In The Know: Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds new workers’ compensation law

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.

Today you should know that the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s new workers’ compensation law,  but several justices indicated that provisions allowing businesses to opt out of the law and create their own system may not pass constitutional muster if future challenges are made.

An online charter school filed the lawsuit over state Education Department officials’ refusal to release its A-F report card. The Department said they were holding back the grade due to concerns that the school’s assessment data had been manipulated to increase the grade. An Oklahoma charter school for high-risk students faces termination of its contract after being accused of failing to appropriately pay employees, provide nutritious meals, maintain accurate student records, provide special education services, and obtain occupancy and health permits.

State ethics officials expressed concern that the financial disclosures required from state lawmakers are inadequate. The OK Policy Blog discussed why Oklahoma needs to focus on bilingual education and other strategies to help English Language Learners. Two men pled guilty to first-degree murder and hate crimes charges for the Tulsa Good Friday shootings and were sentenced to life without parole.

Business Insider summarized Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s lawsuit that seeks to make it harder for Oklahomans to get help purchasing health insurance. The Number of the Day is how many Oklahoma have so far enrolled in a private health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. In today’s Policy Note, Bloomberg explains how taxpayers are subsidizing fast food companies for about $7 billion due to below poverty-level wages.

In The News

Oklahoma Supreme Court upholds new workers’ compensation law

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s new workers’ compensation law, sparking jubilation among many Oklahoma government and business leaders. Fred Morgan, president of The State Chamber of Oklahoma, called Monday’s ruling “a big victory.” The Supreme Court ruled that the new law does not violate a constitutional prohibition against covering multiple subjects in a single bill. However, three justices did express concerns about opt-out provisions in the law. They indicated those opt-out provisions may not pass constitutional muster if future constitutional challenges are made once administrative rules have been developed and implemented.

Read more from NewsOK.

Online charter school files lawsuit over not receiving A-F grade

Epic One on One, a primarily online school with thousands of students enrolled across Oklahoma, filed the lawsuit Nov. 7 after state Education Department officials refused to release its report card, said Brad Clark, an attorney representing the school. The charter school was founded in 2011, state records show, and received a D grade on its first report card. Tricia Pemberton, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department, said Epic One on One’s report card is being withheld because the state agency “is still verifying data for this school.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma City charter school accused of misconduct, faces termination

A charter school for high-risk students is accused of failing to provide a “safe and appropriate learning environment” and faces termination of its contract, The Oklahoman has learned. The Oklahoma City School Board is investigating Harper Academy Charter School at 1215 NE 34. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman Harper Academy, 1215 NE 34, is accused by Oklahoma City school district officials of failing to properly contract with and pay employees; failing to provide nutritional meals required by state law; failing to maintain accurate student records; failing to provide special education services; and failing to provide both occupancy and health permits, documents show.

Read more from NewsOK.

Lawmakers’ disclosures reveal little on finances

One state lawmaker has a commercial permit to harvest turtles. Some 18 members of the House and Senate have individual retirement accounts. Another 18 lawmakers reported earning no other sizable income aside from their monthly check for serving in the state Legislature. Likewise, 76 lawmakers — over half of the state Legislature — reported holding no securities with a value of at least $5,000, a Tulsa World analysis shows. In all, over 6,000 disclosure reports are filed each year with the Ethics Commission, stored in a series of filing cabinets at the state Capitol available only in person. But some are questioning what is required to be reported and the value of the information revealed to the public.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Why Oklahoma needs to focus on bilingual education

What passes for an education policy debate in Oklahoma spends a lot of time on a few familiar subjects — education funding vs. tax cuts, vouchers and charters vs. traditional public schools, high-stakes testing vs. teacher and school independence. What’s too often missing from these debates is any consideration of the specific needs of real students. We almost never talk about why kids struggle in the classroom or what teaching strategies might overcome those barriers. A recent OK Policy report (Education Action Items for Oklahoma) includes several proposals that will hopefully contribute to removing that blind spot. Among these is a call for Oklahoma to bring a new focus to teaching English Language Learners (ELLs). This post explains why it is crucially important for Oklahoma to take on this issue and what the research says about how to do it.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Tulsa Good Friday shooters sentenced to life without parole

Two men were each sentenced Monday to five consecutive life prison terms for the Good Friday triple homicide that drew international attention to Tulsa. Alvin Lee Watts, 34, and Jacob Carl England, 21, pleaded guilty and accepted plea agreements calling for three life-without-parole sentences for first-degree murder, plus two life sentences with parole not prohibited on two counts of shooting with intent to kill. They also pleaded guilty to hate-crimes charges, and prosecutors agreed to drop their requests for death sentences for both defendants.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Indiana and Oklahoma are suing to make it harder for their residents to get health insurance — here’s why

The Obamacare challenges never stop. Two states have brought cases against the federal government that are intended to undermine President Obama’s greatest legislative achievement by denying subsidies to their residents. You read that correctly. These states want to stop the federal government from giving money to their residents to purchase health insurance. Here’s what you need to know.

Read more from Business Insider.

Quote of the Day

First allow me to apologize sincerely that these innocent people got caught up in my chaotic self destructive downward spiral. Not only the families but the entire city of Tulsa lost these innocent lives. … To all of Tulsa and the African American community I am dearly sorry.

-Jacob England, who pled guilty to first-degree murder and hate crimes charges for a series of random shootings in north Tulsa. He was sentenced to life without parole. (Source:

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahomans who have so far enrolled in a private health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act exchange online

Source:  HHS via NewsOK

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The minimum wage and McDonald’s welfare

Last month, we discussed McDonald’s and Wal-Mart as America’s biggest welfare queens. As it turns out, both giants are the beneficiaries of a surprising amount of federal aid: Their employees receive an inordinate amount of Medicaid, food stamps and other public assistance. This allows them to maintain very low wages, and keep profits relatively robust. I wondered aloud at why profitable, publicly traded private sector firms were receiving so much taxpayer largess. With these corporations having their full-time employees’ paychecks effectively subsidized by taxpayers, I decided to do a little do more digging. What I found about minimum wages in the U.S. surprised me. I suspect it will surprise you, too.

Read more from Bloomberg.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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