In The Know: Rising rate of unvaccinated children has schools bracing for outbreaks

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.

As classes begin for the fall in Oklahoma schools and measles rates climb in surrounding states, state health officials are concerned by the rise in numbers of unvaccinated students. Math and reading proficiency rates in reading and math declined sharply among Tulsa elementary and middle schools this year. School officials attribute the drop to a new requirement to give special education students the same test as is given to the rest of the school population. Tulsa-area high schools saw scores on end-of-instruction exams fall in a variety of subject areas, likely due to a recalibrated scoring system.

Students in over 50 Oklahoma City Public Schools will receive free breakfast and lunch this year via Community Eligibility, a new program offered by the US Department of Agriculture that provides free meals in schools that meet certain socioeconomic qualifications. We’ve written about how Community Eligibility can be used to help kids in poverty before. A guest on the OK Policy blog explained why a recent downgrade of Kansas’ credit rating was well-deserved. The CDC has awarded Oklahoma more than $1 million over the next three years to fight prescription drug abuse in the state. We’ve written about Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem before. NewsOK describes how Oklahoma’s rural hospitals are struggling to stay open and serve surrounding communities.

Thousands are expected to rally in favor of medical marijuana at the Capitol today. Meanwhile, organizers of a petition to legalize medical marijuana say they believe they have enough valid signatures to get it on the November ballot and will turn the petition in today. Tulsa Sheriff Stanley Glanz said he wants more federal inmates because the jail needs the revenue the inmates bring in to remain solvent. The George Kaiser Family Foundation has donated $350 million to the A Gathering Place for Tulsa park on Riverside, believed to to be the largest gift to a public park system in US history.

A former assistant attorney general has filed a wrongful termination claim. He had been dismissed after giving what Attorney General Scott Pruitt says was incorrect advice about compliance with the Open Meeting Act. The state Corporation Commissioner will hold a meeting to discuss a new law that would allow utilities to charge customers who generate electricity from solar panels or wind turbines. We’ve written about the possible meanings and impact of the law before. Oklahoma City’s immigration court will close on Friday, and future hearings will be scheduled in Dallas, adding further complications for immigrants seeking legal status who will now have to travel much further for hearings.

An environmental group is alleging that many US fracking operations, including some in Oklahoma, are illegally using diesel in hydraulic fracturing. A fracking site operator faces a contempt claim for failing to prevent pollution after 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled in an oil field, the largest fracking-related accident in state history. The child support division of the state Department of Human Services has been recognized with a national award.

Despite recent rainfall, deep drought conditions persist over western Oklahoma, according to a US Drought Monitor report. StateImpact described the varied history of Oklahoma’s scenic river systems. Tulsa’s Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force viewed plans for a low-level dam in Bixby, one of four such projects under consideration to keep more water in the river. CNN Money described the surprising boom industry of butterfly farming in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is the net annual energy savings from Oklahoma utility PSO’s energy efficiency programs in 2013, enough to power 6,500 homes for a year. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times discusses how the uncertain and demanding schedules in many low-wage jobs can make it impossible for young workers to build sustainable futures. After the story was published, Starbucks announced that it would be revamping its scheduling policies.

In The News

With Measles Close, Schools See Rise in Unvaccinated Students

As measles cases rise in nearby states, Oklahoma schools are seeing increasing percentages of kindergarteners walk into their classrooms without required immunization shots, according to survey data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Records show the percentage of kindergarteners whose families have claimed an immunization exemption under state law doubled from 0.7 percent in the 2005-2006 school year to 1.4 percent, or at least 572 students, in 2013-2014. In Oklahoma City Public Schools, the state’s largest district with nearly 45,000 students, officials say it’s a matter time before measles arrives in the district, especially with outbreaks in neighboring Kansas, Texas and Missouri earlier this year.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

School districts see reading, math proficiency rates fall for 2013-14

Tulsa Public Schools’ elementary and middle school sites saw sharp declines in student proficiency rates in reading and math on 2013-14 Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests, while many suburban districts also posted significant decreases. While they are still analyzing the test results, school officials throughout the area said they think the slide in proficiency rates is largely related to a new state requirement to give the vast majority of special education students the same exam as non-disabled students, rather than an alternative assessment.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

End-of-instruction test performance drops after scoring changes

End-of-instruction exit exam results for secondary school students in the Tulsa area fell in certain subjects due to recent changes in minimum passing scores, and the drops were most dramatic in the U.S. history part of the exam. Tulsa Public Schools bucked the trend on the U.S. history exam by actually raising its student proficiency rate 7 points to 63 percent districtwide. In the suburbs, Jenks Public Schools score fell most dramatically in the area with a 30 percentage point decrease. “The U.S. history EOI cut score was recalibrated. This was the same reason that biology I EOI scores decreased dramatically last year,” said Jenks spokeswoman Bonnie Rogers.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Students From Over 50 OKC Schools To Receive Free Meals

A program offered up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing free meals at school for 52 sites within the Oklahoma City Public School District. Qualifying schools are able to provide free breakfast and lunch to every student, not just those who qualify for free and reduced meals. At Spencer Elementary School, Kitchen Manager Kevin Huffman prepared a healthy meal for students. Thursday’s lunch consisted of penne pasta with a cheese and meat sauce, roasted red peppers, broccoli and cauliflower, a choice of fruit and a breadstick.

Read more from News9.

See also: New school meals program can help kids in poverty from the OK Policy Blog.

A deserved downgrade of Kansas’ bonds

The meaning of Standard & Poor’s recent downgrade of Kansas’ credit rating, in which it cited Kansas’ “structurally unbalanced budget,” is clear: Kansas’ budget is a train heading off a cliff. Here are the details.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

CDC awards more than $1 million to Oklahoma to advance prescription drug overdose prevention

Oklahoma will receive more than $1 million over the next three years to help prevent prescription drug overdoses and address patient and prescribing behaviors that drive it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. The CDC grant will help state agencies work together to improve the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and also analyze data to identify prescription drug abuse hot spots, among other trends. “Prescription drug abuse is a scourge that has overtaken drugs like meth when it comes to harming the health of Oklahomans,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “These additional resources will help us continue to strengthen successful state programs and ultimately save lives.”

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem isn’t what you think from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma’s rural hospitals work to stay open, viable

Eileen Murray did not want her daughter loaded into an ambulance headed for Oklahoma City. The family already had driven 45 minutes to get Madelyn to the Elk City hospital. But an emergency medicine physician was worried Madelyn had damage that could cut off circulation in her arm. The hospital’s orthopedic specialist was consulted and found all Madelyn had was a broken arm, suffered when the 10-year-old girl was bucked off a horse at a friend’s house.

Read more from NewsOK.

Thousands expected at medical marijuana rally at Capitol

Gov. Mary Fallin announced her support for limited uses of medical marijuana, including non-intoxicating CBD oil, at a press conference Wednesday. Thousands of people are set to rally at the Capitol Friday in favor of legalization. Meanwhile, hundreds are expected to meet in Choctaw at Old Germany Restaurant at 11 a.m., followed by Charlie’s Sports Bar and then travel to the Capitol. The Choctaw convoy is in support of a local 13-year-old boy who suffers from a life-threatening seizure disorder. “Every seizure could be his last,” said the boy’s mother, Amy Hilterbran.

Read more from KOCO.

Marijuana Petitioners Near Goal

Signatures are being gathered up until almost the last moment, but those seeking legalization of medicinal marijuana in Oklahoma intend to turn in petitions tomorrow. Lisa Bowman is a spokeswoman with the Drug Policy Reform Network of Oklahoma. She believes the number of just over 150-thousand signatures will be reached, but they will have to be certified by the Secretary of State’s Office. Those supporting legalizing marijuana for medical purposes will rally at the state capitol tomorrow afternoon as petitions are turned over to the Secretary of State.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

Tulsa Jail still needs federal inmates to help with costs, sheriff says

The recent sales tax approved by voters to add pods to the Tulsa Jail doesn’t eliminate the need for the revenue the Sheriff’s Office receives for housing federal inmates in the jail, Sheriff Stanley Glanz says. “Now that the community has already committed to me for 15 years to build four new pods and to do a lot of mental health things at the jail, in 10 years we’re (still) probably going to need some more pods,” Glanz said recently. “How do I keep my revenue up so I can afford to pay for that in the future?”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

George Kaiser Foundation makes record donation to River Parks for A Gathering Place

The River Parks Board of Trustees this morning voted unanimously to accept the donation of a $350 million park from the George Kaiser Family Foundation. The gift of A Gathering Place for Tulsa park along Riverside Drive is believed to be the largest gift to a public park system in the history of the United States. “It will make a huge and wonderful difference to Tulsa,” Board Chairwoman Robin Ballenger said before the vote.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Former assistant AG Ted Rossier files claim against Scott Pruitt, Workers Comp Commission

A former assistant attorney general has filed a wrongful termination claim against the state, saying actions by the attorney general and Workers Compensation Commission unfairly painted him as an “incompetent lawyer” and “conspirator in a criminal act.” Ted Rossier, former assistant attorney general for the commission, filed the tort claim with the state of Oklahoma on Thursday. Such claims are required first before lawsuits against government agencies can be filed in district court.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Murphy Sets Meeting To Discuss Impact Of New Law On Distributed Generated Electricity

Corporation Commissioner Dana Murphy will host a meeting to discuss the implementation of SB1456, the distributed electrical energy bill approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin earlier this year. Murphy had called for inclusion of distributed generation in a notice of inquiry on wind generation approved by the commission Tuesday.

Read more from KGOU.

Oklahoma City’s immigration court will close, officials say

Oklahoma City’s immigration courtroom will effectively close Friday and future hearings will be scheduled in Dallas, federal officials announced Thursday. The Oklahoma City location, a sub-office of the Dallas Immigration Court, had already been downsized to video hearings, with the judge appearing on a television screen. The courtroom is inside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at Airport Road and S Meridian Avenue. Starting next week, proceedings will be completely absorbed by the Dallas court, adding another hurdle to those immigrants seeking legal status, including hundreds of Central American children who crossed the U.S. border unaccompanied and since have been placed with a sponsor in Oklahoma.

Read more from NewsOK.

Report: Diesel still used in hydraulic fracturing in dozen states

An environmental group on Wednesday decried the continued use of diesel in hydraulic fracturing, but energy industry officials dismissed the group’s study as a misleading attempt to discredit the practice that has helped launch a domestic oil and natural gas renaissance. The Environmental Integrity Project released a report on the topic Wednesday after studying records submitted to the chemical disclosure database FracFocus was established in 2011 as a voluntary registry by the Oklahoma City-based Groundwater Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, but regulators in Oklahoma and other states require companies to use the site to log chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

Read more from NewsOK.

Fracking Site Operator Faces Contempt Complaint After Acid Spill

Oklahoma’s oil and gas regulator filed a contempt complaint this week against the company overseeing a hydraulic fracturing operation in an oil field where 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid spilled. The spill could be the state’s largest related to fracking, says Corporation Commission spokesman Matt Skinner. The complaint, which accuses the operator of failing to prevent pollution, a violation of state oil and gas rules, directed Blake Vernon, the president of Blake Production Company, to appear before an administrative law judge on Sept. 10.

Read more from KGOU.

Oklahoma DHS Child Support Services receives national award

The Child Support Services division of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services has been recognized for its service in the child support community. The National Child Support Enforcement Association award recognizes the CSS for demonstrating exceptional service to child support activities. CSS is required by state and federal law to inform the public about accessing available child support services.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Persistent drought lingers in western Oklahoma, report shows

Although rainfall brought relief to some parts of the state over the past week, persistent, deep drought conditions are lingering in western Oklahoma, according to a U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday. Areas in northern and eastern Oklahoma and some communities in south-central parts of the state received as much as two inches of rain last week, according to the Oklahoma Mesonet weather network. That moisture helped improve conditions in those areas. But where the drought is deepest, Thursday’s report showed little improvement over last week.

Read more from NewsOK.

Flaming Waterways and Death Threats: The History of Oklahoma’s Scenic Rivers

Even though it’s a Monday morning, rowdy Tulsans pile into a bus at Diamondhead Resort and rumble toward the nearest access point into the Illinois River. “If you have a good group of people and enough alcohol you can make anything fun,” one floater tells StateImpact. They head off to enjoy a booze-soaked afternoon on the water, oblivious to the decades of effort it took to keep this water clear and the river flowing.

Read more from StateImpact.

Bixby dam presented to Arkansas River task force

The Tulsa City Council task force on river infrastructure got its first look at detailed plans for a Bixby low-water dam on Thursday. The dam would be one of four proposed construction and repair projects the Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force is considering as ways to put water in the river. Overall, the task force is working on details of a funding package that would include some or all of the proposed projects, while preparing proposals for an authority to oversee future river infrastructure.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Butterfly farm is a surprising job creator

Yup, raising butterflies and selling them to zoos and museums, or to release at weddings and funerals, is a real business — with growing demand. Jane Breckinridge has been doing it for more than 20 years. Her team at Euchee Butterfly Farm in Oklahoma puts on exhibits, or “butterfly houses,” at places like the Minnesota State Fair. There, people can walk through large garden spaces to watch and even feed (with cotton swabs dipped in red Gatorade) thousands of butterflies. “It’s an exploding industry and there are just not enough butterflies out there,” she said.

Read more from CNN Money.

Quote of the Day

“If more people delay or choose not to immunize, we do run a risk of an outbreak in Oklahoma. (Measles) is a serious disease that spreads like wildfire.”

– Lori Linstead, director of immunization services at the State Department of Health. Oklahoma health officials are worried by reports that the number of unvaccinated Oklahoma students is increasing (Source:

Number of the Day

71,245 MWh

Net annual energy savings from Oklahoma utility PSO’s energy efficiency programs in 2013, enough to power about 6,500 homes for a year.

Source: Public Service Company of Oklahoma.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Working Anything but 9 to 5

In a typical last-minute scramble, Jannette Navarro, a 22-year-old Starbucks barista and single mother, scraped together a plan for surviving the month of July without setting off family or financial disaster. In contrast to the joyless work she had done at a Dollar Tree store and a KFC franchise, the $9-an-hour Starbucks job gave Ms. Navarro, the daughter of a drug addict and an absentee father, the hope of forward motion. She had been hired because she showed up so many times, cheerful and persistent, asking for work, and she had a way of flicking away setbacks — such as a missed bus on her three-hour commute — with the phrase, “I’m over it.” Newly off public assistance, she was just a few credits shy of an associate degree in business and talked of getting a master’s degree as some of her co-workers were. Her take-home pay rarely topped $400 to $500 every two weeks; since starting in November, she had set aside $900 toward a car — her next step toward stability and independence for herself and her 4-year-old son, Gavin. But Ms. Navarro’s fluctuating hours, combined with her limited resources, had also turned their lives into a chronic crisis over the clock.

Read more from The New York Times.

See also: Starbucks to Revise Policies to End Irregular Schedules for Its 130,000 Baristas from the New York Times.

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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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