In The Know: Workers at underfunded Oklahoma prisons say lives at risk

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 the legislature’s record of underfunding and understaffing the Department of Corrections is putting public safety and the lives of prison employees in the state at risk.  The authors of legislation that established Oklahoma’s new A-F report card system now want to halt the cards’ release after hundreds of superintendents pointed out serious errors in the method used to calculate grades.

OK Policy blogged about what federal budget cuts mean for education in Oklahoma.  Fifty-seven state legislators filed a brief with the Oklahoma Supreme Court in defense of a law that restricts access to emergency contraception and was previously ruled unconstitutional and “completely at odds with the standard that governs the practice of medicine” by the Oklahoma County District Court.

Patrick McGuigan argued in favor of SQ 766 in The City Sentinel and responded to two pieces from OK Policy about the consequences for public education of creating another tax loophole.  StateImpactOK also explored SQ 766 and its impact on public education funding.

In today’s Policy Note, Science magazine reports on the long-term physical and mental health effects of living in high poverty neighborhoods.  The Number of the Day is the average price per gallon for regular gasoline in Oklahoma.

In The News

Oklahoma prison workers need pay increase, legislative panel told

Higher wages and better hours offered by private employers are making it difficult for state prisons to fill openings, even though the Corrections Department’s budget is enough to fill only 69 percent of the authorized positions, members of a legislative panel were told Thursday.  The lack of prison staffing puts public safety at risk, said Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, who requested an interim study on the issue.  “These prison staffing levels are life and death situations now,” Hickman said. “Someone is going to die if we don’t make some changes and make them sooner rather than later.”

Read more from NewsOK at

School grades: Time for a serious review

Among those supporting the delay are Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, and Rep. Lee Denney, R-Cushing, the authors of the legislation that established the grading system. The grades were to be released last Monday but the board, over the objection of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, delayed their approval until its next regular meeting on Oct. 25. That came in response to concerns raised by more than 300 local school superintendents that one component of the grading system, a student growth average, used only the scores of students whose performance improved, not those of students who remained the same or declined. That, the superintendents said, resulted in an inaccurate and unfairly high standard.

Read more from the Tulsa World at

What the coming federal budget cuts mean for education in Oklahoma

Last summer, Congress agreed to automatic budget cuts as part of a deal to increase the federal debt ceiling. Commonly known as sequestration, these cuts would eliminate $1.2 trillion in spending over the next decade. The cuts will be divided evenly between domestic and defense spending. Instead of prioritizing which programs to cut, they would make across the board reductions to most discretionary and non-critical defense programs.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Lawmakers file brief in support of regulating emergency contraception

Fifty-seven Oklahoma legislators filed a brief Wednesday in the Oklahoma Supreme Court defending a state law regulating emergency contraception.  In 2011, the legislature approved House bill 1970, which required Oklahoma physicians to administer such drugs in accordance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines. At least eight women have died following the use of “abortion-inducing drugs” in an off-label, unapproved manner, according to a written statement by the Oklahoma State Senate.

Read more from KOCO at – ixzz295e0BDDz

COMMENTARY: Keeping it Real – Time to vote yes on State Question 766?

Among the half-dozen ballot questions facing Oklahoma voters in November, State Question 766 is arguably the most significant in economic terms.  If voters agree, the measure would exempt “all intangible personal property from property tax. No person, family or business would pay a tax on intangible property. The change would apply to all tax years beginning on and after Jan. 1, 2013.”

Read more from the OKC Sentinel at

Read more from the OK Policy Blog at State Question 766: Intangible property ballot measure would have tangible consequences and Property tax “cuts” create winners and losers

Will Public Schools Suffer if Oklahomans Vote to Stop ‘Taxing Ideas?’

Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan isn’t sure how much Sonic’s logo is worth, even though he’d be making that determination if the reach of the intangible property tax is expanded.  Oklahoma lawmakers are scrambling to fix the state’s tax code after a court decision created business uncertainty.  The outcome of a 2009 ruling from the state Supreme Court could mean that Oklahoma businesses face a tax on all of their intangible personal property.

Read more from StateImpactOK at

Quote of the Day

These prison staffing levels are life and death situations now.  Someone is going to die if we don’t make some changes and make them sooner rather than later.

Rep. Jeff Hickman, Fairview

Number of the Day


Average price per gallon for regular gasoline in Oklahoma, 10th lowest in the U.S. this week

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Neighborhood Effects on the Long-Term Well-Being of Low-Income Adults

Nearly 9 million Americans live in extreme-poverty neighborhoods, places that also tend to be racially segregated and dangerous. Yet, the effects on the well-being of residents of moving out of such communities into less distressed areas remain uncertain. Using data from Moving to Opportunity, a unique randomized housing mobility experiment, we found that moving from a high-poverty to lower-poverty neighborhood leads to long-term (10- to 15-year) improvements in adult physical and mental health and subjective well-being, despite not affecting economic self-sufficiency.

Read more from Science Magazine at

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