In The Know: Fallin says criticism of A-F grades for schools may endanger school funding

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 Gov. Fallin warned educators that continuing to publicly criticize the state’s A-F grades for schools may affect whether education gets additional funding next year. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why design flaws in the A-F grades make them a bad metric for evaluating schools. A Rebublican challenger for state schools superintendent has raised almost twice as much campaign funds as incumbent Janet Barresi.

Despite Oklahoma’s achievements in offering universal preschool, nearly two-thirds of the state’s 3 and 4 year olds in low-income families are not attending a preschool program. State Auditor Gary Jones spoke out against changes to the state pension system being pushed by other Republican leaders. MSNBC published an in-depth feature on the state of access to abortions for Oklahomans.

Oklahoma Islamic leaders said an anti-terrorism seminar held at the state Capitol on Friday hosted speakers known for making misleading and untrue statements about Islam and Muslims. A Tulsa World investigation found an increasing number of Oklahomans going to jail for not paying court fines and fees. Hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma families will have to cut back on their grocery bill as cuts went into effect Friday for food stamps recipients. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said food stamp cuts could have a catastrophic effect on Indian country.

Officials said few Oklahomans are receiving cancellation notices for insurance policies that do not meet Affordable Care Act standards because the state Insurance Department allowed companies to renew these plans early for the coming year. The Oklahoma School of Science and Math presidents rejected a large pay raise that was given to other state agency directors. Lawmakers spoke about repercussions on how they do business following former Rep. Randy Terrill’s bribery conviction. Judges denied the latest request by state Attorney General Scott Pruitt to avoid EPA rules for Oklahoma power plants.

The Number of the Day is how many Oklahomans are employed by foreign-owned companies. In today’s Policy Note, the National Journal charts how Oklahoma’s major cities are falling behind in competition to attract young, college-educated workers.

In The News

Gov. Fallin says criticism of school A-F grading system may endanger school funding

Gov. Mary Fallin is warning educators that continuing public criticism of the state’s A-F school grading system may affect whether common education gets additional funding next fiscal year. Last week state Superintendent Janet Barresi unveiled her education budget request for fiscal year 2015, in which she is asking for an additional $174.9 million for a total of $2.5 billion. On the same day, the governor’s office spoke out on the A-F issue, urging education supporters to get behind the grading system and stop endorsing a report that criticizes it. The A-F grades for schools across the state are expected to be released this week.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Previously: Flawed A-F school grading system won’t help to improve schools from the OK Policy Blog

Republican challenger for Oklahoma schools superintendent outraises incumbent Barresi

A Tulsan running for state schools superintendent raised more in six months than the incumbent has in a year and a half, campaign records show. Joy Hofmeister has raised a total of $257,909 through Sept. 30 while schools Superintendent Janet Barresi has raised a total of $236,605. Both are Republicans. The incumbent’s total includes $100,000 she loaned her campaign in June.

Read more from NewsOK.

Two-thirds of low-income 3-4 year olds in Oklahoma not enrolled in pre-K

Nearly two-thirds of Oklahoma’s kids from low-income families were not attending a preschool program from 2009-2011, according to a national study released Monday. The Kids Count report by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation, which advocates for investing in the crucial early years of a child’s life, also found that more than half of Oklahoma’s kids from birth to eight years old were living in low-income households last year. The foundation calculated low-income households as those with incomes below 200 percent of the 2012 federal poverty line — $46,566 for a family of four.

Read more from the Associated Press.

See also: KIDS COUNT Oklahoma Data Center

State auditor and treasurer clash over proposed pension changes

State Treasurer Ken Miller and Gov. Mary Fallin are pushing for drastic changes to the state pension system that include requiring future state employees, with the exception of hazardous duty workers like police officers and firefighters, to participate in a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan rather than the current defined benefit plan. Many state employees are opposed to the plan, contending it would reduce future employees’ benefits. State Auditor Gary Jones said he doesn’t see how the proposal will fix the pension system. Switching future employees to another plan doesn’t provide the extra money to pay off the current unfunded obligations, he said.

Read more from NewsOK.

‘I’m showing my son mercy’: The state of abortion in Oklahoma

On their last night in Dallas, the ramen noodles and microwave popcorn were finished. The money for the motel had run out too. So on a hot August night Jessica and Erick Davis and their three young kids slept in the Mazda rented for the trip. It had only been a few hours since Jessica’s abortion. Earlier that month, at home in Oklahoma City, the Davises were told that the boy she was carrying had a severe brain malformation known as holoprosencephaly. It is rare, though possible, for such a fetus to survive to birth, but doctors told them that he would not reach his first birthday. The Davises’ ordeal was always going to be painful. But the grim path that led them to a night in the car was determined, nearly every step of the way, by a state that has scrambled to be the most “pro-life” in the nation.

Read more from MSNBC.

Islamic group’s leader attends anti-terrorism seminar despite efforts to keep him out

The leader of an Islamic group attended an anti-terrorism seminar at the state Capitol on Friday despite organizers’ attempts to keep him out. Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and others were able to watch the seminar from the House gallery, despite initially being told they could not attend the event, which was held in the chamber. Sheryl Siddiqui of Tulsa, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, said the seminar’s speakers have a reputation for making misleading and untrue statements about Islam and Muslims.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Increasing number going to jail for not paying fines

When Linda Bearden did not pay $451 of court costs stemming from a 2011 guilty plea, a Tulsa County judge issued a bench warrant for her arrest. Months later, on Oct. 15, a sheriff’s deputy noticed a blue Mitsubishi with a cracked windshield driving on 36th Street North near the Gilcrease Expressway. The deputy stopped the car and found Bearden driving under a suspended license with an outstanding warrant for failure to pay court costs, so he arrested her. The percent of Tulsa Jail bookings involving warrants issued for inmates’ failures to pay court fines and fees has more than tripled during the past decade, a Tulsa World analysis shows.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Health insurance cancellations from ACA rare in Oklahoma, officials say

Most Oklahomans who buy health insurance in the individual market are not receiving cancellation notices that have frightened residents in other states because the state approved an early renewal date for insurers, officials say. Earlier this year, the Oklahoma Insurance Department approved a Dec. 1 renewal date for insurers who carry large numbers of individual health insurance plans, said Mike Rhoads, deputy commissioner. Those policies will be good until Nov. 30, 2014, avoiding for almost a year the Affordable Care Act requirements that have caused companies in other states to cancel existing policies.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma families left with uncertainty after food stamp cuts

Hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma families on federal assistance will have to cut back on their grocery bill as cuts went into effect Friday for food stamps recipients. Many families say they’re going to have to stretch an even tighter budget without that extra assistance. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) says more than 637,000 Oklahomans will be impacted by cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. Mark Beutler, spokesperson for DHS says the cuts couldn’t have come at a more difficult time, as the state saw record-increases of food stamp recipients in the last two months.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Cherokee Chief says food stamp cuts ‘could have a catastrophic impact’ in Indian Country

As part of the Farm Bill reauthorization in the House of Representatives, the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding will be substantially cut. This cut is harmful for Cherokee Nation citizens and will hurt Indian Country. In many homes, food stamps are the only means and access to quality, nutritious foods. A proposed nearly $40 billion cut in SNAP, which funds our state’s food stamp program, will have a dire effect on hundreds of Native families in northeast Oklahoma, harming the health and well-being of many Cherokee citizens. Nationally, those cuts, coupled with the recession and the high unemployment rates in heavily concentrated Native communities, could have a catastrophic impact.

Read more from Indian Country Today.

Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics president rejects pay raise

The granting of $14,000 to $50,000 pay hikes to several state agency directors has created a public furor, but at least one agency head turned down his opportunity for a large raise. Frank Wang, who is paid $75,000 a year to serve as president of the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, said he rejected his raise because of the adverse impact it likely would have on one or more of his employees. A consultant had recommended a salary range of between $87,212 and $130,818 for his position. “I just didn’t think it was appropriate,” Wang said, noting that since 2009 the budget for his school has been cut from about $8 million to about $6 million and the number of employees has been trimmed from 76 to 57.

Read more from NewsOK.

Lawmakers question how they do public’s business after conviction of Randy Terrill

For the second time in as many years, an Oklahoma jury has convicted a former state lawmaker of a crime arising from his alleged conduct while in office. Last year, former state Senate President Pro Tem Mike Morgan was convicted on a federal bribery charge that accused him of taking a $12,000 bribe in exchange for his influence on legislation. On Tuesday, former state Rep. Randy Terrill was convicted on a state bribery charge that accused him of offering a legislative colleague a state job in exchange for her promise not to seek re-election.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Court denies Oklahoma attempt to avoid EPA rules for power plants

A three-judge federal appeals panel denied requests by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for a full-court review of a decision upholding a federal rule designed to curb haze pollution. Pruitt was joined by Oklahoma Gas & Electric and the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers in challenging a federal implementation plan for the regional haze rule. The panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected by a 2-1 vote arguments that federal regulators overstepped their authority by supplanting parts of a more lenient state plan with stricter rules.

Read more from the Muskogee Phoenix.

Quote of the Day

The cheapest traffic ticket we write is $160. People are struggling. There’s not a lot of income. And that has a cascading effect.

-Tulsa County Undersheriff Tim Albin, after a Tulsa World analysis found the percentage of people booked in the Tulsa jail due to failure to pay fines or court costs has more than tripled during the last decade (Source:

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahomans employed by foreign-owned companies, a third of which work for Canadian (6,100) and French (6,000) firms, 2012

Source: Business Roundtable

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Young professionals are flocking to Raleigh, not Oklahoma City, in one interactive

Attention mayors, governors, and economic development gurus: Your plans to lure young college graduates to your cities with downtown lofts and local start-ups are not working. Instead, millennials are opting to move from their college towns to a much smaller cluster of cities than they did 30 years ago—places such as Boulder, Colo., Washington D.C; Cambridge, Mass.; or San Jose, Calif. Almost half of college graduates in the nation’s biggest cities are clustered in just 20 places.

Read more from the National Journal.

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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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