaries to match other states. The Number of the Day is the share of an Oklahoma family’s (median) income spent on health insurance premiums, 11th highest among the states. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports on a new study showing that the biggest, most profitable American companies paid only a fraction of the taxes they would owe under the official corporate rate.

In The News

Oklahoma to drop out of testing consortium, develop own tests, Barresi says

State Superintendent Janet Barresi announced Monday that she is withdrawing Oklahoma from testing through a consortium of 20 or so other states to coincide with the new Common Core curriculum standards. Instead of using new assessments developed through the group, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, Oklahoma will work with a testing company to develop its own new standardized tests for the 2014-15 academic year. Joining PARCC was one of Barresi’s first major decisions upon taking office in January 2011.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Pulling out of PARCC from okeducationtruths.

A healthy citizenry is also a target of Oklahoma health reform

Health care reform isn’t just about solving a financing problem – how to get more insurance for more people. It is also about making people and communities actually healthier, according to the report that could shape state policy in the coming year. “(W)hile increasing access to health care is important, encouraging healthy behaviors – both in terms of seeking appropriate treatment and making positive health choices – is critical to making lasting changes in the overall health of the community,” according to the Leavitt Report, a study of the state’s Medicaid system and possible alternatives for dealing with the Affordable Care Act.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

A measure of hunger

Jeff Jaynes knows. As executive director of Restore Hope Ministries in Tulsa, he sees people formerly called “the hungry” walk into his food pantry every day. There was the Iraq war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who couldn’t keep a job and was nearly homeless. He came to Jaynes’ pantry in an industrial area west of downtown needing rent assistance. The organization helped pay living expenses and offered him food because his ability to find it was uncertain. Then there was college-educated, single mother who had survived cancer, lost her job and had to choose between buying food and health insurance. The pantry offered her food so she could focus her limited resources on paying for health coverage.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

With poverty still high, why does Oklahoma have $10 million in unallocated TANF funds?

Following May’s devastating tornadoes in Moore, the new Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, Ed Lake, suggested the state use $10 million in unspent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds as emergency relief to tornado victims, as was done in Tennessee following natural disasters when he led that state’s human services agency. Governor Fallin rejected the idea, stating that traditional relief organizations were meeting the needs of tornado victims. Director Lake’s well-intentioned suggestion did raise an important question: How is it that $10 million in unspent TANF dollars could be available for allocation, particularly given the continuing impacts of the economic downturn on the very low income families that TANF is designed to help?

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Pioneering education official remembered for putting Oklahoma on top in early childhood education

Ramona Paul, a longtime state education official best known for her work in developing the state’s early childhood program, died Sunday night. She was 76. Paul suffered a stroke in Idaho while visiting her brother and died in a hospital in Idaho Falls. She played a key role in making Oklahoma’s early childhood education program the best in the nation, based on the number of children served and the quality of its programs, former state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett said.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Dr. Ramona Paul’s profile as 2009 Oklahoman of the Year from Oklahoma Today

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Karl Springer to retire

Karl Springer’s goodbye was a lot like the man himself: quiet and without fanfare. The Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent had a written statement but mostly said what he felt. Springer, 64, will retire Aug. 30 after five years at the helm of the state’s largest school district. The audience was quiet. Some knew what was coming. Others sat with mouths open in shock. About four months ago, Springer had agreed to a three-year contract.

Read more from NewsOK.

London. Tokyo. Athens. Tulsa? A Heartland Olympic Dream

When Neil Mavis roams the wide, quiet streets here, he sees an 80,000-seat Olympic stadium blooming where a fleet of trucks sit in a parking lot. He imagines kayaks and canoes gliding along the Arkansas River and marathoners striding down Route 66, past an oil refinery that looms over the highway. Christopher Smith for The New York Times If the 2024 Olympic Games come to Tulsa, Okla., the Golden Driller will have a media center at its feet. “We don’t have an answer yet for water polo,” he said. “But one thing we do have is plenty of land out here in Oklahoma.” Mr. Mavis is the dreamer in chief for Tulsa 2024, this unassuming city’s bid to host the Olympic Summer Games.

Read more from the New York Times.

Grieving family says months-long wait for autopsy report unacceptable

Steven Osborn said his son was full of energy when he made Noah turn off the flashlight and go to bed. In the morning, they found Noah’s body lying still in bed. He’d been dead for hours, and there was nothing they could do to bring him back. Seven months later, the Osborns still have no idea why their son died. Noah’s body was taken from Tulsa to the Oklahoma City Medical Examiner’s Office, where officials continue to work on his autopsy report with no determination on his cause or manner of death. While they wait for answers, Osborn is challenging Oklahoma lawmakers to improve Oklahoma’s Medical Examiner’s Office – saying seven months is too long for grieving families.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Previously: Getting what we pay for from the OK Policy Blog

Tulsa jail video shows little care given to inmate who died

Elliott Earl Williams spent the last 51 hours of his life lying naked on a blanket in a Tulsa Jail cell, unable to feed himself the food that had been thrown to the floor beside him by detention officers, a jail video released Monday indicates. Williams, 37, was pronounced dead about 11:30 a.m. Oct. 27, 2011 – five days after he was booked into the jail. He had been taken to the Tulsa Jail by Owasso police officers after he was arrested in connection with a disturbance at a hotel, reports indicate. An Owasso police report states: “It was readily apparent that the suspect was having a mental breakdown. The suspect was rambling on about God, eating dirt.” Williams’ estate is suing Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz and the jail’s health-care provider, Correctional Healthcare Management of Oklahoma Inc., claiming wrongful death and civil rights violations.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Police frustrated over Tulsa jail’s wait times to book prisoners

Tulsa police frustrated by hours spent waiting to book prisoners called operations at the Tulsa Jail a “mess,” joked that the facility was “your tax dollars at work” and in one case, freed a prisoner with a misdemeanor warrant instead of taking him to jail, records show. An FBI agent working with a violent-crime task force also notified Tulsa police that the booking wait was harming the task force operation in the 61st Street and South Peoria area, according to records obtained by the Tulsa World. The agent said he had waited at the jail 2 1/2 hours with a prisoner arrested during the sweep on May 31.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma highway bridge problems decline, but city and county numbers decrease

The number of structurally deficient bridges on the state highway system has dramatically dropped, despite a recently released report that says overall, the state ranks second in bad bridges, said Mike Patterson, Oklahoma Department of Transportation director. An advocacy group, Transportation for America, last month released a report that ranked the state second in bad bridges based on numbers from Federal Highway Administration data from 2011. But that figure included city and county bridges in addition to state bridges, Patterson said Monday after discussing the report with the Oklahoma Transportation Commission. The report ranked 22.6 percent of Oklahoma bridges structurally deficient, second behind Pennsylvania, which had 24.5 percent. The report noted that overall the state was among 15 that had increased its number of structurally deficient bridges since 2011.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Wanted: Special education teachers

As Edmond continues to look for the best and brightest teachers, it is getting harder and harder to find them. They are out there, but many are heading out of Oklahoma to find jobs in other states. In the area of special education, the number of job openings has been unusually high. “Our special education departments were down 30 teachers a week ago, and we still have 18 positions to fill,” said Randy Decker, who recently returned as executive director of human resources for Edmond Public Schools. “There is just not very many special education teachers out there to choose from.”Decker added this is a problem nationwide and especially in Oklahoma. He said Oklahoma doesn’t have the salaries to match other states.

Read more from the Edmond Sun.

Quote of the Day

It is almost impossible to identify one single person who is responsible for the accolades Oklahoma’s early childhood education system has received. But if there was one person who could be identified, there is no question Ramona would be that person. I can’t overstate how extraordinary her contribution has been.

-Steven Dow, executive director of CAP Tulsa, on Dr. Ramona Paul, who passed away Sunday night (Source:

Number of the Day

23.2 percent

Share of an Oklahoma family’s (median) income spent on health insurance premiums, 11th highest among the states

Source: The Commonwealth Fund, 2011

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Big companies paid a fraction of corporate tax rate

The biggest, most profitable American companies paid only a fraction of the taxes they would owe under the official corporate rate, according to a study released on Monday by the Government Accountability Office. Using allowed deductions and legal loopholes, large corporations enjoyed a 12.6 percent tax rate far below the 35 percent tax that is the statutory rate imposed by the federal government on corporate profits. The findings come amid rising criticism of the tactics that some big companies use to lower their tax bills.

Read more from the New York Times.

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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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