In The Know: Nearly one-third of Oklahoma school districts now on a four-day school week

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

Nearly one-third of Oklahoma school districts now on a four-day school week: About a month into the school year, the jury is still out regarding a move to a four-day week at two area districts that made the change this year. Although leaders at Wagoner and Catoosa school districts say the transition to the new schedule has been smooth, they agree that it is too early to tell what total savings will be and whether academics will be affected [Tulsa World]. Four-day school weeks could leave thousands of Oklahoma kids hungry [OK Policy].

Opponent says education tax proposal aims to return Oklahoma to its ‘Dark Ages’: An opponent of State Question 779 threw another chip on the table Friday. Jonathan Small of the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs told a local Republican gathering the 1 percent education sales-tax proposal is a political ploy calculated to give the state’s GOP leadership a “black eye” and send the state “back to the Dark Ages of Oklahoma.” State Senator Brian Crain (R-Tulsa) disagreed with Small, saying the tax proposal is the only practical solution to a “crisis” in school funding [Tulsa World]. See OK Policy’s guide to SQ 779 and Oklahoma’s other 2016 state questions here.

Office of Juvenile Affairs hopes to reverse decline in budget: The Board of Juvenile Affairs approved a request Friday to ask the Oklahoma Legislature to increase the agency’s budget in hopes of reversing a gradual funding reduction over the last several years. The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs budget for the current fiscal year is $92 million, significantly lower than the $112 million the agency received in the 2010 fiscal year. Executive Director Steve Buck told the board that for the department to provide youthful offenders in the state with adequate education and treatment to avoid a life of crime in adulthood, an increase in its budget will need to happen [NewsOK].

With declining inmate population, two new Tulsa Jail pods may be used in alternative ways: Two of the four new Tulsa Jail pods may not house inmates in the way pitched to voters in 2014 because of declining incarceration rates, but they still hold value to the Sheriff’s Office. The David L. Moss facility, with an average daily jail population of about 1,500, is under capacity by a few hundred inmates, unlike years past when it was at or over its limit. But Sheriff’s Office leaders say the two pods in question could house a work-release program with the installation of an entrance and exit [Tulsa World].

Attorney calls for release of video in fatal shooting by Tulsa Police officer: The Tulsa Police Department plans to release unedited video of a man who was fatally shot by a Tulsa officer, and they’ve contacted the Department of Justice to assist in the ongoing investigation. Terence Crutcher, 40, died after he was shot Friday night by a Tulsa officer near 36th Street North and Lewis Avenue, where his SUV was stalled in the street. Terence Crutcher’s twin sister, Tiffany Crutcher, said there is “a lot of speculation” about what happened but maintained that “one fact I do know is that my brother was unarmed” [Tulsa World].

Candidate for Oklahoma County sheriff disciplined for misconduct while trooper: The Republican candidate for Oklahoma County sheriff was disciplined while a state trooper for misconduct involving a female police cadet and for lying during an internal affairs investigation, a notice of the action shows. Mike Christian also was disciplined for bringing beers to cadets at the Oklahoma Police Corps academy in Ada. Christian is now a state representative living in Oklahoma City [NewsOK].

Oklahoma death penalty question faces bipartisan opposition: A proposal to ask Oklahoma voters to enshrine the death penalty in the state’s nearly 100-year-old constitution sailed easily through the Legislature, but now is facing opposition from groups on opposite ends of the political spectrum. In addition to various faith and civil rights organizations that traditionally oppose capital punishment, several conservative groups and the newly recognized Oklahoma Libertarian Party also are joining the fight against State Question 776 [Associated Press].

Some Oklahoma clergy fear State Question 790 is going down ‘dangerous road’: State Question 790 has been sold as an effort toward religious liberty, but opponents of the ballot initiative believe it could do more harm to churches and religious organizations. “There are already a lot of protections that churches and religious organizations enjoy that I think would be threatened if this were to pass,” said Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, an advocacy group out of Washington. Religious organizations and churches are exempt from certain discrimination and civil rights laws, but Walker said he worries with the passage of SQ 790 that exemption could end for religious organizations that are able to accept state funds [NewsOK].

More Oklahoma House races to watch this November: Last week I reviewed 10 House races that will be interesting to follow. As I said then, it’s hard to know if these races are actually competitive without in-depth analysis, but I think they are at least worth some attention for people who want to follow the legislature. This week we’ll look at 11 more House races. Keep in mind there may be others that are worth following, too [OK Policy].

New state seismologist anticipates scientific challenges: Oklahoma’s new state seismologist said he’s looking forward to the scientific challenges he’ll face at his new job. Jake Walter is young, has studied triggered earthquakes, and has skills that will complement those of the other employees, said Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Jeremy Boak. Petroleum engineer Kim Hatfield said Walter is likely to face scrutiny from all sides. Walter will be more insulated from the public pressure his predecessors faced, said Hatfield, the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association’s chairman of the induced seismicity work group [Journal Record].

Most states on track to meet emissions targets they call burden: The 27 states challenging Obama’s Clean Power Plan in court say the lower emissions levels it would impose are an undue burden. But most are likely to hit them anyway. Already, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Dakota appear to be meeting the CPP’s early targets. And changes in the power market, along with policies favoring clean generation, are propelling most of the rest towards timely compliance [Reuters]. Many of the projects that could help Oklahoma reach its emissions goal are already in place or in the process of being implemented [OK Policy].

Oklahoma’s first new abortion clinic in 40 years opens doors: Despite facing some of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion laws, a Kansas-based foundation opened a new facility in Oklahoma City — the first new abortion provider in the state in 40 years. The Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center welcomed the first patients last week to its clinic on the Oklahoma City’s south side. Six licensed physicians are providing services there, including abortions, OB-GYN care, family planning, adoption and emergency contraception. “If you look at this part of the country, there is a lack of access to reproductive health care, and frankly a lack of access to health care across the board,” Trust Women’s founder and CEO Julie Burkhart said Friday [Associated Press].

Program finds more housing for homeless veterans: Richard Hicks, 49, has spent the last 16 years living on couches or in his car, or sleeping outside. On Friday, he received keys to his apartment. It’s been a long journey for the U.S. Army veteran. He said getting the keys to his own place was wonderful. “I’m like, ‘I really made it,’ at least to this point,” he said. There are more than 40 nonprofit organizations that are working daily to get Oklahoma City’s homeless veterans into homes. The city is part of a federal program that has a goal to end veteran homelessness by 2016’s end [Journal Record].

Coweta Schools Issues Apology For ‘Scalp The Indians’ Float: Coweta Public Schools sent a letter of apology to students and parents following a homecoming float created for their upcoming game against Catoosa. The decoration turned into a racial sensitivity lesson for Coweta students. In Catoosa, images of Indians are everywhere – the school mascot is on every building. But the vision of Indians as the mascot is far different than the one on a decoration for the Coweta High School homecoming, showing a dead Indian in the back, the float has “Scalp the Indians” on the side [NewsOn6].

Quote of the Day

“We changed our focus to gear it toward (the veteran population). They have been phenomenal. They have a great work ethic. They want to be left alone. They just want a nice, quiet place to live. We’ve had nothing but success with them.”

-Leon Riggs, property manager for one of the 40 nonprofits in Oklahoma City participating in a federal program that aims to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2016 (Source).

Number of the Day

13.9 percent

Oklahoma’s uninsured rate in 2015, third highest in the U.S. behind only Texas and Alaska.

Source: U.S. Census

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Moms are filling American jails: Over the past four decades, the number of people locked in U.S. jails on any given day has swelled from about 157,000 to approximately 750,000. They’re mostly men. But the fastest-growing incarcerated group is women. Since 1970, the number of jailed women has grown 13-fold, from about 8,000 to almost 110,000, according to a new report from the Vera Institute of Justice and the the Safety and Justice Challenge. Nearly 80 percent are mothers of small children, many of them single [Washington Post].

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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