In 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 or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.
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Today you should know Gov. Fallin signed into law a bill (HB 3339) repealing Common Core in Oklahoma. The educational standards had been championed by the National Governor’s Association, of which Gov. Fallin is the chair. We’ve written about why repealing Common Core, which opponents view as an attempted federal takeover of local schools, could actually lead to more federal control because Oklahoma may lose its No Child Left Behind waiver as a result. Local educator’s blog A View From the Edge explains that the decision of whether Oklahoma loses its waiver will be up to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Repealing Common Core could cost Oklahoma as much as $125 million due to the cost of developing new standards, according to a report released this week. Oklahoma Watch explained what the repeal could mean for Oklahoma students.
OK Policy announced its two newest board members, NBC Oklahoma bank chairman Ken Fergeson and Edmond Public Schools superintendent David Goin. State policy wonks from both OK Policy and OCPA expressed disappointment with misleading strategies used by lawmakers in designing this year’s state budget. We’ve written about the secrets buried in the budget before, and our breakdown of the budget can be found here. A forthcoming lawsuit regarding the tax break for oil and gas drilling signed into law this session could raise big constitutional questions according to StateImpact Oklahoma. House members requested interim studies on off-the-top appropriations and the use of revolving funds.
An Oklahoma Board of Corrections meeting on a botched execution ended with no action taken taken by the Board. Officials say an investigation is continuing. A Tulsa World analysis found that two Tulsa-area legislators led the Legislature in missed votes. A Tulsa construction firm won a multi-million dollar bid to build a new Air Force training facility at Altus Air Force Base. Oklahoma Forestry Services has launched a new website to help users determine their wildfire risk. A new law designed to eliminate a tax on precious metals for investors incidentally makes gold and silver coins legal tender in Oklahoma. In a continuing profile of immigration in America, The New York Times featured Oklahoma City’s Lopez Foods, which is the primary beef supplier for McDonald’s.
The Number of the Day is the pounds of dairy milk produced by Oklahoma cows in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Associated Press discusses how states’ questionable efforts to boost their post-recession economies is widening the wealth gap.
In The News
Fallin signs Common Core repeal bill
The controversial Common Core standards for public schools in Oklahoma were repealed with the stroke of Gov. Mary Fallin’s pen Thursday. A new law known as House Bill 3399 scraps Common Core math and English standards for public schools and makes them revert to the standards used before 2010 until the state comes up with an alternative. The effort to create the Common Core standards was an attempt to provide curriculum standards that are consistent throughout the country. The National Governors Association — of which Fallin is chairwoman — and the Council of Chief State School Officers led the effort to create the standards.
See also: Common Core repeal could put Oklahoma schools under more federal control from the OK Policy blog.
Leaving Common Core Could Cost Oklahoma $125 Million, Standards’ Supporters Say
National Common Core supporters are urging Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to veto a bill pulling her state out of the controversial educational standards, citing high costs to both taxpayers and students if she acquiesces to the measure. The bill before Fallin, passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Oklahoma’s legislature, would revert Oklahoma to its old Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) standards, and then give the state two years to create new standards. The new standards will have to be reviewed and found sufficiently dissimilar to Common Core before being implemented. In a joint analysis published Monday by the Oklahoma Business Education Coalition and the Fordham Institute, a pro-Common Core national conservative think tank, advocates warn that abandoning Common Core in this manner could cost the state over $125 million, nearly $200 for each one of the state’s roughly 620,000 pupils.
Arne Doesn’t Have to Do This
I will say this for Governor Mary Fallin—she throws a wicked curveball! Two weeks ago I would have bet $100 that the governor would sign House Bill 2625 (RSA revision) into law, for no other reason that it was passed by veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate. She vetoed the bill and the legislature quickly overrode her veto. Today, I would have bet another $100 that she would veto House Bill 3399 that repeals the adoption of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in Oklahoma. Another curve – she signed the bill! I am glad I am not a betting man, especially with politicians. They are simply too unpredictable. I would be down 200 bucks already. At this point, it really doesn’t matter whether you are for or against the CCSS. Unless the courts intervene based on constitutional grounds, the governor’s signature essentially marks the death of common core in Oklahoma.
What Will Repeal of Common Core Standards Mean for Your Child?
Oklahoma became the third state in the nation Thursday to move away from the Common Core academic standards. Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill that repeals the controversial standards and gives Oklahoma two years to craft replacement standards in math and English. She follows South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who signed a similar bill May 30. Indiana dropped Common Core earlier this year. In explaining her move, Fallin said federal overreach has tainted what was once a state-led initiative to create rigorous standards meant to ensure students are ready for college or the workforce. “The words ‘Common Core’ in Oklahoma are now so divisive that they have become a distraction that interferes with our mission of providing the best education possible for our children,” Fallin said in a written statement.
Banker, education leader join OK Policy Board
Oklahoma Policy Institute is pleased to announce that NBC Oklahoma Chairman Ken Fergeson and Edmond Public School Superintendent David Goin have joined the organization’s Board of Directors. “We are delighted to be adding two outstanding individuals, Ken Fergeson and David Goin, who have made great contributions to the state through their professional careers and community service,” said Vince LoVoi, OK Policy’s Board Chair. “David and Ken will add to our tradition of building a strong board that reflects the political, geographic, and professional diversity of our state.”
Oklahoma budget games: Less is more, more or less
If analysts on the right and the left are to be believed, the Oklahoma Legislature managed to produce a state budget for the coming year that is both dishonest and impenetrable. Jonathan Small, fiscal vice president at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank, described the process this year as “the most egregious budget games yet.” David Blatt, executive director,of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, chided the budget tricks of the Legislature for their lack of transparency, and in a blog described legislative appropriations as “essentially unchanged” from last fiscal year to this.
Legal Challenge to New Drilling Incentive Could Raise Big Constitutional Questions
A controversial bill setting the effective tax rate on new oil and gas wells was one of the capstones of the 2014 legislative session. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the measure on May 28, ending months of intense debate and oil industry lobbying. But the bill is already headed for a legal challenge, and some of the constitutional questions could have a far-reaching effect because they could define the very words and terms lawmakers use to fund government in Oklahoma. The State of Oklahoma runs on tax revenue, and House Bill 2562 looks like a tax bill. It modifies the tax code. It changes a tax rate that provides revenue for state agencies. But the bill’s supporters say it’s not a “revenue bill.” The bill deals with taxes on new oil and gas production on new oil and gas wells, which replaces a tax incentive that expires next year that provided a tax break for horizontally drilled wells.
Oklahoma House Members Want To Explore State Revenue
Two House members have requested interim studies that would examine Oklahoma’s revenue streams. The requests come after Gov. Mary Fallin and her top budget advisor, Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Services Preston Doerflinger, who serves as the governor’s top budget advisor, began stressing in December the impact allocation of state revenues to specific purposes has on General Revenue Fund collections.
Oklahoma corrections board takes no action on execution probe
The Oklahoma Board of Corrections met behind closed doors for a briefing on an investigation into the botched execution of a death row inmate — but later took no action. The board met for about 45 minutes with the prison director and the agency’s top attorney Thursday at the Mack Alford Correctional Center in Stringtown. Director Robert Patton declined comment on anything related to the execution of Clayton Lockett until the ongoing investigation is complete. Gov. Mary Fallin ordered the investigation after Lockett’s vein collapsed during his lethal injection, prompting prison officials to halt the execution. Lockett later died of a heart attack. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said last week that “significant progress” is being made in the investigation — but did not elaborate further.
Two Tulsa-area lawmakers miss numerous votes
Two local lawmakers led the 54th Oklahoma Legislature in missed votes. Rep. John Trebilcock, R-Broken Arrow, missed 1,014 votes, or slightly more than 47 percent of the votes cast over both sessions of the 54th Legislature, which concluded its two-year run on May 23. Trebilcock, who served his final term due to term limits, did not return a phone call seeking comment. Percentagewise, he was followed by Sen. Mike Mazzei, R-Tulsa, who missed 892 votes or nearly 47 percent. Mazzei is recovering from a back injury he suffered in a 2008 car accident. He said his record greatly improved for the most recent session this past year.
Tulsa Construction Firm To Build New Air Force Training Facilities In Altus
The Ross Group Construction Corporation in Tulsa has been awarded the bid for a multi-million dollar contract with the Department of Defense. The group won the bid for a $16,645,200 firm-fixed-price contract for the construction of a KC-46A Fuselage Trainer Flight Training Center and the Fuselage Trainer at Altus Air Force Base. The KC-46A aerial refueling tankers will gradually replace an aging fleet of KC-135 aircraft. Altus will be the home of the formal training unit for the new aircraft which are scheduled to be delivered in 2016, according to the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center.
Oklahoma Wildfire Risk Website Available To Public
Oklahoma Forestry Services has rolled out a new website to help homeowners and communities determine their wildfire risk and eliminate potential hazards. The Southern Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal, or SouthWRAP, allows users in Oklahoma and 11 other states to identify wildfire threats based on landscape characteristics, historical fire occurrence, weather conditions and terrain. It also routes users to resources that can help them implement practices to address the threats and reduce risks. State Forester George Geissler says SouthWRAP is the best tool available to determine wildfire risk. It provides user-friendly public access to wildfire risk assessment data that previously wasn’t readily available.
Law makes gold, silver coins legal tender in Oklahoma; does away with “nonsensical” tax
A new law signed by the governor makes gold and silver coins legal tender in the State of Oklahoma. Organizers say it’s good news for investors of precious metals but it’s not intended to help people pay their day-to-day bills. Officials say the goal is to eliminate a tax that some lawmakers called nonsensical. “This is not something so people can buy a pack of gum or buy a car with a stack of gold coins. This is not that,” said Oklahoma Sen. Kyle Loveless. Loveless supported the bill, which passed the legislature before being signed by Gov. Fallin. The law specifically reads, “No person may compel another person to accept gold or silver coins, except as agreed upon by contract.” However, it does eliminate a tax on precious metals for investors.
The Faces Behind the Burgers
Just inside the entrance of Lopez Foods, a painting depicts a pale-faced cowboy and his son taking a break from the ranch, eating McDonald’s hamburgers. A few doors away, immigrants from all over the world mix and package the meat that makes that scene possible. “We just expect the food to be there and we have no idea what it takes to get there,” said John Patrick Lopez, a company executive and a son of the owner, referring to the worldwide clientele of McDonald’s. “The immigration piece of this is important.” Originally known as Anderson Meats, Lopez Foods is a main beef supplier for McDonald’s and an example of intersecting shifts in food processing and immigration along I-35. When Mr. Lopez’s father, John C. Lopez, first bought the company in 1992, after running a handful of successful McDonald’s restaurants in Los Angeles, the staff was mostly white or black, and Oklahoma City’s immigrant population remained small. But as the company has grown — sales now top $500 million annually — diversity has expanded inside and outside the plant.
Quote of the Day
“We just expect the food to be there and we have no idea what it takes to get there. The immigration piece of this is important.”
– John Patrick Lopez, an executive at Oklahoma City-based Lopez Foods, the primary beef supplier for McDonald’s. Ninety-two percent of the plant employees are Hispanic or Asian, and many are immigrants (source: http://nyti.ms/1i7vv1R).
Number of the Day
Pounds of dairy milk produced by Oklahoma cows in 2013, which is about 92 million gallons of milk.
State governments may be expanding wealth gap
Lawmakers in many states have been trying to boost their post-recession economies by cutting income taxes, curbing aid to the long-term jobless or holding down the minimum wage. Some have pursued all of these steps. Whether such policies will spur businesses to expand as hoped isn’t yet clear. But collectively, the actions could ease the financial burden for the states’ most affluent residents while reducing the safety net for those at the bottom. The shift may also contribute to a trend that is prompting growing national concern: the widening gap between the richest Americans and everyone else. The divergence has developed over four decades and accelerated in recent years.
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