In The Know: Oklahoma Superintendent Joy Hofmeister seeks $221 million boost for schools

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 Superintendent Joy Hofmeister seeks $221 million boost for schools: Despite a nearly $870 million shortfall in next year’s Oklahoma state budget, state school Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says public schools need an additional $221 million in the upcoming fiscal year. Hofmeister delivered a budget presentation Wednesday to Oklahoma House members ahead of the legislative session that begins next month. Oklahoma’s public schools received about $1.87 billion in legislative appropriations last year [Tulsa World]. It will take more than passing a sizable pay raise for teachers to solve Oklahoma’s education funding needs, according to the state’s public schools chief [Oklahoma Watch]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

New Speaker of the House details session goals: “It’s a challenge, this is a challenging cycle no doubt about it,” said Representative Charles McCall in his first television interview as Speaker of the Oklahoma House. He knew when he was elected that the legislature would be facing another uphill battle. “The budget we ended up with last year was not, was nowhere near close to $1.3 billion less than the previous year budget,” McCall told [FOX 25]. Revenues are expected to remain low [OK Policy].

Exclusive interview: Rep. Dan Kirby questions settlement: ‘If there was no sexual harassment, why was there a payment?’: Rep. Dan Kirby on Tuesday questioned the $44,500 the House spent on a settlement to his former assistant and her attorneys to resolve a sexual harassment and wrongful termination grievance. In an interview with the Tulsa World, Kirby said a House investigation into the matter revealed there was no sexual harassment. “I don’t understand why there was a payment,” he said. “If there was no sexual harassment, why was there a payment?” [Tulsa World].

More Oklahomans died from meth overdose in 2015 than Rx drugs: Even though the number of meth labs across Oklahoma continues to shrink, the number of residents dying from the drug continues to grow, state data shows. In 2015, more Oklahomans died from unintentional drug overdoses from methamphetamine — 226 deaths — than any other drug. That’s compared to 154 deaths from meth in 2014 [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: A tax credit that works: Tax reform will surely be one of the most contentious issues in national politics this year. Congressional Republicans and the new Trump administration have promised large tax cuts that they claim will spur growth and investment, while Democrats warn that these plans could explode the deficit and become a wasteful giveaway to the very wealthy [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Tulsa County OSU Extension Service Braces For Possible Budget Cuts: The OSU Extension Service is bracing for possible state budget cuts, and it’s asking for help in deciding what services are most critical as they consider their options. One focus of the extension service is to train people on sustainability with the resources they have. But they’re finding they can no longer sustain the service they’re providing [NewsOn6].

Digital Health Data Could Be Big Business for Oklahoma: Oklahoma — Tulsa, more specifically — may be poised to take a big chunk of business from the rapidly growing health data industry. Though the amount of U.S. medical data is growing by exabytes — that’s 1 billion gigabytes — a year, there’s a focus on using it to lower costs and improve patient outcomes [KWGS].

Oklahoma may get two kinds of state IDs: Oklahomans will likely have a choice between getting a driver’s license that meets federal security rules or obtaining one that doesn’t, lawmakers said Wednesday. The two types of licenses would be issued under a compromise bill the Legislature is expected to consider when it begins its yearly session next month [NewsOK].

Broken Arrow school board names Janet Dunlop as next superintendent: The Broken Arrow Public Schools Board of Education approved Janet Dunlop as the district’s new superintendent at a special meeting Tuesday evening, replacing Jarod Mendenhall nearly a month after he agreed to leave his position. Board President Cheryl Kelly said it was not necessary, given Dunlop’s experience with the district, to conduct a search for a new superintendent. Instead, the board decided to move forward and approve an employment contract to make Dunlop the district’s new leader [Tulsa World].

Union Public Schools expanding program that provides free, healthy meal to students after school: Many Union Public Schools students don’t have to worry about what they’re going to eat between lunch and after-school activities thanks to a federally funded supper program that the district is expanding to more sites. District staff say the program reduces hunger among students who otherwise might not get a good, healthy afternoon meal and encourages participation in after-school programs that tend to drive class attendance and performance [Tulsa World].

$16 mil. Tulsa Co. Jail expansion project nears completion; officers receive mental health training: Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado said once the 43,000 square foot expansion project is complete, there will be more room for inmates suffering from mental illness. “With funding cut for mental health needs across the state, we’re certainly going to be very busy and I don’t think it’ll take long before we reach capacity,” said Sheriff Regalado [KJRH].

Benge to serve as State Secretary of Native American Affairs: The creation of a State Secretary of Native American Affairs will raise the level of importance and better prioritize Native issues in Oklahoma, a media release states. Gov. Mary Fallin recently announced that former Secretary of State and former Speaker of the House Chris Benge will serve in the new role. Benge, who also serves as the governor’s chief of staff, is a Cherokee Nation citizen [Muskogee Phoenix].

Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt meeting with U.S. Senate confirmation committee members: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been meeting with Republican members of a committee that will help determine whether he will head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold confirmation hearings in the coming weeks. Democrats challenge Pruitt’s credentials to head an agency he has criticized and sued repeatedly, while Republicans embrace his message of reining in what they consider federal overreach and over-regulation [Tulsa World].

Extreme contamination in Bird Creek tributary an ongoing mystery: Dead fish and turtles, a creek with 100-degree water twice as salty as seawater, and a public water supply scare for the city of Pawhuska — and nearly five months later, answers are yet to come. The Environmental Protection Agency continues to look for a pollution source on North Bird Creek in Osage County that was first reported on the Chapman Ranch on Aug. 14. Investigators are looking closely at nearby oilfield underground injection control wells as a possible source [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“We recognize that this is one of the largest requests that will be brought to you this year, but the need is great.”

– State Superintendent of Schools Joy Hofmeister, presenting a $2.4 billion budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, a $221 million increase over the prior year (Source)

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s national rank in heart disease mortality, 2012

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

It Turns Out Spending More Probably Does Improve Education: If you spend more on education, will students do better? Educators, politicians and unions have battled in court over that crucial question for decades, most recently in a sweeping decision this fall in Connecticut, where a judge recently ordered the state to revamp nearly every facet of its education policies, from graduation requirements to special education, along with its school funding. For many years, research on the relationship between spending and student learning has been surprisingly inconclusive. Many other factors, including student poverty, parental education and the way schools are organized, contribute to educational results [The Upshot / The New York Times]. 

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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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