In The Know: State Department of Education proposes school takeovers

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the Department of Education’s proposal for new accountability measures could mean 18 of the state’s 77 lowest-performing schools are taken over by the state. Tahlequah Superintendent Shannon Goodsell spoke out against school vouchers in a presentation to the school board. A task force on finding administrative efficiencies in schools held its inaugural meeting yesterday.

Several Oklahoma City retailers traveled to Washington to push for a level playing field with online retailers by requiring them to collect sales tax. State Impact Oklahoma has a guide to the Internet sales tax debate. The OK Policy Blog provides a quick take on the latest state revenue numbers.

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy testified in Washington that she believes fracking regulation should be left to the states. See the full transcript of Commissioner Murphy’s remarks. Competing Canadian pipeline companies are racing to end a crude oil glut at the Cushing delivery point that has distorted oil prices. The University of Central Oklahoma received a Green Energy Leadership Award from the EPA for switching to all wind power.

Information presented in a federal lawsuit reveals many DHS child caseworkers still have caseloads that are significantly higher than national standards. Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust agency will create a reserve fund for nearly $43 million in additional earnings it received due to an  attorney general’s opinion. The Number of the Day is the preventable hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare patients in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, Economix discusses a Census report that American migration between and within states has reached record lows.

In The News

State Department of Education proposes school takeovers

Tulsa Public Schools has 18 of the state’s 77 lowest-performing school sites that could be targeted in 2012 for state interventions, including takeover, if Oklahoma’s new school accountability system receives federal approval. Local school leaders said they were shocked by the inclusion of a so-called “state turnaround” model in the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s application for a No Child Left Behind Act waiver because it was never mentioned beforehand. State officials submitted the application to the U.S. Department of Education on Monday, but state officials did not make the record available to the public until Wednesday.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Tahlequah superintendent speaks out against voucher law from The Tahlequah Daily Press; Task Force launches school administrative efficiency study from 23rd and Lincoln

OKC retailers press their legislators in Washington for a level playing field with online sellers

They sell bicycles and cameras in Oklahoma City, along with tea sets, cloth diapers and vacuum cleaners. And they came to Washington on Thursday to ask Oklahoma lawmakers to help them compete more fairly with the out-of-state retailers who can sell those same items online without charging state and local sales tax. When Sonya Epperson sells a camera at Epperson Photo-Video, she has to tack on nearly 9 percent in state and city sales taxes, which can add a lot to the sale price if it’s an expensive camera. Customers will sometimes come in and check out the merchandise, then go order it online. The Oklahoma City retailers say they understand, and they’ll sometimes negotiate with potential customers on the price. What they can’t understand, they say, is why they’ve been put at a competitive disadvantage.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: A guide to Internet sales taxes in Oklahoma from State Impact Oklahoma

Quick Take: Despite growth, revenues still well below pre-downturn levels

For the eighteenth consecutive month since May 2010, General Revenue (GR) collections grew compared to the prior year. October GR was $24.3 million, or 6.3 percent, above collections in October 2010. All major taxes brought in more revenue than one year ago. While the monthly revenue reports show encouraging signs of economic and fiscal growth, this remains an incomplete recovery. For the first four months of the fiscal year, collections are up 17.0 percent from the depths of the downturn in FY ’10, yet they remain 15.9 percent below their pre-recession peak in FY ’09. FY ’12 year-to-date revenues remain slightly below their levels of six years ago. Through the first four months of the fiscal year, sales tax collections ($591.1 million) are at an all-time high, but no other major tax has returned to pre-downturn peaks.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy says fracking regulation is a state job

Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy and regulators from Pennsylvania and Ohio testified Wednesday that states don’t need federal help to keep water safe from contamination by hydraulic fracturing. Murphy told the House subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment that hydraulic fracturing had been done on about 95,000 oil and gas wells in Oklahoma and that there had been no documented cases of contamination. State officials are able to respond quickly and appropriately to any problems, she said, and they are directly accountable to Oklahomans. The Environmental Protection Agency is currently conducting a comprehensive study of the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water and is also developing standards related to the disposal of the vast amounts of wastewater generated by the practice.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: The full transcript of Commissioner Murphy’s remarks from Power Engineering

Canadian pipeline firms race to end oil glut at Cushing, OK

Enbridge Inc. and TransCanada Corp. have raced forward with new pipeline plans in the fierce battle to unclog a year-long U.S. oil bottleneck, setting up a potentially swift collapse to an unprecedented distortion in crude markets. After purchasing ConocoPhillips’ stake in the 350,000 barrel-per-day Seaway pipeline for $1.15 billion, Enbridge and new partner Enterprise Products Partners said they plan to reverse the line’s flow to send crude locked up at the Cushing, Oklahoma, oil hub to the Texas coast. Separately, rival TransCanada said it could begin construction of a similar Cushing-to-Gulf-Coast pipeline spur of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline early next year, pending consultations with the U.S. State Department which last week postponed approval of the full-length Canada-to-Texas line to study a new route. The companies are racing to unlock a glut of crude around Cushing, Oklahoma, which has built up over the year due to rising supplies from Canada and North Dakota.

Read more from The Financial Post.

University of Central Oklahoma receives EPA’s Green Power Leadership Award

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) for its green power purchasing – with a Green Power Leadership Award (GPLA) at the Renewable Energy Markets Conference in San Francisco. The GPLAs recognize EPA Green Power Partners who are reducing their environmental impacts from electricity use and supporting new and renewable energy generation nationwide. EPA estimates that the UCO’s purchase of green power is equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity use of more than 2,000 average American homes each year, or the equivalent of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from nearly 4,000 vehicles annually. To date, UCO has realized savings of more than $50,000 by switching to all wind-power. The school is also investigating the possibility of installing wind turbines on campus for power generation, demonstration and educational purposes.

Read more from the EPA.

Oklahoma DHS workers continue to deal with excessively high caseloads

Too many cases piled on to too few workers leads to too many mistakes. That’s the crux of Children’s Rights argument against DHS. The head of the agency claims that’s all in the past. “I don’t think the case loads are excessive. We have 30 percent less kids in foster care than we did four years ago,” Howard Henrick, DHS Director, said in October. Overall numbers may be down, but new details out this week show caseloads may in fact be excessive. A report from last March shows that nearly 70 percent of children in out of home care had primary caseworkers whose caseloads were higher than 20. The national standard is 18. Nearly 40 percent had caseworkers with caseloads of more than 25 children. And roughly 15 percent had caseworkers who were managing more than 30 other children.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Tobacco agency agrees to put extra money in reserve fund

A state agency’s board of directors agreed Wednesday to create a reserve fund for nearly $43 million in additional earnings it will receive as a result of an error in calculating investment earnings over several years. The money would be available in the event the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust agency would suffer investment losses, which would result in insufficient funding for the agency. The extra money is the result of an attorney general’s opinion in September that said the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund Board of Investors is allowed to receive money from all earnings, not just interest and dividends. When investments do well, it will mean extra money for the board to make available to the agency, which works on ways to fight tobacco use and to promote healthy lifestyles, such as better nutrition and exercise.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

If I could just compete on the sales tax, I think a lot of people would prefer to shop locally.
Kristy Jennings, owner of the Urban Teahouse retail store in Oklahoma City

Number of the Day


Preventable hospitalizations per 1,000 Medicare patients in Oklahoma in 2010 compared 70.6 nationally; preventable hospitalizations are diagnoses amenable to non-hospital care.

Source: America’s Health Rankings

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

American migration reaches record low

The share of Americans who move their homes in a year has reached a record low, the Census Bureau reported today. From spring 2010 to spring 2011, just 11.6 percent of the people moved residences, the lowest rate since the government began keeping track of migration in 1948. The difference between that rate and the 2009 rate of 12.5 percent was not statistically significant, but it was a far cry from its heights in the mid-20th century. From 1951-52, for example, 20.3 percent of Americans moved. The record low moving rate was primarily driven by a drop in the share of people moving from one home to another within the same county. Many economists are much more concerned, however, by the low share of Americans who are moving between counties and between states. Declines in this type of migration have been partly blamed for continued high levels of unemployment: stuck in underwater homes they cannot sell, many unemployed workers are unable to move to areas where there are more job opportunities.

Read more from Economix.

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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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