In The Know: Teacher gun bill will not advance this year

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 you should know that a bill that would have allowed trained public school teachers to bring handguns to schools is being held back this year. Another bill that would let parents petition to fire school administrators or turn the school over to a charter company was held over to 2014. House Democrats condemned a proposed rule change that would give the state Department of Education more control over curriculum changes. The okeducationtruths blog writes that the State Board of Education approved revised rules for the A-F Report Cards that don’t resemble the changes submitted for public comment in February and that exacerbate the criticisms of education experts. 

Almost four out of 10 Oklahoma high school graduates who enroll in the state’s higher education system take at least one remedial course as college freshmen. Seven heads of Oklahoma hospitals and hospital systems wrote in NewsOK that we should create an Oklahoma plan to expand Medicaid coverage. The OK Policy Blog discussed how the federal government is showing great flexibility over how states can extend health care coverage with the new Medicaid dollars. Find more resources on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act here.

An Oklahoma Senate-backed plan to cut the state’s income tax and offset some of the lost revenue by eliminating deductions and exemptions was defeated 11-2 by a House Committee. The OK Policy Blog previously examined the Senate plan’s role in the tax debate. More time has been put on the clock for backers of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum to win legislative support for the half-built facility. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was asked to investigate an email in which Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart threatened a Senator unless legislation passed out of his committee.

The Number of the Day is the number of states with no income tax that have a higher rate of unemployment than Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post finds that a huge chunk of the growth of disability insurance can be explained by Americans getting older.

In The News

Teacher gun bill will not advance through Oklahoma Legislature

A bill that would have allowed trained public school teachers to bring handguns to schools is being held back this year. Sen. John Ford, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said Monday that his panel will not hear House Bill 1062 this session. The measure was the only piece of legislation remaining this year that would have allowed for arming public school teachers or administrators. Ford, R-Bartlesville, said he preferred the recommendations from the Oklahoma Commission on School Safety, which was made up of experts from fields such as law enforcement, mental health and education, as well as parents and first responders.

Read more from NewsOK.

Parent trigger bill laid over to 2014

An Oklahoma bill that would give parents the power to fire administrators of failing schools won’t reach the House floor. Senate Bill 1001, approved in the Senate last month by a vote of 30-12, will be held over until 2014, at which time the House of Representatives can consider the legislation. If the legislation were to become law, any school receiving a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ from the state’s new A through F grading system may be under scrutiny, allowing for a parent-led petition to transition the school to a charter or terminate campus officials.

Read more from KJRH.

House Dems attack proposed education changes

Proposed changes in the Oklahoma Department of Education’s rules certainly look alarming, apparently revoking standards for every subject, be it high school art or first-grade history. The department told The Associated Press on Wednesday that looks were deceiving and the changes a harmless, bureaucratic quirk, but members of the House vehemently condemned the proposed changes during a press conference at the Capitol, saying they’re an attempt to wrest the state’s academic control from the Legislature. A Department of Education spokeswoman told the AP that the proposal is simply meant to streamline routine changes to curriculum by taking those standards out of the department’s rules of operation. 

Read more from the Durant Daily Democrat.

A-F Revision: The binary version

In case you missed it last week while you were doing your jobs – which may have included sorting out a giant mess with the late arrival of testing materials – the State Board of Education approved revised rules for the A-F Report Cards that didn’t resemble the changes proposed in February. While it is within the SDE’s prerogative to propose rules, accept public comment and then adopt slightly different rules, what they did here was altogether different. It was a bait and switch. Nothing in the proposed rule changes included a shift to all or nothing performance. Either students pass or they don’t. Gone are the 0.2 additions for Limited Knowledge and Advanced. Gone are the one, two, and three point increments for student growth. It’s all or nothing. You grow or you don’t. It’s as if the SDE took the harshest pieces of criticism from the OU/OSU report and catered their revisions to exacerbating things.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

State enrollment for college remedial courses high among freshmen

Almost four out of 10 Oklahoma high school alumni who enroll in the state’s higher education system the fall after graduation take at least one developmental course as college freshmen, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education data show. Developmental courses, also called remedial courses, build a student’s proficiency in a subject area such as math or reading. Students do not receive college degree-earning credit for completing developmental courses. The most recent available data show 38 percent of the 20,500 Oklahoma high school class of 2010 graduates who enrolled in the state higher education system in fall 2010 took one or more developmental courses.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Hospital executives: Let’s create an Oklahoma plan for Medicaid funds

As more Republican governors, including New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Florida’s Rick Scott, decide to expand Medicaid coverage, Oklahomans continue to think about how to best reform our own Medicaid system. Complicated arguments have been made in opposition to Medicaid expansion, but the economic benefits that expansion would bring to Oklahoma are clear and simple. By devising an Oklahoma plan that uses expansion money, we can recapture federal tax dollars and use them to control the cost of health care and enhance the access to and the quality of care. The funding to cover the additional 17 million uninsured people nationwide and 180,000 in Oklahoma has already been allotted. The allotment is drawn from the federal taxes Oklahomans pay. In short, it is Oklahoma taxpayer money.

Read more from NewsOK.

Many sizes fit all: Feds show flexibility in extending coverage

If states do not extend Medicaid coverage, the result could be a large ‘coverage crater’, where the poorest adults are left uninsured. Failing to extend Medicaid also leaves health care providers on the hook for large amounts of uncompensated care, and adds costly new obligations to employers. Still, the Governors of many states, including Oklahoma, have come out against accepting federal funds to extend Medicaid or have expressed strong concerns Now the federal administration is making clear that it is willing to show tremendous flexibility in working with states to find ways to extend health care coverage to low-income adults.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Senate-backed income tax cut bill killed by panel

An Oklahoma Senate-backed plan to cut the state’s income tax by one-half of 1% and offset much of the lost revenue by eliminating numerous deductions and exemptions has been derailed by a House Committee. The House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation voted 11-2 Monday against the proposal by Bartlesville Republican Rep. Earl Sears. The bill would have reduced the top personal income tax rate from 5.25% to 4.75%, beginning Jan. 1, 2015. It also would have eliminated or amended dozens of tax credits, deductions and exemptions. A separate House bill to cut the rate from 5.25% to 5% remains alive and is pending in the Senate.

Read more from News9.

Previously: And In This Corner: The Senate tax plan from the OK Policy Blog

More time allowed for Oklahoma City American Indian Cultural Center

More time has been put on the clock for backers of the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum to win legislative support for the half-built facility. And former University of Oklahoma football coach Barry Switzer could soon be working to see if any of his Sooner magic can sway lawmakers to appropriate $40 million for the project in downtown Oklahoma City. A bill that would have transferred the cultural center to the Oklahoma Historical Society won’t be heard this year, said Rep. Don Armes, chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Regulatory Services.

Read more from NewsOK.

Email to Oklahoma senator turned over to OSBI for investigation

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was asked Monday to investigate an email that warned a state senator he would become “the laughing stock of the Senate” unless legislation passed out of his committee. In the March 26 email, the co-founder of the Sooner Tea Party Al Gerhart wrote about House Bill 1412, which would prohibit Oklahoma communities from having anything to do with the United Nations Agenda 21 plan. Misspelling one word, Gerhart wrote: “Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it. I will make you the laughing stock of the Senate if I don’t hear that this bill will be heard and passed. We will dig into your past, yoru family, your associates and once we start on you there will be no end to it. This is a promise.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

If we don’t use this federal money, Oklahoma’s Medicaid costs will increase, costing the state an extra $332 million. The state is turning down $8.6 billion over 10 years that would help Oklahomans get the health care they need and keep them out of overcrowded emergency rooms and stop shifting their unpaid costs to employers and the privately insured. The hospitals we run will lose millions of dollars needed to keep the doors open, the patients cared for and the employees paid. We can’t bear the cost of so many uninsured alone — it will be detrimental to our businesses, our communities and Oklahoma’s economy.

-Seven heads of Oklahoma hospitals and hospital systems, writing in NewsOK about what will happen if Oklahoma does not find a way to accept federal dollars to extend Medicaid coverage

Number of the Day


The number of states with no income tax (out of 9) that have a higher rate of unemployment than Oklahoma

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The simple, boring reason why disability insurance has exploded

Last week, we spent some time discussing a recent “This American Life” segment on the extraordinary growth of federal disability insurance, which now costs $260 billion per year. There are now roughly 8.8 million Americans receiving disability benefits, a number that has doubled since 1995. So what explains this rise? The radio segment explored several theories at length. But there might be a much, much simpler explanation: demographics. Kathy Ruffing of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has argued that a huge chunk of the rise in disability since 1990 can be explained by the very boring fact that Americans are getting older.

Read more from the Washington Post.

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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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