In The Know: Low pay sends teachers out of Oklahoma, profession

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

Low pay sends teachers out of Oklahoma, profession: Salaries that rank near the bottom nationally, combined with growing frustration among public educators over budget cuts and what they perceive as a lack of respect from policy makers, have led to the migration of Oklahoma teachers to other states, or a departure from the profession altogether. The specific number of teachers leaving Oklahoma or leaving the education field is hard to determine. But interviews with dozens of educators by The Oklahoman revealed stories of teachers at all stages of their career seeking a change or uprooting their families in search of a higher income [NewsOK].

Beer, farming, religion, education among load of state questions likely on November ballot: Although only two state questions have officially been put on the ballot, prospects are nearly certain that several more will await voters at the polls on Nov. 8. Gov. Mary Fallin must issue a proclamation to put the measures on the ballot after passage by the Legislature or the successful circulation of an initiative petition. Officially on the ballot by order of the governor are state questions 777 and 776. Both were put on the ballot by lawmakers [Tulsa World].

Homework for the House: 71 interim studies slated: The 71 interim studies requested by state House members range from broad to specific, from odd to critical. State Rep. Dennis Casey wants to examine a practice that allows subcontractors and lumberyards to put liens on homes when a contractor skips town. State Rep. John Bennett asked to study radical Islam, Shariah law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicalization process [Journal Record].

Frozen child care subsidy thaws, but remains on thin ice: In welcome news for working families, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) announced at the end of June that it would lift the freeze on child care subsidy enrollment by August 1. In any given month, more than 30,000 Oklahoma kids get child care through the subsidy program; it’s a crucial support for these children and working parents. It’s good that the freeze has been thawed – but that a freeze was necessary highlights how Oklahoma’s revenue gaps directly harm working families [OK Policy].

State making progress on foster care goals: The state announced Thursday that it had achieved two important milestones: Recruiting 1,000 new foster families and reducing the number of children in state custody below 10,000 for the first time in three years. Both accomplishments are important in the state’s ongoing effort to meet federal court-approved standards for its foster care system, usually referred to as the Pinnacle Plan [Tulsa World Editorial Board]. Progress on reforming the child welfare system has been slow going since the plan was put in place [OK Policy].

Tulsa Talks police-violence forum seeks ways to turn ‘moment’ into a ‘movement’: Panelists and community members worked together Monday evening to address police violence issues and come up with feasible strategies to overcome them. More than 200 people packed into the Greenwood Cultural Center on Monday to talk about interactions with police. The panelists at the Tulsa Talks forum on police violence — who included local community leaders, experts and politicians — discussed their initial reactions to the recent shootings of black men by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, as well as the sniper attack on police officers in Dallas, and ways to improve policing and community relations in Tulsa [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City’s Black Lives Matter rally calls for systemic change, understanding: As the crowd marched into Bricktown on Sunday afternoon, a young black girl broke free from the mass and made her way to a white police officer who was standing alone, his eyes covered in sunglasses and a straight lip line across his face as he watched the protest pass by. The young girl tucked the sign she was holding under her arm and reached for the officer with both hands open, requesting a hug. His emotionless face gave way to a smile as he bent down to embrace her [NewsOK].

State Moves to Shut Down Virtual Charter School: Oklahoma education officials are taking their first action ever to shut down a virtual charter school, but the school is fighting the effort. The five-member Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the sole authorizer and sponsor of online charter schools, has moved to terminate its contract with ABLE Charter School for noncompliance with the law. ABLE, whose offices are in Oklahoma City, is the newest and smallest of five virtual charter schools in Oklahoma [Oklahoma Watch].

Urine testing labs draw scrutiny of Oklahoma attorney general’s office: The Oklahoma attorney general’s office is investigating a group of laboratories involved in the state’s booming urine testing industry, The Oklahoman has learned. While the investigation has yet to be officially confirmed, documents obtained through an open records request show the agency’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit is looking into some urine testing laboratories doing millions of dollars in business with Oklahoma health care providers. Will Gattenby, attorney general spokesman, said the agency can’t share much information because of “the sensitive nature of the investigation” [NewsOK].

State health officials warn against dangers of swimming in Oklahoma lakes: The Oklahoma State Department of Health has issued a warning for residents swimming in warm natural bodies of water. As the weather warms up, recreational bodies of water can be contaminated with germs from sewage spills, animal waste and water runoff. The risk for primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) also increases in the heat of the summer. PAM is a rare and usually deadly disease caused by infection with a single-celled organism. The organisms can be found in most lakes, ponds, and rivers and multiply in very warm and stagnant water [Fox 25].

Quote of the Day

“In Oklahoma, we were struggling, and I was about $60 (each month) away from qualifying for food stamps. That shouldn’t even be something that I am worried about as a teacher.”

-Beckie Eason, one of many teachers who have left Oklahoma public school teaching jobs in recent years for higher salaries in other states or careers (Source)

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahoma adults who reported having serious thoughts of suicide (2013-2014)

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Tricky Trend That’s Blurring Budget Transparency: State and local budgets are based on general fund revenues. The cash usually comes from such primary sources as income and sales taxes, and pays for a wide swath of government services. When managers talk about “balancing the budget,” they’re almost always referring to balancing the spending and revenues from this repository. Reliance on the general fund as the centerpiece of fiscal management, however, has growing flaws. This is largely because the general fund is diminishing as the main source of money for governments [Governing].

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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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