In The Know: OK School Districts Desperately Need Help As Testing Nears

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

OK School Districts Desperately Need Help As Testing Nears: State testing is just weeks away and school districts across Oklahoma don’t have enough test monitors. Part of Erin Lester’s job as the director educational indicators at Tulsa Public Schools is to make sure schools are ready for state testing; each testing room requires at least one test administrator and a test proctor. Lester said schools usually use para-professionals and teachers’ assistants to fill the spots but because of budgets cuts, many of the positions are now gone. [NewsOn6]

Oklahoma higher education hopes funding will be restored, not slashed: Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities want lawmakers to restore $148 million in funding that was cut last year, but — with the state facing a nearly $900 million shortfall — another cut is more likely. The appropriation for higher education was reduced by $157 million or 16 percent, one of the biggest cuts last year in the state budget. Another large cut would hurt the quality of education students receive and the quality of Oklahoma’s workforce, she said. [NewsOK]

Bill to allow out-of-state insurance would destroy autism mandates, other state requirements: As we are struggling to maintain health-care coverage in our federal government, we are also in danger of losing meaningful health-care coverage in our state government. Senate Bill 478 is being touted as a “more affordable and flexible” way to get insurance to Oklahomans by authorizing out-of-state insurance companies to do business in Oklahoma. [Autumn Ryan/Tulsa World]

Proposed OK Bill Intends To Help Rural Doctor Shortage With Tax Breaks: A bill making its way through the Oklahoma Legislature could help fight the state’s health care shortage, especially in rural areas. If passed, House Bill 2301 would give rural doctors an income tax break of $25,000 a year. It’s an incentive that Oklahoma desperately needs. For a long time, Oklahoma has struggled with a shortage of primary care doctors, especially in small towns. [NewsOn6]

State House blocks email address after flood of messages, complaints: A minor cyberflap erupted last week after it became known that the Oklahoma House of Representatives had blocked external emails addressed to “” According to House staff, the email was created years ago for internal messages to all House members. Once it leaked onto the internet, though, members found their inboxes bombarded with a message of unknown origin chastising them for spending too much time on issues such as bear hunting and Ten Commandments monuments. The address was then blocked from external addresses. [Tulsa World]

Wayne Greene: April fools! It may be a long time before we get the state budget figured out: Another April 1 has passed, and the Oklahoma Legislature has once again broken the law. In 2003, the Legislature passed and then-Gov. Brad Henry signed the Fund Education First Initiative. The law, first championed by then-Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin and then-state Sen. Scott Pruitt, requires that the Legislature pass full funding for public schools no later than April 1. Lawmakers abided by the law in 2003, and never again. [Wayne Green/Tulsa World] See our Online Budget Guide for more information about the budget process.

Letter to the editor: SQ 640 major block to raising state revenue: In 1992, we passed State Question 640, which requires a super majority vote in the Legislature or a vote of the people to pass any tax increase. This has tied the hands of the Legislature to fix the budget crisis. During the meeting, I asked for a show of hands of who would not be willing to have our Legislators put on the ballot a state question to again require a simple majority vote to raise or lower taxes. Out of the 50 community members attending, only one hand was raised. [Ed Long/Tulsa World]

Oklahoma lawmakers missing the big picture: The Legislature is halfway through this year’s session, but there’s still little indication of broad goals, strategy or focus. That’s in keeping with recent sessions, which is a major reason why public disapproval of the Legislature is so high. Budget challenges and teacher pay are the only major issues regularly touted, yet lawmakers have done little to suggest they have serious proposals to address those problems, which are interrelated. Both chambers have passed teacher pay raise measures, but funding remains unaddressed. Furthermore, there’s little indication those plans are based on any credible analysis that will maximize taxpayer benefits. [Editorial Board/The Oklahoman]

State budget problems have us thinking the unthinkable: State lawmakers have asked agencies to describe what they would do if their appropriations were cut by 14.5 percent. It’s a worst-case budget scenario that we hope is designed to shock other legislators into a more realistic consideration of other options, such as cigarette and fuel tax increases and ending tax giveaways to the oil and wind industries. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World

Who Needs Charters When You Have Public Schools Like These?: The class assignment: Design an iPad video game. You might assume these were gifted students at an elite school. Instead they were 7-year-olds, second graders in the Union Public Schools district in the eastern part of Tulsa, Okla., where more than a third of the students are Latino, many of them English language learners, and 70 percent receive free or reduced-price lunch. [David L. Kirp/NY Times]

Higher education should be a top funding priority for Oklahoma lawmakers: Budget cuts to Oklahoma public higher education are the deepest in the nation. While some have said higher education could offset the budget cuts by increasing tuition, in reality, just over half of the budget reduction was offset by tuition, fees and other revenue. The negative impacts of these cuts on academic programs, personnel, student services and degree completion initiatives are devastating. In this environment, a college degree could become financially out of reach for some Oklahomans at a time when it has never been more valuable. [Glen Johnson/The Oklahoman]

The differences between fighting wildfires in Oklahoma and Kansas: In some areas of the United States crossing over a state line can bring a person into a completely different wildfire suppression structure. I first noticed the difference between Oklahoma and Kansas while attempting to gather current information about the fires that broke out in both states during very windy Red Flag Warning conditions that began on March 6, 2017. The larger firefighting organization in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Forestry Services (OFS), was able to provide much more information to the public about the ongoing situation than the smaller agency in Kansas, the Kansas Forest Service (KSF). [Wildfire Today]

Anti-Muslim vandalism, incidents increase in Oklahoma in 2016, CAIR report says: The murder of a Tulsa man thought to be Muslim and the dumping of a pig carcass outside a Lawton Islamic center are among the more heinous crimes included in a state Muslim advocacy group’s new civil rights report. Soltani, the organization’s executive director, said the report compiled by his group’s civil rights department showed a troubling spike in several areas. [NewsOK]

DHS group homes are riddled with assault, crime and chaos, officials claim: Children who were sexually assaulted after running away from state custody, attacks on staff members and hundreds of calls to police are just some of the problems that the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth claims exist in at least two state-contracted group homes for troubled youths. Lisa Smith, the commission’s director, said her agency has called DHS to address systemic issues that endanger children in state care. [Tulsa World] Ed Lake of DHS explains how cuts will continue to devastate his agency.

Tightening finances a worry for Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau: Officials say the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau is rapidly approaching a crisis in operational funding even as building costs for its new facility zoom beyond expectations. The agency’s total funding fell by almost $1 million, or about 11 percent, from 2011 to 2015, and the situation is continuing to deteriorate, Director Justin Jones said. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We feel if children are going to be taken from their homes, they need to be provided for. The state has a duty to provide children good quality of life if we’re going to take them from their home.”

– Lisa Smith, Director of the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, calling on the state to address incidents of violence at DHS group homes. DHS says it is addressing these issues with a new restraint policy focused on behavioral health, but needs more money for mental health care. (Source)

Number of the Day


Retail drug prescriptions filled at pharmacies per capita in Oklahoma in 2015.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Listen up, lawmakers. Mandatory minimum sentences won’t stop crime: At this time last year, I was in my ninth year at Graterford State Prison. My crime was dealing drugs. I was a nonviolent, low-level offender. I was an addict, but I’m not making excuses. I have always accepted full responsibility for my crime and know that I deserved punishment that fit my crime. What I got instead was a mandatory minimum sentence of nine to 25 years. The first thing I did when he left the visitors’ room that day was to head to the law library at the jail where they had me. I found out what the mandatory minimum meant, and how these sentencing laws were intended to catch drug lords and kingpins. I had to face the reality that not only was I stuck, so was the judge. He had no discretion. [Amasa Miller/Penn Live]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.