In The Know: Oklahoma City schools still seeking teachers

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 still seeking teachers: The state’s largest school district is trying to fill 52 teaching vacancies for an academic year that’s already underway. Oklahoma City Public Schools is using substitutes and working on some emergency certifications to plug the holes created by what the district calls “attrition.” “Just over the summer we lost about 270 teachers who resigned, left the district to go to other school districts, left teaching to do something completely different,” said district spokesman Mark Myers [KJRH]. 

Wagoner Schools Begins Its Tuesday Through Friday School Week: Wagoner students are headed back to class, and to save money – this is the first year the district is trying a four-day school week. Superintendent Randy Harris says he really hasn’t got a lot of push back from parents, either in person or online. When Wagoner starts class Thursday morning, a school year of big changes begins. The district’s four-day school week will be Tuesday through Friday, 8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m [NewsOn6]. Four-day school weeks could leave thousands of Oklahoma kids hungry [OK Policy].

Longevity bonus offered to Oklahoma City superintendent: Oklahoma City’s school board wants stability at the superintendent position, and it’s willing to pay for it. In its contract with Aurora Lora, who was named permanent superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools last month, a $10,000 bonus is offered if she reaches her two-year anniversary. Lora is eligible for another $15,000 if she makes it three years. Lora, who is the 11th superintendent since 2000, signed a three-year contract with a base salary of $220,000. Rob Neu, the superintendent before Lora, made $240,000 [NewsOK].

Oklahoma bipartisan coalition calls for immigration reform: While Oklahoma’s immigrant population is growing slower than the national rate, more than 10,000 immigrants came to the state from 2010 to 2014 and nearly 220,000 residents were born abroad, according to a report released Wednesday by a bipartisan group urging reforms. The report from The Partnership for a New American Economy showed that about 10,000 immigrants in Oklahoma are self-employed and that immigrant-owned businesses generate $201 million in yearly business income, while employing 29,120 people [NewsOK]. The report is available here

Need to call 211 for help? State funding cuts could result in limited hours and days of operation: For the past 10 years, Oklahomans in crisis have been able to pick up the phone and call 211, regardless of what day or time it was. The 24/7 hotline helps thousands of Oklahomans each year find mental health treatment, food pantries in their community and utility bill payment assistance, among an array of other services. However, the hotline itself might be in crisis. Wednesday, the state’s Department of Human Services announced $45 million in budget cuts, including a $653,550 cut to 211 services in Tulsa and Oklahoma City [NewsOK]. This year’s budget agreement brought bad news for Oklahoma seniors, children, and people with disabilities [OK Policy].

State ends Marriage Initiative as part of budget cuts: Citing budget cuts, state officials are ending the controversial Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, a 17-year-old program originally aimed at reducing the state’s high divorce rate. The state Department of Human Services announced it is eliminating its funding for the program because the agency is facing a budget shortfall of more than $100 million this fiscal year. It is implementing $45 million in cuts that include slashing 91 positions and reducing several public-assistance programs and will seek supplementary funding to help fill the remaining gap [Oklahoma Watch].

DHS faces budget shortfall of more than $100 million: It’s a shame — a shame upon the state and the Legislature specifically — that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has been forced to cut $45 million from its budget and still doesn’t have enough money to make it through the year. The agency faces a more than $100 million shortfall. “It is fiscally impossible to reduce $100 million out of our budget without putting thousands of vulnerable Oklahomans at risk,” said DHS Director Ed Lake, and we agree [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Long-term state budget solution needed: There is only one good reason for Oklahoma lawmakers to reconvene in special session: to do the right thing. That would mean crafting a package that not only provides teachers a sorely needed raise, but also addresses the state budget’s long-term structural problems, ensuring today’s pay hikes can be sustained and vital state services supported properly. That would mean increasing the state income tax – the fairest tax of all because it’s based on ability to pay – and dismantling a dubious corporate welfare system [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Just dream jobs? Sometimes, when David Blose is painting or working on computers, he wears what he envisions an installation technician or TV repairman would wear, a hard hat. Blose is 27 and lives four houses down from his parents in Yukon. He spends time teaching himself the mechanics of computers, taking them apart and turning their pieces into art by placing them on a canvas and painting them. Some of his art issues warnings, such as one piece that’s covered with sad faces and tells PC users to refrain from upgrading to Windows 10 because it will result in hours on hold with technical support [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: Sales tax holiday is poor public policy: This weekend, many Oklahomans will flock to the stores to take advantage of the state’s annual sales tax holiday weekend. Since 2007, shoppers can buy clothing items under $100 free of sales tax during the first weekend in August. Many retailers report a major boost in business over the weekend that can rival Black Friday. Sales tax holidays are good for consumers, for businesses and for Oklahoma, right? Actually, no [David Blatt / Journal Record]. Blatt wrote further on the topic on the OK Policy Blog here

Oil and Gas Layoffs Contribute to Oklahoma’s Growth in Unemployment: Jobless rates for June in Oklahoma showed more growth in 65 of the state’s 77 counties with the oil and gas industry contributing, according to a county-by-county breakdown provided by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The rates were higher than a year ago but dropped in 10 counties and remained unchanged in 2 counties. Stephens county in southern Oklahoma had the highest unemployment rate with 10.8% followed by Latimer county at 10.1% and McIntosh County at 9.5% [OK Energy Today].

Oklahoma joins hiring program for Army personnel, veterans: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections became the first state agency Tuesday to join a hiring program for U.S. Army active duty personnel and veterans. But Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said it’s uncertain how effective the agency’s low starting salaries will be in recruiting soldiers to help fill a shortage of correctional officers in state prisons [Army Times].

Two proposals could send sales tax in Noble to 10.25 percent: It’s a story of two “what-ifs” in Noble. Two sales tax proposals that separately, have little to do with each other. But together, tell the story of what would be a major bump in what people in this small town pay for every item. “We need the money so desperately,” said Noble city manager Bob Wade. Wade says the city’s proposed half-cent sales tax, up for a vote August 23, would help keep those in Noble safe and lay the financial ground work for long-term growth [FOX25].

Oil industry supporters speak out about OPI proposal to raise well tax: The Oklahoma Policy Institute rolled out a policy agenda last week that calls for the increase of different taxes and the elimination of certain tax breaks. For instance, the OPI is calling to raise the gross production tax for oil wells by 250 percent. Currently, oil companies are only paying 2 percent for the first 36 months of the well’s life. The OPI is calling to raise the tax to 7 percent [KOCO]. Part One of our Oklahoma Agenda for Broad-Based Prosperity outlines how Oklahoma can create a better budget and tax system that would put out finances on a more sustainable path, while Part Two outlines policies that would help to restore America’s basic bargain for Oklahoma families — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead [OK Policy].

TPS taking new steps to reintroduce students after long-term suspension: Ebony Johnson wants students to leave her office feeling like they’ve pushed the Control-Alt-Delete keys on their education. Just as rebooting a computer offers a fresh start, Johnson’s new approach to students whose serious discipline issues resulted in long-term suspensions is to reintegrate them in a totally new way. “The whole purpose of this meeting is so we can figure out a way that you’re successful. Period,” Johnson, senior director of student engagement at Tulsa Public Schools, told 16-year-old Alyssa Crafton this week [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor to retire Dec. 31: Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor on Tuesday said he will retire Dec. 31. Taylor, 67, of McAlester, has been a judge for 33 years. He has served 12 years on the state’s highest court and presided over the state trial of Oklahoma City bombing defendant Terry Nichols. Taylor said he notified Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday of his intent to retire [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Senate Leader Authorizes 36 Legislative Studies: Developing a long-term strategy for replacing state revenue from oil and natural gas production and examining the costs and feasibility of creating a child abuse registry in Oklahoma are among 36 legislative studies authorized by the leader of the state Senate. The studies will be conducted before the 2017 Oklahoma Legislature convenes in February and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman of Sapulpa said Wednesday that they will give senators a chance to take an in-depth look at some of the important issues facing Oklahomans [News9].

The Demotion of a National Park in Oklahoma Exposes Shifting Attitudes About Preserving and Promoting Nature: The National Park Service turns 100 this year, and many states are celebrating top-tier environmental landmarks that are a big source of local pride. About half the U.S. states don’t have a national park — including Oklahoma. That wasn’t always the case, and the story of what happened illustrates a changing view of what national parks are for [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“That’s something that people don’t really realize with 211. They think it’s (utility assistance and food) that people need, but often when people are at the point of needing utility assistance or needing to feed their family, they’re at a point of crisis, and they’re considering suicide or needing that kind of support as well.”

– Monique Scraper, chief development officer with HeartLine, an Oklahoma City nonprofit organization that answers 211 calls from 40 counties in central and western Oklahoma. DHS recently announced it would be cutting support to 211, and as a result, the line may no longer operate around the clock [Source]

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma children who had had a parent incarcerated at some point in their childhood as of 2011-2012.

Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How Jails Are Violating the Law: By the time the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor decided to tackle the issue of mental health in jails, the topic had become a source of frustration throughout state government. Agencies from the Department of Human Services to the Office of Justice Programs had been asking the auditor for some time to look more deeply into the problem. The auditor’s findings, while scathing, weren’t necessarily surprising. About two-thirds of inmates who had been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial were sitting in jail while the courts decided what to do next, in violation of state law [Governing].

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


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.

Leave a Reply

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