In The Know: Oklahoma representatives throw support behind DHS, fire back at House leadership

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 representatives throw support behind DHS, fire back at House leadership: It seems like the fireworks involving Oklahoma lawmakers are not over, even though the legislative session has come to an end. Last week, the Department of Human Services announced that service reductions are necessary following a $30 million budget shortfall. Among the expected reductions are community-based and nutrition programs for seniors, assistance payments for foster homes and adoptions and in-home support for people with developmental disabilities [KFOR].

Groups weigh in on cigarette ‘fee’ legal challenge: Various groups are weighing in on a lawsuit that challenges a $1.50 “fee” on cigarettes passed last session. Cigarette companies and others have filed a legal challenge to the measure, Senate Bill 845, in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The court is expected to hear oral arguments on Aug. 8. The suit alleges the measure, which raises $257 million, violates three key provisions of law. Revenue raising measures must originate in the House, receive a super majority in both chambers and can’t be passed in the final days of the session [Tulsa World].

Women step up to run for local, state, federal offices: About this time two years ago, Carol Bush and Kendra Horn were sitting in a Starbucks in Tulsa’s Utica Square. Bush was considering running for office in Tulsa’s House District 70. She wasn’t sure if she should take the plunge, and a friend recommended she talk with Horn. Bush, a Republican, didn’t have the same kind of political experience or fervor that Horn was known for. The latter is the executive director of Women Lead OK, an organization that guides women toward and prepares them for public office [Journal Record].

New Senate health care draft does not fix bill’s core problems and makes some of them worse: Last week, Senate Republican leaders released a “new” version of their health care bill. We wrote before about how the first draft of this bill would make Americans pay more for worse health coverage and how it would undercut the health care safety net. Unfortunately, the new draft does not fix the original Senate bill’s core problems and makes some of them worse. The Senate bill would drastically cut Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, reducing federal support an estimated 26 percent by 2026, with larger cuts to come as health care costs grow [OK Policy]. The fate of the bill is uncertain after two additional Republican senators announced their opposition last night [Washington Post].

Medicaid Cuts Could Hurt Oklahoma’s Native Community: A new research report from Georgetown University indicates Oklahoma could erase gains made in Native American Health Care. The report shows Oklahoma has reduced the number of Native Americans without health insurance. Researcher Joan Alker says that is because many adult Indians are getting coverage through the Affordable Care Act. But, she says if Medicaid funding is cut, at the state level, that number could go up dramatically in the next five to ten years [Public Radio Tulsa]. The full report is available here.

A Death Row Convict’s Final Words Set Two Innocent Men Free: De’Marchoe Carpenter was running out of time. He’d lost an appeal, Oklahoma’s governor twice denied him parole, and his post-conviction lawyers had just informed him that a key witness died of kidney failure. They were forced to mothball his case. But here Carpenter was, waiting among a flock of prisoners in a penitentiary gymnasium with a heart full of hope. It was June 2013, and Carpenter and his childhood friend Malcolm Scott had spent 19 years—their entire adult lives—behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit [Daily Beast].

Attention parents of Oklahoma students: Delay in state test scores, no history exam next year: A recent overhaul of Oklahoma’s state assessments and school accountability system means a longer wait for districts and parents to see the results of their students’ test scores and school report cards. The changes to state assessments include the omission of a U.S. history test for the 2017-18 school year and the addition of a science test for 11th-graders, who will also take either the SAT or ACT to meet state testing requirements. Educators were updated on the new assessments and school accountability system last week during the Oklahoma State Department of Education’s annual, traveling conference, called EngageOK [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Teachers Head To Kansas For Higher Pay: More and more Oklahoma teachers are crossing the state line for education. We’ve heard about teachers from Oklahoma moving to Texas, but, teachers are also heading north to Kansas. Many Oklahomans are familiar with leaving Oklahoma and crossing the state line for higher point beer, but now teachers are crossing the state line for higher paying jobs. “It wasn’t because I didn’t have great administrators, there just wasn’t any money,” said teacher Brandi Wegner [NewsOn6].

Unable to Solve Teacher Pay Issue, Oklahoma Will Promote Recruitment, Retention: In what appears to be a kind of stopgap measure, the state has passed legislation creating a new “teacher recruitment revolving fund,” which will help the state’s education department and higher education system to create programs to identify and recruit potential teachers. Among other things, the groups should draw up handouts that outline what programs exist to help teachers, namely state-funded loan forgiveness and tuition assistance, and underscore just important teachers are to the state [Education Week].

About 500 Oklahoma City teachers don’t get their pay raises: About 500 Oklahoma City Public Schools teachers did not receive retroactive pay increases Friday as promised. District officials blamed the mistake on a data processing error and say the money will be deposited directly into the bank accounts of each teacher later this week.Last month, the school board approved $2.6 million in one-time step increases for about 2,677 teachers, 130 principals and assistant principals, and 1,443 support staff under agreements with the unions representing each group [NewsOK].

State school districts put in bad spot: Oklahoma takes a lot of flak nationally for various indicators that rank us near the bottom of the country in a variety of areas. One, though, that’s never been an issue is Oklahoma’s pre-K program, which long has been held up as one of the best in the United States. Unfortunately, the state’s budget situation has put the program in a bit of a tight spot. An unintended consequence in a law that became effective last year has allowed school districts to bypass the state rule that pre-K classes be limited to 20 students [Editorial Board / Enid News & Eagle].

Parents with felony convictions petitioning to volunteer with Oklahoma City school district: Some parents in the Oklahoma City Public School District are pushing for a change. Currently, if you have a felony conviction, you can’t volunteer with the district. “Research shows that many parents from low-income communities have felonies, which limit their ability to participate in school involvement,” said Stacey Lacour, a parent in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Lacour spoke in front of the Oklahoma City Public School Board just three weeks ago in order to save her kids’ school, North Highland Elementary [KFOR]. Oklahomans coming out of prison face many barriers to reintegrating into their communities [OK Policy].

The Hidden Bearers Of Mass Incarceration: Women: On the face of it, Oklahoma GOP Gov. Mary Fallin and California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris have little in common. … So what could these two politicians, miles apart in ideology, possibly have to say to each other? Quite a bit, actually. As a governor and a former state attorney general, they both understand the devastating consequences of putting women in prison [Huffington Post].

‘It’s long past time’ county resolves jail dispute with city over holding Tulsa’s prisoners, commissioner argues: Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo turned up the heat on a long-simmering dispute with the city of Tulsa on Monday. Sharply critical of the city and his fellow commissioners, Smaligo introduced a resolution at Monday’s regular meeting that would essentially quintuple the amount the city pays to use the county jail as its municipal lockup. The motion failed for want of a second from Commissioners Ron Peters and Karen Keith, but Smaligo indicated he’ll continue submitting the motion until the situation is resolved [Tulsa World].

Midwest City proposed sales tax increase would be highest in Oklahoma City area: City officials are asking residents to increase the city’s sales tax in an October election, which if passed, would be the highest sales tax of any city in the metro-area. On Tuesday, city council members approved an Oct. 10 election date, where voters will decide whether to pass the sales tax increase of 0.75 of 1 percent, or 75 cents per $100. If passed, the sales tax rate would increase from 8.35 percent to 9.1 percent [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“There’s no doubt that DHS’s costs have grown far in excess of appropriations. Over the last few years, the Legislature has worked hard to increase the appropriation from $672 million to $700 million, but we can’t discount the fact that, during this same period, DHS has faced cost increases and lost revenue totaling at least $175 million. That is obviously far more than the $28 million increase in appropriations. This agency serves foster children, the disabled, the elderly, and those who cannot help themselves. It is not directing dollars to a nameless agency; it is directing dollars to lives. Any and all decisions to make cuts were devastating to the staff, the management, and the appropriators.”

– Rep. Leslie Osborn, responding to claims by House leadership that DHS made unnecessary cuts to services after receiving increased appropriations this year (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of non-elderly Oklahoma SNAP recipients with disabilities, 2013-2015

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why Summer Jobs Don’t Pay: Why can’t kids today just work their way through college the way earlier generations did? The answer to that question isn’t psychology. It’s math. A summer job just doesn’t have the purchasing power it used to, especially when you compare it with the cost of college. Let’s take the example of a working-class student at a four-year public university who’s getting no help from Mom and Dad. In 1981-’82, the average full cost to attend was $2,870. That’s for tuition, fees and room and board [NPR].

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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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