In The Know: Councilman wants city to take over OKC schools

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.

In The News

Councilman wants city to take over OKC schools: Oklahoma City Public Schools could start down the path to improvement by converting to a charter district sponsored by the city of Oklahoma City, a city councilman says. “The Oklahoma City public school system is faced with so many challenges right now that the traditional way of operating and providing education is just not working very well,” Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell said in remarks to the council last week. A sense of turmoil surrounds Oklahoma City Public Schools as the district looks for a new superintendent for the second time in two years. [NewsOK]

Uncertainty abounds as DACA deadline looms: In the nearly six months since the Trump administration announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Brisa Ledezma, a sixth-grade teacher at Santa Fe South in Oklahoma City, has put some life decisions on hold. She’s held off pursuing graduate school and saving for retirement. She has visited Washington, D.C., to talk to lawmakers and share her story. And she has watched the news anxiously, feeling tired and overwhelmed, hoping for a positive resolution. [NewsOK] In Oklahoma, there are about 6,000 people protected under the DACA policy. An 18-year-old high school student DACA recipient spoek to StateImpact about what these past six months of uncertainty have been like [StateImpact Oklahoma].

‘This is not OK’: Cuts are hitting all aspects of public education: Miami Public Schools in Ottawa County serves about 2,500 K-12 students in seven schools. This year, four school librarian positions were eliminated, leaving the district without a single librarian. In Newkirk, there is no librarian and no speech or drama classes. In Edmond, elementary school students no longer learn Spanish. In Agra, the band program has been eliminated and there are 45 students in a choir class. In Tulsa, the PTA and school foundations are covering teacher salaries with private funds at several schools. There are no security officers employed in any of Oklahoma City’s elementary schools. These are just a few of dozens of stories I heard recently when I asked members of a Facebook education group to share examples of how their schools or their children’s schools have been affected by budget cuts in recent years [OK Policy]. See the infographic of Oklahoma’s education cuts here.

Student-led Bartlesville High School walk out draws ‘harsh words’ from Okla. Senator: A group of Bartlesville High School students is standing up for their teachers by walking out of class to protest teacher pay, but one Oklahoma lawmaker had what some are calling “harsh words” about the student-led demonstration. “Our education has been failing miserably,” said Bartlesville High School senior, Chloe Maye. “Teachers don’t have enough money to live their lives. They often have to buy supplies for their own classes. Overall, we just don’t have any more money to cut out of our budget.” She took her plan to Facebook and invited a few lawmakers, one of them State Senator Julie Daniels, but Daniels’ response has caused controversy [KTUL]. Senator Daniels says she misunderstood invitation to Bartlesville student walkout protesting funding cuts [Tulsa World].

Hamilton: Teacher strike seems imminent if Legislature doesn’t act: It’s time for educators and public school supporters to dust off their torches and sharpen up their pitchforks. Only a state Capitol show-of-force seems likely to persuade venal legislative leadership to prioritize Oklahoma children over deep-pocketed oil and gas interests in the long-standing fiscal stare-down. A teacher strike is not to be undertaken lightly, of course. First, it would be illegal, though unlikely to result in mass incarceration. Second, it would create hardship for thousands of working parents whose work-life schedules revolve around school calendars. Sadly, it’s one of the few options left to pressure an obstinate Legislature to act. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

OGE Energy reports $198 million tax break from new law: OGE Energy Corp., the parent of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co., reported Thursday that tax reforms benefited its consolidated earnings. An earnings release issued by the company reported its net income in the fourth quarter of 2017 was $294.8 million, compared to $57.9 million during the same period a year ago. It attributed $198.3 million of its fourth quarter earnings to a break it received through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. [NewsOK]

Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources posts $842 million fourth-quarter profit: Continental Resources Inc. generated a profit of $842 million in the fourth quarter, boosted by federal tax reform, the Oklahoma City oil and natural gas company said Wednesday. Continental’s profits consisted of $128 million from operations and almost $714 million in tax benefits, the company said [NewsOK].

Tulsa World editorial: Lawmaker’s proposal is an outrageous assault on Oklahomans’ ability to govern themselves: A Republican legislator wants to make it harder for the people of Oklahoma to write their own laws. Practically speaking, he wants to make it impossible. Under current law, routine initiative petitions go to a vote of the people if they can obtain a total number of registered voter signatures equal to 8 percent of those taking part in the most recent general election. For changes to the state Constitution, the minimum is 15 percent. For challenges to laws passed by the Legislature, it’s 5 percent. House Bill 1603 would add a new requirement: Such petition would have to get those minimums statewide and in each of the state’s 77 counties [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

$45 million in state cuts two weeks away: Oklahoma state agencies have a little more than two weeks to decide how they will implement more than $45 million in cuts. The Oklahoma Senate approved House Bill 1020 on Wednesday, and Gov. Mary Fallin said during a meeting this week that she would sign it. The measure redraws the state budget for 2018. Lawmakers have been working to replace the budget since late summer when a major funding component passed months before failed its constitutional challenge. It includes a 0.66-percent across-the-board cut in agency spending [Journal Record].

Oklahoma students to join national ‘March for Our Lives’ on March 24: Oklahoma students concerned about school shootings will march next month in Tulsa and Oklahoma City to draw attention to efforts to reform gun laws. They will join their counterparts across the nation and in Washington, D.C., on March 24 for the “March for Our Lives.” Details of the Tulsa march are still being worked out, said Carissa Lovell, 18, a Booker T. Washington High School senior who is one of the organizers. The Oklahoma City march is set to begin at 11 a.m. at the Oklahoma County Election Board and at noon will head to the state Capitol a few blocks away, said Jamie Pool, 18, a Sallisaw High School senior who is organizing it. [Tulsa World]

OKC senator has painful connection to 1921 Tulsa Race Riot: Tuesday, east-side Oklahoma City senator Anastasia Pittman recalled the damage done to her family by the 1921 Tulsa race riot, and so, was happy to see a new curriculum about it. Pittman, who is black, told Free Press that her grandfather narrowly escaped the violence of the riot, one of the bloodiest events in the state’s history. She stood next to Tulsa senator Kevin Matthews at the historically-black Douglass High School in Oklahoma City along with Oklahoma Senator James Lankford and other state officials to announce the roll-out of a new curriculum about the riot. [Oklahoma City Free Press]

Wintry Weather Slows Cleanup Following Oklahoma Oil Spill: A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency says wintry weather has slowed cleanup of about 2,000 barrels of oil spilled from a ruptured pipeline in suburban Oklahoma City. The EPA’S Mike McAteer said Thursday workers are still skimming oil off the surface of a 7-acre pond near a neighborhood outside Yukon. The oil bubbled into the pond early Sunday from a pipeline operated by Centurion Pipeline L.P. McAteer says sleet and sub-freezing temperatures have slowed cleanup efforts, including the removal of hundreds of dead fish [Associated Press].

Oklahoma Health Officials Say the Flu Death Toll Reaches 173: The Oklahoma State Department of Health says 173 people have died during a record-setting flu season in which 3,860 people have been hospitalized with flu-related symptoms. Health officials said Thursday that five people have died in the state and 300 have been hospitalized with the flu since Feb. 14. The number of deaths and hospitalizations since the flu season began Sept. 1 surpass any flu season since the department began tracking the illness in 2009. The previous record of 130 deaths was set last year. [Associated Press]

Quote of the Day

“Every deadline that passes and nothing gets through or something goes through and then it fails, it kills a little part of your hope … There’s no other home for me than the United States. Every day that we do the Pledge of Allegiance, I do it with all my heart because it’s my country.”

-Brisa Ledezma, a DACA recipient and sixth-grade teacher at Santa Fe South in Oklahoma City, on Congress and the Trump Administration’s continuing failure to prevent the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program [NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Number of women in Oklahoma age 85 years and over, 1.8 times more than the number of men at that age (2016).

Source: U.S. Census

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Big data vs. the credit gap: There’s a catch-22 at the core of the U.S. financial system: To get credit, you need to already have established a credit history. Millions of Americans never find a way around the contradiction, and as a result, are locked out of things like credit cards or student loans that the rest of the population can take for granted. In fact, many people without credit histories may be very good credit risks; they’ve figured out ways to pay rent, buy groceries and keep the electricity on without the convenience of cards or other forms of credit [Politico].

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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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