In The Know: Oklahoma House speaker endorses $6,000 teacher pay increase

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

Remember: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

Oklahoma House speaker endorses $6,000 teacher pay increase: New House Speaker Charles McCall is endorsing a pay increase for Oklahoma teachers that would phase in a $6,000 pay raise during a three-year period. McCall said in a statement released Thursday that he believes House Republicans will support the bill by Broken Arrow Republican Michael Rogers, chairman of the House Public Education Committee. …McCall has said increasing teacher pay will be one of the caucus’ top priorities, but it’s not clear how lawmakers plan to pay for it [NewsOK].

Oklahoma lawmakers discuss teacher shortage at TPS legislative breakfast: A group of Oklahoma lawmakers at an annual Tulsa Public Schools legislative breakfast Thursday seemed stumped on solutions to the state’s teacher shortage, one asserting that legislators must find a way to provide funds for teacher pay raises and another saying they would lose that “funding battle.” The Tulsa-area legislators discussed the issue after hearing a presentation from TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist that included examples of the how the district has struggled to recruit and retain teachers on Oklahoma salaries [Tulsa World].

New license plate proposed to fund teacher recruitment efforts: No one is arguing whether an improved education system would better entice businesses to move into Oklahoma; they’re arguing how to pay for it. As education officials continue asking legislators for money for teacher salary increases, a handful think they might have more luck asking someone else. State Sen. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma City Republican, worked with the Oklahoma Department of Education to introduce a bill that would create a specialty license plate to pay for statewide teacher recruitment efforts [Journal Record].

Lawmakers need courage to make tough decisions: For Oklahoma, 2017 is hardly starting on a high note. Five days of gloomy budget hearings: Common and higher education, human services and the state’s Medicaid agency pleading for hundreds of millions in additional funding next fiscal year. More bad fiscal news: In 2016, state revenue dropped 7.4 percent from the previous year, the lowest 12-month total since 2012 – perhaps foreshadowing a worse-than-projected $900 million budget hole [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Oklahoma City’s sales tax revenue slips from a year ago: Sales tax revenue dipped 3.5 percent in Oklahoma City in the January reporting period, extending a persistent year-over-year slide in monthly collections. Through the first seven months of fiscal 2017, sales tax revenue is off 4 percent. Sales tax is the largest-single contributor to the general fund, the account for day-to-day expenses such as police and fire protection [NewsOK].

Group protesting ‘reckless’ repeal of Affordable Care Act tells Sen. Lankford to ‘fix it’: About 15 people came to U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s Tulsa office Thursday to tell him not everyone in Oklahoma is gung-ho about an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act. “To just repeal it would be incredibly reckless,” said Cheryl Roberts, a cancer patient who fears losing her health insurance if certain provisions of the massive initiative are eliminated. “We want members of Congress to do their job and fix it,” said Roberts [Tulsa World]. Plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act threaten chaos for Oklahomans’ health care [OK Policy].

New Tulsa Jail Expansion Increases Services For Mentally Ill: Tulsa County is about a take a significant step toward improving mental health care for inmates. A new wing at the jail, built just for the mentally ill, is ready to open, but the sheriff’s office needs to build up staff to handle more inmates now that the jail has more beds and a new philosophy. By jail standards, it’s open and airy. There is plenty of natural light in the new section of the jail, with light blue paint, and plenty of room [NewsOn6].

Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma team up: Serving on the front lines of poverty, public health nurses and social workers are determined to reduce the incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, tobacco use and more. Poverty has devastating consequences on physical and mental health. There is a well-documented connection between socioeconomic status and health. “If you don’t have a roof over your head or you don’t know where your food will come from, you really can’t focus on anything else,” said Patrick McGough, Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) deputy director [Oklahoma Gazette].

Yen takes another shot at vaccination bill: Oklahomans won’t be forgetting the debate over vaccinations and the rules that govern them anytime soon. As vaccine skepticism gains traction in the federal government, Oklahoma is considering a bill that would get rid of the exemptions that let parents opt out of them. President-elect Donald Trump has discussed creating a new commission on autism, which would look into whether vaccines play a role in its development [Journal Record].

Bill would free up high-level nurses from doctor supervision: A bill introduced this week would make it easier for some medical professionals to work more independently, which some people believe could help alleviate the state’s health care shortage. The legislation would allow nurse practitioners and other advanced practice registered nurses to work without a supervising doctor. Toni Pratt-Reid, a nurse practitioner who is president-elect of an association that is pushing for the law, said there is a misunderstanding among patients that high-level nurses take every case back to a doctor for approval [NewsOK].

Despite improvements, Oklahoma still second-worst in the country for high teen birth rate: Oklahoma remains among the states with the highest teen birth rates. Oklahoma and Mississippi both had a rate of 34.8 births per 1,000 females age 15-19 in 2015. Only Arkansas had a higher rate at 38 per 1,000, according to data from the U.S. Department of Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the second straight year the state finished in the No. 2 spot in terms of highest teen birth rates [Tulsa World].

Williams Takes its Suit Against Energy Transfer to Delaware Supreme Court: More than 6 months after Tulsa-based Williams Cos. and Dallas-based Energy Transfer Equity LP called off their $38 billion pipeline merger, the Williams lawsuit is still in the courts. Williams is still arguing it was wronged by ETE. This week, Williams attorneys were before the Delaware Supreme Court arguing that ETE breached its duty to take reasonable actions to see the merger through to the end [OK Energy Today].

With a little local help, company selects Enid for wind farm staging facility: Billy Brenton chose a less-than-ideal spot for his wind farm logistics company when he selected Enid. Economic development staff members and city, county and state officials helped make the decision easy, said the vice president of Transportation Partners & Logistics Management Solutions. Officials helped expedite permits and surveys needed to complete the transaction, and offered $2.5 million to upgrade the access road to his site [Journal Record].

Drought Creeps Back Into Oklahoma As Dry Fall Leads to Waterless Winter: Drought is back in Oklahoma. More than half the state now falls in the extreme drought category, and normally water-rich southeast Oklahoma is bearing the brunt of a very dry fall and winter. Tree stumps poke above Atoka Lake’s surface, and it’s easy to see where the water line used to reach [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Pruitt failed to follow law on reporting outside attorney contracts: Though state law requires all agencies to report what they spend each year to hire outside attorneys, Attorney General Scott Pruitt has failed to follow that law since 2012, omitting his agency from reports he must compile, an investigation by The Frontier has found. Pruitt has engaged in years of complex litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency — which President-elect Donald Trump has nominated him to lead — as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies [The Frontier].

Lawmaker wants guns in Oklahoma capitol: A state lawmaker wants to allow guns in the capitol, carried by any one with a valid permit. Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Tulsa) wrote Senate Bill 66 to protect what he said is a fundamental right guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Weapons of any kind are currently prohibited in the capitol, which has security checkpoints at every entrance [KFOR].

Quote of the Day

“We can’t keep going like this. So whatever it’s going to take for you all to work together as a team and figure this out and do something dramatically different, I just implore of you to do that.”

– Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist, asking lawmakers to find a way to give teachers a raise at Tulsa Public Schools’ legislative breakfast (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of new Oklahoma state employee hires that were retained through 36 months as of 2014


See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Child Care Scarcity Has Very Real Consequences For Working Families: One of the most stressful questions a new parent confronts is, “Who’s going to take care of my baby when I go back to work?” Figuring out the answer to that question is often not easy. When NPR, along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, surveyed more than 1,000 parents nationwide about their child care experiences, a third reported difficulty finding care [NPR].

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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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