In The Know: Oklahoma lawmakers abandon school voucher plan

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 lawmakers abandon school voucher plan: Lawmakers on Thursday abandoned attempts to have the state pick up part of the tab for parents who want to switch their children from public to private school. Bills in the Oklahoma House and Senate for education savings accounts, also called school vouchers, will not be heard. There has been concern about the potential cost of these plans given budget problems that have forced funding cutbacks to common education [NewsOK].

Oklahoma House votes to eliminate license, training requirements for openly carried sidearms: Accompanied by Bible readings and constitutional fervor, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted Thursday to remove license and training requirements for handguns carried openly. Rep. Jeff Coody said his House Bill 3098 acknowledges rights granted by God and the U.S. Constitution. Rep. John Bennett, R-Sapulpa, backed Coody by reading a selection of Bible verses he said empowers believers to defend themselves [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Right-to-Farm Debate Heats Up As Water Group Sues to Stop SQ 777: Oklahoma could become a right-to-farm state if voters approve State Question 777 this November. But opponents are gearing up for a legal fight to keep the issue off the ballot. Denise Deason-Toyne looks out over the winding Illinois River from No Head Hollow, a river access point near Tahlequah. “Let’s talk chicken litter,” she says. Deason-Toyne is the president of the water advocacy group Save the Illinois River [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Plan OK’d to increase term limits for Oklahoma officeholders: Term limits for statewide elected officials like the state treasurer and attorney general would be increased from eight years to 12 years under a proposal approved by the Oklahoma Senate. The Senate voted 32-12 on Wednesday for a resolution that would send the proposal to a vote of the people in November [News9].

Plan For $125M Bond Issue Approved By Oklahoma House: A plan for a $125 million bond issue to pay for a second phase of renovations to the Oklahoma Capitol has narrowly cleared the House of Representatives. The House voted 51-43 during a late-night session Wednesday to approve a bill authorizing the sale of the bonds. A bill needs 51 votes to pass the 101-member House. It now heads to the Senate for consideration [NewsOn6].

Senate passes controversial optional school deregulation bill: The Oklahoma Senate on Thursday passed an optional education deregulation bill that critics say could result in lower pay for teachers. Senate Bill 1187, by Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, passed by a vote of 25-20 and heads to the House. It takes 25 votes for a measure to pass in the Senate. Jolley said the measure would provide schools with flexibility [Tulsa World].

CEO: ‘MakeOKBetter’ by taking federal health care funds: Rural hospitals across Oklahoma are in crisis. Each year, Oklahoma hospitals absorb more than $560 million in unreimbursed care for their uninsured and underinsured patients. Wagoner Community Hospital provided $4.3 million in free care to our local residents last year. Unfortunately, as we all know, these services are not really “free” — the costs are passed on to all of us in the form of higher insurance premiums [NonDoc]. Rejecting the federal funds is devastating rural hospitals [OK Policy]. Accepting federal funds is a good deal for Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Local legislators against Medicaid reduction: Scrambling to balance a budget that is more than $1 billion short on revenue, Oklahoma lawmakers have pushed a bill through the House of Representatives that calls for reducing the Medicaid rolls by 111,000, even if there is little chance of the federal government’s letting such a thing happen. House Bill 2665, introduced by Republican State Rep. Doug Cox, a physician from Grove, passed the House by a vote of 65-34 on March 2 and received its first reading in the Senate on March 3 [Tahlequah Daily Press]. Oklahoma is thinking the unthinkable with health care cuts [OK Policy].

Criminal Justice Reform Supporters Launch Initiative Petition Signature Drive: Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform launched a petition drive Thursday aimed at reducing the prison population and redirecting savings to create treatment and rehabilitation programs. Former House Speaker and current chair of the coalition Kris Steele stood with political, faith and business leaders and argued the importance of helping convicted felons [KOSU]. Governor Fallin’s new, inclusive approach to criminal justice reform is bearing fruit [OK Policy].

ATTN College Students: Apply for the 2016 Summer Policy Institute: Oklahoma Policy Institute is excited to announce our fourth annual Summer Policy Institute (SPI) from July 31 – August 3, 2016 at the University of Tulsa. SPI brings together highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for an exciting and in-depth learning experience. SPI offers participants a unique opportunity to become better informed about vital Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders in the policy process, and prepare for their future studies and work in public policy-related fields [OK Policy].

The Folly of State-Level Tax Cuts: The national jobless rate has reached its lowest level in eight years. Home sales have reached their strongest level since 2006. Even the U.S. budget deficit is narrowing, to a respectable $439 billion. Overall, the state of the nation’s economy is is fairly healthy. But for individual states? Not so much. A few examples: Louisiana is laying off 30,000 state employees and cutting social programs. Illinois is stuck in the middle of partisan battles over how to close a $5 billion budget deficit. In December, Oklahoma declared a “revenue failure,” which means the state failed to bring in as much money as it had planned for and thus had to cut spending [The Atlantic]. Here’s how to make sense of Oklahoma’s mid-year revenue failures [OK Policy].

Observations from a now-retired OKCPS board member: I have loved serving on the OKC school board and being your teammate. I have almost always been lucky, and these past eight years with you has been a part of my good luck. Serving on the board had a lot of karmic connections to my early life, and I want to briefly share that with you. Besides, you have had eight years to see how I am, so let me tell you how I got that way [NonDoc].

Schools continue to struggle with cuts: Newcastle School board members voted Wednesday night to approve a four-day week, a controversial move some said could have devastating consequences for students left unsupervised [NewsOK]. Earlier this week, Mid-Del Superintendent Rick Cobb told parents he would have to eliminate a popular elementary school music festival and track program to offset state budget cuts. But Cobb said Thursday a donor has paid to restore both, along with a program that combines music and physical fitness [NewsOK]. Sonic Corp. CEO Cliff Hudson and wife Leslie are among 50 philanthropists who have pledged more than $14 million to fund classroom projects posted on the website in communities across America. The Hudsons have decided to personally fund all of the Oklahoma City Public School District projects [NewsOK]. Oklahoma continues to lead the nation for the largest cuts to general school funding since the start of the recession [OK Policy].

Upcoming Event: Free public lecture to discuss suicide prevention: On March 23, Savannah Kalman of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) will give a free, public lecture on suicide prevention in Oklahoma. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Oklahomans ages 10-35. Oklahoma’s rate of death by suicide for 25-64 year olds is 24.9 per 100,000 residents, almost double the national suicide rate of 12.7 per 100,000 [OK Policy]. 

Quote of the Day

“With all of these budget shortfalls, it is the poor people who end up being hurt the most. It seems to me they have very few champions. Whether it’s mental health, human services, education – the people punished most are those that can least afford it.”

– Sen. Earl Garrison (D-Muskogee), on proposed legislation that would eliminate eligibility for very low-income parents on Medicaid (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of cell phones confiscated last year in Oklahoma’s correctional facilities, the most ever

Source: NewsOK, citing the state Department of Corrections

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Kansas: More Evidence of the Harm of Large Tax Cuts: Kansas’ Supreme Court’s ruling that the state isn’t meeting its constitutional obligation to equitably fund its schools is the latest evidence of why Kansas is the poster child for the harm of large state tax cuts. Here’s the background: Kansas made major cuts to K-12 funding in the wake of the Great Recession. Then, in 2012 and 2013, it enacted massive tax cuts — among the largest state tax cuts in U.S. history [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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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