In The Know: Report shows high degree of abuse by foster parents

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

Report shows high degree of abuse by foster parents: More children were abused or neglected by foster parents in Oklahoma in 2015 than any other state in the nation, according to a new child maltreatment report released by the federal government. There were 150 confirmed cases of children abused or neglected by Oklahoma foster parents in 2015, according to the report issued by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s 121 more than Texas, which has more than seven times as many people [The Oklahoman].

With reading proficiency exemption facing expiration, effort to make it permanent underway: Laura Martin spends her day working with groups of students who require additional help with reading, an area the state requires proficiency in by third grade in order to be promoted to the fourth grade. “It definitely is more than teaching the ABC’s,” Martin said. “They have to know their alphabet, they have to know their sounds. They have to have that good foundation and then we build on that with sight words and vocabulary.” But while students who do not score proficient on the state reading test are required to repeat the third grade, in 2014 the Legislature approved an exception if a committee of teachers and parents of the student approve promotion [NewsOK].

Oklahoma teacher recruitment plan seeks to catch up with other states: With more schools relying on emergency certified teachers and fewer traditionally trained educators entering the profession, Oklahoma’s teacher shortage has been referred to as a crisis. It comes at a time when most of the nation is also struggling to fill classrooms with certified teachers, a point some have argued makes Oklahoma’s problems not unique. But it’s an argument some educators don’t believe absolves the state of needing to address it’s own teacher shortage [NewsOK].

On teacher pay, you spoke up: When I started counting all the bills filed this year that would seemingly raise teacher salaries, I never thought I’d find 23 of them. The idea, the issue of teacher pay has been pushed to the forefront of Oklahoma politics for the past several years, and the 2017 legislative session seems like the best chance in a while for something like that to happen. A coalition of teachers and education advocates ran for state office. They didn’t all win, but the discussion on the campaign trail would often turn toward teacher pay in races across the state, lawmakers have told me [Dale Denwalt / NewsOK].

Schools forced to close due to outbreaks of the flu: While the weather may feel like spring, health officials say Oklahoma is in the heart of flu season. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, the number of flu deaths in Oklahoma more than doubled in just a week. With two recent large outbreaks, officials are warning you to stay home if you’re sick. More than 300 students and over a dozen teachers in McLoud have the flu. Just a few days earlier, more than 100 students in Minco came down with either the flu, strep throat, or a combination of both [KFOR].

Oklahoma moves up to third place in state rankings for wind power: Oklahoma added almost 1,200 megawatts of wind capacity in the last three months of 2016 as it leapfrogged California to take third place among the states for wind capacity. Among the new wind farms starting operations at the end of the year was Duke Energy Renewable’s 200-megawatt Frontier Windpower project near Blackwell. The 61-turbine project will sell electricity to a city utility in Springfield, Mo., under a 22-year contract [NewsOK].

Motorists’ cell phone use at issue in Oklahoma legislation: Oklahoma legislators will consider bills in the coming weeks that would prohibit hand-held use of cell phones while driving. Texting and driving already is illegal. Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, and Sen. Ron Sharp, R-Shawnee, are each sponsoring legislation targeting hand-held cell phone use by drivers. “Everyone agrees this is a public safety hazard,” said Dossett, who has introduced Senate Bill 132, also called “The Bobbi White Act of 2017.” [NewsOK]

Critical occupations fund designed to fill jobs, fuel economy: Gov. Mary Fallin wants lawmakers to earmark $20 million for a new Critical Occupations Fund designed to put more people to work in jobs that are crucial to growing Oklahoma’s economy. The state had more than 71,000 unfilled jobs as of Aug. 31, and about 18,000 of those openings were critical occupations, such as engineers, teachers, nurses, chemists, accountants and truck drivers, Fallin said in her State of State address last week. She proposed $20 million go to higher education programs that can produce more graduates to fill those jobs [NewsOK].

Push sprouts to grow hemp again in Oklahoma: A new push to legalize growing hemp, marijuana’s nonintoxicating cousin, is sprouting in Oklahoma. A bill at the Oklahoma Legislature this session authored by Sen. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, would allow hemp farming in Oklahoma for the first time since the early 20th Century. Pittman believes Senate Bill 704 would give new opportunities for universities in Oklahoma to study hemp cultivation, as well as create a new source of income for the state [The Oklahoman].

Political State Podcast: First week of session and the budget battle: The Oklahoman’s Ben Felder and Dale Denwalt host their second episode of “Political State,” a weekly podcast that looks at the world of politics on a state, local and federal level. This week, they’re joined by Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, to discuss the first week of the 2017 legislative session [NewsOK].

Instead of building bonfires, why doesn’t the Oklahoma Legislature plant some trees?: The two most powerful members of the Oklahoma Legislature — the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate — have paid separate visits on the Tulsa World editorial board in recent weeks. … Either they’ve been talking to the same people or — even better — they’ve been talking to each other, because both made a point of saying they wanted to bring a “long-term perspective” to the minds of their fellow lawmakers [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World].

‘Shame on us’ if we don’t address over-incarceration this year: Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh appeared before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Judiciary last week and presented his request for an additional $1.165 billion appropriation for next fiscal year. The request is, of course, totally unrealistic, and Allbaugh knows it. But he’s trying to make the point that we are incarcerating too many people in Oklahoma, and we’re not treating those who are incarcerated right. In addition, we are wasting taxpayer money [OK Policy].

Special election dates set to fill Oklahoma County sheriff vacancy: Oklahoma County voters likely will pick a new sheriff in September. The filing period is Feb. 27 and 28 and March 1. The special general election will be Sept. 12 if enough candidates file to require a special primary election first. The special primary election will be April 4, if necessary. The special general election will be April 4, if a special primary election is not necessary [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“When you say it’s a national problem, it only proves our point. Our teachers are going to Texas and Arkansas and Kansas because they’ve got shortages, too. To me, when the politician stands up and says this is a national problem, my response is, ‘well duh, why do you think our teachers are going to other states for?’”

-Jason James, superintendent of Alex Public Schools, speaking about teacher shortages in Oklahoma and other states (Source).

Number of the Day


Percent of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections budget spent on probation and parole, despite having 45% of offenders in these categories.

Source: Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Hospitals Worry Repeal Of Obamacare Would Jeopardize Innovations In Care: Much has been written about the 20 million people who gained health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and what could happen to these patients if the ACA is repealed without a replacement. But some people don’t realize that hospitals nationwide could take a big financial hit on several fronts, too. First, it’s likely that fewer patients would be able to pay their hospital bills, health policy analysts say, so the institutions would be stuck with that bad debt, as they were before Obamacare. Then there’s this: The ACA has used financial incentives to encourage hospitals to experiment with ways to improve their care of patients, while reducing health care’s cost [Kaiser Health News].

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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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