In The Know: Oklahoma City school officials releasing new details on massive budget cuts

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

Oklahoma City school officials releasing new details on massive budget cuts: Budget cuts continue to have negative effects on local school districts, even though students are not in the classroom. The Oklahoma City Public School District recently informed principals that they would be hit with specific budget cuts that will impact schools next year. The Fine Arts budget will be cut by 50 percent, resulting in a loss of $195,000. District officials say those cuts will impact supplies and transportation expenses. However, they say it was necessary to keep Fine Arts in the classroom [KFOR].

Breaking the cycle: Midwest City offers mental health treatment in jail: Midwest City jail officials are trying to break the cycle of offenders returning to their custody. The Police Department partners with Red Rock Behavioral Health Services in Oklahoma City to provide mental health and substance abuse programs to prisoners. Chief Brandon Clabes said the services are offered in almost every county in Oklahoma, but Midwest City is the only place that does it at a municipal level. “Our diversionary program is a part of a criminal justice reform dedicated to making lives whole,” Clabes said [Journal Record].

Challenge seeks to keep Oklahoma farming measure off November ballot: Opponents of State Question 777 have filed an appeal to try and keep the measure on farming practices off the statewide ballot in November. Attorneys for opponents of the ballot measure have filed an accelerated appeal in the case, in hopes the Oklahoma Supreme Court will take up the matter before a deadline in late August for the Oklahoma Election Board to print the November ballot, said Heather Hintz, an attorney for plaintiffs in the case [NewsOK].

Oklahoma City School Board offered permanent job to Aurora Lora to keep her in district: Aurora Lora was given the permanent superintendent job at Oklahoma City Public Schools after she told the board a continuation at interim status would result in her departure. The school board originally had planned to ask Lora to remain as interim superintendent for at least several months, but Lora told the board she would not agree to that offer, according to multiple members of the board [NewsOK].

We the People Oklahoma unveils three policy requests for local law enforcement agencies: We the People Oklahoma unveiled on Tuesday three policy requests that the activist group wants local law enforcement agencies to implement in the wake of recent police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Marq Lewis, the group’s leader, said the African-American community just wants respect — the same respect law enforcers seek. Lewis said he wants “both sides of the aisle” to put down their guns, so to speak [Tulsa World].

Tulsa Black Lives Matter marchers call for justice, peace, ‘no racist police’: Hundreds of people who are fed up with police violence across the country zigzagged through downtown Tulsa on Tuesday evening, stopping traffic along their path as they proclaimed to bystanders that black lives do matter. Supporters gathered for the #BlackLivesMatter march beginning about 5 p.m. at the Greenwood Cultural Center, 322 N. Greenwood Ave. About 40 people were standing outside the center by 6 p.m. when the march was initially scheduled to begin [Tulsa World].

OKC police posture praised by Black Lives Matter protest organizers: Despite a heavy presence at Sunday’s Black Lives Matter rally, Oklahoma City police were not dressed in tactical gear, brandishing large weapons or driving armored vehicles. “It made a huge difference,” said Auziah Antwine, one of the rally organizers speaking about the posture police took in not appearing ready for violent protests. “People are so angry that sometimes they see the symbol of law enforcement and that alone is enough to make them hurt inside and want to do something. The way (police) chose to be present helped people to see them as people and not as the flawed system” [NewsOK].

Given the rhetoric, further civil asset reform in OK seems a long shot: THE Legislature this year took a step to help those who have had assets seized unjustly by law enforcement, by approving a law saying judges may award them attorney fees. Is additional movement on this issue possible in 2017? There’s reason for skepticism, based on the vast difference of opinion between a leading law enforcement official and those who wish to see changes in the current system. That gulf only appears to be widening [The Oklahoman Editorial Board].

Nick Kristof and the Failure of Welfare and Education Reform: Back before school reform killed so many of the opportunities to teach meaningful subject matter in a holistic manner, my inner city high school students frequently read Nick Kristof’s New York Times columns and his in-depth reports on global problems. Our discussions were so wonderful that I almost felt personally betrayed when Kristof editorialized in support of corporate school reform. Then, he and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, wrote A Path Appears. It was predictably brilliant in terms of their analysis of world poverty and science-based solutions [Huffington Post].

OKC VA welcomes 11th CEO since 2006: Wade Vlosich said he knows his hospital and clinics have some of the lowest patient satisfaction rates nationwide. The new CEO of the Oklahoma City Veterans Affairs Health Care System – the 11th since 2006 – said he’s working to reduce wait times for appointments and improve the local administrative system. The Office of the Inspector General will publish its report about the Oklahoma City hospital this year detailing some of the deficiencies. Vlosich said he’s working to improve coordination among health care providers and reduce wait times for an appointment, two areas that need improvement, the federal agency identified [Journal Record].

Abortion rights group asks Oklahoma court to review statute: A New York-based abortion rights group is asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of a state anti-abortion statute similar to a Texas law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Center for Reproductive Rights on Tuesday asked the state’s highest court to review a 2014 Oklahoma law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in Texas and the reproductive rights group says the ruling also applies in Oklahoma [Associated Press].

Group home may add more staff after latest inmate escape: Leroy Graham was under the care of staff from the Sequoyah Group Home when police say he walked away from a shopping trip. Graham admitted to stabbing his aunt to death last fall, but due to his disability, a judge sent him to the Sequoyah House [KOCO]. 

Quote of the Day

“It’s very important to stop the cycle as soon as possible. You don’t want to wait until that offender has committed a felony before treatment begins.”

-Red Rock Diversion Program Coordinator Reaina Harris, who gives mental health screenings to inmates at the Midwest City Jail and provides mental health and substance abuse programs in an effort to avoid escalating criminal behavior (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who attended church weekly in 2014, 12th highest in the US

Source: Gallup

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why Prisoners Deserve the Right to Vote: On April 22, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a sweeping executive order that changed the lives of 200,000 ex-felons in Virginia, instantly restoring their right to vote. This order leaves only Kentucky, Florida and Iowa with blanket lifetime disenfranchisement policies for ex-felons. In these three states, no citizens convicted of a felony are allowed to vote, regardless of the crime committed, absent government-granted exceptions to the policy. Governor McAuliffe’s act is a reminder that public support for giving ex-felons the right to vote after prison is significant, and growing—but this type of order doesn’t go far enough. Ex-felons should be able to vote, yes. But so should prisoners themselves [Politico].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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