In The Know: Planned Parenthood to close west Tulsa facility

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 Planned Parenthood is closing one of its three Tulsa-area facilities that provided nutritional services to low-income mothers because the state terminated its contract. The OK Policy Blog previously showed that the Health Department’s rationale for ending the contract does not add up.

The founder of Stand for Children, a national advocacy organization which is starting a new chapter in Oklahoma, said the Oklahoma legislature needs to fund the education reforms it has already passed. In a speech on federal deficit reduction, Governor Fallin said Congress should not demand the same level of service without providing the same level of funding to states. Fallin told the Huffington Post she is not taking a position yet on legislation to cross-train teachers as police officers in order to carry guns.

On the OK Policy Blog, John Thompson explained why A-F Report Cards are just the start of the conversation about school quality. David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed the latest brinkmanship in Congress. The Economist reported on Oklahoma’s Marriage Initiative to help low-income families build healthy marriages. The OK Policy Blog previously featured a roundtable on whether the State of Oklahoma should be promoting marriage.

State Auditor Gary Jones said his agency is clearing a backlog of county audits. The New York Times reports that severe drought in Oklahoma and other midwestern states is leading to an upsurge in hay thieves. The Number of the Day is the amount Oklahoma appropriated for higher education per every $1,000 in state personal income in 2011. In today’s Policy Note, Governing Magazine explains how the Affordable Care Act is poised to dramatically expand mental health coverage.

In The News

Planned Parenthood to close west Tulsa facility after Oklahoma halts agency funding

Planned Parenthood says it’s closing one of its three Tulsa-area facilities that provided nutritional services to low-income mothers because the state terminated its contract with the health services agency. Planned Parenthood of the Heartland spokesman Pat Schnake (SHNOK’-ee) said Wednesday the agency will close its west Tulsa facility by the end of the month. Schnake said six agency employees who helped administer the federal Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, program already had been laid off Jan. 1 after a federal judge denied the agency’s request to stop the state Health Department from ending Planned Parenthood’s WIC contract.

Read more from KJRH.

Previously: What really happened with WIC? from the OK Policy Blog

Stand for Children director says education reforms require adequate funding

A national education activist speaking in Tulsa on Wednesday said his organization is coming to Oklahoma to lobby for adequate funding immediately for existing, research-based reforms and to systematically engage parents over the long term. Jonah Edelman, founder and chief executive officer of Stand for Children, was the keynote speaker at an education summit hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber for local educators and community leaders. Named one of 2011’s “Top 11 education activists” by, Edelman said Oklahoma is “having a digestion problem” with a slew of recent reform efforts passed into law. “We aren’t supporting more reforms. If Oklahoma wants to get results for students, it needs to fund the reforms it has already passed,” he said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Fallin says states should be partners in federal deficit reduction

The federal budget wars are creating uncertainty in the states, Gov. Mary Fallin said Wednesday as she urged Congress and President Barack Obama to treat states as partners in the deficit-reduction effort, rather than “underlings.” Delaware Gov. In a speech in Washington for the National Governors Association, Fallin said the budget-cutting decisions made by Congress and the president in the next few months will have an “immediate, direct effect” on states. It will be hard to set a state budget, she said, when the numbers could change in the middle of the upcoming legislative session because of cuts made in Washington. Fallin said Congress should not demand the same level of service without providing the same level of funding.

Read more from NewsOK.

Gov. Fallin waiting to announce position on guns for teachers bill

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) is not taking a position yet on legislation introduced in her state to cross-train teachers as police officers in order to carry guns. Fallin, in town Wednesday for the National Governors Association’s State of the States address, told The Huffington Post that since the Oklahoma state legislature is not convening until February, she cannot offer a position on the legislation introduced by state Rep. Mark McCullough (R-Sapulpa) to arm teachers. The proposal from McCullough, which first came to light in December following the mass fatal shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., would train Oklahoma teachers as reserve police officers, allowing them to carry guns and provide protection if a mass murderer entered their school.

Read more from the Huffington Post.

John Thompson: The A-F Report Card is just the start of the conversation about school quality

The Oklahoma City school system is 88 percent low-income and it earned a “D” in the new A-F School Report card. The state also earned a “D” for improving outcomes for low-performing students. Since it is far more difficult, systemically, to improve performance of poor students, did Oklahoma City do better or worse than the rest of Oklahoma in helping students who struggle? Jonathan Willner, an Oklahoma City University economist, asks whether schools are being graded on their effectiveness or on the zip codes that they serve. He ran a multivariate analysis of family and economic data of 1,676 schools. He predicted the grades that schools would receive based on their demographics. He predicted with 70% accuracy which schools would earn a “B.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Prosperity Policy: Back to the brink

The new year has arrived, and with it another last-minute deal in Congress to avert a catastrophe. In the final hours before the ball dropped to ring in 2013, an agreement was reached to avert huge tax increases and deep spending cuts that most believed would have plunged the nation back into recession. The agreement reached last week satisfied key Democratic priorities by preserving lower tax rates for middle-income Americans while hiking taxes on upper-income Americans back to where they were during the Clinton administration. It also extended, for five years, increases to two key tax credits – the child tax credit and earned income tax credit – that benefit millions of working families.

Read more from The Journal Record.

The fraying knot

A dozen young couples recently spent a cold Monday evening in a conference room in downtown Oklahoma City, answering tricky questions about their relationships, such as who their partner’s family most resembles: the Simpsons, the Addams Family or the cosily suburban Cleavers from “Leave it to Beaver”? Such lightheartedness had a serious aim: getting the couples to think about each other and improving their ability to communicate. The couples—all new or expectant parents, none of them married—were taking part in a workshop run by the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI), a programme that aims to help Oklahomans build and sustain healthy marriages. Since 1999 OMI has served more than 315,000 people. It is the largest and longest-running of its kind, and probably the most successful.

Read more from the Economist.

Previously: OK Policy Roundtable: Should the state of Oklahoma be promoting marriage? from the OK Policy Blog

State auditor says agency is clearing backlog of county audits in Oklahoma

As the state auditor and inspector’s office has worked to process a backlog of county government audits, the agency has uncovered “definite issues” and in some instances the misuse of taxpayer dollars, its elected head said. “There were definite issues,” state Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said. “They were operating under the ‘we’ve always done it that way’ attitude … we put those findings in our report. Before, it was kind of a wink and a nod; we may put it in there, we may not.” Jones said that when he took office in January 2011, there were 25 counties in compliance with a state law requiring his office to audit each county every two years. Wednesday, almost exactly two years into Jones’ four-year term, he said the backlog is clearing.

Read more from NewsOK.

Cash for hay driving thieves to move bundles

Across the West, ranchers, farmers and county sheriffs are grappling with a new scourge: hay rustling. Related Months of punishing drought and grass fires have pushed the price of hay, grain and other animal feed to near records, making the golden bales an increasingly irresistible target for thieves. Some steal them for profit. Others are fellow farmers acting out of desperation, their fields too brown to graze animals and their finances too wrecked to afford enough feed for their cattle. Sheriffs in rural counties in Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas say the spike in hay thefts is part of a broader rise in agricultural crime.

Read more from the New York Times.

Quote of the Day

In light of the fact that funding to schools has been reduced by 20 percent, it is unreasonable – and perhaps a better word for it is absurd – to think school districts in this state could effectively implement these reforms. Expectations are going up, and the resources are going down, and that’s a tough situation.

 –Jonah Edelman, founder of Stand for Children, an education advocacy group that is establishing a chapter in Oklahoma

Number of the Day


Amount Oklahoma appropriated for higher education per every $1,000 in state personal income in 2011, down from $10.39 twenty years ago in 1991

Source: Center for the Study of Education Policy via Demos

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Mental health care transformation coming to America

In the wake of last month’s deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., there was an outpouring of rhetoric about the need to improve our mental health system so people like Adam Lanza — the person who killed twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook elementary school — could be identified and stopped from committing such a heinous act. But one thing was often overlooked in those calls to action: The Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s signature health law, includes arguably the most significant reforms to mental health coverage in our nation’s history. The ACA names mental health and substance abuse treatment as one of the 10 essential health benefits that insurance plans must cover starting in 2014. While most large-group plans offer some kind of mental health benefits, according to a 2011 HHS survey, only 18 percent of small-group and individual plans cover mental health, and a mere 34 percent cover substance abuse treatment. Those markets — which will make up the plans sold on the health insurance exchanges that are soon to be rolled out in every state under the ACA — should see a significant upgrade next year in the quantity and quality of mental health benefits that are offered.

Read more from Governing.

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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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