In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.
A new survey found Oklahoma public schools are still grappling with more than 800 teaching vacancies for the 2014-15 academic year. With the new school year beginning today, Tulsa Public Schools is still deciding where to send 600 3rd graders after reading testing results. Oklahoma students taking the ACT exceeded the national average in meeting English and reading benchmarks, but they fell behind in math and science. Gloria Torres has become the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Oklahoma City school board. A new kind of partnership with three proposed charter schools in Tulsa could require a state attorney general’s opinion or change in law. An Oklahoma City substitute teacher shared his experience in an essay for This Land Press.
A federal indictment alleges that a Tulsa gang distributed $10 million worth of cocaine from Mexican cartels, murdered at least one witness, ran a dog-fighting ring and had a vast network of co-conspirators, including a former NFL player. Fifty-two members and associates of the gang were charged with 238 criminal offenses. Despite a decline in overall violent and property crime in Oklahoma over the past two years, the number of reported rapes has soared. A second woman has joined a lawsuit against an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper accused of rape.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman out-raised GOP incumbent Mary Fallin during the most recent state Ethics Commission filing period. The Oklahoma Democratic Party has asked for an investigation into alleged ethics violations by Gov. Mary Fallin, over her involvement in two public service announcements that began airing in August. An Oklahoma tea party leader convicted of felony blackmail for sending a threatening email to a state lawmaker was sentenced Tuesday to pay a $1,000 fine. The two Democrats still in the race for state schools superintendent took in close to $300,000 each through Aug. 11.
Oklahoma’s Teachers’ Retirement System investments grew 22.4 percent last fiscal year, performing among the top 1 percent in the country. A lawsuit against the state Department of Mental Health alleges that the agency buried an investigation into a drug rehab facility where 3 patients died because they did not want to get involved with litigation involving the Church of Scientology. The Lost Ogle reported that David Stanley Chrysler Jeep Dodge was hit with a record $350,000 fine for airing deceptive and misleading commercials.
Federal funding has been utilized to open a new health clinic in Afton for low-income patients. Tulsa’s sales-tax returns for July and August came in 1.9 percent over the same period last year and 3.6 percent above budget estimates. While a growing chorus of scientific research has linked Oklahoma’s spike in earthquake activity to oil and gas industry disposal wells, a new study suggests such artificial earthquakes are less intense than naturally occurring ones.
The Number of the Day is the total acres of farmland in Oklahoma, comprising 77% of all land in the state. In today’s Policy Note, Kaiser Health News reports that as more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t.
In The News
Teacher shortage: Oklahoma schools begin academic year with more than 800 vacancies
A new survey conducted by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association during the first two weeks in August found public schools were still grappling with more than 800 teaching vacancies for the 2014-15 academic year. Districts representing nearly three-fourths of the state’s public school enrollment completed the survey, which illustrates the toll of a statewide shortage that has worsened significantly the last couple of years. “Local school officials have been saying for awhile that finding qualified teachers is difficult,” said Shawn Hime, executive director of OSSBA.
Tulsa Public Schools still deciding where to send 600 3rd graders after testing results
At the end of the last school year, Tulsa Public Schools says about 11,000 third grade students were at risk from not moving onto the fourth grade. Tuesday, just a day until the new school year begins, the district says about 600 were still in limbo. During the summer, dozens of students attended summer school, re-took the required reading test and passed.
Oklahoma ACT test takers again exceed national average in English and reading
The number of Oklahoma graduating seniors in 2014 who demonstrated college and career readiness in all four core subjects on the ACT college entrance exam fell slightly from last year, according to ACT’s 2014 Condition of College and Career Readiness report released early Wednesday. But Oklahoma students again exceeded the national average in meeting the English and reading benchmarks, with 66 percent in English compared with 64 percent nationally and 45 percent in reading compared with 44 percent nationally, the report shows.
OKC Public Schools swears in first Hispanic woman to serve school board
Each time Gloria Torres mentioned “responsibility” Monday night, she started to cry. It was hard for Torres not to get emotional about the role model she can be to thousands of Oklahoma City students. At Monday night’s Oklahoma City Public Schools board meeting, Torres became the first Hispanic woman to serve on the board. For Torres, that means being a role model for a growing number of Hispanic children in Oklahoma City public schools.
Proposed new Tulsa charter schools could require change in state law
The Tulsa school board learned Monday that a new kind of partnership with three newly proposed charter schools could require a state attorney general’s opinion or change in law and involve co-locating some of the schools in traditional public school facilities. All three of the proposed school operators have been trained and are being supported by a Boston-based national nonprofit corporation called Building Excellent Schools, or BES. If approved, the new schools would open in the fall 2015 semester, with two to be located in east Tulsa and one near 61st Street and Peoria Avenue.
Hello, my name is…
When I tell people that I am a substitute teacher for Oklahoma City Public Schools, I usually receive an amused, sympathetic response. We all have memories of subs in our own public school days—harried and disheveled, dodging spit balls or other objects, hurling empty threats of referral or detention, and watching helplessly as the students pester one another or ditch class. Subs are a strange group, outsiders of sorts, showing up to an unfamiliar environment to perform an unknown task.
Gang brought $10 million in drugs through Tulsa, feds say
A federal indictment of Tulsa’s “most violent and dangerous gang” alleges that the Hoover Crips distributed $10 million worth of cocaine from Mexican cartels, murdered at least one witness, ran a dog-fighting ring and had a vast network of co-conspirators, including a former NFL player. During a press conference Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Danny Williams said that with the indictments, “we are going to decapitate” the gang. The Hoover Crips brought $10 million worth of cocaine — more than 600 kilograms — and marijuana through Tulsa over a three-year period, Williams said.
See also: 52 People Indicted in Tulsa for 238 Crimes from Public Radio Tulsa.
Reported Rape Cases Soar in Oklahoma
Despite a decline in overall violent and property crime in Oklahoma over the past two years, the number of reported rapes has soared, a new report from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation shows. From 2012 to 2013, rape was the only crime that had an increase, rising by 5 percent, to 1,762 rapes statewide, according to the OSBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report, released this week. From 2011 to 2012, the number of reported rapes jumped by 15 percent. During the same two-year period, the clearance rate reported by law enforcement agencies in rape cases has fallen.
Second Woman Added To Rape Lawsuit Against OHP Trooper
There are new developments in the lawsuit against an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper accused of rape. The attorney has added to the suit a second woman, who says OHP Trooper Eric Roberts also sexually assaulted her. The lawsuit says Roberts pulled over her car on July 8 where the Turner and Creek Turnpikes meet and made inappropriate sexual comments to her. She texted a friend with the Trooper’s tag number because she was afraid she might die when he instructed her to follow him, then get into his patrol car, the lawsuit claims.
Joe Dorman outraises Gov. Mary Fallin in most recent campaign reporting period
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman out-raised GOP incumbent Mary Fallin during the most recent state Ethics Commission filing period, documents filed Monday show. Dorman reported total contributions of $267,310.40 for the reporting period June 25 through Aug. 14, compared to Fallin’s $239,677.02. Fallin, who entered the reporting period with more in the bank, outspent Dorman more than 3-to-1 during those seven weeks but still has more than $1.1 million on hand, compared to $142,423.66 for Dorman.
State Democratic Party alleges ethics violations by Gov. Mary Fallin
The Oklahoma Democratic Party has asked for an investigation into alleged ethics violations by Gov. Mary Fallin. The party alleges Fallin has violated the Communications Act of 1943 and Oklahoma state ethics laws. According to Democratic Party officials, Fallin’s violations involved two public service announcements that began airing in August.
Oklahoma tea party leader fined for blackmail
An Oklahoma tea party leader convicted of sending a threatening email to a state lawmaker was sentenced Tuesday to pay a $1,000 fine in accordance to the recommendations of the jury. Al Gerhart, 56, could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for his convictions on felony blackmail and computer crimes charges, but the Oklahoma County jury felt he didn’t deserve to be locked away and the judge concurred. Gerhart sent a politically charged email to a state senator who testified he felt threatened by its tone.
Two Democrats raise close to $300,000 each in Oklahoma state schools superintendent race
The two Democrats still in the race for state schools superintendent took in close to $300,000 each through Aug. 11, their latest campaign reports show. John Cox and Freda Deskin are on next week’s runoff ballot. The winner will face Republican candidate Joy Hofmeister in November’s general election. Cox raised $299,746 as of Aug. 11 while Deskin raised $283,654, the reports show. Both spent most of their campaign funds. Cox, superintendent of Peggs Public Schools, loaned almost $69,000 to his campaign. Deskin, a longtime educator and the founder of ASTEC Charter School in Oklahoma City, loaned her campaign $46,154.
Oklahoma retirement system investments experience major gains
The financial performance of Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma’s investments was among the top 1 percent in the country last fiscal year, according to a report scheduled to be presented Wednesday to the Oklahoma State Pension Commission. Buoyed by a strong stock market, Teachers’ Retirement System investments grew by 22.4 in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That performance was among the top 1 percent of about 1,700 public defined benefit pension systems that were included in the report, according to Don Stracke, senior consultant for Boston-based NEPC LLC.
Lawsuits allege state suppressed Narconon report, fired investigators
The state Department of Mental Health “buried” an inspector general’s report recommending that Narconon Arrowhead be shut down after three patients died there, two lawsuits against the agency claim. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services fired its inspector general, Kim Poff, and an investigator, Michael DeLong, last year after they objected to the agency’s withholding of the Narconon report, the lawsuits state. Agency leaders, including Commissioner Terri White, “buried the report, recommendations and findings of Ms. Poff and Mr. DeLong because the Department did not want to get involved with litigation involving the Church of Scientology,” the lawsuit alleges.
David Stanley was fined $350,000 for misleading, deceptive advertising…
Did you hear about David Stanley Chrysler Jeep Dodge getting hit with that record fine for airing deceptive and misleading commercials? What’s that? You get most of your news from the Oklahoma City media, plus you’ve gone deaf from listening to all the obnoxious David Stanley commercials they play night and day? Oops. Sorry about that. Should have known. In what appears to be a TLO exclusive, we’ve learned via the Ogle Mole Network that David Stanley Chrysler Jeep Dodge agreed to pay a $350,000 fine in March of 2014 for allegedly violating eight state regulations designed to protect consumers from misleading advertising practices.
The doctor’s in at Route 66 Health Clinic
Federal funding has been utilized to open a health clinic in Afton for low-income patients. Route 66 Health Clinic, located at 138 South Main Street opened its doors on March 10. CEO Patrick Peer said 6,000 square feet of the old hospital, which closed down in 1988 and now houses Grand Lake Mental Health Center, was leased for the clinic. The Community Health Center of Northeast Oklahoma received a $733,000 grant to open a federally-qualified health clinic, where 44 percent of the service area is at 200 percent of poverty level, according to the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Tulsa’s sales-tax numbers up so far in fiscal year 2015
For a city that lives and dies on sales-tax revenue, the living has been pretty good at the start of fiscal year 2015. Tulsa’s sales-tax returns for July and August came in at $39.7 million, up 1.9 percent over the same period last year and 3.6 percent above budget estimates, according to figures provided by the city. July’s tax numbers include collections made from mid-May to mid-June; August’s tax numbers reflect collections made from mid-June to mid-July. The numbers include July returns that were higher than July 2013 and August returns that were slightly less than last August.
Injection Well Earthquakes Feel Weaker Than Natural Ones, New Study Suggests
While a growing chorus of scientific research has linked Oklahoma’s recent spike in earthquake activity to oil and gas industry disposal wells, a new study suggests such artificial earthquakes are less intense than naturally occurring temblors. The peer-reviewed paper appears in the October 2014 edition of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America and was authored by U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Susan Hough, who found that people reported less shaking from earthquakes linked to fluid injection than naturally occurring earthquakes of similar magnitude.
Quote of the Day
“Having a highly qualified teacher in every classroom is the most effective strategy for academic improvement, but as a state, that’s not where we’ve chosen to invest our time, energy or resources. It’s short-sighted because it limits the effectiveness of any other plan Oklahoma puts in place.”
-Sean Hime, executive director of Oklahoma State School Boards Association, on a survey that found Oklahoma schools are beginning the school year with more than 800 teacher vacancies (Source: http://bit.ly/1mk8VW6)
Number of the Day
Acres of farmland in Oklahoma, comprising 77% of all land in the state.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Hospitals Reconsider Charity For Patients Who Decline Health Coverage
As more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t. The move is prompted by concerns that offering free or discounted care to low-income uninsured patients might dissuade them from getting government-subsidized coverage. If a patient is eligible to purchase subsidized coverage through the law’s online marketplaces but doesn’t sign up, should hospitals “provide charity care on the same level of generosity as they were previously?” asks Peter Cunningham, a health policy expert at Virginia Commonwealth University.
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