In The Know: Oklahoma schools receive “F” grade from US Chamber

In The KnowIn 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.

The US Chamber of Commerce assigned gave Oklahoma schools an overall “F” grade in a report measuring educational effectiveness. Oklahoma schools received failing grades in the areas of academic achievement; academic achievement of low-income and minority students; and return on investment. The report is available here. Speaking at a community forum on “Resegregation of Tulsa Schools” hosted by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, Executive Director David Blatt discussed race, poverty, and segregation in Tulsa schools.

A new report commissioned by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board found that 1 in 5 Oklahoma jobs are supported by the oil and natural gas industry. Last year, Oklahoma’s infant mortality rate reached a record low, although it remains above the national average and infant mortality remains much higher for racial and ethnic minorities than for white babies. The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board called for the state to reconsider its rejection of Medicaid expansion and the infusion of federal funds that would come with it. We’ve noted before that rejecting the funds means a massive tax transfer to Washington.

The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board applauded the state’s move toward “performance-based budgeting,” which takes past performance into account when determining a budget item’s funding. Oklahoma State University and Stillwater have implemented employee wellness programs in an effort to reduce health care spending on preventable conditions, and say that the efforts are paying off. A planned “Cherokee Outlets” development is estimated to bring 1,000 permanent jobs to Catoosa.

The ACLU of Oklahoma is suing for access records from a intelligence networking website hosted by the Logan County sheriff’s office. The ACLU contends that the website, which allows law enforcement to share information about American motorists, is used to “track the activities of thousands of American citizens without their knowledge or consent.” You can read the ACLU’s statement here. Drought in southeast Oklahoma has the city of Duncan scrambling to locate new sources of water. Estimates say that the city’s primary water source, Lake Waurika, could be too depleted to use by 2016.

ABC News reported that a number of cities, including Tulsa, are quietly preparing for climate change in the name of “disaster preparedness” by limiting development in future flood zones and looking into infrastructure that can handle increased storm runoff. The Number of the Day is the median home price in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute assesses the impact of wage theft.

In The News

Oklahoma gets ‘F’ in academic achievement from U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Oklahoma got failing marks in three of 11 indicators of educational effectiveness on the latest report card from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The Sooner State received Fs in overall academic achievement, academic achievement of low-income and minority students and international competitiveness on the foundation’s “Leaders & Laggards” report. Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, called the low rankings “disappointing, but unfortunately of no surprise to the Tulsa regional business community.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Read the US Chamber of Commerce’s “Leaders and Laggards” report here.

Schools, housing, & poverty: Thoughts on segregation in Tulsa

In a 1974 paper in the American Journal of Sociology, two scholars examined data on segregation in public elementary schools. They looked at schools in 60 cities, just before the start of serious efforts by the federal government to enforce the desegregation of public schools in the South. The researchers used a statistical measure called the dissimilarity index to look at how segregated or integrated the schools were in each city. Not surprisingly, the research found most US school systems were strongly segregated. On the index where 0 represents perfect integration and 100 represents perfect segregation, the average score for the 60 cities was 79 percent. The scores ranged from a low of 39 in Sacramento to a high of 97 in two cities – Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oil and natural gas industry supports one in five Oklahoma jobs, report finds

Oklahoma’s rapidly growing oil and natural gas industry accounts for about 20 percent of all the jobs in the state and almost two-thirds of the jobs created since the recession ended in 2010, Oklahoma City University economist Russell Evans said Wednesday. Evans, executive director of OCU’s Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute, presented his findings as part of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry Economic Impact and Jobs Report commissioned by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board.

Read more from NewsOK.

More Oklahoma babies living to their first birthday, although infant mortality still high among minorities

More Oklahoma babies lived to their first birthday last year, with the state’s infant mortality rate declining to the lowest it has ever been. Public health officials announced Thursday that the state’s infant mortality rate — the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births — dropped from 8.6 in 2007 to 6.8 in 2013. Oklahoma historically has had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation, tying with Louisiana in 2010 for the seventh-highest rate in the U.S.

Read more from NewsOK.

Medicaid expansion deserves second look

Tulsa hospitals are pointing with alarm to the amount of health-care funding Oklahoma is leaving on the table. Gov. Mary Fallin rejected Medicaid expansion funding under the Affordable Care Act in 2012. When she made that announcement, she cited fiscal reasons — the state couldn’t afford the potential costs. But two years later, we have to wonder how much longer the state can afford not to accept the money.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Rejecting federal health care dollars would mean huge tax transfer to Washington from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma stands to benefit from new budgeting effort

The National Association of State Budget Officers noted in a recent report that many states are in a similar situation fiscally. They have “limited resources with numerous demands for spending and not enough revenue to go around,” NASBO said.Oklahoma feels their pain. Agency directors go to the Capitol each year to (almost always) ask lawmakers for more money. Whenever they can, lawmakers try to oblige. This has been the practice for decades, although since the Great Recession most agency heads have seen their budgets shrink a bit, or perhaps be held steady. It’s a flawed system.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

City of Stillwater and Oklahoma State look to wellness programs for healthcare savings

As healthcare costs rise, organizations are looking for ways to save money while providing health insurance for their employees. Some are turning to wellness programs to lower claims and control costs while improving their employees’ overall well-being. Oklahoma State University and the city of Stillwater have implemented wellness programs in recent years and both say they’re paying off. In 2012, city of Stillwater officials looked at their employee health statistics and realized the top 10 drugs the city was paying for were all used to treat preventable conditions, said Human Resources Generalist and Wellness Program Coordinator Laci Sanders.

Read more from the Stillwater News Press.

‘Cherokee Outlets’ to bring 1,000 jobs to Catoosa

A partnership announced Wednesday could bring premium outlet shopping, a new entertainment district and an estimated 1,000 permanent jobs to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Cherokee Nation Businesses has leased property west of the casino to commercial real estate developer Woodmont Outlets for a potential upscale retail development, officials announced at a news conference. Woodmont Outlets, an affiliate of Fort Worth-based The Woodmont Co., plans to invest $80 million into a development to be called “Cherokee Outlets.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma ACLU says law enforcement database is being misused

The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma is seeking access to records from a law enforcement website it says is being misused to “track the activities of thousands of American citizens without their knowledge or consent.” The website was created 10 years ago by Joe David, founder of Desert Snow. The Guthrie-based private company has instructed more than 50,000 officers in techniques to spot drug smugglers on the nation’s highways. The company has come under fire both in Oklahoma and nationwide because its training has led to questionable seizures of cash during traffic stops even when no drugs were found and no charges were filed against stopped motorists.

Read more from NewsOK.

Read the ACLU’s statement.

Drought-Stricken Southwest Oklahoma Towns Look For More Water Underground

Water supplies in southwest Oklahoma are in danger of drying up as four years of drought drag lake levels to record lows. Some communities are scrambling to supplement their current water sources, while others look for new sources — in Texas. Estimates say Duncan’s main water source — Lake Waurika — could be too low to use by 2016. “We’re about a year’s worth of rainfall behind,” Scott Vaughn, public works director for the city of Duncan says.

Read more from KGOU.

Cities Prepare for Warm Climate Without Saying So

With climate change still a political minefield across the nation despite the strong scientific consensus that it’s happening, some community leaders have hit upon a way of preparing for the potentially severe local consequences without triggering explosions of partisan warfare: Just change the subject. Big cities and small towns are shoring up dams and dikes, using roof gardens to absorb rainwater or upgrading sewage treatment plans to prevent overflows. Others are planting urban forests, providing more shady relief from extreme heat. Extension agents are helping farmers deal with an onslaught of newly arrived crop pests.

Read more from ABC News.

Quote of the Day

“Gov. Mary Fallin rejected Medicaid expansion funding under the Affordable Care Act in 2012. When she made that announcement, she cited fiscal reasons — the state couldn’t afford the potential costs. But two years later, we have to wonder how much longer the state can afford not to accept the money.”

– The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board, citing Gov. Fallin’s decision to reject federal funds to extend health coverage to low-income Oklahomans. Were the state to expand its Medicaid program, the federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs through 2016 before scaling back to and remaining at 90 percent after 2020. (Source:

Number of the Day


Median home price in Oklahoma in 2013

Source: Urban Institute.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

An Epidemic of Wage Theft Is Costing Workers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year

Millions of Americans struggle to get by on low wages, often without any benefits such as paid sick leave, a pension, or even health insurance. Their difficult lives are made immeasurably harder when they do the work they have been hired to do, but their employers refuse to pay, pay for some hours but not others, or fail to pay overtime premiums when employees’ hours exceed 40 in a week. This failure to pay what workers are legally entitled to can be called wage theft; in essence, it involves employers taking money that belongs to their employees and keeping it for themselves.

Read more from the Economic Policy Institute.

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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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