In The Know: Oklahoma state agencies cut 609 jobs in first half of 2016

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 state agencies cut 609 jobs in first half of 2016: Efforts to cope with a $1.3 billion shortfall in the state budget have led to the elimination of 609 workers from the payrolls of state agencies so far this year. John Estus, director of public affairs for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, says that through June 28 the number of state employees dropped from 34,569 to 33,960. The Oklahoman reports that figure does not include hundreds of additional state workers who will lose their jobs due to previously announced voluntary buyouts and reduction-in-force plans that are still underway [Associated Press].

Teach for America’s Presence Shrinks in State: A waning number of applicants, coupled with a dramatic cut in state funds, is throwing into reverse Teach for America’s efforts to place teachers in public-school classrooms in Oklahoma. The national program recruits college graduates and professionals to commit to a two-year stint in mostly low-income, struggling schools. There will be 30 percent fewer Teach for America teachers in Oklahoma classrooms this fall, compared to last year, based on data provided by Teach for America [Oklahoma Watch].

Elections have consequences: Tuesday’s primaries gave us our first indication of whether this year’s elections will significantly impact politics in our state. I’m not talking about partisan politics. In that regard, what goes around comes around. I was part of a large Democratic majority when I served in the legislature. Taking the House and Senate together, there is currently an even larger Republican majority [OK Policy].

A war on (those in) poverty: My father emigrated from Ireland to the United States just before I was born. He came for all of the opportunities America had to offer and he made the very most of it. I love my Irish heritage and am proud to say that alongside my U.S. citizenship, I have citizenship in Ireland. Through my father and my own studies, I know a great deal of Irish history with many difficult lessons embedded over the centuries [Dr. Gerard Clancy / Tulsa World].

Lora named permanent superintendent of OKC schools: Aurora Lora was made the permanent superintendent of the state’s largest school system Friday after a unanimous vote by the school board. Lora had been acting as interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools since April when the board approved a separation agreement with Rob Neu. Lora was interviewed for the superintendent position before Neu was hired in 2014 but was instead hired as the district’s associate superintendent [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Commissioners of Land Office distributes record school funds: The Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office distributed a record $102.2 million to Oklahoma’s K-12 public schools throughout fiscal year 2016, the agency announced Friday. An additional $32.2 million was distributed to Oklahoma’s higher education institutions, said Commission Secretary Harry Birdwell. Higher education distributions did not set a record, but were good considering that many of the lands managed for higher education are in the Oklahoma Panhandle [NewsOK].

Court asked to dismiss challenge to education tax proposal: A group supporting a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund education is asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to dismiss a challenge by an anti-tax group seeking to keep the proposal off the November ballot. The Yes for SQ 779 campaign filed the brief Friday with the court. The group supports an initiative petition that would generate about $615 million annually for public education [KOCO].

Decision doesn’t dampen effort to send immigrants to Okla. colleges: A group that aims to steer into college hundreds of immigrants living illegally in Oklahoma said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last week will have little bearing on its work. Still, the court’s split decision, effectively blocking a key immigration plan by President Barack Obama, was “disheartening” for immigrants and their allies, said Robert Ruiz, CEO of Oklahoma City’s Scissortail Community Development Corp. Scissortail’s Aspiring Americans program connects immigrant students and their families in Oklahoma with the resources to attend college [Enid News].

Fallin ‘absolutely’ still committed to Medicaid Rebalancing Act: Gov. Mary Fallin says she’s still committed to reconfiguring Oklahoma’s health spending to provide coverage for thousands without increasing the Medicaid rolls. During the question-and-answer period of her recent speech to the Tulsa Regional Chamber, the governor was asked about the Medicaid Rebalancing Act of 2020, which she backed this year. In her answer, she described the rebalancing act, which would take advantage of available federal funding to buy private insurance coverage for 403,336 currently uninsured Oklahomans through the successful and popular Insure Oklahoma program [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Panel set to evaluate $110 million worth of state tax incentives: The state of Oklahoma shells out millions of dollars in tax incentives to different industries every year. Now, the newly formed Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission is evaluating some of those incentives to see if they are still needed. A piece of recently passed legislation has made it possible for the state to form the commission [KOCO]. Evaluation is one of three crucial components of tax incentive reform [OK Policy].

SQ 780 and 781 will relieve state prison problems: Two state questions that could have a positive impact on Oklahoma’s prison population moved closer to being on the November ballot. More than 110,000 Oklahoma voters signed petitions calling for a vote on State Question 780 and State Question 781, Secretary of State Chris Benge has confirmed. State law requires 65,987 signatures [Tulsa World Editorial Board]. Here’s what’s driving Oklahoma’s prison population growth [OK Policy].

State budget cuts leave foster children wanting: Norman teens in foster care have come into shelters with less than adequate clothing due to deep budget cuts, a local shelter director said. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services eliminated clothing vouchers in August due to losses in funding imposed by the state legislature. Congregate care includes group homes and shelters. Foster parents are supposed to use some of their money to buy children clothing, but youth in shelters and group homes depend on stipends [Norman Transcript].

OKC Couple Fights For Child Care Law: Just over a year ago, Ali and Derek Dodd were dealing with the unexpected loss of their infant son. “He was swaddled, unbuckled, put in another child’s car seat, put in another bedroom with the door shut for two hours, unsupervised completely,” Ali Dodd said. She said he wiggled down so much he suffocated in his sleep. Both parents say they immediately had questions. And they didn’t waste time working on an answer. They began drafting and lobbying for Shepard’s law [News 9].

Legislator urges Oklahoma Muslims to become involved in political process: A state legislator received a standing ovation at a Ramadan gathering designed to promote interaction between Oklahoma Muslims and their elected leaders. State Sen. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, brought the crowd of about 150 people to its feet with her passionate speech urging Muslims to get more involved in the political process [NewsOK].

US Supreme Court ruling raises questions about Oklahoma law: A ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas has brought new attention to a similar law in Oklahoma that is also being challenged. It also has raised new questions about the Republican-controlled Legislature’s focus on a conservative social agenda that includes anti-abortion legislation when other areas of state government, including the state budget and funding for public education, are suffering [Associated Press].

Democrat or Republican, Oklahoma has always been conservative: People tend to misunderstand Oklahoma’s early political history, says Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Bob Blackburn. Because of its deep populist roots, socialist streak and Democratic Party control, Blackburn said, a common assumption is that early Oklahoma was more liberal — to use the word’s current meaning — than it is now [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Candidates ran on a platform pushing the smallest possible government and the lowest possible tax burden. It all sounded so good but soon this platform became an addiction. Like an addiction, all logic was ignored around the importance of education, health and economic opportunity. No matter the damage to our children’s future, and ourselves we pushed for and elected proponents of smaller government and lower taxes.”

-Dr. Gerard Clancy, president-designate of the University of Tulsa (Source)

Number of the Day


Birth rate per 1,000 women aged 15-44 in Oklahoma in 2014, 9th highest in the US

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The big problem with one of the most popular assumptions about the poor: In the late 1960s, Walter Mischel, a researcher at Stanford University, invited several hundred children to participate in a game in which they were given a choice: They could eat one sweet right away, or wait and have two a little later. Initially, the goal was simple: to see how and why people (kids in this case) delayed gratification.But after the end of the experimentMischel began to check in with as many of the participants’ families as he could, and over the following decade he learned that his little experiment probably had much larger implications than he had anticipated [Washington Post].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Oklahoma state agencies cut 609 jobs in first half of 2016

  1. I’m sorry, but the symptoms described in the “what’s driving prison pops” piece are like saying that your illness is driven by your fever and headache. OK’s prison populations are driven by DAs, counties, judges, vengeance-driven victims, profit-seeking media, and private vendors and their bought-and-paid-for policymakers, all of whom directly benefit in power, prestige, and position from policies that produce more activity and justification for those actions and that they never pay their own price for. They will be there long after the feel-good effects of any legislation changes that may occasionally occur, and they will play any new system back into one that promotes them. Lasting reforms have to account for that reality and have to structure and maintain obstacles to their counter-reactions and obstruction. That means significant attention to effective implementation and honest evaluation before, during, and (long) after any reform efforts, and sanctions and challenges for those who benefit from the status quo. If those aren’t clear during the reform effort, the ultimate results once the spotlight has moved on already will be.

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