In The Know: Budget cuts mean end of school social worker program

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.

Today In The News

Oklahoma DHS Cuts Mean End Of School Social Worker Program: In Western Heights, one of the Oklahoma City metro area’s poorest school districts, Superintendent Joe Kitchens depends on school social workers to help his students, but come next year they won’t be there. “The children are at stake,” he said. “We’re in the student business and to see those kind of programs evaporate it leaves a special kind of hole in your heart.” [News9]

Facing millions in road work, state leaders reach for the credit card: Unlike other states, Oklahoma has been reluctant to rack up charges on its credit card to pay for bridges and roadwork. But that could be changing, due to a yawning budget gap that has state leaders scrambling to make ends meet. Gov. Mary Fallin is asking lawmakers to bless a plan to borrow $502.7 million for infrastructure work in the coming budget year [Claremore Daily Progress]. House and Senate leaders say that while there is support for some of the governor’s proposals, rank-and-file Republicans in both chambers oppose her plan to free up revenue by issuing $500 million in bonds to pay for road and bridge projects. [Associated Press]

Approval of Budget Proposals Might Not Prevent Medicaid Cuts: State health care officials say they might be forced to proceed with a June 1 pay cut to Medicaid providers even if the Legislature enacts Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposals to ease the budget crisis. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority already has started a 60-day clock ticking for a proposed 25 percent reduction in the money it pays for treating poor people enrolled in SoonerCare, the state’s version of Medicaid. [Oklahoma Watch]

With looming Oklahoma budget crisis, rural nursing homes and hospitals remain concerned about futures: Lucy Dykes worries most about the nursing home’s residents who have essentially nothing left. In light of the state’s looming budget crisis, the state’s Medicaid agency has been paring down its budget. As a result, some of the state’s most vulnerable residents are at risk of losing care. There are low-income seniors who need Medicaid to pay for longer term services such as nursing home care that Medicare won’t always cover. [NewsOK]

Majority Favors Tax Increases Over Cuts to Address Oklahoma Budget Crisis: About two-thirds of Oklahoma voters in a new poll favor income tax increases to deal with the state budget crisis. Gene Perry with Oklahoma Policy Institute said 67 percent of those surveyed want a top rate of 6.65 percent restored for individuals earning more than $150,000 and couples earning more than $300,000 [Public Radio Tulsa]. See the full poll results here [OK Policy].

A day without taxes: I’m not a fan of tax day. Who is? After several tortuous weeks of determining whether I have excess distributions from my 529 plan and deciding how much I owe to the two states I lived in last year, I’m in line at the post office to send all these forms and too many checks to too many different governments. I’ve had it. Why can’t we make society work without taxes? I’m willing to try, I think, as I dose off… [OK Policy]

Record number of candidates file for office in Oklahoma: The filing period for federal, state and legislative offices wrapped up Friday. Over the three-day filing period, 417 candidates submitted paperwork to run for office — more than any other presidential election year in recent history. “That’s a pretty impressive number,” said Bryan Dean, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board. In 2004, 412 candidates filed for office, the most in recent history before this year. Dean said 2004 was the first presidential election year after legislative term limits took effect, which meant an unusual number of seats were open. [NewsOK]

A Small but Growing Diversion of Public Funds to Private Schools: School choice advocates lost a bid this legislative session to channel more public funding to private schools through education savings accounts, a form of vouchers. But a little-known existing program has succeeded at doing just that and, while still relatively small, is growing. Taxpayers have received more than $1.4 million in tax credits over two years for donating to a program that gives tuition scholarships to private school students. [Oklahoma Watch]

On asterisks, per this and per that: Last week, Speaker Hickman wrote in the Oklahoman that when he and his party first took control of the Legislature in 2005, they had decades of problems to try to correct. He, and many of the legislators with whom he entered the House 12 years ago, are finishing their last session at the Capitol. All I see is a continual decline in public support for public education. Beginning in 2001 with the passage of No Child Left Behind, federal aid to public schools increased. Local support for schools remained pretty constant. State aid, as a percentage of overall school funding, began falling. [okeducationtruths]

Oklahoma Senate Passes Bill Requiring Insurance Companies To Cover Autism Treatments: The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation requiring health insurance companies to cover treatment for children with autism. The body voted 36-5 in favor of House Bill 2962, returning it to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. This legislation requires insurance coverage for the screening, diagnosis and appropriate treatment of individuals younger than age 9 with autism spectrum disorder. [Tech Times]

Insurance Commissioner pushes for stronger building standards: Building codes in hurricane zones in the US have gotten more stringent over the years, but in Tornado Alley, the technology is lagging behind. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak wants to change that, and Wednesday he met with Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett to discuss the idea of stronger codes. Of course, Oklahoma is now a high seismic area as well, meaning home and business owners face even more possible damage. [KRMG]

Right to farm or right to harm?: Marty Williams grew up farming wheat with his father near Red Rock in Noble County and now runs his own farm in the area, raising a rotating series of crops designed to conserve the soil. Williams supports State Question 777, a measure known by its proponents as “Right to Farm” that is headed for the statewide ballot in November. Opponents of State Question 777 say that the measure could leave many laws regulating agricultural practices in the state open to legal challenge and give farmers dangerously broad constitutional protections. [NewsOK]

Send in your summer internship application by April 29: We are pleased to offer two exciting opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students interested in Oklahoma public policy. We are now accepting student applicants for a paid, part-time or full-time internship during the summer of 2016. Interns will be expected to work between 15 and 40 hours per week, depending on their schedules and availability. [OK Policy]

Quote of the Day

“It’s one of the saddest things that I know about to have to say we’re not going to be able to do that program again. We can’t say much about ourselves as a state if we can’t take care of the children.”

-Western Heights Public Schools Superintendent Joe Kitchens, on news that due to budget cuts, Oklahoma is canceling an in-school social worker program meant to help families in poverty find the resources they need (Source).

Number of the Day


Projected reduction in the number of Oklahomans experiencing symptoms of depression if the state accepts federal funds to expand health coverage.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A new sign Obamacare is helping the people who really need it: People enrolled in health plans through the Affordable Care Act exchanges are ramping up their use of prescription medications more rapidly than those in employer or government-sponsored plans, according to a new report from Express Scripts, the largest prescription drug benefits company. The rapid uptake of the prescription drug benefit suggests there was a significant unmet medical need for many people gaining insurance through the exchanges, some of whom could have preexisting conditions and may not have previously had access to medicines. [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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