In The Know: Per-pupil spending lowest in region but gap narrowing, state seeks restoration of federal education funds, 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

New OK Policy paper examines how our state values work: The latest paper from the Oklahoma Policy Institute — Valuing Work — examines how well we value workers in Oklahoma by paying them a fair wage and offering necessary benefits like paid leave time. This is the second installment in The State of Work in Oklahoma, a three-part paper series from OK Policy that sheds light on those Oklahomans who have been left behind by the economic recovery. [OK Policy]

(Capitol Update) Proposed consolidation of state health agencies deserve careful planning, consideration: There are some monumental changes going on in the way our state government operates. In past years, these changes would have been the cause of outcries and pitched battles over the slightest changes of wording by advocates, pro and con. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

In The News

Oklahoma is still last on per-student spending, but the education investment gap is narrowing: Oklahoma likely will continue to trail its neighbors in per-student spending for at least the next few years despite recent funding boosts narrowing the state’s persistent education investment gap. The National Center for Education Statistics has released its analysis of per-pupil spending rates across the nation for the 2016-17 school year and found Oklahoma’s $7,921 was a distant last among the six other states in the region that year. [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.

Hofmeister asks Congress to restore $1M to rural schools: State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister is requesting that the state’s congressional delegation intervene on behalf of Oklahoma schools. This is in response to recent changes by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to the Rural and Low-Income Schools (RLIS) program. In her letter to Oklahoma’s U.S. senators and representatives, Hofmeister stated, “The loss of approximately $1,040,095 in RLIS funds will adversely affect many rural LEAs [local education authorities, i.e., school districts] and likely force the reduction of services to their students.” [FOX25]

House passes bill to abolish virtual charter school board: A House Floor vote on Monday signaled support for major restructuring of the state agency overseeing virtual charter schools. Lawmakers approved House Bill 1229, which would abolish and reimagine the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. The measure passed 68-27 with opposition from few Republicans and most Democrats. It now awaits votes in the Senate. [The Oklahoman]

Bill allowing college athletes to profit advances: College athletes in Oklahoma could score financially if a bill moving through the Legislature crosses the finish line to become law. House Bill 3347, authored by state Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City, proposes to allow student-athletes to be compensated for the use of their names or images while not forfeiting eligibility to compete in sports governed by the NCAA. [Journal Record????]

Lawmaker pushes for change to Oklahoma’s initiative petition process: Republican Rep. John Pfeiffer wants the signatures needed to get state questions on the ballot to be a percentage of voters from each congressional district rather than a percentage of the total number of votes in the last gubernatorial election. Pfeiffer said he’s trying to protect the voice of the state’s rural minority. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State health officials propose new vaccination exemption rules: As a growing number of Oklahoma schoolchildren receive exemptions from state vaccination requirements, the State Department of Health is seeking to modify rules that allow parents to opt their children out of receiving immunizations. The Health Department seeks to require parents interested in exempting their children from immunizations for religious or personal reasons to attend a vaccine education briefing at a local health department before receiving an exemption form. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma House passes bill to regulate drug called kratom: A bill that proposes to regulate kratom, a drug widely known in Asia and gaining popularity in the United States, advanced Monday after a vote on the House floor of the Oklahoma Legislature. If passed into law, House Bill 2846 by state Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, would establish the Oklahoma Kratom Consumer Protection Act. [Journal Record????]

Drug-free school zone bill heads to full Senate: Legislation strengthening Oklahoma’s drug-free school zones is headed to the full Senate. Senate Bill 1674, by Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, would make it a felony to purchase or possess methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. [Woodward News]

OK House okays bill to allow bonds for repair of aging dams: A bill authorizing the issue of bonds to improve and repair some of the state’s high-risk flood-control dams passed the House on Monday with a vote of 93-1. House Bill 3298 by state Rep. Carl Newton, R-Cherokee, authorizes the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority (OCIA) to acquire property and invest capital to update dams throughout Oklahoma. [OK Energy Today]

Energy project sparked House Bill to transfer Historic Preservation Office: The delay of an energy project is apparently behind a  state house vote this week in support of a bill to remove the Oklahoma Historic Preservation Office from the control of the Oklahoma Historical Society and put it under the state Department of Commerce. [OK Energy Today]

New Oklahoma multi-county grand jury convenes today: Oklahoma’s latest multi-county grand jury is scheduled to convene today. State and district attorneys use the multi-county grand jury to investigate and bring indictments in complicated criminal cases. The grand jury typically meets for up to three consecutive days each month with a full term lasting 18 months, though it can be extended six additional months if necessary. [NonDoc]

New coronavirus testing kits to be available in Oklahoma in coming weeks: New testing kits for the coronavirus that could provide faster and more accurate test results are being tested by the Oklahoma Department of Health, but are not ready to be used on patients yet. [The Oklahoman]

Longstanding distrust, anger revealed in hunt for Tulsa Race Massacre graves: Not a shovel of earth has been turned in the search for unmarked burials from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre, but the preparations continue to dig deep into a century of distrust and anger. They also reveal widely divergent perspectives and perceptions about the search. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Black History Month went poorly in Oklahoma: A series of racist and racially insensitive events in Oklahoma schools turned the past month into an excellent argument for why black history, racial prejudices and the ongoing inequalities faced by African Americans deserve more attention than merely 1/12th of our collective cultural calendar. [Tres Savage / NonDoc]

Muslim Day at Oklahoma Capitol the first celebrated without protesters: ‘Hate will eventually be extinguished’: Muslims celebrated advocacy day on Monday without protesters yelling at them or holding signs in their faces as they entered the state Capitol. [Tulsa World] Throughout the day, participants heard from several speakers including Kyle Lawson, Senior Field Organizer for the Oklahoma Policy Institute. [The Oklahoman]

In Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday race, finishing first isn’t everything: Securing first place won’t be the only thing on the minds of the five remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls competing in Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday contest. Like the rest of the country, Oklahoma will not use a winner-takes-all format for its Democratic presidential primary. [Oklahoma Watch]

Sunday liquor sales, park tax on Tuesday’s ballot: Voters in seven Oklahoma counties will decide Tuesday on a measure that would allow liquor stores to be open on Sundays. [The Journal Record] Counties voting on the legalization of Sunday liquor store sales will be Cleveland, Creek, Kingfisher, Muskogee, Oklahoma, Tulsa and Washington, according to a spokesperson from the Oklahoma State Election Board. [NonDoc] Voters in Oklahoma City will have the opportunity to cast their vote for or against a 1/8 cent sales tax initiative that would provide permanent funding for the City’s parks. [Free Press OKC] Early voting was popular in Oklahoma County and Tulsa County. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“Other states aren’t standing still when it comes to investment in children, and neither should Oklahoma.”

– Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Signatures submitted in support of SQ 802, which calls for full Medicaid expansion

[Source: KOCO]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Correcting the record: Medicaid block grants would affect more than healthy adults: The Administration has consistently sought to distinguish between adults covered by the Medicaid expansion and the “truly vulnerable.” That distinction is artificial: the expansion covers exclusively poor and near-poor adults, the overwhelming majority of whom would otherwise be uninsured and would struggle to get needed care. Regardless of distinctions, the Administration’s block grant guidance puts coverage and access to care at risk for those it agrees are “truly vulnerable,” including people with disabilities, others with serious health needs, and pregnant women. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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