In The Know: Oklahoma gets more time to reform foster care program

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

DHS Gets More Time To Reform Foster Care Program: DHS announced it will get more time to reform the state’s troubled foster care system. The initial deadline stemmed from a 2012 lawsuit settlement, where DHS agreed to improve several key areas deemed inadequate. DHS called the deadline to implement the so-called Pinnacle Plan ambitious, and it’s one they may not have met by December. But now, both parties agreed to extend the timeline to implement the plan after seeing enough improvements [News9].

State Medicaid director named to lead agency following CEO’s resignation: After almost two hours in executive session, the state Medicaid agency board voted Thursday to offer its chief executive officer position to a current agency leader. Becky Pasternik-Ikard, the state Medicaid director, was offered the Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO position at Thursday’s meeting. Board Chairman Ed McFall said the board selected a current Medicaid leader not only for continuity purposes but also for the long list of credentials Pasternik-Ikard brought to the table [The Oklahoman].

Company checks Cushing tanks for seismic stability: After a magnitude 4.5 earthquake rumbled underneath the Cushing oil terminal in October, Ken Erdmann, the engineering vice president at Matrix Engineering PDM, said he wanted to make doubly sure those crude storage tanks wouldn’t get damaged if the ground moved. So he and his colleagues took a closer look at the tanks his parent company manufactures. Examining a worst-case scenario, it was unlikely some of the largest tanks would be damaged. However, they were between the safety code and the failure point. Smaller tanks might need to be anchored [Journal Record].

Insurers Take In Millions From OK Quake Insurance; Pay Out Little: Following last Saturday’s record-breaking earthquake in Oklahoma, many people are learning their damage isn’t covered under their home owner’s insurance – but they might be surprised to know it likely wouldn’t be covered even if they had earthquake insurance. A joint investigation with our partners at The Frontier shows Oklahomans have paid more than $135 million in earthquake insurance since 2010, but the insurance companies have paid less than $5 million in claims [NewsOn6].

OKC sales tax revenue dips; city officials look for options: September’s sales tax report was greatly anticipated by Oklahoma City’s finance and budget experts. The news it brought on Thursday was not good. Sales tax revenue fell 5.8 percent from this time last year, putting a punctuation mark on four consecutive months of troubling results and moving city leaders closer to additional steps to curb spending [NewsOK].

Oklahoma ranks in bottom tier on arts consumption, creation: Oklahomans just aren’t into the arts as much as the rest of the country. Residents attend fewer events, read less, participate less and even avoid using electronic media — including television — to access the arts compared to most of the U.S. The National Endowment of the Arts recently released its Arts Basic Survey, a state-by-state analysis of how people enjoy and create art. It uses census data to get a five-year trend and marks the first time for such a comprehensive report [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].

Run for the Border: Education Outlaws in Oklahoma: When people think of crossing the border to find a better life, they usually imagine people from foreign countries who are not legally entitled to be in the United States. But there’s another kind of border violation that is very common: parents enrolling their children in higher-performing schools outside their district because their local schools are failing [OK Policy].

Rogers top student got his edge in Head Start: The 6-foot-5-inch basketball and academic standout at Rogers High School was once a curious little 4-year-old playing memory card games and learning the habit of brushing his teeth. That’s what Dishon Lairmore, 15, remembers about his experience in Tulsa’s Head Start program. More than a decade later, he and his mother credit Head Start for his advanced school performance and leadership skills in the college preparatory high school [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]. New research confirms that Tulsa’s Head Start pre-K program is making a difference for kids that lasts into middle school [OK Policy]. 

ACLU complains about refusal of “COMMIE” tag: An Oklahoma man is challenging the state’s denial of his request to have a personalized license plate reading, “COMMIE.” The word, which is an informal and usually disapproving shorthand for communist, is not appropriate for a license plate, according to a finding of the Motor Vehicle Division of the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma said Thursday it has filed a request on behalf of its client, Zakk Luttrell, of Norman, for an administrative hearing to contest that decision [NewsOK].

Oklahoma residents are advocates for seniors: Rowena Scott-Johnson, 81, of Washington, had polio as a child but still mows the lawn on her McClain County acreage. For 10 years, Scott-Johnson tried to start a program known as the Oklahoma Court Appointed Advocates for Vulnerable Adults. “We even got legislation passed to support OCAAVA and make it legal for judges to use the volunteers. The only thing was, they didn’t get funding to support it. So, we struggled along, trained two groups of volunteers who were used by some judges, but we finally had to quit because of a lack of funding,” she said [NewsOK].

Joe Dorman to lead Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy: The former state representative and Democratic gubernatorial candidate will start work Monday. Since his failed bid to become governor in 2014, he has worked as an outreach director for a mobile communications company and become the public face of the latest medical marijuana campaign. Dorman said he will leave the campaign and drop off the Oklahoma 4-H Foundation board. His term as Rush Springs city councilor ends in April, and he won’t seek another term [Journal Record].

Restoring funding to competitive grant pool a must for education: All across the state, evidence-based programs have been implemented in our schools to help ensure Oklahoma students are college and career ready when they graduate. These programs have supported literacy education; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, and professional development for Oklahoma educators, just to name a few. But these programs stopped July 1 when the new fiscal year began. What happened? A giant budget deficit happened [Tulsa World].

Stephens County adjusting budget, preparing for more cuts after accounting error: Stephens County is adjusting its upcoming fiscal budget after a human error mistakenly put them in the black with a nearly $80,000 surplus. Stephens County Commissioner for District 1, David McCarley, said the reality is that the county in the red for next year, and is trying to find where to cut $165,000. “We were fearful of laying people off. Stephens County has highest unemployment rate in the state,” McCarley said [KOCO].

Oklahoma County inmate admits to fatally choking fellow inmate in their cell: An Oklahoma County jail inmate admitted Wednesday to choking a fellow inmate to death in their cell in 2014. Ragle Demond Johnson, 40, of Oklahoma City, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Oklahoma County District Court to first-degree manslaughter. Prosecutors originally charged Johnson with first-degree murder. Johnson, who has been diagnosed with psychosis, fatally choked Cecil Robert Arnold, 55, early May 21, 2014, inside a 10th-floor cell they shared [NewsOK]. Untreated mental illness is a major reason that people with mental illness are filling our prisons and jails [OK Policy]. 

Quote of the Day

“We even got legislation passed to support OCAAVA and make it legal for judges to use the volunteers. The only thing was, they didn’t get funding to support it. So, we struggled along, trained two groups of volunteers who were used by some judges, but we finally had to quit because of a lack of funding.”

-Rowena Scott-Johnson, an 81-year-old McClain County resident who worked for 10 years trying to start an Oklahoma Court Appointed Advocates for Vulnerable Adults program (Source).

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s ranking out of the states and Washington D.C. for carbon dioxide emissions per capita, 2013.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In South Dakota, Voters Get Rare Chance to Transform Politics: Change tends to happen gradually in state government. But South Dakota could see rapid — and sweeping — change to its electoral laws next year. That is, if voters there approve a raft of ballot measures in November. Any one of the changes would be significant; collectively, they would be a game-changer for not just South Dakota but election advocates in other states. The crowded ballot includes three proposals that would change basic elements of elections in South Dakota: the role of political parties, the process for drawing new legislative districts and candidates’ options for funding their campaigns [Governing].

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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.

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