In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zebre.
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Today you should know that a new Oklahoma law requires married couples with minor children seeking a divorce to pay for and complete a class on the impact divorce has on children. State Treasurer Ken Miller argued that next year’s budget is bigger than this year’s, contrary to claims by legislators. OK Policy previously explained that while next year’s budget is slightly smaller, the drop is much less than descriptions of the budget deal made it seem.
David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed impending cuts to health care for low-income adults and Oklahomans with disabilities, and why this was an avoidable disaster. On the OK Policy Blog, JeVonna Caine discusses why Oklahoma is finding it difficult to recruit more primary care physicians, despite the huge need. OK Policy previously laid out policy recommendations to increase the supply of primary care providers.
Governor Fallin has until Saturday to decide whether she will repeal Common Core State Standards just as districts are supposed to be implementing the standards for the 2014-2015 school year. On the OK Policy Blog, we explained how repealing the Common Core could actually lead to more federal control of Oklahoma schools. Civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Oklahoma to support an initiative to fund storm shelters in Oklahoma schools.
With no new funding for the American Indian Cultural Center coming from the state, private sponsors of the project say a plan for moving forward needs to come together in the next 45 days. The City of Norman is considering whether to pipe in more water from outside the city or to increase wastewater reuse and conservation to ensure adequate supplies. The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma has signed an agreement with the state to clean up contaminated waste leftover from decades of mining at the Tar Creek Superfund site.
Some suburban police chiefs questioned the timing of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office proposal to assess fees for holding uncharged inmates in the Tulsa Jail. The Tulsa World profiled the StoneSoup nonprofit initiative to establish a pay-what-you-can-afford cafe in Tulsa. An Oklahoma telephone companyhas been charged by federal authorities in a $25 million scheme to defraud a federal telephone subsidy program for low-income customers. The New York Times published a long feature on Tulsa’s St. Thomas More Catholic Church, which has become a center of the city’s Hispanic community.
The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma community college students who earned an associate’s degree within three years of enrollment as a new freshman. In today’s Policy Note, a new study showed that Medicaid expansions in previous decades have reduced the rate of high school dropouts and increased college attainment.
In The News
New Oklahoma law requires class before many divorces
Getting a divorce based on incompatibility will be a little more complicated after Nov. 1. A bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Mary Fallin requires married couples with children younger than 18 and who are seeking a divorce based on incompatibility to pay for and complete an educational program. The fee for the class will be $15-$60. The class will cover the impact divorce has on children. The law will allow the parties to attend the classes separately or together.
Oklahoma treasurer says next year’s budget bigger than this year’s, contrary to previous explanations
A budget bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Mary Fallin includes $110.1 million in immediate spending increases for state agencies, and then cuts spending for many of these same agencies in the fiscal year that starts next month. Why increase spending now only to cut it later? Politicians in charge of the process simply wanted to make it seem like next year’s budget is smaller than this year’s, even though the opposite is true, Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller said.
See also: Games legislators play from the OK Policy Blog
An avoidable disaster
Oklahoma’s legislative session is over, but the effects of the decisions made in recent months are just beginning to be felt. This is particularly true for the state’s health care system, where providers and patients alike are bracing for painful cuts that could have been averted. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which operates the state Medicaid program, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services enter the new fiscal year facing large shortfalls. The Health Care Authority expects to slash payment rates for almost all providers by nearly 8 percent, which could put rural hospitals’ finances in jeopardy and lead some providers to simply stop serving Medicaid patients. It also plans to impose new limits on health benefits and hike co-payments for low-income adults and Oklahomans with disabilities.
Oklahoma needs more primary care physicians, but we’re still putting up barriers
With the influx of insurance enrollment through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ACA, aka Obamacare), nationwide uninsured rates are at their lowest since 2008. This signals an impending increase in the demand for primary care services. However, Oklahoma is currently ranked 48th in the nation for access to primary care physicians (PCPs). Oklahoma needs to do better to grow the supply of primary care physicians, but we still put up significant barriers. Work-related stress, declining reimbursements and increasing administrative requirements all discourage medical students from training to be PCPs, particularly in rural communities.
See also: Action Items for Oklahoma: Health Care – Improve Health Outcomes through Smart Policy Reforms from OK Policy
Fallin Weighs Political Factors in Common Core Decision
In many respects, Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision on whether to retain the Common Core academic standards in Oklahoma involves political calculations. Fallin has until Saturday to decide whether she will repeal Common Core State Standards just as districts are supposed to be implementing the standards for the 2014-2015 school year. A decision either way could sway the votes of many parents and educators heading to the polls for the June 24 primary or Nov. 4 general election — or at least affect the intensity of support or opposition this year.
See also: Common Core repeal could put Oklahoma schools under more federal control from the OK Policy Blog.
Civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson backs initiative to fund storm shelters in Oklahoma schools
The reverend walked hand-in-hand with a mother who lost her son and a boy who lost his brother. In matching T-shirts, each with seven names etched on the back, they stood in front of Plaza Towers Elementary School on Wednesday for a public declaration of strength amid tragedy. The issue of providing state public schools with funds for storm shelters is not political, civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, but rather a question of morality. Jackson was joined by Mikki Davis — mother of Kyle Davis, 8, who was one of seven children who died at Plaza Towers in the May 20, 2013, storm — at the microphone with hands held tight.
American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is working to keep donors on board
Donors are sticking with their commitments to complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum — but patience is running short. A plan for moving forward needs to come together in the next 45 days, the museum’s lead fundraiser, civic leader Lee Allan Smith, said Wednesday. The Legislature adjourned last month without finding $40 million to complete the half-finished museum. Donors have pledged to match the state’s share, providing $80 million to open it.
Norman Narrows Its Options For How To Have Enough Water in 2060
At a public meeting on Tuesday, residents in Norman — where the water system is stressed due to population growth and age, and drought has taken a toll on already troubled Lake Thunderbird — heard about the city’s two options for water sustainability through 2060. The Norman Transcript‘s Joy Hampton reports both options would keep Lake Thunderbird and the city’s wells as the main water sources, and continue the push toward conservation that has already “reduced the per-capita demand.”
Northeast Oklahoma Tribe Signs More Agreements For Waste Site Cleanup
The Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma has signed an agreement with the state to clean up contaminated waste leftover from decades of mining. The tribe announced Wednesday that it has signed the agreement with the State of Oklahoma and the Environmental Protection Agency to perform additional remediation within the Tar Creek Superfund site. The tribe earlier this year became the first in the nation to successfully clean up a federal hazardous waste site. Under the agreement, the tribe will remove approximately 72,000 tons of contaminated material and haul it to a nearby repository.
Some municipal police chiefs upset over Tulsa Jail inmate fee proposal
Some suburban police chiefs question the timing and basis of a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office proposal that would assess their departments fees for holding uncharged inmates in the Tulsa Jail. Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz recently notified area municipalities that beginning July 1 the Tulsa Jail will not accept inmates who have not been formally charged with state crimes unless the Sheriff’s Office is compensated for holding them. The notification letter, which was sent to at least 11 cities in the county, states that the Sheriff’s Office “will no longer accept inmates on open state charges unless agreed to by a memorandum of understanding or contract.”
‘Food justice’ focus of StoneSoup nonprofit initiative
Growing up in poverty with a single mother in California, Christy Moore learned what it meant to be food insecure. “My brother and I frequently found ourselves in a situation where we didn’t know where our next meal was going to come from and had to make some difficult decisions,” she said. “I remember that going to charities didn’t always feel good.” Moore culled from that experience when she founded the StoneSoup Community Venture, a nonprofit with the mission of establishing food justice projects around diverse table and community settings in Tulsa. Its first project is Tulsa’s Table, a community café with a pay-what-you-can-afford pricing model and an emphasis on fresh, local foods.
Federal government charges Oklahoma telephone company with fraud
An Oklahoma telephone company, its owner and a vendor have been charged by federal authorities in a $25 million scheme to defraud a federal telephone subsidy program for low-income customers, officials said. Wesley Yui Chew, Icon Telecom Inc. and a Mexican national, Oscar Enrique Perez-Zumaeta, were charged in federal court in Oklahoma City in cases involving the federal Lifeline fund. Money for the program comes from Universal Service Fund fees added to telephone customer bills. Authorities said Chew, 53, and Icon conspired with Perez-Zumaeta, 55, to get fraudulent reimbursements from the Lifeline administrator, Universal Service Administrative Co. The scheme involved fake customer lists and recertification forms.
Celebrations of Life
St. Thomas More Catholic Church has more members than many towns have residents. With a congregation of nearly 10,000 people, 90 percent of them Hispanic, it is Oklahoma’s largest Roman Catholic parish — a dynamic, always overflowing version of what can be found in many other congregations up and down I-35. “The church is a point of reference for everything,” said the Rev. José María Briones, one of two Mexican priests at St. Thomas credited with drawing Tulsa’s Hispanic residents to the church. “This is where they find a plumber, a lawyer, a girlfriend.”
Quote of the Day
“We have a lot of agencies in Tulsa that meet the emergency needs of those who are going hungry, but this is a different model that brings you and I together around a table with those who also have need for food in ways that brings dignity and builds community.”
–Christy Moore, founder of the Stone Soup Community Venture, which is establishing a cafe where diners can pay whatever they can afford in cash or volunteer hours (Source: http://bit.ly/1rO6678)
Number of the Day
Percentage of Oklahoma community college students in 2011-12 that earned an associate’s degree within three years of enrollment as a new freshman.
Kids who get health insurance are more likely to finish high school and college
We know health insurance influences health — but can it change educational outcomes, too? A new study says yes. The paper, recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, examined expansions of Medicaid in the 1980s and 1990s. The authors found that the expansions resulted in consistent improvements in high school and college attainment. A 10 percentage point increase in childhood Medicaid eligibility reduced the rate of high school dropouts by 5 percent and increased completion of a bachelor’s degree by 3.3 to 3.7 percent.
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