In The Know: State Superintendent ignores executive order on school consolidation; Oklahoma’s Medicaid work requirements plan is a dangerous experiment

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

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In The News

State Superintendent: Executive Order On School Consolidation ‘Deeply Flawed’: The State Department of Education says they will not give Governor Mary Fallin a list of schools for possible consolidation. Last November, the governor issued an executive order saying all school districts that spent less than 60 percent of their budget in the classroom were to be complied onto a list. Then, the State Board of Education would use that list to make recommendations on what districts should have their administrations consolidated [News 9].

Oklahoma’s plan for Medicaid work requirements is a dangerous experiment that will put the health of thousands of Oklahomans at risk: The healthcare of thousands of Oklahomans is on the line this fall. That’s because Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature have developed a plan to require low income parents or caregivers to work at least 20 hours a week in order to maintain their SoonerCare coverage. If the federal government approves the plan, it will place young parents, caregivers, and their children at risk of losing SoonerCare. Work requirements will have negative effects on the health of thousands of low-income Oklahoma families [OK Policy / Philip Rocco].

Oklahoma gave Boeing $90 million in incentive money, along with a few other breaks: Since the mid-1990s, Oklahoma taxpayers have paid The Boeing Co. more than $90 million in tax rebates to create thousands of new aerospace jobs. But some of company’s incentive deals with the state have retroactive start dates or were later amended to lower the threshold used to calculate the number of jobs the company could claim payments on, The Frontier has found [The Frontier].

Prosperity Policy: Democracy in action: It has become commonplace in recent years to bemoan that our political system is broken. People don’t pay attention to politics. They don’t vote in elections. Politicians are bought and paid for by special interests. Political parties are intensely polarized and controlled by their most radical factions. There is truth to all these complaints and much to be troubled by with the state of our democracy. Yet Oklahoma this year offers a surprising and forceful rebuke to the cynics and pessimists [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Testing, labeling, recalls not included in medical marijuana state question: A new law allowing medical marijuana did not address three areas of public health policy, a legislative panel was told Wednesday. The Legislative Working Group on Medical Marijuana held its seventh meeting Wednesday to discuss testing, recalls and product labeling. Additional meetings are expected [Tulsa World]. The future of medical marijuana in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Oklahoma firms getting ready for medical marijuana policies for the workplace: Medical marijuana continues its march toward implementation in Oklahoma, and employers gathered at Rose State College on Tuesday to learn about the effects its presence will have on hiring practices and company drug policies. Attorney Vic Albert and human resources professional Matt Tipton led the session titled “Medical Marijuana and Your Business.” It was the second session held at the college, which has attracted professionals from organizations such as OnCue, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Tinker Federal Credit Union, Midwest City-Del City Public Schools and more, all receiving information on how to adapt policies to new medical marijuana laws in the wake of the passage of SQ788 [NewsOK].

Keep off the grass! Despite 788, public schools risk federal funding when they allow medical marijuana: Oklahoma schools are getting conflicting advice on how to deal with students who use medical marijuana. State Question 788 legalized medical marijuana for licensed patients over the age of 18 and for younger people under certain circumstances. The Oklahoma State School Boards Association has circulated a sample policy that would allow students to use medical marijuana at schools and allow a caregiver to administer it [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Q&A with Elizabeth L. Dalton: Medical marijuana dispensaries a ways off: On Aug. 25, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority began processing applications for patient and commercial licenses. Within 5 days, the authority had received more than 1,000 applications for commercial licenses. The most popular request has been for grower licenses, followed by applications for dispensary licenses and processor licenses. Is the authority going to limit the number of commercial licenses granted? Not at this time. The language of State Question 788, which legalized medical marijuana in Oklahoma, was clear: applicants who meet the standards described in the new legislation are to be granted licenses [NewsOK].

OCPD Chief Shares More On Proposal For Lax Marijuana Laws: Oklahoma City’s top police officer is hoping to reduce penalties for processing small amounts of marijuana. The police chief says being less strict will actually make OKC safer, because officers will stay on the streets instead of processing a suspect into the jail. “I’ve always thought for a long time that putting somebody in jail for minor marijuana possession was a probably a little bit excessive,” said Chief Bill Citty, who says the jail get more crowded under the current enforcement for marijuana possession [News On 6].

Oklahoma lawmakers solicit experts, then reject them: The Legislature’s failure to prepare in any way for the possible legalization of medical marijuana has long been obvious. Growing evidence suggests lawmakers remain just as shiftless months after passage of State Question 788. To their credit, lawmakers did request testimony from medical officials before a legislative working group focused on implementation of the medical marijuana law. But now legislators appear upset the doctors are providing informed opinions based on, of all things, medical research [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Report: State could cut prison population in half by 2025: As Oklahoma continues its path into criminal justice reform, a civil rights organization released a report that took a deeper look at who lives in the state’s prisons and offered proposals on how to cut that population in half. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice partnered with nonpartisan policy organization the Urban Institute to conduct investigations like these across the country. Researchers studied the prison populations in each state, what is causing them to be as high as they are, and what lawmakers and law enforcement officials can do to reduce those populations [Journal Record].

Seeing a void of rural representation in Oklahoma, new lobbying group forms: A new lobbying group has formed that hopes to influence lawmakers on issues affecting rural communities and industries. The Oklahoma Rural Association isn’t yet linked to any specific topic other than improving rural parts of the state, but its membership will ultimately define the group’s goals as the 2019 legislative session approaches [NewsOK].

What Oklahomans are telling their legislators: The primary and resulting runoff elections are now in the rear-view mirror. The results were telling on two fronts: Public engagement with Oklahoma politics is increasing and Oklahomans sent a loud message to the Legislature. An unprecedented number of citizens ran for state House and Senate seats this year. This is a good sign. It is a sign Oklahomans are interested in the politics and policies of our state [Rep. Marcus McEntire / Duncan Banner].

A Better Way Surpasses Goal of Reaching 100 People in Tulsa: Partners in Tulsa’s A Better Way Program hoped it would reach 100 people in its first few months. Six months in, 394 have taken paid work cleaning up public spaces, getting a meal and referrals to social services, too. Mental Health Association Oklahoma CEO Mike Brose said Wednesday morning’s pick up shows how popular the program is and that they might need another van [Public Radio Tulsa].

Relatively few Tulsans turn out to vote in City Council elections: City Councilor Ben Kimbro turned out to be the most popular City Council candidate in last week’s elections, with 6,695 District 9 voters casting ballots for him in a lopsided victory over perennial candidate Paul Tay. That was more than three times as many votes as District 1 City Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper earned in securing re-election and more than three times as many as District 6 City Councilor Connie Dodson received in cruising to a third term [Tulsa World].

State Sen. Matthews suspends campaign for District 1 County Commission seat: State Sen. Kevin Matthews on Wednesday suspended his campaign for Tulsa County Commission District 1, citing personal reasons. “I can’t in good conscience ask for donations and ask people to spend a significant amount of their time when I can’t focus on this campaign,” Matthews said. Matthews, a Democrat, is opposed in the race by Republican Stan Sallee. The election is Nov. 6 [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma’s application defines success not as improved health for SoonerCare beneficiaries, but lower utilization of health care services. In other words, success means fewer people receiving healthcare.”

– Philip Rocco, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Marquette University, in a public comment opposing Oklahoma’s plan for Medicaid work requirements (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of residents in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area with a preexisting condition in 2015 [Kaiser Family Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Policy Trifecta Resilient Communities Are Built On: For Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, shaping a “resilient” city takes a holistic perspective. The mayor of Grand Rapids, a city of just under 200,000 people and Michigan’s second largest after Detroit, doesn’t have to spend much time thinking about natural disasters, outside of the potential for flooding as ice thaws each spring on the Grand River. But as one of Michigan’s few growing urban areas, issues like resiliency and equity continue to shape policymaking in Grand Rapids [Route Fifty].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: State Superintendent ignores executive order on school consolidation; Oklahoma’s Medicaid work requirements plan is a dangerous experiment

  1. Since “resiliency” is the byword now for those seriously considering the impact of climate change and all its related terrors (food, water, infrastructure, mental and physical health, economy, migrations, less beer), it is interesting to see it as the focus of the Grand Rapids folks. Reading the article, however, we don’t see any real recognition of the future outlined just in the last week or so by these articles: (failure of climate change models to incorporate new emerging factors)

    Any hopes of a managed future in years coming faster than predicted but still too slow motion to capture attention from the diverted will depend on the degree of resiliency possessed by both leaders and their polities. Grand Rapids at least has the concept if not the right focus yet. While many cities and several states have lip-service agencies and officials tending to the problems already smashing ashore, only California, the usual weather vane for national futures, has gone beyond the caulking and sealing of joints approach to the monumental tasks ahead:

    Each state will face different futures because of climate change and its Sancho Panzas, but all will see unprecedented challenges. Look at the farming, energy, and water articles above to get an idea of what OK can look forward to.

    My point here is actually the article on cutting OK’s prison pop in half by 2050. While that is decades slow in what’s going to be needed, it’s at least an idea of the planning that needs to be happening now, not when the deluge is here, to create the best scenarios for future Oklahomans. Keep in mind that all the climate change impacts discussed above and the others hitting us now (sometimes literally) are with only a 1 degree Centigrade (1.8 degree American) rise in temps from historical norms from greenhouse gas emissions from 2-3 decades ago. The stuff spewing from your car (or cow) this morning will be the cause of the 2 degree impacts 2-3 decades from now. The last time the earth saw CO2 levels like this, they were seen by dinosaurs and then only after a far, far slower buildup period. We have no data at all for the nonlinear changes that happen with the rate of increases we’ve produced in the last few decades.

    IOW, the likelihood of OK corrections being able to maintain current levels of incarceration in the face of coming changes is poor regardless of policy. The resources necessary will be even scarcer and in more competition with other social and public services after the actions taken to deal with the climate change impacts are performed. Smart policymakers and policy wonks need to be thinking through other possibilities for drastic reductions and alternative means of providing services in the face of the triaging that has already slow-motion occurring outside their current perception for over a decade now. The ones who build “resiliency” into their thinking like the Grand Rapids folks and CA, those who realize that the approaches and ideas of even 5-10 years ago will go the way Herbert Hoover did will be the TIME cover people of the future. If they don’t dominate, OTOH, OK’s problems will be far worse than teacher walkouts, inadequate health care, poor mental health services, or overincarceration.

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