In The Know: Poll shows deep political frustration among teachers

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

Poll shows deep political frustration among teachers: A vast majority of public school teachers across the state have an unfavorable opinion of the state Legislature — 81 percent, according to SoonerPoll — which has some teachers seeing similarities between this year and 2014. “Before that election, I don’t think a lot of teachers were as engaged in the political process,” Jacob Rosecrants, an Oklahoma City teacher, said about a wave of frustration teachers had for then-state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi in 2014. Public school teachers across the state are projected to make up around 4.5 percent of the total electorate on Nov. 8, according to an analysis by SoonerPoll that compared registered voter lists with a list of certified teachers [NewsOK].

Amid Oklahoma Budget Cuts, Students Join Protests: Since 2008, the Oklahoma legislature has cut almost a quarter out of its per-pupil education spending. It’s the largest drop in the nation and has resulted in teacher layoffs, overcrowded classrooms, and a reduction in class offerings. We’ve written extensively about how the budget cuts have roiled state politics there, culminating this year in a ballot measure to raise the state’s sales tax and more than 40 teachers running for state office. Cassidy Coffey, a student at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City, used social media to organize over a thousand students to walk out of school on May 16, 2016. In this video she tells us her story [Education Week].

After ho-hum year for state political contests, 2018 will be “transformational”: Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb will run for governor in 2018 and be the heavy favorite. Attorney General Scott Pruitt will either run against Lamb or try again for a seat in Congress. And a long list of current and would-be officeholders will try to replace Lamb and Pruitt. Those are the predictions of Oklahoma political experts polled by The Oklahoman with the promise of anonymity. A dozen elected officials, consultants and other campaign veterans — people who have run and won political races in Oklahoma — were asked to name the most likely candidates for the state’s highest offices two years from now [NewsOK].

In last few weeks before election day, most candidates are running blind: Just 24 days until November 8th, election day. That’s the day every candidate running for office — from President of the United States to local office — is looking for. Most candidates don’t know for sure whether they’re winning or losing. Some, usually incumbents, have a good feel for where they stand because they’ve been there before. They’ve learned how to gauge the response they’re getting from voters, and they can evaluate whether their challenger is running a good campaign. But they don’t know for sure [OK Policy].

Injured workers turning to government aid: Oklahoma City attorney Joe Biscone said he gets clients from other attorneys who don’t take on workers’ comp anymore, After lawmakers passed the Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act. He needs more people to help push the paperwork associated with comp claims, but Biscone said he can’t hire them because the value of claims has gone down. In a way, that was the goal of the Oklahoma Legislature when it passed the bill. Since it went into effect, officials have touted success by showing that the claim cost has fallen. But Biscone said there’s an unintended side effect: More of his clients are now seeking Social Security and other benefits along with their comp claims [Journal Record].

Court affirms state employee retirement change: New state employees will use a new pension format after the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld legislation that defines what workers pay, rather than what the state owes workers when they retire. The law passed in 2014 switched the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System to a defined contribution plan. State employees who started work before the law can remain on the defined benefit plan. Attorney Bob Nance said he will talk with the plaintiffs to decide the future of litigation, which could decide whether the Legislature is illegally taking money from the defined benefits plan pool of money to start up the defined contribution system [Journal Record].

Advocates of State Questions 780 and 781 launch TV ad campaign featuring stories of real families: The “Yes on 780 and 781” campaign, led by Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, last week officially launched a TV advertising campaign that will feature four commercials slated to air throughout October and the first week of November. The TV spots underscore the need for reform and also profiles some of the real stories of families and communities adversely impacted by the justice system [CapitolBeatOK]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 780 and SQ 781 here.

Tulsa World endorsement: For State Questions 780 and 781 — it’s time to be smart on crime: Oklahoma has too many people in its prisons, more than 48 other states. A huge number of those people are there because of relatively modest crimes that are often driven by drug addiction or mental illness. Successfully treat the underlying problem, and you can turn a tax-consuming criminal into a tax-paying member of society. Refusing to treat those problems is, in a word, dumb. State voters will be presented with two smart-on-crime ideas this November, and while both proposals are less than perfect, we support them [Tulsa World Editorial Board].

Alcohol state question uncorks many issues for Oklahoma voters: It’s always busy at Byron’s Liquor Warehouse, but peak hours typically begin about 3 p.m. and don’t stop at the bustling store until almost close. Byron’s, 2322 N Broadway Ave., was one of the first liquor stores to open in the state after prohibition ended in 1959 and remains a fixture of NW 23 and N Broadway, just a few blocks from the Oklahoma Capitol. Blake Cody, general manager at Byron’s, fears his customers will dwindle if State Question 792 passes in November, cutting into the liquor superstore’s wine and beer sales [NewsOK]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet about SQ 792 here.

Draft of Oklahoma’s new state education standards is expected this month: In a state where federal education regulations often have been met with hostility, Oklahoma will have a chance to chart its own path as it finalizes new state standards allowed under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal education act that replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB) last year. The state Education Department has spent the last several months developing a first draft that will be presented to the state Board of Education later this month. Final adoption of Oklahoma’s new standards is expected next summer with a goal to be in place before the 2017-18 school year [Oklahoman].

City of OKC departments prepare to make cuts amidst sales tax decline: Departments within the city of Oklahoma City are facing midyear budget cuts in the wake of a decline in sales tax collections for the first three months of this fiscal year. City officials said with the price of oil down, fewer people are spending their money in Oklahoma City, and now the sales tax revenue collections are down compared to this time last year. As a result, the city plans to cut $4.5 million from their budget. Each department will be cut by 1.25 percent [KOCO].

Revenue from tribal gaming in Oklahoma sets record: Thirty Oklahoma Indian tribes conducted casino-style gaming in the state last fiscal year, but nearly two-thirds of the record-breaking $132 million in exclusivity fees paid to the state came from just three tribes. Leading the way were the Chickasaw Nation, which paid the state nearly $46.9 million in fees, the Choctaw Nation, which paid about $22.4 million, and the Cherokee Nation, which paid nearly $15.3 million. Indian gaming revenues received by the state go to support education, mental health services and state agencies [Oklahoman].

No one in the house: Interim studies sparsely attended by representatives: In a hearing about how universities report rapes that happen on campus, experts gave testimony to a nearly empty House committee room. Only one Higher Education Committee member, Chairman Harold Wright, showed up for the interim study. The other representative there that day was Claudia Griffith, who organized the study. Griffith said she’d been told interim studies are poorly attended. “You put a lot of work and effort into asking people to come and speak,” said Griffith, D-Norman. “They’re taking their time to fulfill your wishes and when nobody comes it’s like, ‘Wow, what a waste of time.’” [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“Teachers have been given lip service from (state leaders) for quite some time. When oil and gas revenues were going great … our legislators and governor said we support public education, but they continued to make cuts. You can’t say that you support public schools and not act on that. It has made teachers very frustrated.”

-Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, speaking about a new poll that shows 79 percent of Oklahoma teachers have an unfavorable view of Governor Fallin and 81 percent have an unfavorable view of the state Legislature (Source).

Number of the Day


Median hourly wage for an Oklahoma child care worker in 2015, a 4% decrease since 2010.

Source: Center for the Study of Child Care Employment

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Cities That Are Fighting Back Against State Intervention: Back in May, Ohio passed a new state law targeting an old Cleveland ordinance. The state law, HB 180, preempted a 12-year-old municipal law that requires contractors to hire locally. The state’s legislation prohibited Cleveland or any other city in Ohio from passing local-hire laws. Late in August, Cleveland struck back. A trial court placed a temporary injunction against the state law and ordered a full trial review for November. The court affirmed Cleveland’s right to self-government under the Ohio state constitution, specifically citing the Home Rule Amendment, which grants the “broadest possible powers of self-government in connection with all matters which are strictly local and do not impinge upon matters which are of a state-wide nature or interest.” A wave of similar legal struggles have erupted nationwide [CityLab].

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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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