In The Know: Oklahoma now has Real ID law, but don’t get in line yet for new driver’s license

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Oklahoma now has Real ID law, but don’t get in line yet for new driver’s license: Gov. Mary Fallin on Thursday signed legislation to make the state compliant with the federal Real ID Act. Applying for a Real ID-compliant driver’s license will involve documentation similar to current license rules. However, no timeline has been set as to when the state will implement the law. The Department of Public Safety said the measure will be implemented within 24 months to 30 months of the state signing a contract with a vendor [Tulsa World].

New Oklahoma School Assessment and Accountability Plan Sent to Governor: The Oklahoma Senate signs off on the state’s new school assessment and accountability system. While the House spent 99 minutes on the matter a week ago, the Senate approved the standards without questions or debate in under six minutes. Sen. Gary Stanislawski presented House Joint Resolution 1028 on the floor. The Senate approved HJR1028 34–8 [Public Radio Tulsa].

At Epic Schools, Teacher Bonuses Soar While Student Achievement Lags: Teachers at Epic Charter Schools are some of the highest paid in the state. They are also some of the lowest paid in the state. The wild swings in teacher compensation at the state’s largest online charter school are due to an unconventional program that allows teachers to earn a bonus of up to their base salary, which would double their pay. So a teacher earning $35,000, for instance, can earn an annual bonus of up to $35,000, pushing total pay to $70,000. Bonus pay allowed more than half of Epic’s 218 certified teachers to earn well above the average pay for public school teachers, according to Oklahoma Department of Education data for 2015-2016 [Oklahoma Watch].

Criminal justice reformers push back against proposed laws: The political, pitched battle over criminal justice reforms isn’t over, and dozens of people showed up at the state Capitol on Thursday to prove it. They came to rally against House Bill 1482, which reinstates some parts of criminal law that were repealed by the statewide adoption of State Question 780 last year. That state question, and another one adopted in November’s vote, will make drug possession a misdemeanor crime and divert money saved in the prison system to drug treatment [NewsOK]. OK Policy released a fact sheet and advocacy alert urging lawmakers to vote no on House Bill 1482.

Task force plan is the right step forward for Oklahoma: For years, our criminal justice system ran on the idea that communities are safer with more people behind bars. It’s been the prevailing ideology for how to protect the public and safeguard law and order. But, we have learned during our combined six decades in law enforcement that effective crime control policy requires more nuanced approaches. The safety of communities is far more dependent on who we lock up, rather than how many we lock up [Norman Police Chief Keith Humphrey and Former New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas / NewsOK]. The Justice Reform Task Force recommendations could be the solution Oklahoma desperately needs [OK Policy].

Proactive community policing strategy needed: Some legislators want to gut the newly adopted State Questions 780 and 781 even before they take effect this July. Their attempts to undermine our state’s nascent bipartisan effort to reform our criminal justice system must be decisively rejected. The centerpiece of their intended obstruction is House Bill 1482. One of the central provisions of SQ 780 – which was approved by a substantial majority of voters after a spirited debate – requires that non-violent drug possession be treated as a misdemeanor instead of a felony. The purpose of this provision is to reserve expensive prison space for the most dangerous offenders [Andrew Spiropoulos / Journal Record].

Increasing breakfast in the classroom participation can help kids learn while strengthening school budgets: Experts agree that a healthy breakfast is crucial for children to grow and learn. However, in many families factors like hectic morning schedules and pinched finances mean that children don’t get a nutritious start for the day. This is where the School Breakfast Program comes in. Like the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program allows low-income students to receive meals for free or at a reduced price. A new report shows that Oklahoma’s school breakfast participation as a percentage of School Lunch Participation outpaces the national average. Maintaining and building on this success would bring a wealth of benefits to Oklahoma students while improving the finances of school nutrition departments [OK Policy].

Sustainable corrective budget action needed: For state lawmakers, the bad fiscal news just keeps rolling in. First were reports of a nearly $900 million budget hole for next year. Then came another midyear revenue emergency that carved $34.6 million out of already-stretched state agency budgets. And finally, this week, Standard & Poor’s downgraded Oklahoma’s credit ratings, citing “persistently weak revenue collections” that are the result of the Legislature’s failure to resolve the state’s structural budget deficit [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record].

Kansas Supreme Court Says State Education Spending Is Too Low: The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the state’s spending on public education was unconstitutionally low, dealing a new blow to Gov. Sam Brownback, who is facing a rebellion from his own Republican Party over his trademark tax-cutting doctrine. In a unanimous ruling, the court said black, Hispanic and poor students were especially harmed by the lack of funding, pointing to lagging test scores and graduation rates. The justices set a June 30 deadline for lawmakers to pass a new constitutional funding formula, sending them scrambling to find more money to pay for a solution [New York Times]. The Kansas tax cut experiment has a close cousin in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

The Marked Woman: How an Osage Indian family became the prime target of one of the most sinister crimes in American history: In the early twentieth century, the members of the Osage Nation became the richest people per capita in the world, after oil was discovered under their reservation, in Oklahoma. Then they began to be mysteriously murdered off. In 1923, after the death toll reached more than two dozen, the case was taken up by the Bureau of Investigation, then an obscure branch of the Justice Department, which was later renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was among the F.B.I.’s first major homicide investigations. After J. Edgar Hoover was appointed the bureau’s director, in 1924, he sent a team of undercover operatives, including a Native American agent, to the Osage reservation [The New Yorker].

Bill to block pipeline protests advances: Oklahoma lawmakers want to stop widespread pipeline protests before they start, and threatening activists’ pocketbooks is apparently the way to do it. State Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, told a committee in late February that he went to North Dakota and saw the protesters’ damage himself, and that he doesn’t want that happening here. He introduced House Bill 2128, which would hold not only the protesters liable for any property damage, but also anyone who helped pay for their trip. Activist organizations, native tribes and individuals who pitch in for airfare, meals or lodging would be responsible for any damages. This would apply if the protester is arrested or convicted of trespassing [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Bill To Protect ‘Critical Infrastructure’ Could Curb Public Protest, Critics Say: Oklahoma legislators are advancing a bill that outlaws trespassing on sites containing “critical infrastructure.” Supporters say the measure will help prevent damage and disruption of energy markets, electric grids and water services, but environmental activists and civil rights groups say the bill’s real purpose is to block political protests of pipelines and similar projects [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Raucous crowd attends meeting: When Congressman Tom Cole told constituents at a meeting in Purcell last week that it’s not Congress’ intent to scrap all of the Affordable Care Act, his assurances did little to reassure his audience. “Repealing and replacing Obamacare will be a process, not an event,” Cole said. “In Oklahoma, Obamacare is now working. There are 190,000 in the exchange and that’s down to one choice.” With those premiums set to jump 69 percent, “doing nothing is not an option.” [Purcell Register]

Quote of the Day

“We don’t have a public safety problem because we don’t imprison enough offenders. We are unsafe because we don’t spend our money on policies that truly prevent crime. We need to spend less on incarceration and more on proactive community policing strategies that have worked miracles in cities like New York.”

-Andrew Spiropoulos, criticizing efforts, like HB 1482, to reverse SQ 780 (Source)

Number of the Day


Private security guards per 100,000 population in Oklahoma City, 12th least among the nation’s 53 largest metros.

Source: City Observatory

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Don’t look now, but American judges are attacking debtor’s prison: The American jail system is an abomination. Over three-fifths of people who are in jail (as opposed to prison) have not been convicted of a crime. And of those, a large fraction are there because they cannot afford bail. That is a gross violation of the Fifth Amendment, which states that no person can “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” But mass incarceration of people simply because they are poor is also the natural outgrowth of a jail system that is chronically underfunded, locally administered, and concerned more with warehousing troublemakers than with constitutional due process [The Week].

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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.

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