In The Know: Calling it ‘dire situation,’ regents OK tuition hikes

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

Calling it ‘dire situation,’ regents OK tuition hikes: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education ended fiscal year 2016 Thursday by approving increases in tuition and mandatory fees at all public colleges and universities. Chancellor Glen Johnson said cuts in state funding to higher education totaled $157 million in FY 2016. “You don’t see that without a very negative impact on students and academic programs,” Johnson said. [NewsOK]. OSU confirmed Thursday that enrollment in some programs, including engineering, would be capped due to budget cuts [Journal Record]. Overwhelmingly, the states where residents earn the highest wages also have the best-educated workforce, which is one reason why Oklahoma’s cuts to higher ed are worrying [OK Policy].

DHS lifts freeze on child-care subsidies: After reviewing next year’s budget, officials at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services have decided to lift the freeze on child-care subsidies starting Friday. The original date to resume applications was to be Aug. 15, but DHS Director Ed Lake said many schools districts are opening enrollment earlier and subsidies will be needed [Tulsa World]. Even with the subsidy in effect, child care is getting less accessible for working parents [OK Policy].

Fees to increase Friday as new Oklahoma laws take effect: It will be more expensive to file for divorce and get a traffic ticket due to new laws that take effect Friday. More than 60 bills are taking effect Friday after the Legislature adjourned in May. The bill allocating money to state agencies, called the General Appropriations bill, also takes effect Friday, the beginning of the new fiscal year [Tulsa World]. Instead of making real progress on fees and fines this spring, last-minute legislation hiked them even higher [OK Policy].

Unused Tax Credits Are ‘Wild Card’ in State Budget: Unused tax credits have created a big cloud over future state revenue collections, and officials say they can’t predict with certainty when or even if a storm might strike. The tax credit overhang totaled $417 million by the end of 2014 according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data gathered for the first time by the Oklahoma Tax Commission [Oklahoma Watch]. A list of businesses holding unused tax credits is available here

A new fiscal year begins, but the same old problems remain: With high temperatures in the 90s and crepe myrtle starting to bloom, it might not seem like the time for a verse of “Auld Lang Syne,” but Friday is the first day of the new (fiscal) year for state government. Probably the best thing to be said about this “holiday” is: Good riddance to fiscal (year) 2016. Although 2017 doesn’t look a lot merrier [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Voting shows rank-and-file displeasure: Twenty-eight state legislators faced challenges in this week’s primaries. Twenty-five survived their intra-party skirmishes. A deflating night for the throw-the-bums-out movement? Hardly. The fact three incumbents were defeated – as many as in the last eight primaries and runoffs combined – speaks to a deep-seated rank-and-file displeasure with the state’s elected status quo [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

What the new federal education law means for Oklahoma (part 1): The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) era is finally coming to an end, and a new era of education policy is being ushered in with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015 after passing the U.S. House and Senate with bipartisan support. The Act reauthorizes and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965 and goes into full effect at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. The last reauthorization of ESEA was the passage of NCLB in 2001 [OK Policy].

Booker T. Washington Foundation donates $150,000 to fund teaching positions: With budget woes leading to districtwide cost cutting, concerned alumni and supporters of one Tulsa public school are stepping in with a $150,000 gift. In a press conference Thursday at the school, the Booker T. Washington Foundation for Excellence announced that it will make a donation in that amount to Booker T. Washington High School specifically to pay for four teaching positions the school is slated to lose going into next school year [Tulsa World].

Planned Parenthood to continue contracts with Oklahoma: Planned Parenthood clinics in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas will continue providing services to Medicaid recipients for the next year, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority confirmed Thursday. In a reversal of a decision announced earlier this year to terminate contracts with the nonprofit, Health Care Authority attorney Nicole Nantois said the two Planned Parenthood affiliates have entered into conditional one-year provider agreements with the state [Journal Record].

Tulsa Police Department receives $400K grant from state attorney general to combat violent crime: The Tulsa Police Department has received a $400,000 grant to tackle violent crime by addressing emerging criminal trends during the next 12 months. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office has partnered with the department in supplying funds to combat violent crime during the past four years without requiring a local match, according to a city of Tulsa news release issued Thursday [Tulsa World].

Pruitt keeps Oklahoma in its own lane in lawsuit against VW: The state may have turned down millions from a settlement with Volkswagen to pursue its own lawsuit. Volkswagen announced the agreement with 44 attorneys general Tuesday, about two weeks after Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed his own consumer protection lawsuit in Oklahoma County District Court. Oklahoma was one of six states that didn’t join an investigation into allegations that the car company cheated emission tests for several models sold between 2009 and 2015 [Journal Record].

Numbers Show North Tulsa Crime Is Lowest In The City: When gang violence makes the news like it has recently in north Tulsa, it might lead some to assume that crime in north Tulsa is high, even the highest in the entire city, but that assumption is wrong. The truth is, north Tulsa’s crime rate is the lowest in the city, and not just this year, but for the past seven years in a row; and one man is on a mission to change the long-held misperception [NewsOn6].

Helena prison loses power after high wind storm: Power was lost Tuesday at the James Crabtree Correctional Center, and crews hope to fully restore electricity to the prison by Thursday evening. Four of the facility’s five transformers were damaged, one of which caught fire. The prison ran on generators as state Corrections Department and Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. crews worked to restore power, and inmates were given more yard time as well as box fans to fight the heat [NewsOK].

Coal Ash Bedevils Oklahoma Town, Revealing Weakness of EPA Rule: Here in the land of wind-whipped, rolling plains, the gray dust, which sparkles in just the right light, seems inescapable. Residents of this town near the Arkansas line say they have spotted it on their grass, trees, ponds, barns, furniture and cars. The source of Bokoshe’s enduring misery is coal ash, an often-toxic byproduct of burning coal for electricity [StateImpact Oklahoma]. According to a count by Bokoshe residents, 14 out of the 20 households near the site have someone with cancer or severe respiratory problems [This Land].

Quote of the Day

“The state budget approved by the Legislature in May and going into effect on Friday is inadequate. Core state services are underfunded and the result is that Oklahomans will be ill-educated, ill-treated and underserved.”

– Tulsa World Editorial Board (Source)

Number of the Day


Median annual household income in Oklahoma in 2014, 12th lowest in the US

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Fighting Obamacare, many red states find fewer tools to fight opioid addiction epidemic: Even as the heroin and prescription opioid crisis deepens nationally, thousands of poor patients with addiction cannot get treatment in states where political leaders have opposed the Affordable Care Act. …Poor adults in states that expanded Medicaid through the health law have access to medical insurance and a way to pay for addiction treatment. But 19 states, all with Republican governors or legislatures, have rejected federal aid to expand Medicaid eligibility, essentially making coverage available only to poor children, pregnant women and seniors [Los Angeles 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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