In The Know: Emergency certified teachers ‘feels like the new normal’

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 Know will take a short break next week for our Summer Policy Institute (SPI) and will resume on Thursday. Follow along with SPI on Twitter with the hashtag #okspi 

Today In The News

Emergency certified teachers ‘feels like the new normal’: In a scramble to fill classrooms ahead of another school year, the state Board of Education on Thursday approved 631 emergency teaching certificates for public school districts across Oklahoma. Designed as a last-ditch mechanism for hiring a teacher when a a certified and traditionally trained applicant is not available, emergency teaching certificates have become a common tool for Oklahoma schools as colleges produce fewer teaching candidates, and low pay and tough conditions send many teachers out of the state or out of the profession [NewsOK]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Tribes weigh odds on compacts continuing in 2020: The state’s tribal gaming compacts could end in January 2020, or they could stay in place and continue for the next 15 years. The provision that allows the compacts to continue without changing is the Evergreen Clause. “The first thing to know about the Evergreen Clause is there’s an Evergreen Clause,” said William Norman, attorney at Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker. Within 180 days of the compacts’ expiration dates, the exclusivity fees and the types of games can be renegotiated, but that doesn’t mean they will [Journal Record].

Union debuts ‘community school’ model with Ellen Ochoa Elementary: Union Public Schools officials say the district’s newest school, Ellen Ochoa Elementary, is on track to open in time for the upcoming academic year, which begins Aug. 22. The district’s warehouse crew began moving leftover school supplies and other equipment into the school, at 12000 E. 31st St., on Thursday morning, and teachers will begin moving into their classrooms next Wednesday. Ochoa will serve about 500 students in kindergarten through fifth grade in the 2017-18 school year and is expected to serve a total of 1,000 students, including prekindergartners, by the time the facility is completed for the 2019-20 school year [Tulsa World]. Community schools provide resources that go beyond the classroom to address multi-faceted needs of students and their community [OK Policy].

Strong leadership results in TPS reducing suspensions: Tulsa Public Schools successfully reduced the number of student suspensions it handed out by more than a quarter last year. Almost immediately after taking office, Superintendent Deborah Gist pointed to the district’s very high number of suspensions as an area of concern. After an inclusive process of studying the issue, the district set a goal of reducing suspensions by 5 percent in the 2016-17 school year and matched that idea with some new thinking about classroom management [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World].

Senate Rejects Slimmed-Down Obamacare Repeal as McCain Votes No: The Senate in the early hours of Friday morning rejected a new, scaled-down Republican plan to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, derailing the Republicans’ seven-year campaign to dismantle President Barack Obama’s signature health care law and dealing a huge political setback to President Trump. Senator John McCain of Arizona, who just this week returned to the Senate after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, cast the decisive vote to defeat the proposal, joining two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, in opposing it [New York Times]. Senator Lankford was “deeply disappointed” in the failed health care vote [FOX25].

Lawmakers to study teen work/pregnancy relationship: As members of Oklahoma’s national delegation move to decrease teen pregnancy prevention program funding, a state senator is pushing for the state to invest more in it. The U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees several agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services is working on the 2018 plan. The representative for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District, Tom Cole, is the committee’s chairman. He and his counterparts have worked to cut about $5 billion from the agency’s budget, dropping it to about $156 billion [Journal Record]. Oklahoma’s teen birth rate is near the highest in the country. We can do better [OK Policy].

State budget cuts threatening program that gives senior citizens a hot meal: 2 Works For You is learning how state budget cuts could be threatening essential services for our senior citizens. Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services said it was forced to cut nearly $2-million from a program that provides nearly 300,000 meals across the state. Five days a week, senior citizens come to the Rayfield Baptist Church in Muskogee to get one hot meal. Thursday’s lunch was packed [KJRH]. In dispute between Republican leaders over DHS funding, here are the facts [OK Policy].

OKC Native American museum expected to open in 2021: Construction-related activities will resume Oct. 1 at the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum near downtown Oklahoma City, with the intent of opening to the public in April 2021, the board of the Native American Cultural & Educational Authority learned Thursday. …The first earth will be turned in the Hall of the Peoples, the space to be enclosed by glass installed in the white arch that, from a distance, is the center’s most iconic feature [NewsOK].

Fundraising statute could pose problem for candidate: The election is more than a year away, but questions are already materializing among Oklahoma’s lieutenant gubernatorial candidates. Dana Murphy is the chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which regulates oil and gas and public utilities, among other industries. She announced her candidacy on Wednesday morning, and she seems to be a fundraising front-runner. Her campaign announced she has raised about $600,000, double her next-best-financed competitor [Journal Record].

Software Could Help Cities in Oklahoma Plan for Costly Weather and Climate: People who live in Oklahoma know the state’s weather is hard to predict. Erratic rain, heat and ice, and drought can also devastate government budgets. To combat this, researchers from the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are using new software to help cities predict these economic strains. It’s a hot July day in Oklahoma, and everyone’s trying to cool off. Teenagers Seth Owens and Brandon Hansen are goofing off and singing country songs at Pelican Bay Aquatic Center in Edmond [StateImpact Oklahoma].

EPA asks oil producers to shut seven wastewater wells along Bird Creek spill area: The Environmental Protection Agency has found the source of saltwater contamination in Bird Creek and is asking Osage County oil producers to cease wastewater injection at seven well sites. Nearly a year after the Bird Creek saltwater contamination first was reported, EPA Region Six Administrator Sam Coleman said brine contamination in the drainage is a long-standing problem, has multiple sources, likely was most recently exacerbated by mechanical failures, may encompass a wider area than is presently known, and may lead to more frequent reporting requirements for producers [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma wind farm construction will push state to No. 2 ranking, report says: Oklahoma has more than 1,600 megawatts of wind capacity under construction across eight projects and is poised to become the nation’s No. 2 wind state by the end of the year, according to the latest market report released Thursday. That under-construction total doesn’t include the massive 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher project in the Oklahoma Panhandle announced this week by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and Southwestern Electric Power Co. The 800-turbine development by Invenergy started construction last year and is expected to be online by late 2020 [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“This feels like the new normal. The need is great and it’s not getting better.”

– State Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister. The State Board of Education has so far approved 850 emergency teaching certifications for the upcoming school year, compared to 381 at this time last year (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of adolescent boys (age 13-17) in Oklahoma vaccinated against HPV, the 14th-highest rate in the US

Source: America’s Health Rankings

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How bosses are (literally) like dictators: Consider some facts about how American employers control their workers. Amazon prohibits employees from exchanging casual remarks while on duty, calling this “time theft.” Apple inspects the personal belongings of its retail workers, some of whom lose up to a half-hour of unpaid time every day as they wait in line to be searched. Tyson prevents its poultry workers from using the bathroom. Some have been forced to urinate on themselves while their supervisors mock them. About half of US employees have been subject to suspicionless drug screening by their employers. Millions are pressured by their employers to support particular political causes or candidates. Soon employers will be empowered to withhold contraception coverage from their employees’ health insurance. They already have the right to penalize workers for failure to exercise and diet, by charging them higher health insurance premiums [Vox].

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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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