In The Know: A School That Provides The One Constant In Homeless Children’s Lives

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

A School That Provides The One Constant In Homeless Children’s Lives: On the last day of school, the fifth grade students at Positive Tomorrows perform last-minute rehearsals for the inaugural “Classy Awards.” Teachers, parents and mentors file into the classroom through a doorway pasted with dangling gold stars, along a red paper carpet. While similar scenes play out in classrooms across the country, this particular group of fifth-graders has a more uncertain future than most. Positive Tomorrows is a small, privately funded school in the heart of Oklahoma City, designed to meet the needs of homeless children [NPR].

Some key Oklahoma lawmakers missed the most votes this session: Some key lawmakers missed the most votes during the legislative session that ended May 26. Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, led the House in missed votes. Osborn, who chairs the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, missed 25 percent of the floor and committee votes. …Lawmakers had $878 million less to spend in crafting a fiscal year 2018 budget. Her counterpart in the Senate also ranked high in the upper chamber for missed votes [Tulsa World].

After end of session, Capitol restoration accelerates: In five years, schmoozing and demonstrating in the Oklahoma Capitol’s rotunda will be more comfortable. “For the first time in the building’s history, we’re going to heat and cool the rotunda,” said Capitol Project Manager Trait Thompson. The final product might be a few years out, but crews will soon be starting the work on the fifth floor that will prevent heavy air-conditioning units from falling through the ceiling. They’ll insert steel support beams above five House of Representatives offices [Journal Record]. As Oklahoma nears the centennial of the state Capitol’s construction on June 30, there are several events marking the historic date [NewsOK]. 

State licensing process under review: Over the next six months the Oklahoma Department of Labor is taking a hard look at the state’s laws on occupational licensing. When Department of Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston visited Claremore recently she elaborated on why the area was receiving the agency’s attention. “The reason I came into it is because we do a lot of licensing. We have about 300 agencies, boards and commissions and in many instances it’s those boards who, which often times are made up of market participants, are deciding what the license should be,” Houston said. These boards decide what the test questions are, how much will the training, test and license will cost, who has to have a license, etc [Claremore Daily Progress].

Drug rehab reforms rely on cost savings: State law will change July 1 in accordance with two state questions voters passed in November. State Questions 780 and 781 will reduce felony convictions for personal drug use to misdemeanors and set aside additional resources for drug treatment, mental health and rehabilitation programs. “Well what do we do right now as far as drug rehab?” said Edmond Police Lt. Bill Gilbert. There is now a waiting list of 800 individuals waiting to get into a state funded inpatient treatment rehab. Treatment is not yet available [Edmond Sun]. SQ 780 should save Oklahoma millions next year [OK Policy].

Senior assistance program in Oklahoma may be on chopping block: More than $27 million in cuts to one Oklahoma agency could place thousands of seniors into the care of others or in costly nursing homes that many cannot afford. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has placed 12 programs on the chopping block, including an enrollment freeze or elimination of the Advantage Waiver program. Advantage Waiver provides about 22,000 people with the funds that many need just to stay in their homes, including nearly 300 new members each month [NewsOK]. Earlier this spring, this program, as well as others, nearly ran out of money because lawmakers hadn’t appropriated a full year of funding for them [OK Policy].

Company that operates Oklahoma group homes for children and disabled has history of problems: Deaths, as well as allegations of abuse and assault have emanated from group homes operated by Sequoyah Enterprise Inc., a private company that contracts with state agencies to care for some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable residents. Since 2011, two residents have died at Sequoyah’s group home for disabled adults in Stillwater, sparking criminal charges and civil litigation [NewsOK]. The owner of Sequoyah Enterprises Inc. says the private company that operates several Oklahoma homes for troubled youth and disabled adults has turned things around at its Chickasha home for teenage girls [NewsOK].

Oklahoma company links health care with social services: One Oklahoma company is working to avoid the confusion of health care and its data as it roles out a new program to connect patients with social services. After receiving a $4.5 million grant in April, MyHealth Access Network partnered with Oklahoma City-County Health Department and Tulsa Health Department to address a disconnect between patients and social services. “Social services have always been there, but have not always been addressed in this way,” said MyHealth CEO David Kendrick [NewsOK].

Oklahoman first in line at Memphis free-care event: Sometimes, the realities of Oklahoma’s insufficient and ineffective health care system follow me wherever I go. This weekend was no different. During an attempt to take a few days off from NonDoc for the first time since we launched 22 months ago, I headed east on I-40 and drove headfirst into reminders that many Americans — and Oklahomans, in specific — lack access to the basic health services they need. This story starts in Arkansas [NonDoc]. Oklahoma has an efficient way to make sure everyone has health care… if we choose to fund it [OK Policy].

Unexpected Health Department invoices irk county commissioners: County commissioners in Oklahoma are chafing over what some of them view as a back door raid on county tax revenues orchestrated by the state Health Department. “I don’t like it,” said Muskogee County Commissioner Stephen Wright. “It looks like they are trying to come in the back door and charge us for something we’ve never paid before.” At issue are bills for data services and supplies that the State Department of Health quietly began sending out to county commissioners across the state a few months ago [NewsOK]. State Department of Health funding has been cut by more than 29 percent since FY 2009 [OK Policy].

Private prison company buys, then shuts down two Tulsa prisoner reentry facilities: One of the country’s largest for-profit prison corporations has closed two of the three Oklahoma facilities it recently purchased in a deal allowing it to acquire its biggest competitor here for state-contracted prisoner reentry services, The Frontier has learned. The closure of two facilities in Tulsa — Center Point Tulsa women’s facility and Center Point Osage men’s facility — follows the purchase of halfway house facilities in Oklahoma owned by the California-based nonprofit Center Point Inc. by CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America [The Frontier].

Mounting Sheriff’s Office legal fees force Tulsa County to shuffle money to pay bills on time: A sudden influx of $560,000 in legal fees billed to the Sheriff’s Office forced the Tulsa County Budget Board on Monday to shuffle funds to pay those invoices by the close of the fiscal year at the end of the month. A Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said the costs primarily are from defense of the Tulsa Jail in the Elliott Williams wrongful death case, which resulted in the plaintiffs being awarded $10.25 million by a jury this spring. The eight-member Budget Board, comprised of all elected county officials, voted unanimously to use a $339,000 surplus from the jail’s payroll in May, as well as $227,000 in unencumbered monies from the county’s general fund [Tulsa World].

Area public school employees can get discounted tuition at Langston, Mayor G.T. Bynum announces: Langston University-Tulsa is offering reduced tuition to all public-school employees in Tulsa County. Lisa Weis, associate vice president of the Langston-Tulsa campus, said the tuition-discount idea came through the school’s representation on Mayor G.T. Bynum’s education cabinet, which he convened on his first day in office last year. “We want our custodians, our librarians, our administrative assistants, our teachers and para-professionals to recognize the value of education and consider Langston as a choice,” Weis said. Weis and Bynum made the announcement Monday [Tulsa World].

Good news for public schools! State funding to public schools — which wasn’t adequate to begin with — came up $54 million short last year. And, in the crazy world of Oklahoma education circles, that’s almost good news. If you’re wondering why more and more districts are closed on Fridays, west Tulsa schools are being consolidated and class sizes are going up, the answer is clear [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World]. Oklahoma’s investment in preK-12 education has plummeted in recent years [OK Policy].

Proposed sales tax increase to be aired in public hearing before Oklahoma City Council: The Oklahoma City Council will conduct a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed quarter-cent sales tax hike. The proposal is paired with a “statement of intent” that the proceeds — estimated at $26 million per year at the outset — be used to hire more police officers and firefighters. The quarter-cent increase would become a permanent part of the city’s sales tax, if it wins the council’s OK and is approved by voters. Plans are for a vote on the sales tax hike after the public hearing [NewsOK].

State wheat industry hopes for open trade with Cuba: Several Oklahoma agriculture producers said they are concerned and disappointed with President Donald Trump’s recent policy announcement on trade relations with Cuba. Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association Executive Director Joe Neal Hampton said he and his peers are following the lead of the U.S. Wheat Associates trade group, which released a prepared statement expressing hope for a more positive resolution [Journal Record].

Companies make million-dollar bids to drill on state land: Two oil and gas companies recently paid more than $1 million each for the right to drill on state-owned land. The payouts are the highest for state land since at least 2011. The data comes from the Commissioners of the Land Office, the state agency that manages government property. Paloma Partners IV, an operation by Houston-based Paloma Resources, paid $7,000 an acre for 160 acres in Kingfisher County northwest of the Oklahoma metro [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“That is a huge jump. I think that part of it is because we had students that rolled over from last year that were already homeless [and] hopefully, better identification within the schools.”

Kathy Brown, the homeless education coordinator for the Oklahoma City public schools, where the number of identified homeless students jumped from 3,600 in 2016 to more than 5,400 this past year (Source)

Number of the Day


Adoption cases filed in Oklahoma courts, FY 2016

Source: Oklahoma Supreme Court

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Americans With Disabilities Act Is Under Attack in Congress: On July 26, 1990, George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) into law, proclaiming, “Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down!” Although I was only 8 years old, I still remember its passage and the increased accessibility that followed. The ADA has both literally and figuratively opened countless doors for people like me, by requiring entities that are open to the public—such as restaurants, movie theaters, hospitals, hotels, and museums—be fully accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA also requires employers, as well as public and private entities, to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities and prohibits discrimination based on disability [Rewire].

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: A School That Provides The One Constant In Homeless Children’s Lives

  1. The criminal justice reforms popular around the country, such as they’ve been popular, have always had the Wimpy to Popeye “I’ll gladly pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today” problem described by the Edmond police lt. Policymakers happily buy the promise of savings later down the road but can’t come up with the upfront dollars to make those savings happen. One of the most important things states doing reform should do when looking at successful reform states is to find out how those states handled that problem, usually by their statss’ economic growth in the period. If the reforming states can’t handle the upfront funding in similar ways, especially if the state is forecasting major revenue problems for the near future, then the policymakers set their state and the reform efforts up for failure. This problem is very well known among the fly-over consultants who never get held responsible for a state’s later failure, but it might prevent reforms from passing and the consultants’ from being seen as gurus so it only gets discussed secondarily if at all.

    And that’s before you even get to the next problem of whether your state has enough rehab professionals to deal with the new clients in a timely way. In Wisconsin a decade ago judges were admitting that they added a couple of years to substance abusers’ sentences so they would be in prison long enough to get services since the state didn’t have enough external providers, even in Milwaukee. Thus, ironically, the need for rehab added length to sentences and times served and exacerbated that state’s prison population problems.

    Reformers (not the consultants, who by this time have become a “self-licking ice cream cone” industry) have good intentions, especially those led by Speaker Steele in OK. But their good hearts have tended to be ill-informed by those who know better, and as a result their good works may end up setting precedents for “we tried that and it didn’t work” that affect all future criminal justice reform efforts. Maybe some stroke of fate may save OK on this (it could win a lottery!!!), but otherwise this is likely to end up in yet another “then a miracle occurs” situation ( with long-term implications for the inevitable next round of reforms.

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