In The Know: Millions poured into OKC schools facing closure, consolidation

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Millions poured into OKC schools facing closure, consolidation: The city spent more than $15 million in MAPS for Kids money to improve the six schools now targeted for possible closure or consolidation by Oklahoma City Public Schools, data shows. Another $5 million in bonds approved by voters in November is earmarked for maintenance, technology and transportation needs at targeted Edgemere, Gatewood, F.D. Moon, Green Pastures and Johnson Elementary schools and Northeast Academy for Health Sciences and Engineering Enterprise [NewsOK]. Residents fear possible Oklahoma City school closures could affect property values [KFOR]. Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017 [OK Policy].

Take TPS survey to see agonizing choices facing administrators: The last day to complete a survey to help prioritize budget cutsfor Tulsa Public Schools is Thursday. Take it. The survey best illustrates the agonizing choices school administrators are facing in making — yet again — millions more in budget cuts [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]. Tulsa school leaders are girding for a state appropriation cut of as much as $12 million [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. The survey is available here.

Accusations fly as House votes unanimously for $34 million DHS appropriation: Democrats and Republicans traded accusations and insults on the House floor Wednesday afternoon but agreed unanimously — and almost incidentally — on a $34 million supplemental appropriation for the Department of Human Services. Everyone agreed DHS needs the money to get through the current budget year. Apparently, the current budget was passed last spring with the understanding, at least on the part of some, that it didn’t include enough money to keep DHS going for a full 12 months, and a promise to do something about it when the time came [Tulsa World]. Without a supplemental appropriation, DHS doesn’t have the funds to pay providers for the care of more than 25,000 Oklahomans after April [OK Policy].

Prosperity Policy: What’s at stake: The Department of Human Services is one of Oklahoma’s largest and most critical state agencies. It operates a budget of over $700 million, has a 7,000-person workforce, and contracts with thousands of private providers. DHS provides care and support for the most vulnerable Oklahomans – like children who suffer neglect and abuse, individuals with developmental disabilities, and frail seniors. Last week, DHS Director Ed Lake sent a letter to agency staff and stakeholders about Oklahoma lawmakers’ request for budget scenarios if state funding is cut by up to 14 percent [David Blatt / Journal Record]. According to Director Lake, budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable.” [OK Policy]

‘Inhumane’ budget process leaves elders in fear: It has been said before that the true test of a civilization is how it treats its most vulnerable members. Unfortunately, by that measure, Oklahoma does not score highly. Chronic underinvestment in our health-care system has left the state’s skilled nursing facilities, which care for the vulnerable, elderly and very sick, with some of the lowest funding rates in the nation [Nico Gomez / Tulsa World].

Rainy Day Fund tapped for $300 million: As lawmakers squabble over teacher pay raises, zero-emission tax credits and abortion, it can be difficult to ascertain their top priority, but finance officials expressed theirs in no uncertain terms. They had to borrow almost $300 million out of the state’s reserves to keep agency allocations stable throughout fiscal 2017, and the state’s constitution mandates they pay all of it back when the year ends in June [Journal Record].

Senate Committee Votes To End Wind Tax Credit: A Senate panel voted to roll back promised tax credits for the wind industry. The legislation would end the wind tax credit three years earlier than what was previously negotiated. It could save the state roughly 60-million dollars a year in refunds. But opponents say, at what cost [News9]. Oklahoma’s wind subsidies are dwarfed by subsidies to the oil and gas industry [OK Policy].

Proposed Oklahoma fees on hybrids, electric cars would generate $1M annually: Proposed fees on electric and hybrid car owners in Oklahoma would raise a little more than $1 million each year, according to a legislative analysis. The bill that would implement the fees is moving through the Senate. It has already passed the Oklahoma House [NewsOK].

Misery loves company: Oklahoma one of many states with recurring revenue failure: As Oklahoma endures its most recent multimillion-dollar revenue failure, residents can at least take solace in the fact that they aren’t alone. This isn’t the only state where legislators fail to pass a budget that lasts through the fiscal year without slashing agency appropriations. In the past few years, more than 20 states have fallen into the same situation, said Arturo Perez, fiscal affairs program director for the National Conference of State Legislatures [Journal Record].

Mayors call ‘sanctuary city’ a political label: Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said President Donald Trump and his Cabinet should pay more attention to the details of their immigration policy rather than threatening “sanctuary cities,” which mayors said was an imprecise term used to stir up fears among voters. …Attorney General Jeff Sessions used the term “sanctuary cities” at the podium in the White House briefing room on Monday as he threatened to cut federal funding for any city that does not fully comply with current federal immigration laws [Politico].

Sen. Pugh plans to vote against House Bill 1482: State Sen. Adam Pugh will not support changes made by House Bill 1482, a legislative response to recently approved ballot measures, he said. “I think we need to be very cautious when we send a vote on a state question to the citizens of the state,” said Pugh, R-Edmond. “And then we take what they voted on and tell them we think you got it wrong and we’re going to make changes.” [Edmond Sun]

Corrections director says ‘Big Mac’ might become a medium security prison: Oklahoma’s venerable maximum security penitentiary at McAlester may be downgraded to a largely medium security facility, Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh told a House committee Wednesday afternoon. “We’re running out of time before we have a serious incident at McAlester because of the age, not only of the physical plant, but the technology,” Allbaugh told the House Public Safety Committee [Tulsa World].

Tulsa Women and Children’s Center offers chance for a fresh start: The Tulsa Women and Children’s Center treats the most severe cases of addiction in pregnant and parenting mothers. To get there, the women have already lost children to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services or are fighting to keep them. They have been to prison or face serving time if they fail to complete the program [Tulsa World].

Former state senator from Edmond headed to Tax Commission: Former Edmond state Sen. Clark Jolley, who served for years as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has been picked to serve on the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Gov. Mary Fallin’s appointment has to be confirmed by the Senate. Jolley would replace Dawn Cash, who left the commission this month to serve as first assistant attorney general. His term on the commission would end in 2023 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma’s Utilities Moving Away From Coal Despite Trump’s New Climate Order: President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order to roll back many Obama-era rules meant to combat climate change. …But officials with Oklahoma’s largest electric utilities say it likely won’t have a big impact on their future electricity generation plans [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Oklahoma is already well on its way to meeting the goals set by the Clean Power Plan [OK Policy]. 

Quote of the Day

“I am very frustrated with this Legislature. As a Republican, I believe in small government, but I also believe we do have a revenue problem. As chairman of the Human Services Committee for five years, I’ve seen that suffering you talk about, and I don’t like it. I don’t like it at all.” 

– Rep. Pat Owenby (R-Ardmore), bringing HB 2342, which would award the state Department of Human Services a $34 million supplemental appropriation, to the House floor. The measure passed unanimously (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children living in households where no parent had full-time, year-round employment in 2015


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The evidence is clear: people with Medicaid are better off than those without: One of the fiercest fights happening within the Republican Party right now is what to do about Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. The Affordable Care Act broadened Medicaid eligibility to cover millions more low-income Americans, and offered states federal money to recoup the costs. But only 16 states with Republican governors expanded Medicaid, including Ohio’s John Kasich, who is among a group of state leaders lobbying for continuing expansion. Seventeen governors rejected the option, though, often with the justification that Medicaid doesn’t actually improve people’s health [Vox].

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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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