In The Know: Choctaw Nation picked to lead new anti-poverty effort

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 Obama administration has picked the Choctaw Nation as one of the first five organizations to test a new anti-poverty program for chronically poor areas. Twenty Republican lawmakers announced they are supporting Joy Hofmeister’s primary challenge to superintendent Janet Barresi. NewsOK reported on Governor Fallin’s efforts to more closely link education and workforce training. A NewsOK op-ed argues that the United States education reform debate is missing the bigger picture.

The OK Policy Blog discusses how declining revenues mean lawmakers will struggle to balance the state budget this year, even if they don’t pass additional tax cuts. State Treasurer Ken Miller said it might be time for Oklahoma to review the state’s tax break for horizontal drilling. The Tulsa World wrote that the tax break is unaffordable when Oklahoma is not meeting its fundamental moral obligations to educate children and hold prisoners safely.

An OU student activist who is facing potential “terrorism hoax” charges for hanging a banner at the Devon Tower released a statement about what happened. An Arkansas woman whose special-needs brother died in Oklahoma delivered a petition to Governor Fallin with 460,000 signatures expressing “outrage at the dysfunction” of the state’s child welfare system.

A report by The Population Institute gave Oklahoma gets a D- for reproductive health. Governor Fallin’s tribal liason released an annual on her negotiations with tribes. You can see the full report here. The Number of the Day is how much less is expected to be available for state appropriations in FY 2015 compared to FY 2014. In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress assesses how America has changed 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty.

In The News

Choctaw Nation picked to lead new anti-poverty effort

The Obama administration has picked the Choctaw Nation as one of the first five organizations to test a new anti-poverty program aimed at marshaling an array of resources to improve life in chronically poor areas. Based in Durant, the tribe will create a “Promise Zone” in an economically challenged area in southeastern Oklahoma and use community groups, businesses and schools to focus on specific education and economic development goals. President Barack Obama, who announced the initiative in his State of the Union address last year, is expected to hold an event Thursday about its launch.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

20 Republican legislators endorse Superintendent challenger

A likely state superintendent candidate from Tulsa announced on Tuesday a new steering committee of 20 Republican lawmakers who support her candidacy. Joy Hofmeister, a Tulsan who was appointed to the state board of education by Gov. Mary Fallin in January 2012, resigned in April to explore a challenge to Janet Barresi’s re-election. Hofmeister said she would be announcing her final decision about the race for state superintendent within the next two weeks. The primary election is set for June 24.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Governor Fallin seeks to link education, workforce development

When Oklahoma’s secretary of education post opened in July, Gov. Mary Fallin decided to expand the mission. The governor named CareerTech Director Robert Sommers to serve on her Cabinet as secretary of education and workforce development, making a closer link between the two fields. Fallin strengthened the connection in August when she announced improving education and workforce training systems would be her focus during her one-year term as chairman of the National Governors Association.

Read more from NewsOK.

Education reform discussion falls short

Periodic news stories about the failure of American schools and colleges point to poor international rankings, low tests scores and graduation rates, high tuition and the problems businesses have in finding skilled employees. The stories are accurate: In a world where education is critical to personal, professional and civic success, too few students are getting the education they need and deserve. The stories also reflect public opinion: According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Group, two-thirds of the public say the education system needs to be rebuilt or that it requires major changes. Unfortunately, many of these stories fall short in two important respects.

Read more from NewsOK.

Grim revenue forecast points to hard choices ahead

Despite almost four years of economic growth, Oklahoma’s core services have never fully recovered from the steep drop in revenues and repeated budget cuts that accompanied the Great Recession. Now we are facing another stretch of rough budget times and hard choices. Since the start of the current fiscal year, state General Revenue (GR) collections have been coming in below prior year totals and falling short of projections. The preliminary revenue estimates certified in late December by the State Board of Equalization confirm that this year’s revenues will continue to fall short and that there may be less money for next year’s budget than this year’s.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma Treasurer: Might by time for state to change oil and gas taxes

State Treasurer Ken Miller spoke to reporters at a Monday press conference, which served as a year-end review of Oklahoma’s economy in 2013, and an early prediction of what the year ahead might hold. The Treasurer also touched on a topic that could be a big debate in the upcoming legislative session: taxes on oil and gas production. Miller said said it might be time for lawmakers to review the state’s tax break for horizontal drilling, as well as Oklahoma’s “whole oil and gas taxing policy.”

Read more from StateImpact Oklahoma.

Tulsa World: Reject tax break for horizontal drilling

Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon has proposed making permanent a big tax break for horizontal oil and gas drilling operations. It’s a bad proposal, and the members of the Oklahoma Legislature need to show the courage and wisdom necessary to defeat it. The tax break costs the state a lot of money — roughly $175 million a year, although the impact in 2012 was more than $250 million because we ended up paying off some past obligations on the program that were delayed. If Oklahoma drilling continues to thrive, the revenue impact will only go up. Oklahoma can’t afford to give away $175 million a year. The state is not meeting its fundamental moral obligations, including educating children and holding prisoners safely.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Statement from Moriah Stephenson, one of two activists facing potential ‘terrorism hoax’ charges

I grew up in Oklahoma chasing thunderstorms and running barefoot in pastures. I know the smell of a tornado. I know Oklahoma streams and smiles and sunsets and open spaces. I also know Oklahoma heartache. I know what fracking flaring looks like, when the excess natural gas is burned off into the air, sometimes for weeks, months, or years on end. I know what the water looks like after a frack site has wreaked its havoc, and I know what cancer looks like after the water has gone bad and the flares stop burning.

Read more from Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance.

Arkansas woman says Oklahoma’s DHS failed her brother

An Arkansas woman says 22 desperate telephone calls to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services failed to persuade anyone to come to the aid of her 15-year-old Oklahoma special needs brother, whom she believes was suffering from neglect. Her brother, Quinten Wood, is now dead. Valerie Wood-Harber wants Gov. Mary Fallin to see that a similar situation never happens again in this state. Wood-Harber, 28, of Fayetteville, Ark., showed up at Gov. Fallin’s office Tuesday to deliver the results of an online petition drive that gathered more than 460,000 electronic signatures from throughout the nation.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma gets D- for reproductive health

A call to action after Oklahoma gets a near-failing grade on women’s health care. The report card is in, and according to The Population Institute, Oklahoma gets a D-. Researchers looked at current programs, how much they cost and how well they’re working. They say Oklahoma is one of 12 states with a D grade. Thirteen states got an F. The country overall received a C-. “Oklahoma has a fairly high teen pregnancy rate and a fairly high unintended pregnancy rate, with over 55 percent of pregnancies in Oklahoma being unintended,” said Jennie Wetter with the Population Institute. She says those numbers mean the current policies are not working.

Read more from Fox25.

Governor Fallin’s tribal liaison issues first annual report

Oklahoma-based American Indian tribes have reached agreements with the state on burn bans, policing, smoke-free casinos and the installation of compressed natural gas filling stations as a result of successful negotiations with Gov. Mary Fallin’s office in recent months, the governor’s Native American liaison announced Tuesday. Jacque Hensley, a member of the Kaw Nation who was appointed to the newly created executive branch position in July 2012, outlined the state of tribal affairs in her report. Hensley said tribal leaders from across Oklahoma have been participating in regular conversations with the governor and appreciate having a direct contact inside the office of the state’s chief executive.

Read more from NewsOK.

See the full report here.

Quote of the Day

I know the sound of terrorism. I felt the Murrah Building Bombing shake my body; I will never forget. My grandfather, a doctor, provided free medical care for those wounded. I was chosen to paint a tile for the memorial. Calling non-violent, peaceful protesting “terrorism” is an insult to all of those who suffered due to the indiscriminate violence that ensued April 19, 1995.

-OU graduate student Moriah Stephenson, who is one of two activists facing potential “terrorism hoax” charges for hanging a banner in the Devon Tower to protest fracking (Source:

Number of the Day

$170 million

How much less is expected to be available for state appropriations in FY 2015 compared to FY 2014.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The War on Poverty: Then and Now

Fifty years have passed since President Johnson first declared a War on Poverty in his 1964 State of the Union address. While many of the programs that emerged from this national commitment are now taken for granted, the nation would be unrecognizable to most Americans if they had never been enacted. As poverty persists across the country, however, critics of our safety net programs might say we lost the fight. But to label the War on Poverty a failure is to say that the creation of Medicare and Head Start, enactment of civil rights legislation, and investments in education that have enabled millions of students to go to college are a failure. In fact, without the safety net, much of which has its roots in the War on Poverty, poverty rates today would be nearly double what they currently are.

Read more from the Center for American Progress.

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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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