In The Know: ‘Invalid and unreliable’: 2016 school report cards released

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

‘Invalid and unreliable’: 2016 school report cards released: One final time, the Oklahoma State Department of Education released school report cards based on a much-maligned calculation method even the state’s top educator has deemed invalid and unreliable. Across the state, there were 196 A’s, 455 B’s, 582 C’s, 319 D’s and 213 F’s this year. That means there were 16 percent more “F” schools and 8 to 9 percent fewer A and B schools, respectively [Tulsa World]. Here is the list of schools and their overall grades and scores for 2016 [Oklahoma Watch].

Board of Education OKs higher budget request, hears ideas to overhaul student testing system: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday got its first look at recommendations for overhauling the state’s student testing program and approved a higher budget request for fiscal year 2018. Oklahoma’s student testing and A-F school accountability systems need updating to meet new state and federal requirements. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said her administration is looking to close the “honesty gap” that has existed for years between Oklahoma’s state testing standards for student performance and the much-lower proficiency rates demonstrated by Oklahoma students on national tests [Tulsa World].

Chamber Leaders: Legislature’s Social Agenda Hurts Oklahoma’s Economic Development: Chamber of Commerce officials from Oklahoma’s two largest cities told lawmakers Wednesday focusing on social issues can harm economic development in the state. Tulsa Regional Chamber Senior Vice President of Economic Development Brien Thorstenberg told House and Senate members who gathered for a joint interim study that his organization constantly receives phone calls from businesses about Oklahoma’s stance on issues like North Carolina’s bathroom bill and Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “This is a workforce talent attraction aspect, and being able to attract talent,” Thorstenberg said [KGOU].

Tulsa Regional Mental Health Plan leaders partner with national firm to create roadmap for mental health improvements: Local mental health professionals and community leaders announced a partnership with a national research firm on Thursday to help create a road map for improving mental health outcomes in the Tulsa area. The Tulsa Regional Mental Health Plan is a 10-year community-wide effort to focus on regional mental health improvements and includes a leadership council with philanthropy, business, university, state and nonprofit representation. The initiative, led by the University of Tulsa and funded by the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, is partnering with the Urban Institute to develop a plan to provide better mental health care at a lower cost to the community [Tulsa World].

What will the general election reveal about Oklahoma? The political equivalent of Krazy Days is set to end officially on Nov. 8. Whether it does may depend on Twitter Dum’s mood at 3 the next morning, whether he’s won or lost – and by how much. Sadly, what’s been too-often overlooked amid @realDonaldTrump’s tweet-storms is the entirety of this year’s Oklahoma ballot, arguably the most consequential in a generation, if not more. The results of seven state questions – each politically, culturally and socially significant – will speak volumes about who we are as Oklahomans [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]. Our 2016 State Questions and Elections guide is available here.

Governor’s office was blindsided at end of budget negotiations: Oklahomans have not been told the whole truth about the current state budget. That should come to no surprise to anyone who follows the process, considering almost everything about the state budget decisions is done in secret. “It has been one of the biggest pain points in my time here, that process needs to be more transparent,” Oklahoma Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston Doerflinger told Fox 25. “Do I think that you can hold the entire process in public? No I don’t. But I think there are things that could occur in the public eye more than that occurs today.” [FOX25]

Oklahoma legislative study a clear waste of taxpayer funds: Politicians aren’t known for doing thorough cost-benefit analyses. If members of the Legislature performed one, there’s no way they would have conducted the interim study this week on “radical Islam, Shariah Law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicalization process.” The taxpayer costs were real, in stark contrast to the benefits generated by the study (none that are apparent). And the cost came not only through financial expense but also in a general loss of dignity [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Lawmakers Explore Expanding Heartland Flyer, Adding Stops To Keep It Viable: On Wednesday, state lawmakers explored the costs and the benefits of passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. State Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, requested the interim study to look at Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer line. He’s concerned that even though Oklahoma’s roughly $3 million annual contribution makes up about 60 percent of the two states’ subsidies to the rail service, Texas receives more of an economic benefit [KGOU].

Oklahoma Tribes Continue Support For Standing Rock Sioux: Thursday, police arrested protesters in North Dakota who are trying to stop the construction of a cross-country oil pipeline. The standoff between those who support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the pipeline developer continues despite the federal government request to halt construction near a water source. Oklahoma tribes continue their support for the Standing Rock Sioux, including members of the Cherokee Nation [NewsOn6].

Chickasaw Nation to develop casino at Lake Texoma: Gov. Mary Fallin and the Chickasaw Nation announced plans this afternoon for 50 acres of waterfront development at Lake Texoma. The effort will attempt to revive a local economy that saw Lake Texoma Lodge close in 2006 at the site, which was sold to private investors whose development stalled. Pointe Vista Development sold 50 acres of the property back to the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office in an agreement to settle lawsuits surrounding the defunct development [NonDoc].

Ponca Tribal Members Critical of Injection Wells Causing Earthquakes: While the city of Pawnee and the Pawnee Nation prepare to hold an earthquake forum on Saturday, some members of the Ponca Tribe make it clear they firmly blame the energy industry’s wastewater injection wells for causing earthquakes in the region. Especially the 5.8 magnitude early-September quake that turned out to be the strongest ever recorded in Oklahoma. “Some of our citizens have to have drinking water supplied to them for weeks at a time,” after an earthquake, says Casey Camp-Horinek, a Ponca Tribal Council member, according to a press release from State Rep. Richard Morrissette, a critique of the state’s response to earthquakes in the past few years [OK Energy Today].

Spill Stokes Fears At Cushing Oil Hub: While crews in Cushing continue to clean up oil after a pipeline break early Monday morning, the spill is stoking fears about what may be to come for the nation’s oil hub. The Seaway Pipeline is one of the largest in the nation, running 500 miles from Cushing to refineries in Freeport, Texas. Because it’s two pipelines, the owning company Enterprise could shut down one and keep oil flowing, but only 450,000 barrels per day [News9].

Quote of the Day

“These grades are meaningless, and I think it’s important for the public to understand that for the second year, at least, they need to dismiss this information. The only reason this information is even being released publicly is because it is required. It is a bureaucratic exercise. Everyone in the state — everyone — understands that this current system is not an accurate reflection of school performance in Oklahoma.”

– Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist on the second annual release of widely-criticized A-F school report cards (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma parents below 200% of of the federal poverty level (FPL; just over $32,000 per year for a single parent and child) who indicated that they had concerns about their child’s development, 2011-2012. Above 200% of FPL, 18% of Oklahoma parents indicated such concern.


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

A Plan That Can Help Millions: We all know that the lower-income half of the American public (give or take) has been taking it on the chin for more than four decades. However, bad as it is, it could be much worse. Of the 43-plus million people currently living in poverty, more than double that number would be poor if we lacked the public policies we currently have—Social Security, SNAP (Food Stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit, housing vouchers, and SSI, and more. They are crucial. Existing low-wage jobs—along with those jobs that have disappeared altogether—have both shaped our economy and devastated the lives of tens of millions. But the policies we have enacted have at least softened the blow [Democracy Journal]. 

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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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