In The Know: Schools discipline special ed students at higher rates

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 In The News

Schools discipline special education students at higher rates: Across the state, students with physical and mental disabilities are bearing much of the brunt of classroom discipline, government data show. They’re more likely than their peers to be suspended, expelled, arrested, handcuffed or paddled. In dozens of schools, special education students are anywhere from two to 10 times more likely to be disciplined, the data show. At some schools, every special education student has been physically disciplined, suspended or expelled [Oklahoma Watch]. Additionally, some students are simply sent home. In those cases, no disciplinary incident is recorded, making it difficult for parents and advocates know what’s happening in their kids’ schools [Oklahoma Watch].

Tulsa Public Schools begin year with no teacher vacancies: Throughout the district, nearly 500 new teachers were hired this year. On Wednesday, district officials announced that they had filled every teacher vacancy for the start of the school year. Earlier this week, Superintendent Deborah Gist called the feat “a historic moment” in a time of a statewide teacher shortage crisis. “This is a home run for our district and the children of Tulsa Public Schools,” Gist said in a news release sent out Wednesday [Tulsa World].

Settlement will help more Oklahomans vote: Under a 29-page settlement announced July 30th, each agency will be required to ask clients if they want to register to vote and provide help with the process as part of in-person, phone-based, and online client services. Each agency will assign a staff member to be responsible for coordinating voter registration services and training other employees. The Election Board will appoint a statewide coordinator to ensure compliance, and they will report monthly data on the number of completed voter registration applications and other indicators [OK Policy].

Senator encounters push back against civil assets forfeiture reform bill: Following publication of a report indicating widespread abuse of privileges granted by the state’s drug forfeiture laws, Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) announced an interim study on the topic and authored a bill intended to reform the laws. At an Oklahoma District Attorneys Council meeting in Oklahoma City on Thursday, some officials said they are preparing presentations against Loveless’s proposed bill. One of them, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, accused Loveless of hiding information from the state’s district attorneys or lying about it [Oklahoma Watch].

Raiding tobacco settlement not solution to teacher pay woes: State Sen. Bryce Marlatt’s proposal this week to use tobacco settlement money to finance across-the-board pay raises for Oklahoma teachers suggests lawmakers now know they’re in deep fiscal voodoo after years of ill-advised income tax cuts and corporate welfare. This year’s budget hole was $611 million. Next year’s likely will top $1 billion, thanks to plunging energy prices. There are few peas left under the proverbial budget game shells that can be shifted around to hide the extent of state government’s fiscal crisis [Journal Record].

In Lawton proposal, to turn unused schools into housing: Bill Bright is working to end homelessness among veterans in Lawton. The director of community planning and development with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said he’d like to turn unused elementary schools into apartments. Vouchers from two federal agencies would cover costs to run and maintain apartments and could also provide revenue for the school system, he said. Ideally, homeless veterans and their families would have new apartments at low to no cost, and social workers would be on-site to provide mental health services, Bright said [Journal Record].

Graphic illustrates a decade of prescription drug overdoses in Oklahoma: Over the past decade, Oklahoma has seen a dramatic increase in the number of residents who have died from prescription drug overdose, especially overdoses that involve opioids, powerful painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone. Unintentional poisoning death rates more than doubled in the United States from 1999 to 2012 and increased nearly fivefold in Oklahoma during the same period. The chart below shows how the types of drugs that have killed Oklahomans have evolved over the past 10 years [NewsOK].

State farmers ambiguous about Godzilla El Niño: This year’s El Niño might be the strongest ever. The phenomenon — marked by unusually warm waters in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America — means more precipitation could be on the way for Oklahoma. The state’s wheat farmers are hopeful, but know too much rain at the wrong time can be ruinous [StateImpact].

River barge traffic still affected by May rain: Dredging and maintenance issues may restrain commercial traffic another two months along the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Heavy water flows from rain-filled reservoirs lowered barge traffic 50 percent or more through May, June and July at east of Tulsa, Director Fred Taylor said Thursday. Oklahoma’s other major ports reported similar declines. “We’re still two months out to what we call normal navigation,” Taylor said [Journal Record].

Land Office Commissioners distribute education funds: The state agency that oversees hundreds of thousands of acres of state-owned lands says it has made the second-highest distribution to Oklahoma’s public education institutions in the agency’s history. The Commissioner of the Land Office said Thursday that $97.5 million in distributions were made to public schools during the fiscal year that ended June 30 [KTUL].

Sen. Brinkley pleads guilty to fraud, resigns from Legislature: Brinkley was charged Wednesday with five wire fraud counts and one tax evasion count. He admitted in court that he stole money while an official at the Better Business Bureau for his own personal benefit. His defense attorney said Brinkley has completed a 60-day inpatient treatment program for gambling addiction and is participating in Gamblers Anonymous [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“The discrimination is just unbelievable toward these kids. They are not getting an education like everyone else.”

– Traci Cook, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Oklahoma, on the disproportional level of disciplinary actions taken against special ed students. Oklahoma ranks 1st in the US for expulsions of students in special education programs, and 4th in use of corporal punishment on such students (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of physicians in Oklahoma per 100,000 people, lower than all but 5 other states.

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Following the success sequence? Success is more likely if you’re white. Why are black Americans at greater risk of being poor? This is a complex and contested question, one that has exercised scholars and politicians for decades. One of the most sensitive issues is the relative importance of individual effort and responsibility, compared to the impact of historic and ongoing racial discrimination. [Brookings].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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