In The Know: State’s child welfare reform efforts draw mixed reviews

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.

An annual report authored by court-appointed monitors assigned to oversee Oklahoma’s child welfare reform offered mixed reviews for the state’s efforts, noting that the state is making progress in some areas but falling behind in others. The report is available here. Last year, the monitors found that the state was failing to make “good faith efforts” to reform the system. The manufacturer of a drug used in Oklahoma executions has asked the state to return all doses of the drug because the drug is not approved for executions, and company disapproves of the death penalty.

Data released by the US Department of Education shows that minority students are suspended disproportionately not just in Oklahoma City Public Schools, but across the state and country. Faced with a $611 million budget shortfall, lawmakers are reportedly seeking to maintain flat funding for common education, the Health Care Authority, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and the Department of Corrections. Oklahoma has options for a balanced approach to solve the budget gap. County court clerks, which have relied on the state Supreme Court for funding despite a statue directing counties to fund their own offices, have been informed that the state Supreme Court will no longer be providing funding due to budget cuts.

In his Journal Record column, executive director David Blatt points out that a growing state share of Medicaid costs is due a strong state economy, not federal cost-shifting or broken promises. A video preview for our Summer Policy Institute is now available. The Summer Policy Institute brings together fifty highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students from across the state for a four-day public policy intensive. Bills that make texting while driving illegal and require schools to provide sexual assault prevention and response education are awaiting Governor Fallin’s signature. An executive order issued by the Governor says that the state will not make a state plan to follow federal regulations regarding regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Following heavy rains, depleted Oklahoma reservoirs have begun to refill.

Tulsa County Commissioners say they are waiting for an investigation to conclude before taking action regarding the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputy who accidentally shot and killed a man. A bill in the state legislature would require reserve deputies to receive more training and adds mandatory yearly retraining. The Number of the Day is 3,300 – the number of uninsured veterans in Oklahoma with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level who have a mental illness. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post discusses the implications of data showing that pregnant women are working later in to their pregnancies, and returning to work earlier.

In The News

Oklahoma’s child welfare reform efforts draw mixed reviews

Three experts overseeing DHS’ child welfare reform efforts say too many Oklahoma children continue to be abused and neglected while in foster care. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services reported that 206 out of 16,272 children in DHS custody were victims of child abuse or neglect between October 2013 and September 2014.

Read more from NewsOK.

Read the report here.

See also: Court-ordered monitors find Oklahoma falling short in efforts to fix foster care system from the OK Policy Blog.

Manufacturer Asks Oklahoma to Return Execution Drug

One of the pharmaceutical manufacturers that produces a drug used in Oklahoma’s botched execution last year has asked the state to return all of the doses of the drug. Illinois-based Akorn is one of several manufacturers that makes the sedative midazolam, which is part of a three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections in Oklahoma and other states.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Racial Disparities in School Suspensions Found Across Oklahoma

Minority students are being suspended at higher rates than their white classmates not only in Oklahoma City Public Schools, which triggered a federal probe, but also in other districts across the state, U.S. Department of Education data show. The disparity is often greatest between black and white students, but also occurs between white students and American Indian and Hispanic students.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Lawmakers Reportedly Aim for ‘Standstill’ Education Budget

Oklahoma lawmakers are looking at taking between $100 and $140 million from the state’s “rainy day fund” and could tap agency revolving funds for more than $100 million to help backfill the state’s budget hole, a source close to Gov. Mary Fallin’s office said Wednesday. Oklahoma is facing a $611.3 million budget gap.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: Options for a balanced approach to solve Oklahoma’s budget gap from OK Policy.

State funding crisis to trickle down to county court clerks offices

With budget cuts looming, the state of Oklahoma is asking those who oversee district court funds to take a hard line on spending. In a letter to all court fund boards earlier this month, Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Reif wrote that judicial branch funding for fiscal year 2016 is expected to be reduced, and he requested that court fund boards follow Supreme Court directives that have been in effect for several years.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma’s tall tale

As Oklahoma struggles with a chronic inability to balance our budget and meet our citizens’ needs, the temptation to blame the federal government for our problems is great. For example, a recent Oklahoman editorial referred to declines in federal funding coming to the state for Medicaid as the result of “federal cost-shifting,” citing it as evidence that “the federal government commonly fails to keep its financial promises.”

Read more from the Journal Record.

See also: Federal Money As Promised (FMAP) from the OK Policy Blog.

See our Summer Policy Institute video preview, and apply by May 26!

The Summer Policy Institute brings together more than 50 highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for an exciting and stimulating four-day learning experience. SPI offers participants a unique opportunity to become better informed about vital Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders, and prepare for their future studies and work in policy-related fields. View the video preview here.

See more from OK Policy.

Texting-while-driving ban gets final legislative approval in Oklahoma

Texting while driving becomes illegal in Oklahoma starting Nov. 1 under a bill lawmakers approved Wednesday and sent to the governor, who supports the ban. If she signs it, Oklahoma will join an overwhelming majority of states in prohibiting a practice that law enforcement officials say is a major distraction to motorists. The fine would be $100.

Read more from NewsOK.

State House Approves Bill To Provide Sexual Assault Education In Schools

A new bill approved Tuesday by the House will provide sexual assault prevention and response education to Oklahoma Schools. This bill comes as a direct result from protests that took place outside a Norman high school last year involving victims of rape allegations.

Read more from News9.

Oklahoma governor rules out state plan for EPA carbon pollution regulations

Oklahoma will not formulate a state plan for upcoming federal rules regulating carbon dioxide from power plants under an executive order issued by Gov. Mary Fallin. The order, issued Tuesday, sets up a legal battle with the Environmental Protection Agency, which expects to issue final rules for its Clean Power Plan this summer.

Read more from NewsOK.

After heavy rain, Oklahoma reservoirs begin to refill

When Matt Muller looked at the Salt Fork of the Red River behind his house earlier this week, he saw something he hadn’t seen there in a while: muddy, red water filling the river’s banks nearly to the brim. Muller, a southwest Oklahoma wheat farmer, has struggled through several years of withering drought. But several inches of rain have fallen in the past two weeks, raising hopes about this year’s crop.

Read more from NewsOK.

County Commissioners awaiting investigation at Sheriff’s Office before taking any action

County Commissioners said Tuesday they are waiting for an investigation to conclude before weighing in on the controversy surrounding Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz and his office. The agency that would conduct an investigation, or the scope of any investigation, is unknown. However, a county official on Tuesday suggested the FBI may currently be conducting an investigation into the Sheriff’s Office.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

In the Oklahoma Legislature a proposal is aired to increase training requirements for reserve officers

Oklahoma lawmakers are working on legislation to require more training for reserve law enforcement officers after a volunteer Tulsa County sheriff’s deputy was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death of an unarmed man. The volunteer, Robert Gates, 73, who has pleaded not guilty in the April 2 shooting, has said he meant to draw his stun gun rather than his handgun.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

“It’s huge. It’s monumental. I can’t believe what we’ve done in under 6 months. I think it will prepare administrators and hopefully students knowing how to respond to people that have been victims of this kind of violence.”

– Yes All Daughters founder Stacy Wright, commenting on House Bill 1684, which now awaits Governor Fallin’s signature. The group formed after several Norman students reported they were raped by the same classmate, and has advocated for the bill, which adds sexual assault response and training in Oklahoma schools. (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of uninsured veterans in Oklahoma with incomes below 138% of the federal poverty level who have a mental illness

Source: American Mental Health Counselors Association.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Today’s moms are working later into their pregnancies — and going back to work earlier too

Last week the Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 ruling making it easier for pregnant women to take employers who discriminate against them to court. As the Pew Research Center’s FactTank blog notes, the ruling has special salience today given that pregnant women are now working much later into their pregnancies than they used to. And not only that, but after they’ve given birth they’re returning to work earlier than ever before.

Read more from the Washington Post.

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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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