In The Know: Oklahoma public schools to be shorted nearly $10 million in state aid; trend looks to continue

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. Click here to apply for a scholarship. 

Oklahoma public schools to be shorted nearly $10 million in state aid; trend looks to continue: School districts across the state are learning of the first state funding reduction of the fiscal year. The Oklahoma State Department of Education sent out a memo Wednesday ahead of Thursday payments to local schools that will be shorted by a total of $9.7 million, but there are indications the trend could continue. All but 37 school districts — whose local tax revenues are too high — receive state aid, the primary source of state funding for public schools [Tulsa World]. A year ago at this time, we were just beginning to learn the depths of our state’s revenue failure [okeducationtruths]. Oklahoma continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].

Criminal justice task force says it can save the state nearly $2 billion: Gov. Mary Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force expects to announce later this week recommendations it says will save the state almost $2 billion over the next 10 years. Details are sketchy, but initiatives nationally and in Oklahoma suggest that the recommendations are likely to include sentencing modification and changes to the pardon and parole process. “It’s been interesting to be exposed to some of the data,” Jennifer Chance, Fallin’s general counsel and a task force member, said Wednesday. “It’s been shocking — I mean jaw-dropping shocking.” [Tulsa World] Even with positive and important criminal justice reforms passing in the Legislature and in the ballot box this year, Oklahoma’s prisons are still on a path to disaster [OK Policy].

Oklahoma finance officials say revenue continuing to lag behind projections: Oklahoma finance officials say collections by the state’s main operating fund are continuing to trail projections, setting up the possibility of a budget hole even deeper than first predicted. Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger released figures on Wednesday showing collections to the state’s General Revenue Fund missed December’s monthly estimate by more than 12 percent [KFOR]. This is the third straight year of sizable shortfalls [OK Policy]. 

Legislators discuss challenges, solutions to state budget crisis: It is clear the looming budget deficit will dominate this year’s state legislative session. It was the primary topic during Norman NEXT’s annual Legislative Lunch, hosted Wednesday at the Studio of Sooner Theatre, although the four local legislators present had different takes on how to react to the gap. Rep. Claudia Griffith, Rep. Scott Martin, Rep. Emily Virgin and Sen. Rob Standridge addressed the audience and answered a few questions. Griffith and Virgin, both Democrats, emphasized the importance of raising revenues [Norman Transcript]. 

Familiar faces sign up to fill vacant Oklahoma House seat: Five Democrats, four Republicans and a Libertarian declared their candidacy this week to fill a vacant seat in the Oklahoma House. Several candidates are already familiar to the voters of Seminole County. Three of the Democrats who filed to replace former state Rep. Tom Newell also ran in last year’s campaign to unseat him [NewsOK].

Affordable Care Act repeal plans threaten chaos for Oklahomans’ health care: Repealing the Affordable Care Act has been a hallmark of Republican platforms since the signature health care reform law passed in 2010. Now, with the GOP holding both houses of Congress as well as the White House, efforts have already begun for Congress to make good on its promises to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (ACA): a resolution filed in the first full day of Congress of 2017 formally kick-started the process, and it will likely be voted on late tonight or early tomorrow [OK Policy].

Adacia Chambers called ‘sacrificial lamb’ for Oklahoma mental health treatment after getting life for OSU Homecoming parade crash: The woman who was sentenced to life plus 10 years in prison Tuesday for driving her car into a crowd at the 2015 Oklahoma State University homecoming parade, killing four spectators and injuring dozens of others, was described by her attorney as a “sacrificial lamb” for the state of mental health treatment in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]. Oklahoma has never adequately funded mental health treatment, and hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans aren’t receiving needed treatment for mental illness [OK Policy].

Atoka County Medical Center files bankruptcy: The public trust that operates the Atoka County Medical Center has filed for bankruptcy reorganization. The Atoka County Healthcare Authority on Tuesday filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, which provides for reorganization for municipalities, public trusts and other government entities. The hospital is expected to remain open at current levels while the reorganization continues, hospital CEO Traci Walker said [NewsOK]. Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals [OK Policy].

Lawmaker walks out of panel investigating sexual harassment in Oklahoma House in first meeting: A legislative panel investigating sexual harassment allegations against two lawmakers ran into problems at its first meeting on Wednesday. Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, walked out after refusing to sign a confidentiality agreement he said hampered transparency and undermined his independence as a lawmaker. He also disagreed with rules adopted by the committee [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma remains in the top 10 for its high rates of STDS: Oklahoma has seen a significant increase in sexually transmitted disease infections over the past few years, causing great concern among the public health community. In 2015, Oklahoma had the fifth-highest rate of gonorrhea in the United States and, in 2016, the seventh-highest rate of chlamydia. Additionally, from 2013 to 2015, Oklahoma saw a 77 percent increase of first- and second-stage infections of syphilis [NewsOK].

8 key facts about education funding in Oklahoma: Much of America’s prosperity is thanks to our long history of public investments in education. Early in our nation’s history we recognized that education was the key to our social and economic future. Publicly-funded colleges were created before the American Revolution and were expanded with federal assistance in the 19th century [Together Oklahoma].

Meth labs are an ongoing problem in eastern Oklahoma: Over the past five years, Oklahoma has seen a significant decline in the number of reported meth labs. However, some counties in eastern Oklahoma continue to see a higher number of meth labs than the rest of the state. Oklahoma law enforcement agencies found only 54 meth labs statewide in 2016 — compared to 913 labs in 2011, according to preliminary data from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: Time has come for higher gas tax: Facing yet another cavernous budget hole after years of deep cuts to core services, Oklahoma lawmakers are now seriously considering revenue options that, not long ago, would have been almost unthinkable. One of these is raising the gas tax. Oklahoma has one of the lowest motor fuel taxes in the nation – just 17 cents per gallon of gas and 14 cents per gallon of diesel [David Blatt / Journal Record]. This gas tax fix could level Oklahoma’s revenue rollercoaster [OK Policy].

Group Works To Bring Grocery Store To Tulsa’s ‘Food Desert’: There is new hope for a north Tulsa community that has been considered a food desert for quite a while. A Save-A-Lot store, just like the one in west Tulsa, could be what’s needed to give north Tulsans the access to better food they need; but it won’t just be a city leader decision, the community will have to get on board. North Tulsa is growing, but there’s one major thing still missing [NewsOn6]. Food deserts are a big reason behind Oklahomans’ poor health [OK Policy].

Quote of the Day

“We lost a teacher today to a job in a correctional facility. Let that sink in… #oklaed #DoSomethingOK”

– A tweet from Dr. Rick Cobb, Superintendent of Mid-Del Public Schools and blogger at okeducationtruths (Source)

Number of the Day


Median age of voters in Oklahoma City’s last mayoral election

Source: Who Votes for Mayor?

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Free Market for Education? Economists Generally Don’t Buy It: The odds are good that privatizing education will be part of the agenda for President-elect Donald Trump’s administration. The Republican platform calls for increasing the role of banks in giving out student loans. And Mr. Trump and the platform advocate an expansion of both vouchers, which enable students to attend the private school of their choice with government funds, and charter schools. In addition, Betsy DeVos, Mr. Trump’s nominee for education secretary, has supported legislation that would establish vouchers in Michigan, as well as the rapid expansion of the state’s charter school sector [Upshot / The New York Times]. 

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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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