In The Know: Oklahoma leads nation in deepest cuts to school funding for third straight year

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 leads nation in deepest cuts to school funding for third straight year: A comparison by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows Oklahoma leads the nation for the third straight year in cuts to the primary source of state funding for public schools. After adjusting for inflation, analysts found that Oklahoma’s state aid to schools is 26.9 percent less for the current fiscal year than it was in 2008 — and that the margin between Oklahoma and the second-worst Alabama has nearly doubled in the past year to 12.7 percentage points [Tulsa World].

However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down: Oklahoma’s investment in preK-12 education has plummeted in recent years. The state continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding, according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C. Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017 [OK Policy].

Do Oklahomans want a better mental health system? SQs 780 and 781 are good ‘litmus test,’ state leaders say: If Oklahomans truly want a better mental health system — one that diverts people with brain diseases away from the criminal justice system — they will support the criminal justice reform measures, SQ 780 and SQ 781, a state health leader said Wednesday. Although he would not offer a direct endorsement, State Health Commissioner Terry Cline said in an interview Wednesday that although there are some legitimate questions around implementing SQ 780 and SQ 781, it’s the right direction for Oklahoma [NewsOK]. OK Policy’s fact sheet on State Questions 780 and 781 are available here.

The Legal Complications of Oklahoma’s State Question to Constutionally Protect Farming: State Question 777 would create a constitutional right to farm and ranch in Oklahoma, giving the agriculture industry unique protection from the state legislature. The ballot question concerns livestock and crops, but legal experts say the statewide measure will likely come down to lawsuits and courts. In the weeks leading up to the November election, officials in cities and towns across the state have urged Oklahomans to vote no on SQ 777 [StateImpact Oklahoma]. OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 777 is available here

‘Right to Farm’ state question highlights ‘disconnect’ between rural and urban Oklahoma, proponent says: The increasingly bitter dispute over a proposed constitutional amendment called Right to Farm by its proponents is an indication of a growing “disconnect” between urban and rural Oklahoma, one of the measure’s proponents said Thursday. “The most difficult obstacle is that the folks outside of agriculture don’t understand the need for it,” Mark Yates, director for public policy field operations at the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, said during a gathering of State Question 777 supporters in downtown Tulsa [Tulsa World].

In Parents’ View, Public Schools Are Failing Dyslexic Children: Learning to read is one of the fundamental concepts that schools are expected to teach. But parents of children with dyslexia say public schools in Oklahoma are failing to identify and educate these students. Many turn to expensive private tutoring for the dyslexia-specific lessons their child needs, with out-of-pocket costs often running to $10,000 or beyond. The students are at risk of failing the state’s third-grade reading test, which requires students who don’t pass to be held back [Oklahoma Watch].

Cost for Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program rises with tuition, student success: Oklahoma’s Promise will cost about $6.5 million more to keep next fiscal year. On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved an estimate of $74.3 million to fund the scholarship in 2017-18 for an expected 18,000 recipients. The increase is due to more students completing college and tuition increases, Chancellor Glen Johnson said [NewsOK]. The scholarship program is more than just money for college—it’s a commitment to Oklahoma’s future [OK Policy].

Chamber president updates business outlook for city council: Greater Oklahoma City Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Roy Williams told the city council data shows 80 percent of the workers who are going to be in the workplace in Oklahoma City in 10 years are in the workforce today. Worker retention and training are a “critical part of ensuring we have the workforce for tomorrow for our companies to be competitive,” he said [NewsOK].

How New Residents Have Changed The Business, Voter Makeup In South Oklahoma City: Pete White drives slowly through his old neighborhood in south Oklahoma City. The 78-year-old Oklahoma City councilman has lived in the area his entire life. “This is the house I grew up in right here,” White said as he drove through a tree lined neighborhood of modest homes. He pulled onto Southwest 25th Street in the business district of an area known as Capitol Hill. White pointed out the location of former businesses. Department stores, a doctor’s office, and pharmacies. All of them are long gone [KGOU].

Oklahoma City councilwoman urges return of police body-worn cameras to the streets: Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer is calling for resolution of policy differences that have sidelined the Oklahoma City Police Department’s body-worn cameras. Leaders of the Fraternal Order of Police and police department are at odds over the policy regarding supervisors’ authority to review routine video footage. Both the police union and the department support use of body-worn cameras and expansion of the program, as does the city council [NewsOK].

As Inmate Population Climbs, Number of Corrections Officers Drops: The growth in Oklahoma’s prison population over the past decade isn’t the only thing straining resources in the state Department of Corrections. As the number of inmates housed in state-run facilities grew by 12 percent from 2006 to 2016, the number of corrections officers overseeing the offenders dropped by 14 percent. This means there is now roughly one officer for every 11 inmates, compared with one for every 8.5 inmates in 2006 [Oklahoma Watch].

Daniel Holtzclaw Asks For Another Extension To File His Appeal: Court documents show Daniel Holtzclaw has asked for another extension to file his appeal on Thursday. Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer, is convicted of 18 felony charges including rape and sexual battery. On Thursday, Holtzclaw filed for an additional 30 days to file his appeal. This is Holtzclaw’s fourth request for more time to file his appeal [NewsOn6].

Probe of misconduct allegations at Oklahoma agency finished: Oklahoma’s top investigative agency has completed its probe into allegations of misconduct at an Oklahoma sheriff’s office where an ex-volunteer deputy fatally shot an unarmed black man. Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown says the report on the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office was submitted Monday to prosecutors to consider whether criminal charges should be filed [News9].

45th Infantry Brigade to deploy to Ukraine: Approximately 500 members of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are scheduled to deploy this fall to provide training support in Ukraine. …The soldiers will provide support to Ukraine within the U.S. Security Cooperation agreements. The 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th IBCT, Oklahoma Army National Guard will be on the first rotation where they will conduct two different training cycles for Ukrainian Forces [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Secretary of State says ‘nyet’ to Russian request to observe election: Oklahoma has turned down a request from Russia to have personnel in the state to study the Nov. 8 election, Bryan Dean, Oklahoma State Election Board spokesman, said Thursday. Louisiana and Texas received similar requests in an election in which the GOP nominee, Donald Trump, has said the election is rigged and others have alleged that he is in cahoots with Russia as it tries to influence the U.S. election in his favor [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“For one, I think it shows the will of the people to make a decision – are you for treatment and actually improving the health of individuals who are struggling with these illnesses? Is the Oklahoma Standard to provide these resources to individuals who are struggling with chronic illnesses that are diseases of the brain, or is it to be punitive and lock them up to get them out of the way and out of our society for a limited period of time without solving or addressing the issues that really plague these individuals, which are illnesses? I think we’ll find out on Nov. 8.”

– State Health Commissioner Terry Cline, on State Questions 780 and 781, which would reclassify some drug crimes and invest the savings in treatment (Source). OK Policy’s fact sheet on State Questions 780 and 781 are available here.

Number of the Day


Percent of employed wage and salary workers in Oklahoma who were members of a labor union in 2015.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Native American Colleges Have Abandoned The Student Loan System: By the time United Tribes Technical College was named the fourth-worst school in the country for student loan defaults last week, the tribal school had already made it impossible for students to borrow money from the federal government. For United Tribes Tech, cutting off the student loan spigot was a last resort — the only way to save itself from government penalties that would bring financial ruin. But it also meant that of America’s 32 tribal colleges — schools controlled by Native American tribes — only three now allow federal loans for their students. It’s a particularly striking situation, because tribal colleges, which are funded by the federal government, serve some of the country’s neediest students [Buzzfeed].

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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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