In The Know: Group formed to fight Oklahoma pension overhauls

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 groups representing public school teachers, firefighters and prison workers are forming a coalition to resist dramatic changes to state worker pensions. Oklahoma’s reluctance to enforce coal mining regulations could lead to a federal intervention. The Oklahoma editorial board praised efforts to provide some mental health treatment at the Midwest City jail.

The OK Policy Blog and David Blatt’s Journal Record column explained why Oklahoma’s new third-grade reading law could block a huge number of special ed student from advancing to fourth grade. Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Clark Jolley and Senate Education Chairman Sen. John Ford responded that it was not their intent to hinder the progress of students with learning disabilities.

The Oklahoma Gazette examined the relationship between poverty and student performance in Oklahoma. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed what research has found about how poverty affects schools. Kurt Hochenauer wrote that we shouldn’t forget Oklahoma’s A-F grading system follows huge cuts to education funding by the state.

Superintendent Barresi promised that Oklahoma students will be given “tryout” questions instead of full field tests as the state prepares for Common Core. KJRH reported that Oklahoma’s new school safety law is confusing to districts and has no mechanism of enforcement.

The Number of the Day is the value of food and agricultural exports shipped through Oklahoma’s Port of Catoosa. In today’s Policy Note, a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that the uninsured rate for American children continues to fall because states are working with the federal government to provide coverage.

In The News

Group formed to fight Okla. pension overhauls

While Republican legislators set the stage Wednesday for an overhaul of Oklahoma’s public pension systems, groups representing public school teachers, firefighters and prison workers flexed their political muscle with the formation of a coalition to fight some of the proposed changes. Members of the newly created “Keep Oklahoma’s Promises” met at the Capitol following a joint meeting of a House and Senate committee whose members are expected to consider a plan to shift newly hired state workers from their current traditional pension system to a more 401(k)-style defined contribution plan.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Oklahoma resistance to coal mining regulations could lead to federal intervention

Oklahoma and the federal government aren’t getting along. From health insurance exchanges to power plant emissions, the Obama Administration just can’t seem to get Oklahoma to play ball. And there’s a lesser-known fight that’s starting to get more attention — over coal mining. More specifically, how land is treated after it’s mined. There’s a hearing underway in Poteau this week, where attorneys for Farrell-Cooper Mining Company are appealing federal violations at three of its former mines.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Laudable effort to stop the revolving door at Midwest City jail

Midwest City is about to embark on a program that, if successful, might encourage other Oklahoma municipalities to reconsider how they deal with the mentally ill and substance abusers who crowd their jails. Midwest City’s jail is partnering with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services on a pilot program that will treat offenders who suffer from substance abuse or mental health issues. The jail will spend $26,000 of its own money, with the state agency providing an additional $55,000.

Read more from NewsOK.

New third-grade reading law could block thousands of special ed student from advancing to fourth grade

A major change in Oklahoma’s education system is about to kick in. Under new provisions of the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA), third-grade students who do not attain a satisfactory score on a state standardized reading test will be retained in third grade at the start of the next school year, unless they meet limited criteria for an exemption. While the new law will have far-ranging impacts for schoolchildren and schools, for special education students with learning disabilities, the impact of RSA may be especially great.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: Prosperity Policy: Special Challenges from the Journal Record

Legislators respond to third-grade retention concerns

Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Clark Jolley and Senate Education Chairman Sen. John Ford released the following statement today in response to concerns regarding third grade retention legislation. “While we strive for the goal of seeing all Oklahoma students have the ability to read at grade level, we understand some students have learning challenges making that difficult to achieve across the board and it was not our intent to hinder the progress of students with learning disabilities.”

Read more from KFOR.

Poverty and A-F Grades

Hunger, poor living conditions and an unstable family life impact a child’s ability to learn more than classroom teaching, studies from education experts show. Researchers contend that crushing poverty is more significant than failing public schools or bad teachers. Two years ago, a Stanford University study documented the new “income achievement gap.” The report showed family income is the “biggest determining factor in a student’s academic achievement.”

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Previously: Do schools matter? from the OK Policy Blog

Never forget: A-F system follows major education cuts

It’s difficult to take the new ranking system seriously in the first place, given its inherent flaws, but to even discuss the issue without noting that of all states Oklahoma has cut education funding on a percentage basis the most since 2008 is a fallacy. As I’ve written before, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown that Oklahoma has cut education funding by 23 percent since 2008. That’s a staggering cut. It’s simply indefensible to implement a new draconian ranking system of schools after such a decrease in funding.

Read more from Okie Funk.

Barresi promises no double-testing as state prepares for Common Core

Some Oklahoma third- to eighth-graders will be given separate “tryout” questions on English and math tests in the spring as the state transitions to Common Core standards next year, the state Board of Education was told Wednesday. “Children will not be double-tested,” State Superintendent Janet Barresi said. The tryout questions will be given instead of complete field tests, which have been used previously. Field tests are given to a sampling of students by testing companies to evaluate questions for future use. They do not count in either a student’s grade or in a school’s state grade.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma school safety law confusing, toothless

It’s been six months since a massive EF-5 tornado ripped through Moore killing 25 people, including seven children in the Plaza Towers Elementary School. In the wake of that devastating tornado and the Newtown school shooting, state lawmakers beefed up the law intended to ensure children’s safety in public schools during both manmade and natural disasters. A three-month 2NEWS Investigation found school officials and some emergency responders to be confused about what the law requires, which has delayed its implementation.

Read more from KJRH.

Quote of the Day

The state Department of Corrections says about half of those incarcerated in Oklahoma’s prison system have a history of, or are currently exhibiting, some form of mental illness. Those problems often stem from long-term substance abuse. The two problems can go hand in hand. And when left untreated, those who suffer from these diseases can wind up in a revolving door at local jails.

-The Oklahoman Editorial Board (Source:

Number of the Day

$2.4 billion

The value of food and agricultural exports shipped through Oklahoma’s Port of Catoosa, the 13th busiest inland port out of 32 nationwide 

Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Children’s coverage on the eve of the Affordable Care Act

Here’s a good news story on health coverage that the public is largely unaware of. The number of uninsured children continues to decline to historic lows – a remarkable accomplishment given the high childhood poverty rate and tough economic times. Yet a majority of Americans are unaware of this achievement. Today we are releasing our annual look at children’s coverage rates. The report, entitled Children’s Health Coverage on the Eve of the Affordable Care Act, finds that the uninsured rate for children continues to decline reaching 7.2% in 2012. Our country’s success is a testament to what states can accomplish when they “lean in,” have adequate funding, and work with the federal government to meet the needs of families.

Read more from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Group formed to fight Oklahoma pension overhauls

  1. Those numbers haunt Springer and other educators because they know the tragic statistics that accompany them. They know there’s a 50-50 chance that a student who can’t read by the end of third grade will not graduate from high school. In states like California, they determine the number of prison beds the state will need in the future based on the number of kids who can’t read at the end of third grade.

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