In The Know: Oklahoma teachers fight education cuts by winning elections

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 teachers fight education cuts by winning elections: Inner-city high school English teacher Mickey Dollens was fed up with low pay and cuts to public education, so he decided to run for the state Legislature to fix the problem. Then the 28-year-old from Oklahoma City became a casualty of those cuts and was laid off. He has since become a poster boy for a movement of teachers, parents and other supporters of public education trying to elect candidates who will resist cuts imposed by majority Republicans. The group passed its first major hurdle with flying colors on Tuesday when candidates it backed knocked off two incumbent House Republicans and came close to beating a third, a rarity in Oklahoma politics [Associated Press].

With Oklahoma primary over, hopefuls get ‘back on the campaign trail’: Collin Walke knocked on about 30 doors the day before Tuesday’s primary election, which could have been the difference in a race that saw him win the Democratic nomination in House District 87 by just 26 votes. “You got to knock doors all the way up until the last minute,” said Walke, who edged Kelly Meredith by 1.4 percent [NewsOK].

‘Teacher Caucus’ Candidate Reflects on Losing Race: Sand Springs Councilman Brian Jackson lost big in Tuesday’s Republican primary race in Senate District 37, which includes Sand Springs and parts of Tulsa. The incumbent, Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, bested Jackson by winning 69 percent of the vote, compared with Jackson’s 20 percent. Jackson was arguably part of the “teacher caucus” of candidates vying for a legislative seat because he supports greater funding for education and his wife has taught in Sand Springs Public Schools for 14 years [Oklahoma Watch].

For Oklahoma’s Democratic and Libertarian primaries, voter turnout is tough to pin down: About a quarter of the state’s registered Republicans turned out to vote in Tuesday’s primary election, according to Oklahoma Election Board records. As for the Democratic and Libertarian primaries — well, it’s hard to say. During Tuesday’s election, 224,684 registered Republicans cast ballots in the state’s five GOP congressional primaries. Using that figure as a proxy for Republican turnout overall, elections officials say that about 24 percent of the state’s 929,874 registered Republicans went to the polls Tuesday [NewsOK]. This report shares ideas for repairing Oklahoma’s broken democracy, including boosting voter turnout [OK Policy].

Wagoner County sheriff’s race not settled; provisional ballots to be considered: With nine provisional ballots that could prompt a Republican runoff election, the Wagoner County sheriff’s race is not over yet. Republican candidate Chris Elliott claimed victory after all 32 Wagoner County precincts reported their primary election votes Tuesday night. Elliott appeared to have won the seat outright because no Democrats ran for the office and he had a slim majority — 50.04 percent — of the Republican votes [Tulsa World].

‘We should be fixin’ to fix a broke Oklahoma’: Imagine if we Oklahomans were as good at fixing a broke government as we are at fixing everything else. What would that look like? Okies get together all the time and fix stuff that’s broken. In her 2016 State of the State Address, Gov. Mary Fallin talked about getting together and fixing the $1.3 billion budget hole. Talk is all there was. Nobody got together or fixed anything, despite virtually everybody knowing that we should be fixin’ to fix a broke Oklahoma [NonDoc].

Prosperity Policy: June surprise: Thursday marks the final day of what has been an extremely rough budget year in Oklahoma. With tax revenues coming in well below projections, Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger declared two successive revenue failures and cut agency budgets in December and March. It therefore came as a huge surprise to most everyone to see the recent headline in The Oklahoman: “Oklahoma finds $100 million cash surplus at end of fiscal year.” Exact year-end figures won’t be known until next month, but even if June tax collections are weak, a surplus is now inevitable. So what in the world happened? [David Blatt / Journal Record]

Panel Targets Business Incentives Totaling $110 Million: A new state oversight panel has decided to target for scrutiny this year 11 business incentives that have been reducing state revenue by at least $110 million a year. The first-year targets include incentives for manufacturing plant expansions, wind-power electricity generators, historic building renovations and Oklahoma-based film productions. The first-year lineup was endorsed Wednesday by members of the Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission [Oklahoma Watch]. Oklahoma has previously teamed up with the Pew Charitable Trusts to review its incentives [OK Policy].

Oklahoma regents set to decide tuition increases for 2016-17: Officials from Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities presented proposed tuition increases ranging from 3.7 percent to 12.9 percent Wednesday to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. The regents will vote on the requests and the fiscal year 2017 budgets for the institutions when they meet again at 9 a.m. Thursday. The increases average 8.4 percent systemwide, compared with 4.5 percent over the past seven years, Chancellor Glen Johnson said [NewsOK].

Hominy prison likely without water until next week: The Dick Conner Correctional Center will likely be without water until next week, according to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. The prison lost running water Saturday, when a water line broke. After fixing the problem the following day, another break in the city of Hominy’s system caused a loss of pressure that made filling Dick Conner’s water tower impossible. The city reports it should have the break fixed and the waterline operational by early next week [NewsOK].

Jobless rates rise in 52 counties: Unemployment rates increased in 52 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties in May. Jobless rates were lower in 18 counties and unchanged in seven, according to a monthly report from the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. Stephens County’s 9.4-percent jobless rate for May was the highest. The 9.4-percent jobless rate in Stephens County was up from 8.4 percent in April and 6 percent in May 2015 [Journal Record].

As OK Unemployment Rises, Workforce Centers See Funding Cut: Oklahoma’s unemployment numbers are on the rise. The state’s employment security commission released a report Wednesday showing most counties suffered job losses in May compared to a year ago. The high numbers will affect funding for counties working to get people back on the job [NewsOn6].

Quote of the Day

“We give away too many millions of dollars in tax credits to oil and gas companies. I have nieces and nephews, and I want them to be educated, too.”

– Greg Gatewood, a 50-year old architect who voted in Tulsa on Tuesday. Tuesday’s elections were broadly viewed as a referendum on public education in Oklahoma (Source). 

Number of the Day


Percent of black households in Oklahoma without a car in 2012, versus 5.6% of households without cars statewide.

Source: National Equity Atlas

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Hidden Costs of Community College: “I saw a wonderful speaker once say that community colleges serve three populations: Those who need a first chance, those who need a second chance, and those who need a last chance … we get the folks who can’t go anywhere else, and if we can’t provide them a way out of the situation they’re in, nobody else will,” noted Matt Reed, vice president for learning at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. Reed was solemn, but clearly frustrated too. He and four other higher education experts were together to describe the inadequacy of federal cost of attendance estimates, the numbers used by the government to distribute financial aid and by students to calculate living expenses [Pacific Standard Magazine].

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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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