In The Know: Prison guards more likely to stay on the job

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

Prison guards more likely to stay on the job: As the economy sputters and unemployment creeps up, more prison guards are staying on the job. The Department of Corrections hired 1,052 new employees this past budget year — and kept 452 of them. That’s a marked improvement from the 70 officers gained the prior year, according to an analysis by the state Public Employees Association. Though positive news for prisons, which have long struggled to hire and keep officers, those who monitor staffing there is still much work to be done. “Our concern is, we still lose way too many of them,” said Sean Wallace, policy director for the Public Employees Association [Norman Transcript]. While prisons are filled to 122 percent of their operating capacity, DOC is funded for only 67 percent of its staffing needs [OK Policy].

Challenge seeks to keep Oklahoma farming measure off November ballot: Opponents of State Question 777 have filed an appeal to try and keep the measure on farming practices off the statewide ballot in November. Attorneys for opponents of the ballot measure have filed an accelerated appeal in the case, in hopes the Oklahoma Supreme Court will take up the matter before a deadline in late August for the Oklahoma Election Board to print the November ballot, said Heather Hintz, an attorney for plaintiffs in the case [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Corporation Commission investigating Blanchard earthquakes: A spate of earthquakes in the Blanchard area has Oklahoma regulators scratching their heads, since there’s not any active, deep disposal wells in the area. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission said Wednesday it is investigating all oil and gas activity in the area after United States Geological Survey data shows nine recent earthquakes near Blanchard. The earthquakes have been about 5 miles southeast of Blanchard in the old North Dibble Oil Field, according to USGS data. Blanchard is about 30 miles south of Oklahoma City [NewsOK].

DPS considers options in wake of dramatic budget cuts: Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said Wednesday he is considering several options after his agency took a dramatic funding cut. Options include a reduction in force and furloughs for the agency, which includes the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Thompson said. He said if the agency is forced to do furloughs, potential targets will be “everyone at the Department of Public Safety, including me.” [Tulsa World]

Prosperity Policy: A win-win: Every three months, the ADP Research Institute releases its Workforce Vitality Index, a measure of private sector job and wage growth. For the past two quarters, Washington state has led the nation in growing jobs and boosting wages, far outpacing the national average. Why is this significant? Because Washington state has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation – $9.47 an hour. Since April 2015, the city of Seattle has been moving toward a $15 minimum wage, with the current minimum ranging from $10.50 to $13 depending on employer size. The higher wage has been anything but the job killer that many opponents predicted [Journal Record].

Credit rating advice should be heeded by Oklahoma policymakers: Aa is the case every year, a contingent of Oklahoma officials led by the governor went to New York recently to meet with representatives of the country’s three largest bond rating agencies. Unknown is whether what those agencies said will resonate. Although Oklahoma has a good bond rating, the state also has been given a negative credit outlook from all three agencies — Fitch, Standard & Poor’s, and Moody’s — due primarily to the state’s revenue and budget problems. Among other things, the agencies look for sufficient revenue to fund state government. That has been a problem in Oklahoma in recent years [NewsOK].

TPS Rides: Tulsa High School Kids Can Ride City Buses For Free On Weekdays: Tulsa Public Schools and the Metro Tulsa Transit Authority announced their anticipated partnership that will give students in 9-12 grades more ways to get to school – and save money for the school district. High school students will be able to ride for free on weekdays when they show their student IDs. Superintendent Deborah Gist said partnership programs like TPS Rides are vital to the success of a district facing today’s challenges [NewsOn6].

What the new federal education law means for Oklahoma (part 2): This post is part two of a two-part series which explains the new federal education law that replaces the No Child Left Behind Act with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Part one looked at ESSA’s effects on accountability and standards. This part examines ESSA’s effects on testing and teachers [OK Policy]. The first part in this series is available here.

OKC police union requests officers be allowed to carry privately owned weapons: Citing the deaths of five officers in Dallas last week, the Fraternal Order of Police has asked that Oklahoma City officers be allowed to carry their personal rifles and ammunition and be issued additional body armor. In a Wednesday letter to Police Chief Bill Citty, Oklahoma City FOP President John George called for the changes due to “a higher probability that our officers will face an active shooter situation.” Citty said he’s held discussions with the union about officers carrying their own rifles and doesn’t see it as necessary because of the number of rifles already available in the department [NewsOK].

Tulsa near bottom of national health-care rankings: Poor health outcomes and a lack of access to health care helped land Tulsa a spot among the worst regions in the country for overall health, according to a new study. Tulsa was among the bottom 10 percent for overall health-care quality among more than 300 communities ranked by the Commonwealth Fund in its latest Scorecard on Local Health System Performance. Tulsa ranks 283rd out of 306 hospital referral regions. Oklahoma City was a couple of spots lower at 286th, and Lawton was 299th, according to the report, which was released Thursday [Tulsa World].

Laura Dester hosting suitors for next use: In March, staffers almost shut the doors of the Laura Dester Shelter with nearly all foster children placed in a home or group setting. Then, another wave of children and teens arrived. It is inevitable the Tulsa shelter for abused and neglected children will close. It’s part of a 2012 federal settlement agreement and an integral part of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ child-welfare improvement effort, called the Pinnacle Plan. While there is no concrete deadline, officials say it likely will be about January before the shelter is shuttered. On Wednesday, 27 children and youth were in the shelter [Tulsa World].

As Largest In Nation, Muskogee VA Benefits Office Works To Aid Veterans: The Veterans Affairs regional office in Muskogee is giving News On 6 a behind-the-scenes look at its operations. The VA benefits presence in Muskogee is the largest in the nation. Every day, the call center gets between 10,000-60,000 calls. Since 2008, all veteran benefit calls have come through the call center in Muskogee. The benefits services cover education, disability, pension, rehabilitation and employment. In Oklahoma alone, more than $1.5 billion is paid each year to veterans for those benefits [NewsOn6].

Audit recommends Creeks repay $219K in housing block grants: The federal government is questioning some of the actions taken by a local tribe’s housing department. On Friday, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Housing and Urban Development released its findings from an audit of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s participation in the Indian Housing Block Grant program from 2013 through 2015. Citing eight instances of non-compliance with federal housing regulations, the report recommends that the tribe repay up to $219,839 stemming from questionable expenses, contracts that did not have sufficient supporting documentation and uncollected rent that should have been gathered under federal regulations [Tulsa World].

Tulsa Gets $300,000 Grant to Clean up Pollution Sites: The city of Tulsa is getting a $300,000 federal grant to clean up old pollution sites known as Brownfield locations. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee noted how Tulsa has used Brownfield grants in the past to clean up sites that led to the construction of the BOK Center, ONEOK Field and the refurbishing of the Mayo Hotel. A Brownfield was also used in restoring Oklahoma City’s historic Skirvin hotel [OK Energy Today].

Bittersweet harvest: Weak market greets state’s banner wheat crop: Oklahoma farmers are wrapping up one of their best wheat harvest in years, but nobody is celebrating. Low prices caused by a global glut of wheat have made the harvest a bittersweet one for the state’s farmers. Wheat sold at a high of $3.44 per bushel in the state Tuesday, down from $5.48 per bushel on the same day last year. The state produced 132 million bushels of wheat this year, according to numbers released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That would be the second highest total since 2009, trailing only the 154.8 million bushels produced in 2012 [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“They readily admit, as soon as the oil field jobs come back, I’m out of here.”

– Oklahoma Public Employees Association Policy Director Sean Wallace, after the state Department of Corrections announced that it had hired more than one thousand employees in the last budget year and retained 452 of them, compared to 70 in the year prior (Source). 

Number of the Day


The mean hourly wage for 17,590 fast food cooks working in Oklahoma in 2015. The occupation paid the lowest average wage in the state.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Kitchen Table Politics: The Cost Of Caring For Kids: The 2016 presidential race has been filled with excitement and drama. But there’s another layer to American politics that gets less attention: How issues of home, family and wallet intersect with electoral politics and public policy. …This week, we examine some of the costs of having and raising children, including how federal, state and local governments treat paid leave when a child is born or adopted and the cost of childcare for working parents. …In the U.S., who gets to take paid parental leave — and whether that leave is for mothers or also includes fathers — depends on state and local law [FiveThirtyEight].

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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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