In The Know: As Cities in Oklahoma Woo Innovative Industries, Researchers Say Schools Are a Weak Link

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

As Cities in Oklahoma Woo Innovative Industries, Researchers Say Schools Are a Weak Link: A new report from the Brookings Institution says Oklahoma City is positioned for growth. It says the city has a solid layer of infrastructure essential for development — and diversifying the economy. But there’s a threat to this development, and that’s a potentially weak workforce. Some researchers say local officials need to ensure schools provide the training innovative companies need. And they need to be doing it now [StateImpact Oklahoma]. The full report is available here.

Louisiana’s criminal justice reforms will reduce its prison population: For nearly 20 years, Louisiana has held an unwanted title: the top state incarcerator in the country that imprisons a greater share of its citizens than any other. The competition often hasn’t even been particularly close, with Louisiana keeping well over 800 residents out of every 100,000 behind bars—nearly 1% of its people. In most recent years, no other state has topped 700. But Louisiana will soon relinquish this crown. Sometime in the next year or so, experts expect the title to pass to Oklahoma, where in recent years the incarceration rate has skyrocketed (and which, not coincidentally, locks up a greater share of women than any other state) [The Economist]. In Oklahoma’s Legislative session, a suite of criminal justice reform bills  easily passed their votes until they met a buzz saw in the House Judiciary-Criminal Justice and Corrections committee led by Rep. Scott Biggs, a vocal opponent of reform [OK Policy].

Legislative cuts to mean reduction in child abuse prevention: In the latest round of budget cuts, Oklahoma will drop about $100,000 out of a program designed to lower rates of child abuse. The Oklahoma State Department of Health sponsors a handful of home visitation programs, where nurses and other professionals teach pregnant women and their families the ins and outs of infant care. “They work with moms and other family members in looking at how to respond in relation to normal developmental milestones: when it’s good to start potty training, when it’s good to start weaning,” said Tina Johnson, the department’s deputy commissioner for community and family health service [Journal Record].

State budget cuts are to the bone at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College: When I became the 15th president of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in 2009, state appropriations totaled just over $9.5 million. Following a devastating flood, we began an aggressive campaign to modernize our campus, improve student access, and graduate more students than ever before. We experienced record growth in enrollment, scholarships and graduation rates — our future trajectory was soaring. However, over the past decade, appropriations to NEO have decreased over $3 million, with $2 million of that occurring in just the last three years. NEO has been forced to cut nearly a third of our workforce [Dr. Jeff Hale / Tulsa World]. Both productivity and median wages in a state are strongly correlated with the percentage of residents with a college degree [OK Policy].

Despite state efforts, high rate of painkiller prescribing continues in Oklahoma: Despite statewide efforts to curb opioid use and abuse, Oklahoma continues to see high rates of painkillers prescribed in a third of the counties in the state, according to a federal report released Thursday. The report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that Oklahoma, like much of the country, had wide variation in how opioids were prescribed in 2015. For example, the amount of opioid prescriptions — which includes drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl — filled in McClain County in 2015 was six times higher than the amount filled in Lincoln County, although the counties have similar populations [NewsOK].

Discipline of Doctors Delayed by Weeks, Months: In early May, the Oklahoma Medical Board suspended a Midwest City doctor’s license for six months after an investigation connected two prescription overdose deaths to his prescribing practices. But it took four weeks before Dr. Dwayne Roush’s suspension became official. In mid-January, the medical board barred Dr. H. Peter Koenen-Myers Jr. from reapplying for his lapsed medical license after determining he had overprescribed opioids to a patient who later died of an overdose. It took 10 weeks before the suspension went into effect, board records show [Oklahoma Watch].

Delays by Oklahoma hospitals, Health Department to screen newborns put babies at risk: The pregnancy had gone smoothly, so it wasn’t surprising when the baby boy was born healthy with soft pink skin and a head full of dark hair. His weight was normal, and he was thriving. When Jase Dershem left the hospital two days later with a slightly lowered birth weight and a touch of jaundice — something commonly seen in newborns — his mother wasn’t too worried. The baby was set under a fluorescent light to treat the condition [The Frontier].

Cherokee Nation adds leave for new foster parents: As family leave supporters struggle to gain political traction in Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation is implementing another policy to help new parents settle into their roles. The tribe announced last week that all of its employees would be entitled to five paid days off after taking in a foster child. The leave would be available to men and women, and the employees could take the days all at once or space them out, said Cherokee Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr [Journal Record].

2016-17 flu season ends as second-deadliest in Oklahoma with 110 fatalities: The number of Oklahomans who died from the flu during the last season has jumped to 110 after some additional data was discovered, according to the state health department. The increase was announced Thursday as the result of 14 additional deaths found during a recent review of death certificates, according to the health department’s website. The newly added deaths occurred during the peak of flu season activity, the agency said [Tulsa World].

Another inmate dies at Oklahoma County jail in apparent suicide: Another inmate died Wednesday afternoon at the Oklahoma County jail, two days after being sentenced to prison. Nhan Thanh Nguyen, 46, of Oklahoma City, apparently died “due to suicide,” officials said in a news release. He was found hanging in his cell, while his two cellmates were away. He is the seventh inmate to die at the Oklahoma County jail this year. An investigation is underway [NewsOK].

Senator removed from leadership role after Uber driver accuses him of lewd conduct: The leader of the Oklahoma Senate on Thursday relieved Sen. Bryce Marlatt of his leadership duties after he was accused of lewd conduct by an Uber driver. “As leader of the Oklahoma Senate, it is my expectation that every member conduct himself or herself in a manner that is above reproach,” Senate Pro Tem Mike Schulz, R-Altus, wrote in a letter to members. “Allegations like those contained in the police report concerning Sen. Marlatt are very serious in nature and are not tolerated.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma voter system won’t provide much grist for administration probe: The Trump administration wants states to hand over volumes of information about their registered voters. Oklahoma is among more than two dozen states that have said no to at least parts of the request, with good reason. The administration wants names, addresses, birth dates and party affiliations of registered voters, along with felony convictions, military statuses, voting records dating to 2006, and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, if that data is publicly available under state law [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman].

Democrat steps up to challenge Steve Russell in central Oklahoma district: After leading organizations that urge women to run for public office, Kendra Horn will do so herself. Horn, 41, announced Thursday that she will challenge U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, for his U.S. House seat in the state’s 5th Congressional District. …Horn is executive director of Women Lead Oklahoma and Sally’s List, two groups that urge women to run for elected office and promote civic engagement [NewsOK].

Sen. Inhofe gives agenda update to Stillwater: U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is has these things down to a T. Inhofe spent about a half hour at Stillwater Regional Airport speaking to different members of the community about the latest initiatives in Washington D.C. and took a few questions. Inhofe said of President Donald Trump, “most of the media hates him,” and he takes “one thing at a time,” before moving on to the next agenda item. Inhofe is consistent in his fight against what he deems to be overregulation by the Environmental Protection Agency, citing concerns from ranchers and agriculture workers [Stillwater News Press].

Quote of the Day

“I can say that cutting these programs, even if it looks to be necessary based on what funding the Health Department has and what they have to do to just make it through the year, is another example of how we’re cutting things that will cost Oklahoma a lot more over the long run.”

– Oklahoma Policy Institute Policy Director Gene Perry on news that the state Department of Health will cut about $100,000 from child abuse prevention programs (Source). The Oklahoma State Department of Health has been cut by 29 percent since 2009

Number of the Day


Total state and local spending per capita in Oklahoma in 2014, 12th least in the U.S.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

You’re Probably Going to Need Medicaid: Imagine your mother needs to move into a nursing home. It’s going to cost her almost $100,000 a year. Very few people have private insurance to cover this. Your mother will most likely run out her savings until she qualifies for Medicaid. This is not a rare event. Roughly one in three people now turning 65 will require nursing home care at some point during his or her life. Over three-quarters of long-stay nursing home residents will eventually be covered by Medicaid. Many American voters think Medicaid is only for low-income adults and their children — for people who aren’t “like them.” But Medicaid is not “somebody else’s” insurance. It is insurance for all of our mothers and fathers and, eventually, for ourselves [The New York Times].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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