In The Know: Oklahoma City experiments with community school to address poverty

In The KnowIn 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.

The Oklahoma Gazette reported on Oklahoma City Public School’s first experiment to combat poverty using the community schools model at Edgemere Elementary. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed the promise of community schools to reach the most at-risk children in the state. Five former employees have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission, claiming the firings violated the state Workers’ Compensation Act and Open Meeting Act and also were a case of age discrimination. 

An audit of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections found that the agency is violating a law that requires centralized food purchases, has an outdated computer system that does not adequately track the status of inmates and needs improved financial oversight. You can see the audit’s recommendations here. StateImpact Oklahoma shared five things to know about the lawsuit challenging the state’s recent changes to taxes on oil and gas drilling. The Oklahoman Editorial Board discussed OK Policy’s research finding the impact of term limits in the Oklahoma Legislature has been less straightforward than most people thought.

Callers to an Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ hotline for abuse and neglect have been facing wait times as long as 30 minutes. In an Oklahoman op-ed, Scott Meacham criticized repeated state budget cuts to the OCAST program, which provides seed capital to science and technology start-ups. Scott Carter discussed how the Oklahoma Governor’s race is looking to be much closer than most people thought. The only supermarket for miles in North Tulsa closed its doors for good Monday, and many residents are struggling to get groceries without access to a car. 

The Department of Environmental Quality has cited the city of Mustang for arsenic levels above drinking water standards. Work on a $5.8 million bridge project has stopped after federal officials told an Oklahoma county that its construction method could harm a threatened fish species. An airline ticket out of Tulsa dropped by $12 a seat during the first quarter, but the city still has one of the nation’s least affordable airports. Gas prices continue to drop in Oklahoma as demand nationwide dropped below 9 million barrels per day. Oklahoma native Krista Tippett, creator and host of the public radio show “On Being,” was honored with a National Humanities Medal in a ceremony at the White House.

The Number of the Day is the amount of debt held by the average Oklahoma household in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, a new poll shows nearly three quarters of Americans said they favor offering migrant children shelter and support and not rushing to deport them while determining whether they are eligible to stay in the country.

In The News

Edgemere Elementary aims to deal with poverty using community school model

At best, Edgemere Elementary School’s five-year experiment could provide the answers to the complicated riddle of urban education. At worst, this aggressive attempt at school reform will create more doubters and continue the pessimistic view that today’s schools can’t be saved. Edgemere is just a couple of blocks from the Paseo Arts District and serves a high percentage of low-income and minority students. It is Oklahoma City’s first experiment with the community school concept, which treats a school more like a community center rather than a building where kids are taught during set hours each day.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

See also: Schools alone can’t overcome poverty. They need a community. from the OK Policy Blog

Five file wrongful termination lawsuit against Workers’ Compensation Commission

Five former employees have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission. The five were among 16 employees dismissed July 9. The firings violated the state Workers’ Compensation Act and Open Meeting Act, the five former employees claim in the lawsuit filed Friday in Oklahoma County District Court. The five former employees also claim age discrimination — stating that 13 of the 16 terminated workers were older than 40 years old.

Read more from NewsOK.

Auditor releases performance audit of Oklahoma Corrections Department

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is violating a law that requires centralized food purchases, has an outdated computer system that does not adequately track the status of inmates and needs improved financial oversight, according to a performance audit released Tuesday. The audit acknowledged problems created by the state’s swelling prison population, including the rising number of aging offenders and the costs attributed to them. It said the department’s lack of a proper system for monitoring that growth hinders some efforts to reduce incarceration rates.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Recommendations made during audit of Oklahoma Corrections Department from NewsOK.

Inside the State Supreme Court Hearing on Lawsuit Over Oil and Gas Tax Rate

A lawsuit over recently signed legislation that changes state oil and gas tax rates was heard by the Oklahoma Supreme Court yesterday, a constitutional challenge that could have broad impact on industry and legislative procedure. I broke down the lawsuit on an Oklahoma News Report segment with OETA’s Dick Pryor, which you can watch above. But here are five things you need to know about the hearing, which could hinge on legal subtleties and word interpretations.

Read more from StateImpact.

Impact of term limits often overstated

To critics, legislative terms limits have devastated Oklahoma’s political system by reducing institutional memory among lawmakers, generating high turnover and increasing the clout of lobbyists. New research by the Oklahoma Policy Institute undermines these claims. OK Policy has collected and analyzed data on the years of service of Oklahoma legislators going back to 1978. Its findings will surprise many. In 1978, the average tenure for a House member was 6.89 years. In 2014, the average was 6.65 years.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

See also: Did term limits really change how long Oklahoma legislators serve? from the OK Policy Blog.

Callers Experience Long Waits On OKDHS Abuse Hotline

If you or a loved one had to call the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ hotline for abuse and neglect, the truth is, you might not get through. Some News 9 viewers expressed concerns with 30-minute wait times they experienced on Monday. An automated message on the statewide Abuse and Neglect Hotline asks callers to choose the type of abuse they wish to report. After making a selection, the time it takes for human interaction can vary. OKDHS claims call volume is higher than ever. Nearly 100,000 abuse and neglect reports were made to the hotline just last year.

Read more from News9.

Science, technology investments paid off in a big way for Oklahoma

Oklahoma had a clear vision for its future when the Oklahoma Center for Science and Technology (OCAST) was formed — to create a unique agency focused exclusively on technology-based economic development. Our intention was to diversify Oklahoma’s energy and agriculture-based economy through research, technology transfer, seed capital, and support to advanced manufacturing. Whether you’re in Austin, Texas; San Jose, Calif.; or Ardmore, these are the cornerstones of every innovation economy. Oklahoma recognized that in the ’80s — it was truly visionary. The return on the state’s investment to date has been approximately 21-to-1.

Read more from NewsOK.

Race turns away from the cakewalk

It was supposed to be easy, a cakewalk. Last fall the odds-on money said Republican Gov. Mary Fallin would coast through her re-election campaign and earn another four years in office. At that time, polls put the governor’s approval rating in the stratosphere, around 70 percent. Few were willing to challenge the governor. Finally, state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, stepped into the fray and announced he would make the race. Most experts nodded, chuckled and agreed that Dorman had about a snowball’s chance of winning. Then things changed.

Read more from the Journal Record.

North Tulsa Grocery Store Closes Doors Early

Getting groceries is now a concern for people who live in north Tulsa. Gateway Market, the only supermarket for miles in that area, closed its doors for good Monday. The store wasn’t supposed to close that soon, and it surprised even the clerk who said she found out Monday morning that the store would close the same night. The store should have closed on Wednesday, and those extra two days could have made a difference for customers who now have to walk miles for groceries.

Read more from NewsOn6.

City Of Mustang Cited For High Levels Of Arsenic In Drinking Water

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) said the city of Mustang has arsenic levels above drinking water standards. Those violations happened from October of 2012 to March of 2014. The City of Mustang has shut down water wells that produce the highest amount of arsenic to fix the problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), some people who drink water containing arsenic in excess of acceptable levels over many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Work Stops on Northeast Oklahoma Bridge Project

Work on a $5.8 million bridge project has stopped after federal officials told an Oklahoma county that its construction method could harm a threatened fish species. The Miami News-Record reports the Ottawa County Commission says work has been halted on the Stepps Ford bridge near Commerce. An engineering official says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was concerned about how a planned barrier would affect the habitat of a threatened catfish population.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Airfares dropping in Tulsa, still priciest in region

An airline ticket out of Tulsa dropped by $12 a seat during the first quarter, helping the city fall down the list of least affordable airports. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics put out their quarterly airfare data Tuesday, showing that the average ticket originating in Tulsa. TUL still ranks no. 15 out of the 100 top airports for the highest average airfares. It’s actually kind of funny that Charlotte and New York are close to Tulsa, even though those are both hubs with hundreds of direct flights.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Gas Prices Continue Downward Side In Oklahoma

AAA Oklahoma says gas prices continue to drop in the state as demand nationwide drops below 9 million barrels per day. On Tuesday, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline was $3.30 in Oklahoma. That’s down 22 cents over the past month. The agency says only four states have a lower statewide average than Oklahoma, led by South Carolina’s average of $3.26 per gallon.

Read more from KGOU.

Native Oklahoman wins national humanities medal

Oklahoma native Krista Tippett, creator and host of the public radio show “On Being,” was honored Monday with the 2013 National Humanities Medal during a ceremony at the White House. Tippett received the award from President Barack Obama, along with nine other Americans whose work has broadened the nation’s cultural understanding and engagement with the humanities. “On Being” is heard on more than 330 U.S. public radio stations and globally by podcast. 

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

“Catch a bus, then transfer and catch another bus. It’s going to be really hard because of the heat.”

-North Tulsa resident Terri Rippetoe, speaking about what she will have to do to feed her family now that the area’s only grocery store has closed and the next closest is three miles away (Source:

Number of the Day


Debt held by the average Oklahoma household in 2013

Source: The Urban Institute.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Nearly three quarters of Americans think the U.S. should shelter (not rush to deport) unaccompanied minors

The Republican party might favor rushing to deport the tens of thousands of migrant children that have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border since the fall of last year, but the American populace does not. In fact, the vast majority—nearly three quarters—of people in the U.S. feel quite the opposite, according to a new survey released Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute. When asked what the U.S. government should do about all the children arriving alone at the U.S. border, some 70 percent of Americans said they favor offering the minors shelter and support while determining whether they were eligible to stay in the country.

Read more from the 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.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma City experiments with community school to address poverty

  1. Regarding the audit of OK DOC, it closely resembled the near-million dollar “Audit of Which Nothing Is Spoken” a few years earlier, funded by the previous director’s opponents in the legislature, the biggest of whom ended up Sec. of State and acting as de facto governor the first couple of years he was “working for” Gov. Fallin. That audit supposedly was going to find all the “waste” that would be remedied by privatizing state prisons and making them automatically more efficient because that’s what privatizing always does in the eyes of policymakers who coincidentally received coincidental campaign funding and other freebies from the private prison companies, coincidentally. Instead, the audit, by actual professionals in the field and not an elected generalist with a generalist staff, found that the state was getting very good value for the minimal dollars that were funding the prison system as policymakers starved the department to run it down so it would coincidentally look worse compared to brand-new private prisons without the maintenance and staffing cost build-ups. The audit was never again referred to and now takes Indiana Jones to even find on Google.

    One of the major headaches found by that audit years ago was the OMS system. DOC subsequently began a process to fund a new system but was shut off by the state move to consolidate computer staffing and services. To this day, that effort hasn’t been restarted but that is held against DOC in this audit rather than the state officials who ignored the previous audit’s recommendations. Now, OMS becomes a major strike against the state prison system in a new audit, again coincidentally adding ammo for those who ignored the first audit in their push to fund their coincidental allies in the private prison industry in the state. OMS is indeed a mess, but not unworkable. In fact, it generated good data and research techniques that enabled the department to make effective judgments about the programs to be saved and cut in the triaging of recent years. It needs repair. It needed it several years ago when the people who will now use this audit to promote the “more efficient” privatization of state prisons decided to ignore the professional and independent audit that told them the same thing. IOW, years and dollars wasted, and NOT by DOC. Odd that the audit and/or the newspaper article couldn’t include this easily discoverable info.

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