In The Know: Oklahoma City schools to cut 92 administrative positions due to revenue failure

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 schools to cut 92 administrative positions due to revenue failure: As the budget crisis in the state continues to take hold, the state’s largest school district is feeling the pressure. After state officials announced that Oklahoma is facing a $1.3 billion shortfall in the budget, public schools across the state prepared for budget cuts. Public schools alone will have nearly $110 million cut from their budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30 [KFOR].

High-income surcharge would help solve budget emergency: The evidence is now undeniable that Oklahoma is facing a full-fledged emergency. With each passing day, the toll of budget cuts on Oklahoma families, schools, businesses, and communities becomes more alarming. Given the enormity of the budget shortfall, it’s widely understood that the budget can’t be balanced primarily through deeper spending cuts. The income tax needs to be part of a fair and sustainable solution to the budget emergency, and out of many hard choices about the budget, adding a high-income surcharge would do the least damage to our economy and to Oklahoma families’ quality of life [OK Policy]. This budget crisis could be an unprecedented disaster for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

GOP leaders: Support growing to ‘rebalance’ Medicaid groups: Amid dire warnings from hospitals and nursing homes about a potential collapse of Oklahoma’s health care system, support is growing among Republican legislators to “rebalance” the state’s Medicaid population to trigger an infusion of federal funding, GOP leaders said Thursday. House Speaker Jeff Hickman and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said there is support in both Republican caucuses for the proposal, which was unveiled last week by the head of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state agency that oversees Medicaid, or Soonercare [Journal Record]. OK Policy’s statement on the rebalance is here.

Medicaid cut could jeopardize billions in federal funds: In addition to his normal job treating patients in an eastern Oklahoma emergency room, Dr. Doug Cox, on his own time, drives 20 miles to care for people with low incomes who live in a nursing home. As the state’s Health Care Authority weighs cutting Medicaid reimbursements to doctors and other heath care professionals by as much as 25 percent, Cox isn’t sure he’ll continue making the trip. “As much as I love caring for our seniors, I can’t afford to do it at a loss,” he said, noting doctors have bills to pay, too [Enid News]. The budget crisis has lawmakers thinking the unthinkable on healthcare [OK Policy].

Oklahoma Health Care Authority official says cigarette tax is needed to help fund Medicaid system: A proposed $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax is needed to stabilize a Medicaid system in danger of collapse, Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez said Thursday. Without a major cash infusion, many health care providers simply will stop seeing Medicaid patients, he said at an informational public meeting. A million people use the system yearly [NewsOK].

House Committee Authorizes Flagging Of Uninsured Oklahoma Drivers: Legislation approved this week in a House committee would authorize the use of automated license plate readers to flag uninsured motorists at a time when Oklahoma leads the nation in uninsured motorists on the road. One in four vehicles in Oklahoma does not have insurance, state Rep. Ken Walker said. Senate Bill 359, by Sen. Corey Brooks and Walker, would authorize law enforcement to compare the license plate number with an Oklahoma Insurance Department list to determine if the owner of the plate has insurance [NewsOn6].

Anti-panhandling Ordinance Rebranded After Complaints, Pushback: Faced with stinging criticism and questions about possible constitutional problems, Oklahoma City municipal officials worked to recast a controversial anti-panhandling ordinance as a public safety tool to ensure its passage and squelch complaints, records obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma show. In addition, city officials delayed the ordinance’s final passage until they could cut an undisclosed deal with the two groups that would be most visibly harmed by the law – the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters [ACLU of Oklahoma]. The Oklahoma City panhandling ordinance is part of a disturbing trend of criminalizing poverty [OK Policy].

House GOP floor leader to step aside after 8 years: The Republican floor leader of the Oklahoma House said he will step aside from his northwest Oklahoma City seat after eight years in office. Rep. Jason Nelson said he will not seek re-election to his District 87 House seat in November. The 44-year-old Nelson announced his decision on the floor of the House, where he was congratulated by Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb and Republican and Democratic House members [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Corporation Commission to ponder OG&E coal-scrubber plan 3rd time: Whether Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co.’s plan to install costly scrubbers on its Sooner coal plant is a reasonable environmental compliance option is now up to the three-member Corporation Commission. A three-day hearing ended Wednesday with closing arguments by the utility and eight other parties in the case, OG&E’s third try for scrubber approval. Regulators voted down two earlier attempts in December [NewsOK].

High failure rate on Oklahoma bar exam prompts change to state test: Responding to a high failure rate on the Oklahoma bar exam last year, the state has thrown out a scoring model some believe may have failed prospective lawyers whose performance on the test should have allowed them to pass. After seeing the lowest statewide pass rate in more than a decade, some believe the 3-year-old scoring model dropped applicants’ results to a failing score when their performance was good enough to pass [Tulsa World].

Hamilton: One winner, one loser from Legislature: With stakeholders more engaged than ever, Oklahoma’s K-12 schools won a series of major victories, thwarting an anti-public ed barrage from privatizers and profiteers. Vouchers, dead. Minimum teacher salary schedule, protected. Rainy Day Fund infusion of $51 million, approved. New teacher-developed academic standards, untouched [Journal Record].

Fight Over Sardis Lake Entangled in Ancient History, Indian Culture and Sacred Water: The fight over control of Sardis Lake and water across southeastern Oklahoma pits the state against Native American tribes. To the Choctaw and Chickasaw who live in the area today — and for the Caddo who preceded them — water isn’t just vital to life: It’s culturally sacred [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“Not only is it not a Medicaid expansion, it moves 175,000 people off the Medicaid rolls in Oklahoma, and ultimately you have some long-term savings from the plan. I think the policy is really intriguing to our members, it’s just ferreting out how to pay for it.”

– House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview), on the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s proposal to extend health coverage to uninsured Oklahomans (Source). OK Policy’s statement on the plan is here.

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma’s uninsured population receiving treatment for mental illness or substance use disorder 

Source: US Department of Health and Human Services

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The End of Welfare as We Know It: By the numbers, welfare reform was a success. More than 13 million people received cash assistance from the government in 1995, before the law was passed. Today, just 3 million do. “Simply put, welfare reform worked because we all worked together,” Bill Clinton, who signed into law welfare reform, or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, wrote in an op-ed in The New York Times in 2006. Clinton had campaigned on a pledge to “end welfare as we know it” and today it is all too apparent that he succeeded [The Atlantic].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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