In The Know: School Choice Measures Are Back, and in a Big Way

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

Four days left to register: OK Policy’s 4th Annual State Budget Summit will be held on Thursday, January 26th in Oklahoma City. Click here for the full program or here to go directly to the registration page to purchase tickets.

School Choice Measures Are Back, and in a Big Way: One of the most hotly debated education issues — school choice — is again on the agenda of the state Legislature. Three, nearly identical bills filed Thursday by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, seek to create an education savings account system; Loveless is calling each bill the “Oklahoma Parental Empowerment Act of 2017.” Unlike traditional vouchers, which can only be applied to tuition, an education savings account allows families to choose from a list of qualifying expenses beyond tuition to include textbooks, tutoring, online courses and extracurricular activities [Oklahoma Watch]. 

Student enrollment at public schools in Oklahoma increases in 2016: The number of students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools rose in 2016, increasing by more than 1,000 from the previous school year. According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, 693,710 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of the school year, an increase of 1,040 over the 2015 total of 692,670 and 27,560 more than in 2011 [KJRH]. White students are now a minority in Oklahoma public schools [NewsOK]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Senator David Holt files bills to fund $10,000 teacher pay raise: Senator David Holt (R) District 30 said he’s heard all the excuses. “People saying, well, how are we going to do it? I just don’t see how we can get it done. You know, it’s a tough budget year,” Holt said. But, he said the 12 bills he just filed prove getting teachers a pay raise can be done. “What I came forward with today was a billion dollars worth of revenue options,” Holt said [KFOR].

Introducing the newly updated Online Budget Guide: To understand how state and local governments operate in Oklahoma, we especially need to understand the budget. The budget is how we allocate resources across all of our publicly-supported institutions – not just state and local government agencies, but also many private businesses and non-profits that receive public funds to do such things as build roads, operate nursing homes, or provide child care [OK Policy].

GOP lawmakers try to end Kansas governor’s business tax cut: With waning political support for an income tax break championed by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, fellow Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature are spearheading an effort to end it. Brownback’s revenue secretary, some business owners and groups such as the Kansas Chamber of Commerce strongly defended the tax break in testimony for a Kansas House Taxation Committee hearing Thursday afternoon and evening [Tulsa World]. The Kansas tax cut experiment has a close cousin in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

8 facts about health care funding in Oklahoma (#Betterok Budget Bootcamp): Health is decided by far more than the health care one receives. Some estimates argue that health care is responsible for perhaps 10 percent of one’s actual health, with factors such as employment, food insecurity, housing, literacy, and many more all playing a part in determining health outcomes. However, being able to see a doctor does play an important role in health – and in Oklahoma, many people can’t. Without deliberate commitment to fixing this from our state leadership, Oklahoma’s health will continue to fall behind the rest of the nation [TogetherOK].

The road ahead: Health care field in South Oklahoma City awaits another seismic shift: As a mother checked in at the front desk of a south Oklahoma City health clinic, her two young boys made laps around her as they chased one another. With one hand she wrote her name on the sign-in sheet and with her other she grabbed the eldest boy by his shirt collar in an attempt to put an end to the horseplay [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Commissioner Touts Microinsurance, Other Ideas for Health Law Reform: Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak says microinsurance, the ability to sell health coverage across state lines and increased use of health savings accounts are ideas that should be looked at as lawmakers move forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Doak made several suggestions for alternatives to the ACA in response to a request from U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy asking for recommendations. Doak said microinsurance focuses on low-income populations and has been successful in countries like India [Insurance Journal].

Oklahoma Senate bill targets city, school gun critics: A measure filed at the Oklahoma Senate aims to silence critics in the gun control debate who use public funds to get their word out. The bill would ban the use of taxpayer money to lobby against gun rights expansion. State Sen. Nathan Dahm’s legislation covers all public employees, but on Tuesday he specifically cited attempts by universities and local governments to sway opinion about his bills and others filed by lawmakers [NewsOK].

Bill would end use of electric chair in Oklahoma executions: Use of the electric chair in Oklahoma executions would end under a bill filed in the state House. The bill filed Thursday by Republican Rep. Harold Wright lists which execution methods would be used in the state. Lethal injection is first, followed by nitrogen hypoxia — which causes death by depleting oxygen in the blood — then firing squad and any form of execution not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution [Norman Transcript].

Oklahoma Democrats ask for Attorney General ruling on investigation’s closed meetings: Oklahoma Democrats are asking for the Attorney General to weigh in on the closed meetings of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations against state representatives. Oklahoma House Democratic Leader Scott Inman requested Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for an official opinion on the House Rules Committee having closed meetings while they investigate claims of sexual harassment and wrongful termination involving Oklahoma Representatives [FOX25].

Former legislative assistant alleges Tulsa Rep. Dan Kirby repeatedly asked her for nude photos: A second former assistant of Rep. Dan Kirby is accusing him of sexual harassment. “It made me feel terrible,” Carol Johnson, 37, of Norman, told The Oklahoman on Wednesday. “You feel very ashamed. … It makes you doubt your worth.” Johnson said Kirby, R-Tulsa, repeatedly asked her for nude photos of herself and made constant unwelcome remarks about her body and attire [NewsOK].

Former state Rep. Gus Blackwell to repay $10,000 restitution in travel expenses double-dipping case: Former state Rep. Gus Blackwell is paying $10,000 in restitution to the House of Representatives to resolve a criminal case over his travel expenses during his final years at the Capitol. Blackwell, R-Laverne, was accused in the criminal case, filed in May, of accepting state reimbursement and using campaign funds to pay for the same trips. He had faced eight felony counts of perjury, four felony counts of making a false claim against the state, 13 felony embezzlement counts and 19 misdemeanor embezzlement counts [Tulsa World].

Pruitt Denounces Regulations and Distances Himself From Climate Change Deniers at Hearing to Lead EPA: Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on Wednesday faced hours of questioning at a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing on his qualifications to run the Environmental Protection Agency. The public vetting of president-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the federal government’s largest environmental regulator highlighted sharp and long-standing divisions between environmentalists and industry. The six-hour hearing in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee split largely along political lines [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Tulsa pipeline company agrees to pay $2 million fine as part of EPA settlement: A subsidiary of Tulsa-based Magellan Midstream Partners LP has agreed to pay a $2 million civil fine and spend millions more as part of an agreement made public Thursday in a pollution lawsuit filed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The lawsuit and proposed agreement, or consent decree, was filed by the EPA against Magellan Pipeline Co. LP over violations of the Clean Water Act linked to pipeline ruptures [Tulsa World].

Frosty Troy, beloved Oklahoma journalist, dies at 83: A well-known Oklahoma journalist has died following a battle with an extended illness. The Oklahoma Observer reports founding editor Frosty Troy died early Thursday morning at the age of 83. For decades, Troy and his wife, Helen, owned and operated the monthly newspaper. Troy was known for his reporting at the capitol, where he covered 10 different Oklahoma governors over the years [KFOR].

Quote of the Day

“Or let me put it another way: You’re doing it wrong.”

– Scott Drenkard, director of state projects with the Tax Foundation, speaking to the Kansas House Taxation Committee hearing about the state’s deep tax cuts and resultant budget shortfall (Source).  The Kansas tax cut experiment has a close cousin in Oklahoma (OK Policy).

Number of the Day


Estimated number of public and private jobs that will be lost in Oklahoma in 2019 if primary provisions of the Affordable Care Act are repealed 

Source: The Commonwealth Fund

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Survey of pawnshop users shows where banks fail low-income Americans: Pawnshops don’t exactly have the best of reputations. Their business model – offering people short-term loans using personal items as collateral – has consistently drawn complaints suggesting the industry preys upon the needy. In 2012, when a national chain wanted to open a pawnshop in a long-vacant lot in Chicago’s predominantly African American 18th Ward, for example, community members erupted up in strident opposition. If there’s such a negative public perception of pawnshops why do some 30 million Americans use them every year? [The Center for Investigative Reporting]

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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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