In The Know: Despite good grades, suburban districts unhappy with A-F report card

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.

Despite scoring high marks on the most recent A-F grades for schools, officials with the Edmond, Moore and Norman districts say the grades don’t paint a complete picture of their schools because they are based on state-mandated standardized test scores and little else. The okeducationtruths blog pointed out that the grades are once again strongly correlated with poverty levels in schools. The latest episode of the OK PolicyCast discusses new Census data that shows what’s happening with poverty in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate increased slightly in August

Attendees at the 20th annual Zarrow Mental Health Symposium discussed how law enforcement officers and society as a whole can learn how to effectively respond to mentally illness. You can follow tweets from the conference using the hashtag #AllThingsPrevention. An Oklahoma County district judge ruled that a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol can stay. The Tulsa World discussed three separate cases this summer of Oklahoma law enforcement officers being arrested for serial sexual assaults while on duty. The OK Policy Blog discussed how a new domestic violence lethality assessment being used by law enforcement could save lives.

Oklahoma district attorneys are speaking in frustration over what they say is a severe underfunding of their offices in the face of “staggering” caseloads. A group of residents living south of two Cleveland County prisons must continue their search for drinkable water after the Oklahoma Corrections Department said it lacked the authority to partner with them to build a new well system. NewsOK is running a series on small towns in Oklahoma. NewsOK also examined the troubles of prominent Oklahoma Republican political consulting firm A.H. Strategies, which is facing a criminal investigation and has lost its three most high-profile races this year.

Tulsa World editor Julie Delcour wrote that Oklahoma’s refusal to adopt new federal ID requirements is about to become real, when Oklahomans can’t board a plane using their driver’s license. The Environmental Protection Agency and state officials are commemorate the completion of major cleanup efforts in nine communities near the Tar Creek Superfund site. While more than 300,000 people congregated in New York City for the world’s biggest march about climate change, about 150 Tulsans marched in support. Continental Resources has unveiled a new oil formation in south-central Oklahoma that its CEO says will elevate the state as an oil producer.

The Number of the Day is the poverty rate for women in Oklahoma, which is 1.5 percentage points higher than the state as a whole. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post shares what some of the millions of Americans who have enrolled in Medicaid under that Affordable Care Act think of the program.

In The News

Despite good grades, Oklahoma City metro-area school districts unhappy with A-F report card

School districts in Edmond, Moore and Norman outperformed other metro-area districts on the latest A-F report cards, but officials say the grades — even the good ones — are incomplete. All 23 schools in the Edmond district received a grade of A or B, while 74 percent of Moore district schools and 55 percent of Norman district schools scored A’s or B’s, statistics provided by the state Education Department show. Between them, the three districts had no F schools and five D schools. Despite the high marks, administrators said the grade cards don’t paint a complete picture of their schools because they are based on state-mandated standardized test scores and little else.

Read more from NewsOK.

A Gentle Reminder: Poverty Matters

The Oklahoman has an article this morning on the front page of the paper in which officials from several suburban districts downplay the importance of the state’s A-F Report Cards. The catch is that these districts have fairly good performance. While the article itself is currently only viewable by subscribers, the graphic associated with the article is viewable to anyone. Showing Oklahoma City Public Schools and five other large districts in pie charts, we see percentages of each letter grade for each district. For the sake of comparison, I looked up the 2013 free/reduced lunch rates of these six districts as well.

Read more from okeducationtruths.

OK PolicyCast: Episode 8

This week we discuss new Census data that shows what’s happening with poverty in Oklahoma; controversy over special needs students and newly released A-F grades for schools; how Oklahoma’s doing on the health of our people and the health of our democracy; & more…

Hear the podcast from Oklahoma Policy Institute.

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate rises slightly

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.7 percent in August, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Department of Labor. Unemployment in 24 states and the District of Columbia showed rate increases over July, 15 states had decreases, and 11 states had no change. The national jobless rate was down one-tenth of a percentage point at 6.1 percent for the month, and was 1.1 percentage points lower than in August 2013.

Read more from NewsOK.

In Pursuit of Breakthroughs in State’s Mental Health Struggles

Four out of five people who kill themselves in Oklahoma are men. Law enforcement officers are only beginning to learn how to deal effectively with the mentally ill. Society as a whole, including the medical field, often fails to see the relationship between mental and physical health, leading to tragic outcomes. Those were among the key messages imparted at a mental health gathering in Tulsa on Thursday and Friday attended by nearly 700 people, including advocates, funders and professionals in mental health and law enforcement.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: The hashtag #AllThingsPrevention on Twitter for conference updates.

Judge says Ten Commandments monument at Capitol can stay

An Oklahoma County district judge on Friday ruled that a Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol can stay. The ACLU of Oklahoma, which represented the plaintiffs who challenged the monument, said it will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court, said Ryan Kiesel, executive director. Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said the judge found the monument had historical value.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Read the ACLU’s response here.

Initial rape accusations lead to trails of possible serial sex assaults by three law officers

Three times this summer, Oklahoma law enforcement officers were arrested on an allegation of committing a sexual assault while on duty. And in all three cases, the initial report that brought the allegations to light was quickly followed by the revelation that more victims may yet be discovered. Rape remains commonly known as an under-reported crime, experts say. But work is being done to combat that.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Domestic violence assessments could save lives

Sometimes, by coincidence or otherwise, I get to have a fresh appreciation for the clients I’m fortunate enough to represent. I was at a meeting last week at which part of the program included a presentation on the Attorney General’s Batterers Intervention Program (BIP). With a little research I learned the BIP was created in 2005 and was originally administered by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. In 2007 it was transferred to the Attorney General along with some money to contract with certified private providers to conduct group and individual educational programs for batterers who have been ordered by a court to attend.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

‘Staggering’ Caseloads for Prosecutors

Oklahoma district attorneys are speaking in frustration over what they say is a severe underfunding of their offices in the face of “staggering” caseloads. At its Thursday meeting, the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council unveiled a draft proposal to seek a significant increase in appropriations from the Legislature. The council also handed out the draft of a fact sheet with dramatic figures and statements.

Read more from KGOU.

Corrections Department declines to build new well system at prison to provide drinkable water to nearby residents

A group of residents living south of two local prisons must continue their search for drinkable water after the Oklahoma Corrections Department said it lacked the authority to partner with them to build a new well system. Residents in the rural area east of town have dealt with heavy amounts of contamination in their water for over a decade, causing them to rely on robust filtration systems or to purchase water in bulk or by the bottle, according to members of the Cleveland County Rural Water District No. 1.

Read more from NewsOK.

Signs of change, but small towns remain ‘the backbone of Oklahoma’

If you drive throughout the more than 69,000 square miles that cover the state of Oklahoma, you’ll encounter 60 towns with double- or single-digit populations. Of those, 26 have a population of less than 50 people. Most of these towns spawned as the result of a booming economy more than a century ago. Today, they have little to remember past prosperity — other than the abandoned railroads connecting them.

Read more from NewsOK.

High-profile losses, criminal investigation hit powerful Oklahoma political consulting firm A.H. Strategies

In political circles, A.H. Strategies is known as one of the powerhouses in campaign consulting in Oklahoma. It is widely credited with helping Republicans take over the state House in 2004 and the state Senate in 2008, ending decades of control by Democrats. That success has had its rewards — it and its affiliated companies have been paid millions of dollars by campaigns over the years.

Read more from NewsOK.

Play it again, (Uncle) Sam: Pretend time over for Real ID Act

Let’s pretend: It’s 2016. Some Oklahomans are hanging out at Rick’s Cafe Americain in exotic Casablanca. We’re chatting it up with Rick, Ilsa and Victor Lazlo. We’re pestering Sam, the piano man, to play, “As Time Goes By,” for the hundredth time. We’re thinking that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship when, suddenly, the party’s over. It’s cut short by startling news that we all must get on a plane and return to Oklahoma immediately, and we’ll need letters of transit. Say what?

Read more from the Tulsa World.

EPA And Oklahoma Mark Cleanup Phase At Superfund Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state officials will commemorate the end of major cleanup efforts of some 3,000 yards, parks, driveways and alleyways in nine communities that lie in or near the Tar Creek Superfund site. But some environmental agencies say it could take decades longer before the area in northeastern Oklahoma is completely remediated.

Read more from KGOU.

Tulsa Climate March participants call for transition to using clean energy

While more than 300,000 people congregated in New York City on Sunday for the world’s biggest march about climate change legislation reform, about 150 from the Tulsa area walked from 41st Street and Riverside Drive to the nearby rugby field to send the city a similar message. “Pollution from power plants is one of the leading causes of climate disruption,” said Barbara Van Hanken, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club, before the Tulsa People’s Climate March got underway at River Parks, across from a Public Service Company of Oklahoma power plant.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma poised to surpass California, Alaska in oil production, Continental Resources CEO says

Continental Resources Inc. seemingly knows how to keep a secret. The Oklahoma City-based oil producer on Thursday unveiled a new oil play that it has been developing for nearly two years. Western Oklahoma’s Springer Shale is in the heart of the South Central Oklahoma Oil Province, or SCOOP, Continental’s last big discovery. Company officials detailed the oil-rich formation Wednesday for about 200 analysts and investors at the Skirvin Hilton. CEO Harold Hamm said the Springer and other new Oklahoma oil plays will elevate the state as an oil producer.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

“Many of our families that we serve at Infant Crisis Services can’t afford to buy a car seat, so their children are either not riding in a car seat at all, or they’re riding in a borrowed car seat, an expired car seat, a car seat that may have been in a wreck, and those will not keep the baby safe.”

-Miki Farris, executive director of the non-profit Infant Crisis Services, which held a car seat giveaway for low-income parents in Oklahoma City (Source:

Number of the Day


The poverty rate for women in Oklahoma, 1.5 percentage points higher than the state as a whole.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau via

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Millions have joined Medicaid under Obamacare. Here’s what they think of it.

The Medicaid program, already the nation’s largest insurer, has quickly added millions to its rolls since the start of Obamacare’s coverage expansion. And it appears that Medicaid enrollees are generally happy to have coverage, though many are encountering roadblocks to receiving the care they want, according to new research that provides one of the earliest insights into people’s experiences under the expanded health insurance program for low-income Americans. The new insight comes from the research firm Perry Undem, which held six focus groups in Chicago, Denver and Portland, Ore., over the summer. Focus group participants were all newly enrolled in Medicaid this year, although many have also had past experience with private insurance or been previously enrolled in Medicaid before dropping off.

Read more from the Washington Post.

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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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