In The Know: Oklahoma education leaders backtracking on support for proposed bill

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 education leaders backtracking on support for proposed bill: Oklahoma education leaders are backtracking their support for a Senate bill that would give local school districts more control and less oversight from lawmakers. Senate Bill 1187 is making its way to a House committee Wednesday, and if passed would be heard by the full House. But educators such as El Reno Schools Superintendent Craig McVay, who was behind the introduction of the bill, have now stepped back, saying the way the bill has been changed does not support the interest of teachers [KOCO].

Cutting EOI tests could save $5M a year: The Legislature will resume deliberations next week on a bill that would eliminate several exams, including the battery of end-of-instruction tests taken by high school upperclassmen, and possibly save millions of dollars a year. Under House Bill 1622, the state would stop the use of nine tests that are currently administered to students but aren’t required by federal law. The bill also requires the State Board of Education to seek a vendor to administer a final high school test for graduation. Earlier discussions on the issue led some officials to endorse the use of the ACT, but the bill’s author said any company would be able to bid [Journal Record].

End of Instruction tests miss the mark: “We need to focus more on teaching instead of testing.” Those words by Pawhuska High School junior Bradon Berry clearly state the need to overhaul Oklahoma’s end-of-instruction testing. Berry isn’t just any high schooler. He is one of 67 students from throughout Oklahoma selected by state school Superintendent Joy Hofmeister to server on her student advisory committee. The committee met on Jan. 14 and March 23 in Oklahoma City [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

Gist makes deep cuts in Tulsa Public Schools administrative costs: It is apparent that the state’s education funding crisis and new leadership are transforming Tulsa Public Schools. Last week, Superintendent Deborah Gist announced plans to eliminate or defund 172 administrative jobs across the district. In their place, the district would create 66 new positions, and end up with a net savings of $3.7 million [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

This budget crisis could be an unprecedented disaster for Oklahoma: Last month came news that Oklahoma City Public Schools will cut 208 classroom teaching positions because of state budget cuts. Tulsa Public Schools is considering reducing or eliminating school buses for all but special education students. Other districts are imposing across-the-board teacher pay cuts to save jobs, shortening the school year, or moving to a 4-day school week. After years of strained education budgets, our public schools are long past cutting the “extras” and asking for sacrifices by adult educators — schools are now forced into cuts where they hurt our children the most [OK Policy].

Voters approve Vision propositions by wide margins: Tulsa voters said “yes” to Vision in a big way Tuesday night. All three local propositions passed by wide margins, as did a 0.05 percent county tax and sales tax proposals in Owasso, Collinsville, Jenks, Glenpool and Sapulpa. For Tulsans, Tuesday’s vote means permanent revenue streams to support more police and firefighters, maintain streets and improve public transportation [Tulsa World].

Republican Vic Regalado Elected Tulsa County Sheriff: Tulsa County voters made their voices heard and elected a new sheriff for the first time in almost three decades. Republican Vic Regalado defeated Democrat Rex Berry Tuesday evening, winning about 60 percent of the vote and becoming the first ever Hispanic Tulsa County sheriff. “To the people of Tulsa County, I’m humbled to receive such an overwhelming mandate from the voters who have entrusted me with the job of protecting our communities. Thank you,” he said in a victory speech [NewsOn6].

Edmond Republican wins Oklahoma County court clerk post: Republican Rick Warren Jr. of Edmond led late Tuesday and was all but assured of victory in the race to fill the unexpired term of former Oklahoma County Court Clerk Tim Rhodes. With 256 of 257 precincts reporting, Warren had 10,878 votes, or 53.2 percent, to 9,559 votes, or 46.8 percent, for Democratic state Sen. Anastasia Pittman of Oklahoma City [NewsOK].

State’s Economy is Considered One of the Worst in the Nation: While Oklahoma struggles through oil company bankruptcies, tumbling prices and a massive state-government budget hole, the state’s ailing economy is one of the worst in the U.S. A new report from a Washington, D.C.-based publication called State Policy Reports ranked Oklahoma’s economy 47th in the nation and area states were not much better. Kansas was 46th while Nebraska ranked 42nd [OK Energy Today].

Confederate monuments would be protected under altered OK bill: A bill to protect military monuments on public property has been altered in a way to preserve memorials to the Confederacy, a state senator says. Senate Bill 970 was approved by the Senate last year and remains alive this legislative session. Symbols of the Confederacy are sometimes controversial, with some people saying they are an objectionable tribute to those who supported slavery, while others say they venerate Americans who fought and died in the Civil War [NewsOK].

Criminal justice system needs fixing: Oklahoma’s criminal justice system is in crisis and needs to be fixed. That was the consensus of many of the speakers at a sentencing reform seminar held at the University of Tulsa College of Law. Patrick Hawkins, Black Law Student Association president, who organized the meeting, said it was the first of several expected to be held in Tulsa between now and the November general election [Tulsa Business and Legal News].

Quote of the Day

“We’re opening the door to a kind of Wild West atmosphere where districts can do what they want to do.”

-Ed Allen, vice president of the Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, on SB 1187 (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of affordable housing units in Oklahoma that are located in food deserts (grocery store located further than 1 mile in urban areas or 10 miles in rural area)

Source: Oklahoma Housing Needs Assessment

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

It Pays to Work: Work Incentives and the Safety Net: Some critics of various low-income assistance programs argue that the safety net discourages work. In particular, they contend that people receiving assistance from these programs can receive more, or nearly as much, from not working — and receiving government aid — than from working. Or they argue that low-paid workers have little incentive to work more hours or seek higher wages because losses in government aid will cancel out the earnings gains. Careful analysis of the data and research demonstrates, however, that such charges are largely incorrect and that it pays to work [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma education leaders backtracking on support for proposed bill

  1. Get the tombstone ready for the Tulsa Law School effort at criminal justice reform. The stake was at least driven squarely into its heart early with the declaration that the goal was to “get everybody on the same page.” Nahgunnahappen. Otis explains why and shows how with his invocation of early released inmates who kill after release as if they wouldn’t have killed if held to term and a claim about California that only holds, from the latest research, about auto theft, which costs CA far less than imprisonment. Otis has been pulling that cherry-picking nonsense for over a decade now on various websites and his participation in a panel is proof not just that his constituency can be counted on to undermine any reforms but to veto anything that comes up if the goal is uniformity and unanimity of all participants.

    Tim Harris? Please. There’s a reason beyond population levels for that “over half of inmates come from OK and Tulsa counties” and he shouldn’t have even been on a sentencing advisory committee. His views have been well represented on every sentencing reform group the state has tried over the last two decades, and look where you are. His “diversion” programs coincidentally require possible (not actually tried) offenders to pay fees to the DA office which has used the money to replace the lost “hot check” funding. The “supervision” he gave those people was done by assistant DAs, people well trained in offender management obviously. Also coincidentally, many of the folks “diverted” were charged with offenses that he and his colleagues have claimed for years required state incarceration, just not when they might have money to keep his office going.

    The central problem with these reform efforts not just in OK but all over the US has been an insistence that “everyone agreeing” has been more important that insisting on policies most clearly effective in both cost and public safety. People like Otis and Harris represent constituencies who have seen their public prestige, power, and profession benefit from the system that is to be reformed. Who on earth would think that they would make any serious effort to change that or would not do whatever it took to keep it from happening?

    Let’s find the middle ground lawyers and well-catechismed policy wonks clueless to the reality that the whole process is bare-knuckle politics and that contravening power is what accomplishes change against entrenched and entitled power, not kumbaya and being able to go out for drinks together when the meeting is over. Speaker Steele finally found that clue in his current reform effort that excludes “committees” making the decisions and takes the changes directly to the voters. It will take far more of that to get OK anywhere close to where other, more successful states have been, much less where they will continue to go. What it won’t take will be yet another “let’s all come together and reason together” group more impressed with the range of people it can bring to a table than what comes off of that table at the end.

    R.I.P, Tulsa law effort. You’re already dead, you just don’t know it yet.

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