In 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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
Today you should know that the justice reinvestment initiative release its findings yesterday. The report recommends requiring post-release supervision for all felony offenders, increasing the availability of substance abuse treatment, developing community-based mental health care centers, and providing a graduated approach to sentencing people convicted of drug possession. Read the full report here. Oklahoma DAs are responding favorably to the findings. CapitolBeatOK cited Women in Recovery as a model justice reinvestment program.
Tulsa Republican Sen. Dan Newberry is proposing a bill that would eliminate employment protections for nearly 25,000 state workers. On the OK Policy Blog, we discuss a new analysis of the tax reform task force’s proposal to pay for further cuts to the top income tax rate by ending numerous tax credits and exemptions. If this plan were to take effect today, taxes would increase for 55 percent of Oklahomans. Married couples with two children making $25,000, would see a tax increase of $647. Two-child families would not receive a tax cut unless their income was at least $117,000.
Oklahoma’s ranking in Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report dropped from 17th to 27th this year, while scoring lowest in school finances and student achievement. Superintendent Barresi told the Senate Appropriations Committee that high-stakes graduation testing is necessary to ensure an Oklahoma high school diploma has value. Oklahoma Watchdog shared a summary transcription of the meeting. NewsOK calls for more efforts to keep Oklahoma’s community college students in school. Departing Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice shared his parting thoughts in the OK Gazette.
The Number of the Day is how many metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions were prevented by ENERGY STAR appliances in Oklahoma as of 2007. In today’s Policy Note, The Nation discusses how Right to Work hasn’t worked to protect Oklahoma manufacturing jobs.
In The News
Report suggests ways for Oklahoma to reduce recidivism, prison costs
Unless lawmakers take action, thousands of people will continue being released from prison with no form of supervision, the state’s high violent crime rate will remain unchanged and state spending on prisons will increase by more than $250 million over the next 10 years, according to a report released Wednesday. Suggestions include requiring supervision for all felony offenders; 51 percent of those leaving prison now have no supervision. It also calls for increasing the availability of substance abuse treatment; there now is inadequate access to programs. The report suggests developing community-based mental health care centers but no funding source to build them. The report recommends spending $110 million from fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1, through fiscal year 2021, with an expected savings of $249 million that would otherwise be spent on the state’s growing prison population.
See also: The full report from the Justice Center; DAs respond favorably to the Justice Reinvestment Initiative report from the Enid News and Eagle; Women in Recovery’s story is evidence that “justice reinvestment” can work from CapitolBeatOK
Proposal targets job protection for state employees
A bill proposed by a Republican Tulsa lawmaker would eliminate employment protections for nearly 25,000 state workers. Sen. Dan Newberry’s Senate Bill 1046 says employees shall serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority. State employees are placed in two categories: classified and unclassified. Classified employees generally serve a year of probation and then are afforded certain employment protections. Classified employees may be terminated for specific reasons, such as insubordination and inability to perform the duties of the post, and they can appeal that termination, said Lucinda Meltabarger, administrator of the Office of Personnel Management. Newberry said the measure was requested by Labor Commissioner Mark Costello. Trish Frazier, the policy and communications director for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said: “The classified service ensures the best people work for the state of Oklahoma. If you get rid of the classified service, you return to what is called the spoils system, which means state government is dominated by political appointees.”
Task force proposal would raise taxes on most Oklahomans, especially harm seniors and families with children
A proposal by the legislature’s tax reform task force would raise taxes for most Oklahomans, with the worst impact on low-income seniors and families with children, according to a new fact sheet from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. The task force suggested paying for further cuts to the top income tax rate by ending numerous tax credits and exemptions relied on by low and moderate income Oklahomans. The largest tax increase among married couples with two children would be for households making $25,000, according to the analysis. They would see a tax increase of $647. Two-child families would not receive a tax cut unless their income was at least $117,000.
Oklahoma schools get C+ in Quality Counts report
Oklahoma received the same grade two years straight, a C+, from Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report, but the state’s ranking dropped from 17 to 27th, while scoring lowest in school finances and student achievement. The report grades states on categories including chance for success; kindergarten through 12th grade achievement; standards, assessments and accountability; teaching profession; school finance analysis; and transitions and alignment. Oklahoma’s grades remained the same in all areas except for the teaching profession, which dropped an entire letter grade from B-minus to C-minus. Under the teaching profession area are three subcategories in which grades all dropped as well; the biggest was incentives and allocation that went from a B-minus last year to a D-plus in this year’s report, partly due to national board certification incentives being cut.
Superintendent Barresi says testing for Oklahoma high-school diplomas vital
The approaching era of high-stakes graduation testing is necessary to ensure an Oklahoma high school diploma has value, state Superintendent Janet Barresi told lawmakers Wednesday. “I think this is a minimum requirement for Oklahoma to hand a diploma to a student,” Barresi said at a state Senate education appropriations hearing. The class of 2012 is the first group of students to face state graduation requirements created by lawmakers in 2005. Each student is required to pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams to get a high school diploma. The exams are in Algebra I and II, English II and III, Biology I, geometry and U.S. history. Democrats in the state House have talked about blocking the mandate, but Barresi said she envisions making the tests more rigorous, not rolling the reform effort back.
See also: Notes from the Senate Appropriations on Education meeting 1-11-12 from Oklahoma Watchdog
NewsOK: Effort needed to keep Oklahoma’s community college students in school
IN order to meet Gov. Mary Fallin’s goal of increasing the number of college graduates by 67 percent over the next 12 years, Oklahoma will need to do a better job of keeping community college students from dropping out. The state has much room for improvement. The rate of first-time, full-time students who returned for a second year at Oklahoma’s community colleges was only 57 percent last year, according to data from the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education. That means more than two out of five first-year students didn’t return for a second year. Community colleges tend to have a larger percentage of older, nontraditional students than their four-year counterparts. These students often have greater responsibilities outside of school, including families and full-time jobs, which can make it more difficult to focus on coursework. Besides offering remedial classes, Oklahoma needs to do a better job of accommodating these students.
Andrew Rice: A Senator’s parting thoughts
To the Republicans at the Capitol: Being entirely dismissive of the minority party’s views is just as toxic to good government as it was when the ruling Democrats did it. Little good comes from single-party rule — regardless of which party is in charge. Don’t become what you used to abhor. To Republican voters in OKC: Many of you are much more moderate than you realize. This shouldn’t scare you. Oklahoma City’s dynamic growth over the past 20 years has come from a mixture of both conservative and progressive initiatives between city government and the private sector. The day soon may present itself that a centrist Democrat or independent candidate is more in line with your policy positions than a conservative Republican candidate.
Quote of the Day
Parents are the best teachers and I encourage Parents as Teachers program. But we can’t reach every parent. So I urge the continuation of the programs and keeping the entry age for Kindergarten where it is.
–Superintendent Janet Barresi
Number of the Day
Metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions prevented by ENERGY STAR appliances in Oklahoma as of 2007, equivalent to the emissions of 1 million vehicles.
What “Right to Work” means for Indiana workers: A pay cut
In this sense, the most important case study for any state considering RTW in 2012 is that of Oklahoma, the only state to have newly adopted RTW in the post-NAFTA era. Oklahomans were told that RTW was the key to expanding their manufacturing base. In the ten years since Oklahoma adopted RTW, the number of manufacturing jobs in the state has fallen by one-third. The number of companies coming into the state—supposed to increase by “eight to ten times”—has decreased by 30 percent. And Oklahoma’s unemployment rate in 2010 was double what it was when RTW was adopted. RTW was not the cause of this job loss—it was simply irrelevant in the face of broader economic forces. Oklahoma has lost tens of thousands of jobs to cheaper labor overseas, prompting the Mayor of Oklahoma City to complain in 2006 that “we’re getting hit in the manufacturing sector over and over again.” That year, General Motors closed its Oklahoma City plant—laying off 2,400 employees—as production was shifted to Mexico. Surveys of actual manufacturers confirm that RTW is not a significant draw; last year, small manufacturers ranked it sixteenth among factors affecting location decisions. For higher-tech, higher-wage employers, nine of the ten most favored states are non-RTW, led by arch-liberal Massachusetts.
You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.