In The Know: President Obama highlights Oklahoma’s early childhood education efforts

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 President Obama highlighted Oklahoma’s early childhood education efforts in his State of the Union speech. Oklahoma’s low level of jobless workers is challenging some businesses’ ability to find skilled employees. Coming automatic federal budget cuts could cost the state Health Department millions in federal money and eliminate programs for mental health and breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income, uninsured Oklahoma women.Voters elected a new board chairman and two other new members to the Oklahoma City School Board.

The House passed a new corporate governance law at the request of Chesapeake Energy, undoing a previous law that they had also passed at the request of Chesapeake. On the OK Policy Blog, Sarah Morice-Brubaker looks at the “tenther movement” seeking to avoid federal laws. Arnold Hamilton writes that radical politics in the state legislature is endangering conservation measures to ensure that Oklahomans have adequate water. Kurt Hochenauer asks whether global warming is contributing to Oklahoma’s water shortages.

A House panel approved bills making it harder for young women to receive an abortion without notifying a parent and expanding the state’s abortion reporting law. The okeducationtruths blog discusses other factors at play in lawmakers’ discussions about bullying. A Senate panel approved a ban on foreign laws. The Number of the Day is the number of state employees working in common education in FY 2011. In today’s Policy Note, Jared Bernstein explains why modestly raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without measurably reducing employment.

In The News

With Oklahoma City teacher watching, President Barack Obama mentions Oklahoma’s priority on early childhood education

Susan Bumgarner was in a parent-teacher conference at Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School in Oklahoma City when her cellphone started ringing Friday. Wanting to finish, the prekindergarten teacher ignored her phone. Then the phone on the wall started ringing. After she finished the conference, she found out the White House was calling to find experts on early education. Bumgarner certainly qualifies. She has been teaching prekindergarten students for 20 years and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oklahoma in early education. She was recently nominated for Oklahoma City public schools teacher of the year. On Tuesday, Bumgarner was among the guests of first lady Michelle Obama at the State of the Union speech at the Capitol.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tight labor market keeps help wanted signs posted in Oklahoma

Aircraft Structures International Corp. founder Mickey Stowers would like to hire 40 more workers, but Garfield County’s unemployment rate of about 3.5 percent has made it harder to find skilled laborers. Stowers needs more sheet metal workers and structural mechanics to help the firm rebuild Cessna 208 Caravans at its production facility at the Enid Woodring Regional Airport. The company has even purchased a house in Enid to give out-of-town hires a temporary place to live and is considering buying or building an apartment building to house workers. He hopes to attract unemployed aerospace workers from Wichita, Kan., who have been laid off from companies such as Boeing and Hawker Beechcraft in the past year.

Read more from NewsOK.

Sequestration in Oklahoma: Jobs, public health programs at stake at state Health Department

The state Health Department could lose millions of federal dollars if Congress cannot reach a budget agreement by March 1. If a process known as sequestration commences, the state Health Department could lose an estimated $9.4 million in federal money that’s leveraged with about $490,000 in state-appropriated matching funds. Casualties also could include a loss of 17 jobs at the state Health Department and 10 at state contractor locations. Julie Cox-Cain, the chief operating officer at the state Health Department, said these are the most severe budget cuts she has seen in her 22 years at the department.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma City School Board to get new President

Oklahoma City voters elected a new board chairman and two new people to the Oklahoma City School Board on Tuesday. Lynne Hardin beat incumbent Angela Monson — 3,376 votes to 3,207. The chair position is elected throughout the entire school district, which has 77 schools and nearly 44,000 students. About 90 percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Angela Monson, associate provost at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, was elected four years ago. Hardin is president and CEO of Integrated Solutions.

Read more from NewsOK.

House passes new corporate governance law for Chesapeake Energy

The Oklahoma House on Tuesday approved a bill that would change state laws governing how the directors of public companies are elected. Chesapeake Energy is pushing for the new law, which would undo 2010 legislation the Oklahoma City natural gas giant itself helped write. The previous law mandated staggered elections of directors at public companies, a corporate governance strategy designed to prevent a takeover of a company’s board. Of course this is exactly what happened at Chesapeake, and the 2010 law unintentionally affected other companies. A legislative fix was rolled out last year to exempt those companies from the law. Now Chesapeake’s new directors want out, too.

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Enter the tenthers

The Oklahoma Firearms Freedom Act has been reintroduced this legislative session as HB 2021, after twice being vetoed by Governor Henry. The bill would make firearms, firearm accessories, and firearm ammunitions exempt from federal regulation, provided they are made and sold only within Oklahoma. The legislation, though, was not made exclusively in Oklahoma. To the contrary, a number of states have passed such legislation or will be considering it this year. All this is good news to the Tenth Amendment Center, which tracks Firearm Freedom-type bills and has sample legislation on its website.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Arnold Hamilton: Lawmakers playing politics with our water

Across Oklahoma, the landscape is starting to look and feel uncomfortably like the parched ’50s or the Dirty ’30s. Record warm years. Cracked earth. Blowing dust. Far too little rain for far too long. Anyone who doubted water would supplant oil as the 21st Century’s most precious natural resource surely has been convinced otherwise. Even with welcome recent showers, drought maintains an iron grip on Oklahoma, demanding new, collective — yes, right-wingers, collective — resolve to protect life’s prime sustainer. Instead, our elected leaders at NE 23rd and Lincoln Blvd. in Oklahoma City are playing politics with H2O. Not just any politics, but radical, extremist, unconscionable politics.

Read more from Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Is global warming contributing to state water woes?

Recent developments in Oklahoma have made it clear that it’s long past time the state’s residents should stop taking for granted access to water and that any real discussion about future water shortages should include the potential impact of global warming on supplies. As it often gets repeated, we can drill for oil and gas here until it’s all gone, but we can’t survive without clean drinking water. In the midst of a drought and record-setting temperatures, Oklahoma City has taken 30,000 acre-feet of water from Canton Lake in northwest Oklahoma to help replenish Lake Hefner, a supply lake for Oklahoma City area residents. Oklahoma City officials have also announced they plan to consider raising water rates and canceling the upcoming boating season at Lake Hefner.

Read more from Okie Funk.

House panel approves anti-abortion measures

A legislative committee approved measures Tuesday making it harder for young women to receive an abortion without notifying a parent and expanding the state’s abortion reporting law. Rep. Doug Cox, a member of the House of Representatives Public Health Committee, warned those supporting the measure and other anti-abortion proposals to back off pushing for more restrictions or they will drive abortions underground. “We keep passing stuff like this, they’ll be done in back alleys with coat hangers, people,” said Cox, R-Grove, an emergency room physician. Committee members voted 7-3 to approve House Bill 1588, which would eliminate a provision in state law that allows young women to obtain a judge’s approval to get an abortion.

Read more from NewsOK.

okeducationtruths: Get serious, people

I learned today that Rep. Sally Kern (R – The Dark Place That Made Nathaniel Hawthorne Tremble) and I have something in common. We both think that policy discussions about bullying are sometimes a cover for something else. For me, HB 1422 (Education Open Transfer) is more about appeasing the school choice crowd, since it would allow students to transfer without a shred of evidence that either bullying has occurred or that the school failed to resolve it. For Kern, the bogeyman is … well, it’s gays. With her, it’s pretty much always gays (except last week when it was Turkish infiltrators).

Read more from okeducationtruths.

Senate panel approves ban on foreign laws

Oklahoma lawmakers are considering banning judges in the state from basing any rulings on foreign laws, including Islamic Sharia law. Oklahoma voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2010 that would have specifically prohibited courts from considering Sharia law, but a federal judge blocked its implementation after a Muslim community leader alleged it discriminates against his religion. Bill sponsor Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, said he didn’t know of an instance in Oklahoma where a judge has relied on foreign laws, but he said there have been cases in other states. That prompted state Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, to describe the measure as a “solution that’s looking for a problem.” Crain was the only member of the Senate committee to vote against the bill.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Quote of the Day

In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job and form more stable families of their own. So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.

President Barack Obama

Number of the Day


Number of state employees working in common education in FY 2011, down 27 percent from 1,176 in FY 2002

Source: State Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why raising the minimum wage would benefit the economy and workers

The President suggested raising the federal minimum from its current level of $7.25 up to $9 by 2015 and then index it to inflation. An increase of that magnitude would directly lift the wages of 15 million low-wage workers, according to the WH. Clearly, in an economy where for decades growth has failed to reach our lowest wage workers, it’s time to raise the wage floor to ensure that low-wage workers have a decent shot at a fair wage. A range of economic studies show that modestly raising the minimum wage increases earnings and reduces poverty without measurably reducing employment, and that in fact employers may see a more stable workforce due to reduced turnover and increased productivity. And they benefit workers by increasing the reward to work.

Read more from Jared Bernstein.

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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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