In The Know: Key items on Fallin’s legislative agenda come up short

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

Key items on Fallin’s legislative agenda come up short: A little past the midway point in the legislative session, some of Gov. Mary Fallin’s key proposals have fallen by the wayside. But as lawmakers head to a late May adjournment, there is ample time for some of her other initiatives to secure legislative approval. In her Feb. 1 State of the State address, Fallin called on lawmakers to send her a bill creating education savings accounts, also called vouchers, where tax dollars could go to fund students attending private and or religious schools. A measure to create the program failed to garner legislative support [Tulsa World].

Budget Emergency: It’s Time to Do Something: Oklahoma lawmakers face a stark choice in the face of a $1.3 billion state budget shortfall. They can risk irreparable damage to our state by doubling-down on deeper budget cuts. Or, they can find new recurring revenues that will limit the severity of cuts, protect essential services, and put us on a more sustainable path. The choice comes down to doing nothing or doing something [OK Policy].

As Budget Pressures Mount, Extra Time in Classroom Dries Up: Oklahoma requires one of the shortest school years in the nation, in terms of instructional days. But that hasn’t stopped a growing number of districts from ending their school year early this year or moving to four-day weeks to deal with cutbacks in state funding. Oktaha, Ada, Bixby, Canadian and other districts are shaving days in class from their semesters by cashing in unused snow days, so they will still meet the minimum instructional hours required by the state. In a normal budget year, they would have taken advantage of that extra time in the classroom, school officials said [Oklahoma Watch]. Catoosa Public Schools announced yesterday that it’s going to four-day weeks due to budget cuts, too [Tulsa World].

The lottery is giving money to Oklahoma schools, massive budget cuts just make it hard to tell: Earlier this year, districts found out they would have to slash their budgets. It’s an unimaginable – and seemingly impossible – task to adjust their budgets at this point in the year. Our schools are hurting, especially after finding out they must brace for deeper cuts in state funding. The budget crisis has left many Oklahomans wondering, “Why hasn’t the lottery helped Oklahoma’s education funding problems?” The truth is, the lottery has helped some, but with budgets being slashed in recent years, Oklahomans haven’t been able to see much of a difference [KFOR]. The lottery grows state revenue by inches, while lawmakers have been pruning off yards [OK Policy].

Oklahoma has abandoned Jefferson’s ‘crusade against ignorance’: Public education is the cornerstone of American life. The founders of the United States argued education was essential for the new nation’s survival and prosperity. The author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, said America must give high priority to the “crusade against ignorance.” The national education system that developed in the U.S. in the 19th century was different from the systems in other Western societies in three ways. Today, Oklahoma lawmakers don’t grasp those three principles of education [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise Editorial Board].

Sources: Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent planning to resign from district: As the budget crisis continues to take a toll on public education across Oklahoma, the state’s largest school district is facing a new challenge. On Monday, sources confirmed to NewsChannel 4 that Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Rob Neu told board members that he would be resigning from that position. A special board meeting is set for Thursday evening to discuss Neu’s employment with the district [KFOR].

9 Investigates: Oklahoma’s Investment In Education: No potential victim of Oklahoma’s latest revenue failure has received more attention than common education. In a state that already has among the lowest education outcomes in the country, there is understandable concern that local schools can ill afford to have their budgets slashed. But even before this latest financial setback, Oklahoma students were at a funding disadvantage that is being felt right where it hurts, in the classroom [News9].

Okla. Authorities Have or Use Controversial Cellphone Tracker: At least two Oklahoma law enforcement agencies possess or have used a controversial device, shrouded in secrecy, to track and collect information from cellphones, an Oklahoma Watch investigation found. The devices, often referred to as “cell site simulators,” are controversial because they collect information not only from criminal suspects, but also potentially from scores of other surrounding cellphone owners who have no idea the data is being gathered. The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs has owned such a device for years but said it has never been used. The Oklahoma City Police Department has borrowed one from the FBI but refused to release any details about its use [Oklahoma Watch].

Oklahoma isn’t the meanest state: On March 10, a collective sigh of relief was heard across the state from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-conforming Oklahomans. That was the day that any bills not brought to the floor for a vote in the bill’s house of origin were considered dead. More than a dozen anti-LGBT bills had been introduced this session and about another 16 or 17 were held over from last year. Several media sources had pointed out that Oklahoma led the nation in the meanest and messiest works of quasi-lawful discrimination [Toby Jenkins / Tulsa World].

Allbaugh actively seeking ways to help Oklahoma corrections: A package of sensible criminal justice reform bills is making its way through the Legislature. These four bills, backed by Gov. Mary Fallin, are designed to stanch the flow of men and women who wind up incarcerated in Oklahoma. They’re a step in the right direction. But in the view of interim Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh, they amount to “nibbling around the edges” of the problem. Much bigger moves are needed, Allbaugh says, and he intends to drive that point home as often as possible [Oklahoman Editorial Board].

Democrats call for Republican leadership disaster declaration: House Democrats filed a resolution on Monday calling for a disaster declaration based what they said is a failure of Republican leadership to adequately address the state’s funding crisis. The resolution was read during a press conference in the House lounge. House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, used the press conference as an opportunity to encourage those upset with the funding crisis to file for office [Tulsa World].

Ex-Oklahoma legislator spearheads medical marijuana effort: A former Democratic state legislator who ran for governor in 2014 is spearheading an effort to let Oklahomans vote on whether to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Former state Rep. Joe Dorman is a board member of the group Oklahomans for Health, which filed an initiative petition on Monday to begin gathering signatures to place the proposal on the ballot in November. The group will have 90 days to gather about 66,000 signatures from registered voters to get the proposal on the ballot [Associated Press].

Quote of the Day

“The national education system that developed in the U.S. in the 19th century was different from the systems in other Western societies in three ways: Americans regarded education as a solution to social problems. The power of education led Americans to provide more years of schooling to to more students than other countries. Educational institutions primarily were governed by local authorities than federal ones. Today, Oklahoma lawmakers don’t grasp those three principles of education. Instead, they crusade for lower tax rates to entice more industry to the state. In doing so, they don’t understand these industries require a highly educated and trained workforce.”

-Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise Editorial Board, arguing that legislators have failed the purpose of the education system (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma enrollees on from rural zip codes

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Poor Americans deserve better banking options—and the solution is obvious: According to data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 17 million Americans are “unbanked”—they are without bank accounts—while 58 million are “underbanked,” meaning they lack access to traditional banking services, from check cards to saving accounts. Overwhelmingly, these are poor and working Americans without the steady income you need to keep an account in good order. When one month is flush and the other is fallow, it’s hard to maintain a balance, which leads to fees and other hits to your income. The FDIC found that more than 57 percent of unbanked households said they didn’t have enough money to keep an account or meet a minimum balance, while 35.6 percent of underbanked households said the same [Slate].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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