In The Know: Election Results Are The Final Straw For Some Oklahoma Teachers

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.

Note: In The Know will be on break for the rest of the week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Today In The News

Election Results Are The Final Straw For Some Oklahoma Teachers: Oklahoma’s teacher shortage may get worse before it gets better. State Question 779, which some hailed as a solution to Oklahoma’s education funding woes, failed on Election Day. Many of the teachers running for office were also defeated. These losses have left some Oklahoma educators feeling hopeless. Shawna Mott-Wright, the vice president of the Tulsa Public Schools teacher’s union, said State Question 779 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “Teachers are heartbroken,” she said [KOSU].

U.S. Education Chief Calls for End to Paddling, But Many Okla. Schools Allow It: All schools should stop paddling students as a form of discipline because it’s “harmful, ineffective, and often disproportionately applied to students of color and students with disabilities,” U.S. Secretary of Education John King wrote in a letter Tuesday to all state governors and schools chiefs. Oklahoma is one of 22 states that allow corporal punishment in schools, and one of the states where its use is the most prevalent. Several districts here paddled more than 12 percent of students in the 2013-14 school year according to a new map created by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights [Oklahoma Watch].

It’s time for Oklahoma lawmakers to pass an education funding plan: Supporters of State Question 779 didn’t need to wait for every vote to be counted on Election Night to know standing up for teachers and schools was the right fight. And while SQ 779 might have come up short at the ballot box, it began an important conversation about education funding and where we go from here. We can’t stop fighting to increase teacher pay and ensure budget cuts to our public schools are reversed [Amber England / NewsOK]. 

Oklahoma education agency unveils draft of school accountability plan: The Oklahoma Department of Education is releasing its first draft of a new public schools accountability plan that features less of an emphasis on standardized tests, and aims to tackle chronic absenteeism. The Oklahoman reports the department is developing the plan to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act. The federal guidelines require states to use a variety of academic measures, English language proficiency and graduation rates to determine school success. States are required to select a nonacademic indicator as part of their plan, and Oklahoma is looking at chronic absenteeism as its indicator [Associated Press]. Here’s what the new federal education law means for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Watch This: 9 myths about food insecurity in Oklahoma: Feasts with family and friends are a key part of the holiday season. However, 1 in 6 Oklahomans, including 1 in 4 children, don’t always know if they’ll have enough food for their next meal. In this video, we bust some myths about hunger in Oklahoma, breaking down what people get wrong, what we need to get right, and what we can do to make Oklahoma a state where everyone has access to enough good food — no matter the season [OK Policy].

State Panel Advises Keeping 10 Business Breaks; Repeals Off Table for Now: A state oversight panel voted Tuesday to retain 10 business incentives after its consultants rescinded a recommendation to repeal one of them and the state commerce secretary intervened to rescue another. The panel’s actions provided an immediate reprieve to the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program and the state’s Industrial Access Road Program. But they could provide more momentum to efforts to rein in a fast-growing wind-power tax credit. All of the proposals would require legislative approval [Oklahoma Watch].

As Lawmakers Prepare to Confront Budget Hole, Energy Execs Champion Prolific Oil Fields and Pro-Industry Incentives: Oklahoma legislators are under pressure to fund teacher raises and pay for health insurance coverage, workers comp, criminal justice initiatives and state prisons from a pool of money that could be $600 million short of what’s needed. Some energy executives appear to be responding with a proactive warning: Don’t try to fix the budget by raising the industry’s taxes or cutting its incentives. Many of the methods used to help fill 2016′s $1.3 billion budget hole were one-time fixes, meaning lawmakers — nearly one-third newly elected — could be desperately searching for ways to boost revenue [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Fallin defends use of personal email for state business as ‘more efficient’: Gov. Mary Fallin sends most emails about state business from a personal email address but her office didn’t search her personal email account before responding to an open records lawsuit over a 2014 botched execution, records show. The lawsuit, in which I’m a plaintiff, notes that there is growing and widespread interest in government officials’ use of private email to conduct public business. The suit cites cases involving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton [The Frontier].

Gov. Mary Fallin says she would consider post in Trump administration if offered: Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday said she would consider a job in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration if it were offered. “At this point in time, I still plan on being governor. But if I got a call saying would you consider serving our nation in a different capacity, it certainly would be a discussion one should have,” Fallin said. Fallin on Monday met with Trump and his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, for about 40 minutes in Trump Tower in New York. Her husband, Wade Christensen, was also present [Tulsa World].

Capitol repairs ahead of schedule, under budget, Gov. Mary Fallin told: Gov. Mary Fallin was told Tuesday that repairs to the state Capitol are ahead of schedule and under budget. Fallin took a tour of work in the basement and other areas on Tuesday. At one point, Fallin, wearing a hard hat, raised a hammer and struck portions of wall that was being removed while cameras recorded it. Lawmakers previously passed two bond issues for repairs. One was for $120 million, another was for $125 million, said Trait Thompson, capitol project manager [Tulsa World].

Results of approved criminal justice state questions will be tremendous: The turning point Oklahoma’s criminal justice system has sought for so long is finally within reach. In an election season of unprecedented divisiveness, unity emerged in Oklahoma when an incredibly diverse coalition joined together and secured passage of a better path for our overburdened criminal justice system. The political spectrum’s right and left, government officials and business executives, faith and community leaders, law enforcement and mental health professionals — all forged together to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us [Kris Steele / Tulsa Business & Legal News].

Oklahoma DOC budget request highlights agency’s challenges: Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, on the job 10 months, has come to the conclusion that his agency “has been largely ignored for more than 30 years” by the Legislature. His budget request for the next fiscal year should certainly get lawmakers’ attention. The request, approved last week by the Oklahoma Board of Corrections, is for $1.648 billion. That’s about 3 1/2 times more than the $483.4 million appropriated to the Department of Corrections for the current fiscal year [The Oklahoman Editorial Board].

9 Years Later, Oklahoma Immigration Law Has Little Lasting Impact: Customers can smell the bread before they enter Ramiro Padilla’s Mexican bakery and restaurant along Southwest 29th Street in largely-Hispanic south Oklahoma City. In 2007, the Oklahoma legislature passed a law to crack down on undocumented residents. At the time, Padilla says the Hispanic community panicked. In his neighborhood, the streets were empty [KGOU].

Quote of the Day

“Oklahomans voted to reclassify certain nonviolent offenses — like simple drug possession and low-level property offenses — as misdemeanors, freeing up tens of millions of dollars a year to reinvest in more drug and mental health treatment. But the story’s ending is not written yet. The real work has just started. Nothing will change if the improvements voters endorsed are not properly implemented and expanded. As exciting as Tuesday’s victory was, successful implementation will be an even bigger lift than succeeding at the polls.”

-Kris Steele, Chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, on the passage of SQ 780 and SQ 781 and the coming challenge of implementing the new laws (Source) OK Policy’s fact sheet on the two state questions is available here.

Number of the Day


Percentage of food insecure households in Oklahoma that are above 185 percent of the federal poverty level, making them ineligible for federal nutrition assistance

Source: Community Food Bank of Oklahoma

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

After High-Profile Shootings, Blacks Seek Prosecutor Seats: African-American lawyers, racial justice groups and the liberal hedge fund billionaire George Soros are combining forces to try to elect more black prosecutors in response to what they see as an insufficient response by incumbent district attorneys to the killings of black people by the police. The effort faces steep demographic and institutional obstacles that have kept the offices of elected prosecutors — those deciding whether to seek criminal charges against the officers responsible — among the whitest reserves in American politics [New York Times].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

One thought on “In The Know: Election Results Are The Final Straw For Some Oklahoma Teachers

  1. “As exciting as Tuesday’s victory was, successful implementation will be an even bigger lift than succeeding at the polls.”

    Can we hear a big amen for Preacher Steele?

    Then can we declare another day of prayer for his hope?

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