In The Know: Millions of dollars headed back to Oklahoma state agencies

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

Millions of dollars headed back to Oklahoma state agencies: State agencies will be getting $34.6 million back. The money was taken when the state cut agency budgets in February when it appeared the state was likely to experience a revenue failure. It is being returned now that the state fiscal year is over and the state received enough tax revenue to fall within a 5 percent budget cushion. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa teacher turns to panhandling to raise money for classroom supplies: A Tulsa teacher is making a bold statement about the state of education as she pleads for money at a local intersection in order to pay for classroom supplies. Teresa Danks is a third grade teacher in the Tulsa Public Schools systems. As a result of serious education budget cuts, Danks says she is now spending between $2,000 and $3,000 of her $35,000 salary on supplies for her students. [Fox23] Oklahoma continues to lead U.S. for deepest cuts to education [OK Policy]

Oklahoma fiscal-year general revenue fund receipts below forecast: Oklahoma’s general revenue fund receipts were $175.9 million below estimates for fiscal year 2017, undercut by lower-than-projected corporate income tax returns, the state’s Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) said on Thursday. The fund took in $5.04 billion for the fiscal year ended in June, compared with a projected $5.22 billion in revenue, according to the government’s website. Corporate income tax returns were $165.7 million below their fiscal year estimate, a 55.9 percent shortfall, the OMES said in a statement. [Reuters

Oklahoma teachers flock to Copelin’s to buy supplies for new school year: Teachers across Oklahoma are getting ready for a new year with financial instability, new standards and the threat of a special session for the legislature. But during the Copelin’s Teaching Tools back-to-school sale last week, the focus of most educators was getting everything they needed for their classroom and preparing for a new class of students. Most teachers don’t get any funding from their district for supplies. Professional Oklahoma Educators Foundation Executive Director Ginger Tinney said it is frustrating for teachers to buy all of their own supplies for their classroom. [Norman Transcript]

Federal reversal on funding may worsen Oklahoma’s teen birth rate: Stunned by a letter saying a federal grant awarded two years ago has been terminated, Tulsa agency staffs are now scrambling to save teen pregnancy-prevention programs. Without notice, the federal government eliminated a five-year Teen Pregnancy Prevention grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health. Plus, a proposed budget has zeroed out all funding for family planning programs. [Ginnie Graham/Tulsa World] Oklahoma’s teen birth rate is near the highest in the country. We can do better. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma’s Inhofe, Lankford uncertain on health care repeal’s future: After meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on Wednesday, Oklahoma’s senators remained uncertain about the prospects of Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. On television and radio this week, U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, repeatedly urged fellow Republicans to reach a consensus and do what many voters elected them to do. [The Oklahoman]

Study finds adverse childhood experiences affect health and behavior: Research supports that disciplinary problems are often not the result of bad behavior; instead, bad behavior is deeply rooted in toxic stress. A swelling number of Oklahoma children and teenagers are experiencing traumatic events like abuse and neglect and witnessing behaviors like crime, parental conflict, mental illness and substance abuse, and Dorman argued the best way to remediate their harmful effects is to build and foster resilience in youth. [Oklahoma Gazette]

When School Lets Out and Meals End, Educators Struggle to Feed Students Over the Summer: For some low-income children in Oklahoma, summer does not mean vacation and playtime — It means being hungry. The lunch and breakfast these kids receive at school is no longer readily available, so they often go without — or they eat junk food. And while Oklahoma has summer food programs to combat this, there are roadblocks for many children. [StateImpact] Schools use food trucks to fight food insecurity during summer months [OK Policy]

Prosperity Policy: Don’t backpedal on early education: In many measures of health, quality of life, and funding of core public services, Oklahoma sits at near the worst in the U.S. – with a notable exception. For years we have been a national leader in offering high-quality, early education to all children. In 1998, Oklahoma became just the second state to provide free public preschool for all kids. Other states have begun to catch up, but as of 2016 we still had the third-highest participation in public preschool in the county. [Gene Perry/Journal Record] Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains [OK Policy]

NSU, other universities watching for further cuts: During 2017, those associated with higher education – students, faculty, staff, administration – are again on the circling carnival ride of funding cuts followed by tuition hikes. Earlier this summer, almost all of Oklahoma’s colleges and universities made their pitches to the State Regents for Higher Education to raise tuition and fees an average of just under 5 percent. Regents for the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University agreed in June to 5 percent tuition increases. Northeastern State University requested a 2.1 percent increase. [Tahlequah Daily Press] Oklahoma already led the nation in cuts to K-12 education. Now we lead in cuts to higher ed too. [OK Policy]

As Oklahoma eyes school standards, groups jockey to offer input: Oklahoma is preparing to submit its final school assessment plan to the U.S. Department of Education, but a variety of local education groups are hoping for at least a few more changes. After more than a year of work, the state Department of Education presented a new school assessment plan last year to meet new standards under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind following congressional approval in 2015. [The Oklahoman]

Despite prison capacity at 109%, Fallin says OK is leading criminal justice reform: After returning from a criminal justice summit in Washington DC, Mary Fallin says Oklahoma is on the leading edge of reforms. Right now, the state’s prisons are at 109-percent capacity and the state leads the country in the number of women behind bars. Despite that, Fallin says she thinks a brighter future is possible even after she’s no longer in charge, thanks to new programs taking effect. [KSWO] Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy]

Familiar politicos set sights on higher state offices: Some familiar names have recently filed campaign documents to seek higher offices in 2018, as nearly every statewide officeholder terms out. Republican Dana Murphy, who has served on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission since the 2008 election, said she will begin campaigning for lieutenant governor soon. Murphy could join state Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, in the Republican primary next year. Dominique Damon Block Sr., an Oklahoma City Republican, has also filed paperwork with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission to campaign for lieutenant governor. Former House lawmaker Dan Fisher, R-El Reno, hasn’t yet announced his campaign for governor but is planning a rally for late August. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“One thing you are going to see this year is the overcrowding of classrooms. We’ve had teachers tell us they would rather have smaller classrooms and forget the pay raise, that’s how bad it is. And, really, with the overcrowding, we are setting kids up for failure, especially in the year when they are learning to read. Classes aren’t even built to hold that many students. I wonder how many fire codes we’re breaking.”

– Ginger Tinney, Professional Oklahoma Educators Foundation Executive Director, speaking about the consequences of a lack of adequate funding for common education in Oklahoma (Source)

Number of the Day


Average monthly SNAP benefit per person in Oklahoma, 2016

Source: Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Racist Origins of Private School Vouchers: About three and a half hours southwest of Washington, D.C., nestled in the rolling hills of the Virginia Piedmont is Prince Edward County, a rural community that was thrust into the history books more than 60 years ago when county officials chose to close its segregated public schools rather than comply with court-mandated desegregation following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision.1 Like many public school districts in the South during the Jim Crow era, Prince Edward County operated a segregated school system—a system white officials and citizens were determined to keep by any means necessary. The scheme they hatched was to close public schools and provide white students with private school vouchers. [Center for American Progress]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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