In The Know: Oklahoma school districts would share $370M for teacher salaries through penny tax

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

Report: Oklahoma school districts would share $370M for teacher salaries through penny tax: School districts would share nearly $370 million to recruit and retain teachers if voters approve a penny sales tax initiative, according to projected estimates released Tuesday by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. “It would impact us in a significant manner,” said Ernie Curren, a school board member in Enid. “It’s the only thing I see on the horizon that will allow us to give our teachers a raise” [NewsOK]. Read about the state questions that will be on the ballot this November [OK Policy].

A lifeline slipping away: Already among the nation’s worst, mental health funding reduced: Heather struggled with anxiety and depression for nearly a decade and eventually turned to alcohol to numb the debilitating pain. Francie Moss said her 42-year-old daughter would be dead if it weren’t for state-supported mental health and substance abuse services. Heather initially hid her alcohol addiction while her parents helped her get mental health treatment. Moss discovered her daughter’s alcoholism about three years ago as Heather’s brain illness spiraled out of control [Journal Record].

State Superintendent names 2017 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year: Jon Hazell, a science teacher at Durant High School, was named Oklahoma’s 2017 Teacher of the Year at a ceremony today at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. A graduate of Durant High School, Hazell has taught anatomy, biology and environmental science for 33 years in the Durant Independent School District. In addition to teaching, he is the lead pastor at United Church of Tishomingo. “My purpose as a teacher is not so much to motivate my students as it is to create an environment where they motivate themselves,” Hazell wrote in his state Teacher of the Year application [Norman Transcript].

Gomez’s retirement could put OHCA on new path: The state Medicaid director’s retirement could provide an opportunity to reshape the direction of the program, two policy analysts agreed. But those two think-tank directors disagreed on whether the program should be expanded or if it would be difficult to find a replacement for Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez. Gomez announced Monday he planned to step down at the end of September. He did not specify why he was resigning, according to a prepared statement issued Monday. Agency spokeswoman Jo Kilgore said he was not available for interviews until at least Wednesday [Journal Record].

Pro-medical marijuana group rallies at Oklahoma Capitol: A group supporting a state question to allow the medicinal use of marijuana in Oklahoma is rallying at the state Capitol. More than 100 people chanted “let us vote” during the rally Tuesday in the building’s second floor rotunda. The group Oklahomans for Change wants elected officials, including Gov. Mary Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt, to know there is widespread support for legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes [Associated Press].

Oklahoma AG is intentionally stalling marijuana petition, proponents say: State leaders don’t want the possibility of medical marijuana on the ballot and are intentionally stalling the process, proponents of the measure claim. State Question 788 would legalize medical marijuana. Proponents were able to get 67,761 signatures to send it to the ballot, but the process now is being slowed and the measure likely won’t appear until 2018. Attorney General Scott Pruitt submitted the wording for the initiative last week, at the time saying the time crunch was not because of his office, but because the signatures were submitted last minute [Fox25].

Oklahoma and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Runoffs: Last week, Oklahomans went to the polls to decide 13 legislative primaries and one Congressional primary where no candidate received a majority in the initial primary ballot in June. More precisely, a few Oklahomans went to the polls. Less than one in five registered voters – 19.5 percent – voted in the runoff races in their district. In only one district, SD 19, did turnout exceed 26 percent [OK Policy].

Federal agency awards almost $1 million for drug treatment in Oklahoma: Oklahoma will receive thousands more in federal dollars in 2016 to further combat the opioid epidemic, a federal agency announced Wednesday. That includes $950,000 to improve access to treatment for opioid use disorders. The grant, administered by SAMHSA, will provide up to $11 million to 11 states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment services for people with opioid use disorder [NewsOK].

Panel to address addiction issues in Oklahoma: Addiction and mental health problems in Oklahoma continue to grow, with nearly $1 million residents needing assistance. That’s one out of five Oklahomans. Overdoses are the leading cause of preventable death, killing more people than car crashes, and now for the first time ever, Oklahoma City will be home to an addiction panel to help those who need it most [KOCO].

In Oklahoma, a Regional HMO Deploys Predictive Analytics to Drive Better Health Outcomes: Two years ago, GlobalHealth, an Oklahoma City-based health maintenance organization (HMO), began a proactive outreach program utilizing predictive and prescriptive analytics as part of its care management efforts. The goal was to identify plan members whose health was most likely to change for the worse in the next 12 months in order to intervene to reduce medical costs and improve health and wellness for plan members [Healthcare Informatics].

Rep. Tom Cole: GOP Has ‘Not Done a Very Good Job’ on Race: There are millions of conservative African Americans in the United States, but Republicans have not “done a very good job” of taking the party’s message into the nation’s communities, Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole said Tuesday. “It takes understanding,” the Deputy Majority Whip told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. “There’s roughly 20 million African Americans in this country. I can assure you we should not be losing that vote 95-5 [percent]” [NewsMax].

Quote of the Day

“We already have a system that is on life support. If we continue down this road, the whole system is going to crumble.”

-Red Rock Behavioral Services CEO Verna Foust, expressing concern that further Medicaid provider rate cuts will exacerbate shortages in critical mental health services (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s ranking for energy consumed per capita in 2014 (433 million Btu)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Incomes Fell for Poorest Children of Single Mothers in Welfare Law’s First Decade: Average incomes fell significantly among the poorest children in single-mother families in the first decade after enactment of the 1996 welfare law, reflecting a large drop in cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. These findings provide further evidence that supports the growing agreement among researchers that TANF’s record has been mixed. Since the welfare law’s enactment, the overall poverty rate for single-parent families has fallen — though many other factors besides TANF influenced this trend — but the poorest families and children have become worse off [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities].

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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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