In The Know: Gov. Mary Fallin decides against a special session on teacher raises

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.

Today In The News

Gov. Mary Fallin decides against a special session on teacher raises: Gov. Mary Fallin will not call for a special session of the Legislature to address raises for state teachers. Instead, following a meeting with legislative leaders on Thursday, Fallin’s office announced that an excess $140.8 million in revenues will be returned to state agencies. Michael McNutt, a Fallin spokesman, said the governor and legislative leaders discussed their commitment to an alternative teacher pay raise rather than University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s proposed sales tax increase that voters will consider Nov. 8 as State Question 779 [Tulsa World].

Right-to-Farm or Right-to-Harm: Oklahoma Voters Get Final Say With SQ 777: Oklahoma voters decide on State Question 777 in November. Supporters call the ballot initiative right-to-farm, but opponents prefer right-to-harm. It’s a divisive, national issue that’s made its way to Oklahoma, pitting agriculture against environmentalists and animal rights activists. By now, many Oklahomans have seen the signs and billboards for and against State Question 777, and organizations backing both sides of the issue are gearing up a television ad blitz [StateImpact Oklahoma].

New research finds Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains (Guest Blog: Deborah Phillips and William Gormley): In an era of high expectations of preschool education, new research finds that the Head Start program operated by Tulsa’s Community Action Program (CAP) has risen to the challenge. Since the early 2000s, we have been following children who participate in Tulsa CAP Head Start and Tulsa Public School pre-K programs. We found that positive initial effects of the program on participants’ readiness for kindergarten persist into middle school in the form of higher math achievement test scores, less grade retention, and less chronic absenteeism as compared to children of the same age and backgrounds who did not participate in CAP Head start or in the Tulsa Public Schools pre-K program in 2005-06 when the study began [OK Policy].

Educate Oklahoma: School Vouchers: This past year, the Oklahoma Legislature came closer than ever to creating “education savings accounts” or what critics simply call — school vouchers. Next year, the Legislature will almost certainly try again. The public school budget crisis, with fewer teachers and more students, is driving at least some interest in private education [News9].

Oklahoma ACT scores slip as record number take test: The ACT composite score for the class of 2016 is down in Oklahoma, but the number of students who took the test — and those who scored 30 or better — was at an all-time high. Oklahoma’s ACT composite score dropped from 20.7 to 20.4 after remaining steady for eight years. The national composite also slipped from 21 in 2015 to 20.8. The annual report on ACT scores was presented Thursday to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education by Matt Higdon, director of student preparation [NewsOK].

Regulatory concerns added to OneVoice Agenda: Regulatory concerns joined perennials such as education, health care and transportation on the annual list of legislative priorities formulated Thursday by the Tulsa Regional Chamber and its more than 60 partners in the OneVoice Agenda consortium. The OneVoice Agenda is a state and federal lobbying initiative involving chambers of commerce, local governments, educational institutions and others [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma faith leaders, other advocacy groups call for payday lending reform: Elise Robillard, of Norman, remembers when she was a struggling, cash-strapped teacher and payday loans seemed to be a stopgap solution to gain much-needed funds. “As a single mom, I was in a position where I was one flat tire or one sick kid away from a financial emergency,” Robillard said. Thursday, she joined a group of leaders from faith agencies and other organizations calling for reform of payday and auto title loans in Oklahoma [NewsOK]. Proposed federal rules around payday lending could keep Oklahomans out of debt traps [OK Policy].

Oklahoma has eighth highest obesity rate in the country, report says: One in three adult Oklahomans are obese, ranking the state in the top 10 for highest obesity rates in the country, a report released Thursday showed. Oklahoma has the eighth highest adult obesity rate in the United States, with almost 34 percent of adults obese, according to a report from health research advocacy groups Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation [NewsOK]. The report is available here.

OKC joins program aiming to drop beverage calorie consumption by 20 percent: While some cities have adopted soda taxes to curb consumption of sugary beverages, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has joined with two food and beverage industry groups to launch a new initiative called Balance Calories Oklahoma. The initiative is aimed at reducing beverage calories consumed per person in Oklahoma City by 20 percent nationally by 2025 with a motto of “Balanced What You Eat, Drink & Do.” [NewsOK]

Gomez’s new gig is more of the same: When he leaves the Oklahoma Health Care Authority this month, CEO Nico Gomez leaves an agency hammered by budget cuts to join an industry with the same problems. Gomez acknowledged the similarities Thursday, just a day after the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers announced he would assume the role of president and CEO next month [Journal Record].

Oklahoma City sales tax collections down six percent, below monthly projection: City leaders say the sales tax report in Oklahoma City has dropped from last year’s numbers and below the monthly projection. The August sales tax report shows the General Fund collections in Oklahoma City were down six percent compared to the same month last year. It also fell below the monthly projection by 5.6 percent [KFOR].

Oklahoma City among top airports for guns in carry-ons, TSA says: Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport is among several airports in the country where federal agents are finding a spike in loaded guns in carry-on bags, the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday. In August, five passengers at Will Rogers were caught with loaded firearms in their carry-on bags, TSA said. That’s the highest month for Oklahoma City so far this year [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“My frustration is the lack of engagement of the citizens in issues around local and state government. I just think the Legislature represents the voters who happen to be engaged in the process. My concern is with the lack of voter participation. Are people really paying attention?”

– Outgoing Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez (Source)

Number of the Day


Black homicide victims per 100,000 black residents in Oklahoma (2013), the 5th highest rate in the country.

Source: Violence Policy Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How the ‘war on drugs’ entrenches patterns of drug addiction: Since Richard Nixon famously called for an ‘all-out offensive’ on the war on drugs in 1971, the US government has funnelled a trillion dollars into the effort. What does the nation have to show for the spoils of this war? Addiction rates have remained stable for the past decade, while over half the population in its federal prisons are entered for drug-related offences. Perhaps the US war on drugs has failed because it fundamentally fails to understand addiction itself [Aeon].

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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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