In The Know: Department of Education facing over $50 million in budget cuts

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-r elated 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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including our Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Department of Education facing over $50 million in budget cuts: Funding for education in Oklahoma took another hit as the State Board of Education revealed several shortfalls in their projected budget. During its regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 23, the board revealed that the Education Reform Revolving Fund was $39 million short. Added to $11.1 million in cuts the State Board of Equalization announced on Tuesday, the education department must now cut over $50 million from its budget [FOX25]. Where should I start? How about by telling you what these cuts mean to one district with 14,300 students [okeducationtruths]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Department of Corrections announces hiring freeze after state revenue failure: While the state is facing another revenue failure, an Oklahoma agency says it is implementing a hiring freeze to deal with the potential cuts to funding. Earlier this week, the Oklahoma Board of Equalization confirmed a revenue failure in the state after learning about an $878 million shortfall. On Thursday, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced a hiring freeze that is effective immediately for the majority of the agency [KFOR]. Even with positive and important criminal justice reforms passing in the Legislature and in the ballot box last year, the Oklahoma prison population is on track to grow by 25 percent – about 7,200 inmates – in the next ten years [OK Policy].

Dishonest politicians attack voter decisions to ease prison costs and overcrowding: In November, voters overwhelmingly approved State Questions 780 and 781 because they know Oklahoma incarcerates too many nonviolent, low-level offenders. …Voters in November loudly and clearly approved these significant reforms for our criminal justice system. The changes take effect in July but, unfortunately, this legislative session has already seen misguided efforts by legislators to gut the voter’s wishes before they even take effect [Kris Steele / Tulsa World].  HB 1482 would ignore the evidence and the will of the voters by reinstating felony charges for drug possession across virtually all of Oklahoma City and Tulsa and large parts of the rest of the state [OK Policy]. 

Budget Update: Key takeaways from the February Board of Equalization meeting: The State Board of Equalization met on February 21st to approve revised revenue estimates for FY 2017 and FY 2018. This estimate will be binding on the Legislature as it develops the FY 2018 budget over the coming months. Here are our main takeaways from the new certification [OK Policy].

School A-F grading system survives House vote: The state’s new A-F grading system remained on track Thursday despite opponents’ charges that it will promote institutional racism. By a count of 57-34, with 51 votes needed for passage, the House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 1028, by Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, adopting the new assessment developed by the state Department of Education and announced in December [Tulsa World].

School Choice Bill Passes Oklahoma Senate Education Committee: A Senate education committee passed a school choice measure on Monday, which riled a lot of debate from lawmakers. Education Savings Accounts are a touchy subject. They allow parents to use state tax dollars, that would normally go to a public school, towards private school tuition instead. Senator Rob Standridge says his ESA bill, SB560, is aimed at helping low-income families afford a better educational option for their child [KGOU].

Oklahoma state senator being investigated over campaign issues: A state senator is being investigated for possible ethics violations involving campaign contribution reports and could face criminal prosecution. Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, did not report thousands of dollars in donations given to his 2012 and 2016 campaigns, records show. “There’s a potential these are felony violations,” Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said Thursday [NewsOK].

Legislators move to tamper with the voter-approved Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust: Add the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust to the list of voter-approved decisions that legislators are trying to tamper with. Voters created the trust in 2000 and wisely gave it independence from the Legislature and protection within the state Constitution. Under the voter-approved mechanism, money that comes to the state from the 1998 settlement of a lawsuit brought against Big Tobacco by 46 states is split, with the endowment getting 75 percent [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. [HJR 1015, HB 1245]

Black helicopters, pitchforks and a revenue problem: When the political heat ratchets up, state lawmakers miraculously spring into action. Less than three weeks into session, seven teacher pay raise bills already have won committee approval and a plan to make Oklahoma driver’s licenses Real ID-compliant already has cleared the full House and a Senate committee. A word of caution: Don’t pop the champagne corks just yet. Legislative heavy lifting is still ahead [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Bill would ban drones over ag operations: Cattle running isn’t always pretty. State Rep. Casey Murdock, R-Woodward, has seen one of his cows wrapped up in a fence on his property and had to disentangle the animal from the mess. “If someone flew over with a drone right at that moment and took a picture, that would not look good on me,” he said. Murdock introduced House Bill 1326, which would ban drones from any land used for agriculture, hunting, fishing or forestry [Journal Record].

Legislative bills impacting high school athletics move to House: A legislative bill designed to alter the athletic eligibility rules of transfer students received a significant change before passing through a state House of Representatives panel Wednesday. The panel approved two bills [HB 1007, HB 1107]  on Wednesday morning that would impact high school athletics and the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association [NewsOK].

9 Investigates: Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Reform: When state lawmakers passed legislation in 2013 that replaced the old Workers’ Compensation Court with an administrative Workers’ Compensation Commission, the business community thanked them for fixing what many felt was a broken system. But, four years later, there is evidence that the reforms are flawed, and that for many Oklahoma workers who are now hurt on the job, the new law adds insult to injury [News9].

Making the grade: Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has sparked some creative efforts to attract more students to a career in education. Several of those were on display Thursday when Northwest Classen High School hosted a career fair to help students explore their options. The high school offers a teacher preparation academy — one of several academies at Oklahoma City Public Schools sites designed to prepare students for specific careers [NewsOK].

Students show progress in annual ImpactTulsa report, but racial and socioeconomic gaps persist: While educational achievement gaps between socioeconomic and racial groups continue to persist, Tulsa-area students are showing progress, particularly in reading proficiency and post-secondary opportunities, according to a report released Thursday. The ImpactTulsa 2016 Community Impact Report shows recent trends in kindergarten reading readiness, third-grade reading proficiency, middle school mathematics, high school graduation and post-secondary enrollment based on data collected from 15 area school districts [Tulsa World]. The full report is available here

Oklahoma officer-involved fatal shootings by the numbers: Thursday, a man was shot and killed by police in Fairfax, Oklahoma after allegedly shooting at law enforcement. With incidents like these flooding the news cycle around the nation, you may be wondering how many officer-involved shootings actually take place in Oklahoma on an annual basis. Below, we’ve compiled several graphics that detail just how many people are killed by police every year in the Sooner State [KJRH].

To Keep Future Droughts at Bay, Oklahoma Looks to Store Water Underground Before it Flows Away: The crippling five-year drought Oklahoma finally broke out of in 2015 is still fresh in the memory of the state’s water regulators, which is looking for ways the state can better withstand future dry spells. The Water Resources Board this week approved new rules to allow water to be stored underground, in aquifers. Byrd’s Mill Creek is fed by Byrd’s Mill Spring, the southeast Oklahoma community of Ada’s primary source of drinking water [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Poll: Trump support remains strong among all but richest, poorest Oklahoma voters: A month into his term, President Donald Trump’s popularity remains strong among all but the poorest and richest Oklahomans, according to a job approval poll released this week. While more voters at every income level said they held a favorable view of Trump than said they held an unfavorable view, Trump’s approval ratings were weakest among the highest and lowest earners [NewsOK].

TPS Superintendent Addresses Immigration And Gender: Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist published a message addressing immigration and gender. Gist posted the message to members of the community using her Facebook page. “We know that our community members have questions, concerns, and fears around recent changes to federal policies,” she said. “While national policy may be changing, our commitment to safe and supportive school communities is unwavering.” [NewsOn6]

Quote of the Day

“Voters in November loudly and clearly approved these significant reforms for our criminal justice system. The changes take effect in July but, unfortunately, this legislative session has already seen misguided efforts by legislators to gut the voter’s wishes before they even take effect. This is precisely the type of political dishonesty that has voters so upset with elected officials across the country.”

– Former House Speaker Kris Steele, on legislation (HB 1482) that would effectively undo criminal justice reforms included in a State Question approved by voters in November (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage added to past due court costs as a fee for private collections agencies in Oklahoma

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Big Companies Don’t Pay as Well as They Used To: For much of the 20th century, workers at big companies were paid better than workers at small ones. An employee of a company with more than 500 employees historically earned 30%–50% more than someone doing the same job at a firm with fewer than 25 employees, for instance. But the pay gap between large and small companies has narrowed in recent years, and that decline is one reason for rising inequality in America. It’s also a reminder that inequality is deeply intertwined with the day-to-day decisions companies make, say, about outsourcing manufacturing, or contracting with a caterer, or aiming for vertical integration, or focusing on the core. Big firms began doing countless things differently over the last few decades, for just as many reasons. But one major difference in big companies today compared to 40 years ago is that today’s giants pay less generously than the giants of the past, especially when it comes to their lowest-paid employees [Harvard Business Review].

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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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