In The Know: Drive to put more storm shelters in schools turning into political fight

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.

Today you should know that a petition drive to fund storm shelters in every public school in Oklahoma is turning into a political fight over the franchise tax. A total of 6,905 applications were completed by Oklahomans on the federal health insurance marketplace in October, with 346 taking the next step to sign up for coverage. The Waurika superintendent is questioning the validity of state A-F grades for schools, even though his district did well.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column and the Oklahoman editorial board discussed the threat that Oklahoma will face a state budget shortfall this year. A judge refused to postpone former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich’s bribery trial. The chairman of the Oklahoma Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee says he’s looking for ways to stop increases in unemployment taxes that employers pay by restricting who is eligible for benefits.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans have been determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid/CHIP while filling out an application on In today’s Policy Note, the Center for American Progress discusses why early childhood education is vital for closing the school readiness gap for children of color.

In The News

Drive to put more storm shelters in schools turning into political fight

Gov. Mary Fallin doesn’t intend to sign a petition that would allow voters to decide if they want to spend $500 million to build storm shelters in every public school. Fallin hasn’t directly opposed the initiative petition drive, but she doesn’t plan to endorse it either, according to her spokesman, Alex Weintz. Instead, the governor has commented that money used for storm shelters will reduce funding for other educational needs. However, storm shelter supporters contend that isn’t true. They argue that using the state’s franchise tax as a funding source would not impact public education funding.

Read more from the OK Gazette.

A fraction of eligible Oklahomans have enrolled on the federal health insurance marketplace

Only 346 Oklahomans selected a health insurance plan in the first month of the federal health insurance marketplace’s existence, according to federal government data released Wednesday. The federal marketplace, created through the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” launched Oct. 1. But the marketplace’s website has been fraught with error, causing delays in enrollment for countless residents. A total of 6,905 applications have been completed in Oklahoma, meaning hundreds of Oklahomans have gotten through the website’s application process but haven’t yet taken the next step to sign up for coverage.

Read more from NewsOK.

Waurika superintendent questions A-F grades, even though his district did well

With a report card that was fairly good, Roxie Terry wishes he could feel better about the entire exercise. It’s the second year Oklahoma has used the A-F system, and the controversial system has drawn heated discussion between educators and administrators who advocate the system and those who feel A-F is a poor method for reflecting student’s academic progress and the quality of education public school students are receiving.

Read more from the Waurika News Democrat.

Prosperity Policy: More budget blues

State revenue collections for October announced this week showed some improvement over prior months. Yet through the first four months of the current fiscal year, general revenue collections are 2 percent below last year and 6 percent behind the certified estimate. This sluggish performance foretells serious challenges for the state budget going forward. Scheduled tax cuts can only compound them. Oklahoma’s general revenue collections remain stalled at well below pre-recession levels.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Many budget challenges in store for Oklahoma lawmakers

With only three months remaining before the next session of the Legislature, state agencies are unveiling their budget requests. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education want $1.065 billion for colleges, an increase of $76.3 million. Regent Toney Stricklin, of Lawton, called the 7.7 percent increase “modest.” The state Board of Education has requested $2.5 billion for K-12 schools, an increase of $174.9 million. The Department of Corrections, which got no additional funds this year, is asking for a $31.5 million increase next year — a reasonable request given rising inmate numbers and dangerously low staffing levels at often-deteriorating facilities.

Read more from NewsOK.

No trial delay for Oklahoma State Senator

A judge refused Wednesday to postpone former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich’s bribery trial. Her jury trial is set to begin Dec. 9. Her attorney asked for a three-month delay because of the intense publicity surrounding the conviction of her co-defendant, former state Rep. Randy Terrill. Oklahoma County Special Judge Cindy Truong disagreed. She said 12 jurors can be found among the 700,000 residents of Oklahoma County. The judge pointed out that there had been publicity before Terrill’s trial, too, but the first 22 people considered for his jury had never heard of him.

Read more from NewsOK.

Republican State Senator looks to restrict unemployment benefits

The chairman of the Oklahoma Senate’s Business and Commerce Committee says he’s looking for ways to stop dramatic increases in recent years in the unemployment taxes that employers pay. Republican state Sen. Dan Newberry of Tulsa says the average unemployment tax rate for Oklahoma businesses spiked from 2010 to 2012, and he wants to stop those increases. While he says some of that likely resulted from recession-related layoffs, Newberry says he wants to explore complaints from employers that some workers fired for just cause are collecting benefits.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

I just don’t have much confidence in the grades, and just because we did well, I’m not going to change my mind on the validity of the A-F grades. The system doesn’t give me the information I need to remediate students and be able to attack the needs of each individual student.

-Waurika Public Schools superintendent Roxie Terry (Source:

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans determined eligible to enroll in Medicaid/CHIP while filling out an application on in October.

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The school readiness gap and preschool benefits for children of color

The majority of children under age 1 in the United States today are children of color; that one simple fact means that our future will be very different from our current reality. Before we reach the end of this decade, more than half of all youth in this country will be of color. As the face of our nation changes, our nation’s policies will need to change as well. And while change is never easy, we know the place to start is where the change is already happening—and that means investing in our nation’s youngest citizens.

Read more from the Center for American Progress.

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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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