In The Know: Tests block 2,000 Oklahoma high school students from receiving diplomas

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 end-of-instruction testing requirement are preventing 2,000 Oklahoma high school students from receiving diplomas. An informal survey by The Tulsa World found that most students who have not completed the requirement have special needs or do not know English well enough yet.

The Associated Press and Okie Funk analyze why every proposal to cut the income tax failed this year. Oklahoma taxpayers may be out up to $160 million because a Bank of Oklahoma subsidiary is claiming it should have gotten tax credits on an $800 million investment made four years ago. Oklahoma’s new laws that give employers much greater latitude to drug-test employees.

A new report points to modest gains over the past two years in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in Oklahoma higher education. Eighteen legislative races will be determined by Republican primaries and one by a Democratic primary on June 26. The Tulsa World profiled Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, the legislator who was most often the only no vote on bills, and Rep. Mike Reynolds, who made the most no votes.

The Number of the Day is the minimum age at which an Oklahoma child can be prosecuted in criminal court as an adult. In today’s Policy Note, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports on the 1 in 10 nonelderly veterans who do not have health insurance. Oklahoma has the fifth highest veterans uninsurance rate in the nation, at 13.8 percent.

In The News

Testing requirement blocks 2,000 Oklahoma high school students from receiving diplomas

Melinda Turner already had walked across the stage as a high school graduate when her principal pulled her aside a couple days later. Turner had passed all her classes, but she didn’t really graduate. The Broken Arrow student failed the last of her state tests — by one point. Turner and about 2,000 other high school seniors in Oklahoma have completed high school but will be denied diplomas because they did not meet new state testing requirements. Achieving Classroom Excellence, a 2005 law, requires students pass four of seven end-of-instruction exams, also known as EOIs. The class of 2012 is the first class required to meet the test requirements to earn their diplomas. More than 30,000 students already have done so, and the number is expected to grow as the school year winds down. In November, about 5,400 students still had to pass at least one test to graduate. Now, about 2,000 remain, according to state Education Department statistics.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Most Tulsa-area students denied a diploma due to testing have problems related to language or special needs from The Tulsa World

Gov. Fallin strikes out on big tax cut plan

With strong GOP majorities backing her up in the House and Senate, Gov. Mary Fallin laid out an ambitious plan at the start of the legislative session to deeply slash the state’s income tax and drew praise for taking on what has long been a dream of fiscal conservatives. With similar efforts under way in Oklahoma’s neighbors Kansas and Missouri, the second-year governor was hailed in editorials around the country for leading the charge in what was dubbed “The Heartland Tax Rebellion.” However, Republicans in the Legislature started chipping away at Fallin’s aggressive tax cut proposal, first by balking at eliminating the numerous deductions and exemptions that were to be used to help offset the cost of the plan. Some even began to wonder out loud if the time was right to cut taxes at all. Fallin retreated and finally, with a week left in the session, announced a deal with GOP legislative leaders to eliminate some deductions and drop the top rate from 5.25 percent to 4.8 percent, with a one-time trigger to drop the rate further. But even that deal quickly fell apart as rank-and-file Republicans took a closer look at how many Oklahoma taxpayers — nearly one-quarter of all tax filers — would end up seeing their tax liability increase under the plan.

Read more from The Associated Press.

See also: The Oklahoma Tax Cut Massacre from Okie Funk

Bank of Oklahoma subsidiary focus of Tax Commission audit

Oklahoma taxpayers may be out up to $160 million because a company is claiming it should have gotten tax credits on an $800 million investment made four years ago. The company — a subsidiary of Bank of Oklahoma — filed an amended 2008 tax return in an effort to qualify for the tax credits. The Oklahoma Tax Commission is conducting an audit. Skeptical of the whole thing is state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, who learned of the amended tax return from a request for records he made to state tax officials. “Somehow a publicly traded company can accidentally forget to report an $800 million so-called investment that could lead to a $160 million tax credit for one company,” Reynolds said. “The abuse of taxpayers by legislators who pass those kinds of programs is just beyond comprehension.” The investment Reynolds is complaining about consisted of transferring $800 million from one Bank of Oklahoma subsidiary (CVV Partnership) to another subsidiary (Cottonwood Valley Ventures Inc.), according to redacted Tax Commission records.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma’s new workplace drug-testing laws relax employer requirements

Oklahoma’s new laws that give employers greater latitude for workplace drug testing can help the state address its substance abuse epidemic, according to workplace advocates. Still, businesses that drug test their workers should use more than a zero tolerance approach, educators warn. Amended statutes, which took effect Nov. 1 and were tweaked in an emergency order May 8, among other things, allow employers to test workers with negative performance patterns, excessive absenteeism or tardiness; test workers following a leave of absence or job reassignment; test whole groups or shifts of employees; test workers who, while at work, damage property of any value; and test independent contractors when there’s a contractual agreement to allow it. Employers’ drug policies now may state workers will be tested for “drugs and alcohol;” they no longer must list specific drugs. And today’s employers aren’t obliged to offer employee assistance programs to conduct drug testing.

Read more from NewsOK.

Report points to modest gains in LGBT equality in Oklahoma higher education

A new report points to modest gains over the past two years in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in Oklahoma higher education. The 2012 Higher Education Fairness Index catalogs nondiscrimination policies regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, released the report May 15. According to the report, 18 of the 66 colleges and universities statewide have equal opportunity statements that include sexual orientation, an increase of seven schools since the organization issued a similar report in 2010. Of those 66 institutions, 19 have lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student groups or gay/straight alliances on campus, a gain of seven institutions over 2010. Only one institution, the University of Central Oklahoma, has such a statement that includes gender identity or expression.

Read more from NewsOK.

19 races up for grabs in June 26 primary

The legislative session may be over, but there’s little time for vacation for 20 legislators facing primary challenges on June 26. In recent history, Oklahoma primaries have been in late July, giving incumbents about two months to knock doors following the Legislature’s adjournment. A change in election laws, however, moved up the filing and primary deadlines to facilitate overseas absentee voting. Fifty-three House and Senate incumbents drew no opponents at all this year, and two House vacancies were filled by newcomers who were the only filers for those positions. Twenty other incumbents have only general election opponents. There are several GOP primaries that, individually and collectively, could have big consequences.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Rep. Hamilton OK with being minority of one

Rep. Rebecca Hamilton says she answers to God, the people of District 89, her husband, her mother and her 19-year-old cat. She doesn’t answer to the will of other lawmakers. Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, has been the only House members voting against bills 14 times this year – more times than any other lawmaker. She isn’t afraid to be a minority of one. “Sometimes the vote is 99 to Rebecca,” she said with a laugh. While constitutional term limits restrict lawmakers to 12 years of service, Hamilton served in the House six years before the limits went into effect. Her 16 years of tenure make her second only to Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, in the Legislature. Next year, term limits will force Key out of office and Hamilton, unopposed in November’s election, will become the dean of the House.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Rep. Mike Reynolds is Oklahoma Legislature’s top naysayer from The Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

The new laws have subtle underpinnings that drug users are bad people and to get them out of the workplace. But 80 percent of people with substance abuse problems are employed and mostly fine, most of the time.
Jim Priest, executive director of Fighting Addiction Through Education Inc.

Number of the Day


Minimum age at which an Oklahoma child can be prosecuted in criminal court as an adult

Source: National Juvenile Defender Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Uninsured veterans and family members – Who are they and where do they live?

One in 10 of the nation’s 12.5 million nonelderly veterans report either not having health insurance coverage or using Veterans Affairs (VA) health care, according to the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS). This report, prepared by the Urban Institute and released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is the first-ever to provide estimates of uninsurance among veterans and their families both nationally and at the state level, and to assess the potential for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to reduce their uninsurance rates. Veterans are less likely than the rest of the nonelderly population to be uninsured. Both uninsured veterans and their family members report significantly less access to health care than their counterparts with insurance coverage.

Read more from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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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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