In The Know: Schools to businesses: We need money

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

Schools to businesses: We need money: Oklahoma’s education system needs money and there are a handful of people with the power to raise it, state Rep. Leslie Osborn said. That’s in part why the Oklahoma City school system turns to a foundation that solicits money from private donors. But the need in the capital city alone is five times greater than what the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools can provide, said CEO and President Mary Mélon. If the state doesn’t invest in its education system, then it will further leave Oklahoma without enough employees needed for its workforce, said Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis [Journal Record]. The state continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding [OK Policy].

Oklahoma City schools leader vows to fight despite cuts: The leader of Oklahoma’s largest school district vowed Wednesday to press on despite budget cuts that have resulted in fewer teachers and larger class sizes across the state. Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora, speaking to about 600 people at the annual State of the Schools event, predicted the district will emerge from “this budget crisis smarter and more resourceful.” “The odds may be stacked against us right now, but we’re up for this challenge and determined to succeed,” Lora said [NewsOK]. Adversarial legalism (aka, policymaking through court decisions) has been a path for improved school funding in 29 states [OK Policy].  

Oklahoma CHIP faces trouble if Congress can’t pass extension: Oklahoma pediatricians are urging Congress to quickly reauthorize a health insurance program for children before it expires in September potentially costing the state $49 million. Congress created the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997 to expand health insurance to children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Its latest extension will expire on Sept. 30 if Congress doesn’t act. States receive a federal block grant and have some latitude in running their CHIP programs, so long as they commit their own money as matching funds, according to the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute [NewsOK].

OB-GYN practitioner shortage affects rural Oklahoma: Even as Jana Cathey watched the odometer and her family’s credit card balance tick upward, she resolutely made the long 70-mile round-trip drive several times a week to make sure her pregnancy went smoothly. “I wanted to make sure I was doing everything I could,” she said. “I would do everything by the book. I didn’t miss appointments. It was hard.” The 29 year old had already suffered four miscarriages and faced a risky seventh pregnancy. The stay-at-home mother was determined to find the best care possible for her and her unborn daughter — even if it meant spending $450 on gas just to access prenatal care and the nearest OB-GYN doctor in an adjacent county in northwest Oklahoma [Enid News].

Rob Nigh has left the Public Defender’s Office, but he hasn’t stopped fighting for justice: Before he had said a word, or answered a question, Rob Nigh pulled out a blue marker and drew an upside-down triangle on a blue notepad. Then he drew lines inside the triangle and scribbled some words on them. But more about that later. Nigh had come to his old stomping grounds, the law offices of Brewster & DeAngelis, for his first interview since stepping down as Tulsa County’s chief public defender July 1. He’s battling health issues, but he is as passionate about his life’s work as ever [The Frontier]. Tens of thousands of Oklahomans enter the justice system each year and come out with thousands of dollars in legal financial obligations [OK Policy].

Millions of dollars in court debt hang over residents of Oklahoma’s poorest neighborhoods: Earlier this year, we released a report detailing the growth of fees attached to criminal court cases in Oklahoma. We found that as legislators attempt to prop up falling state revenues, fees have risen for every type of crime. When low-income defendants can’t keep up with payments on their enormous financial burdens to the court, a warrant may be issued for their arrest, leading to a cycle of incarceration that makes the climb out of poverty nearly impossible. Failure to pay court costs is among the most common reasons for bookings into the Tulsa County and Oklahoma County jails [OK Policy].

Sheriff swaps out all but one appraiser from Stanley Glanz era, touts better diversity: Sheriff Vic Regalado has swapped out all but one of the appraisers he inherited from the “political patronage” era of Stanley Glanz, choosing to retain the only one who held relevant credentials. The 12 appraisers signed off on by Regalado hold current real estate or appraisal licenses, according to public database searches. None of the 12 have donated to Regalado’s campaign, according to finance report filings. The sheriff emphasized the dozen he chose were selected on merit for their abilities and qualifications but also contribute diversity [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma County Jail the focus of sheriff debate: The “Tussle at the Tower” Oklahoma County Sheriff debate ended up being more of a slight disagreement, but a handful of issues managed to separate the trio of candidates Wednesday night. Hosted by NonDoc in partnership with Let’s Fix This and the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, the Tower Theatre debate featured acting-Sheriff P.D. Taylor, Oklahoma County Deputy Mike Hanson and former Canadian County Undersheriff Ed Grimes, who previously served in the Oklahoma City Police Department [NonDoc].

Bipartisan support evident for renewed license policy: When state Department of Labor officials introduced their push to update licensing laws, they said the movement had bipartisan support. That became clear during a panel discussion Wednesday. Last week, officials announced they would create a blueprint for new licensing regulations so that lawmakers can gauge whether licensing is necessary or if there’s a less strict way to regulate an industry. For example, they could mandate a registration, which doesn’t require the same amount of costly training. They could also allow the workers to get certified through a trade organization and let that stand. The move has sparked a conversation on whether the state should reassess some of the licensing requirements already on the books [Journal Record].

Prosperity Policy: There’s more to do: Recent events in Charlottesville have shocked and unsettled the nation. Many assumed that after Nazism’s defeat in World War II and the victories of the Civil Rights Era, the ideology of white supremacy had been vanquished or relegated to a small, marginal fringe. The sight of large crowds of torch-bearing white men spewing racist and anti-Semitic chants – and the words of a president unwilling to offer an unequivocal condemnation – sadly revealed otherwise. The troubling events in Virginia, combined with Oklahoma’s own history of white supremacist violence and systemic discrimination, remind us that we all have much more to do fight bigotry and promote healing [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Norman becomes second Oklahoma city to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Norman has become the largest city in Oklahoma to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day and at least one city councilor is nudging Oklahoma City to follow their lead. “Norman City Council just recognized the 2nd Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day!” Norman councilwoman Breea Clark tweeted following Tuesday’s vote. “What about you, @cityofokc?” Presented as an alternative to Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors the culture of Native Americans who lived in North America before the arrival of European settlers [NewsOK].

American Indian youth get back-to-school health care in OKC: Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, a nonprofit that provides services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, recently held its annual adolescents health fair, which was attended by 150 youth ages 12 to 18. The health fair held in late July gave parents the opportunity to get their children’s health needs taken care of and make future appointments, according to a news release. Patients received immunizations, behavioral health screenings, hearing and vision screenings, fluoride treatments, sports physicals, head checks, school supplies and more [NewsOK].

Tulsa Public Schools expands program to support teen parents: Three years ago, Kasey Hughart was part of the team launching a model program new to Tulsa schools aimed at preventing teenage parents from becoming dropouts. Instead of sending expectant and parenting teens off campus for services, she would be their on-site case manager. Her primary goal has been getting them to graduation, but Hughart is also focused on helping students with accessing child care and health care and with career planning [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World].

U.S. Rep. Cole faces crowd in Norman: Last week, after a town hall meeting in Ada, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole urged reporters to attend a similar town hall meeting Tuesday in Norman. With a laugh, he promised them it would be “fiery.” He was right. Standing before a couple hundred people in a National Weather Center auditorium on the University of Oklahoma campus, Cole faced a crowd deeply critical of President Donald Trump and skeptical that its Republican congressman is doing enough to oppose the Republican president [NewsOK].

Conservative group spending $500,000 to tout Lankford proposal: Judicial Crisis Network, an organization that funnels so-called “dark money” into efforts to get conservative judges on state and federal benches, is spending $500,000 on digital advertising promoting Sen. James Lankford’s proposed changes in Senate rules. The campaign features a video accusing Democrats of a “hidden scandal” — Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s use of Senate rules to slow Trump administration nominations. In the final few seconds, it urges support of Lankford’s suggestions for speeding the confirmation process [Randy Krehbiel / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma agency proposes to install 72 seismic stations: The Oklahoma Geological Survey has proposed to install more than 70 permanent seismic stations across the state that would allow scientists to better study earthquakes. The $3.5 million proposal would be placed in a grid pattern and phased in for three years, the Tulsa World reported . The cost to operate the stations for five years would be $400,000. “Finding the smallest [magnitude] earthquakes will help you learn more about the whole systems that are generating these larger events,” Oklahoma seismologist Jake Walter said [AP].

Quote of the Day

“The judicial system is broken. It’s structurally defective. It costs over $100 million a year to run the judicial branch. The Legislature appropriates $12 million. …We have got to restructure it. We have got to have an appropriation for the judiciary which treats them like the third branch of government instead of a state agency.”

– Former Tulsa County Chief Public Defender Rob Nigh (Source) The costs charged to criminal defendants have skyrocketed in recent years as the Legislature has added or increased fees that fund various state agencies [OK Policy]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma households that set aside money for unexpected expenses and emergencies in the last 12 months, 2015

Source: Prosperity Now

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Afterlife of Big Ideas in Education Reform: It is lunchtime, it is Wednesday, it is the year 2000, and the principal of Nathan Hale High School is leading 50 juniors on a march up Lake City Way. Last year, the teachers told their sophomores that if they passed all four sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning, the statewide standardized test, they would get a free lunch at Dick’s, the burger place 15 minutes’ walk up the hill from Nathan Hale. So many students passed that the walk has become a parade: Six police escorts, a row of traffic cones blocking two lanes of traffic, the marching band leading the way. The juniors hold balloons that say, “I passed the WASL and I’m going to Dick’s!” The next morning, the Seattle Times runs a story “Kudos Come in Burger Form.” Eight years ago, when Mr. Eric Benson, the principal, started at Nathan Hale, this would have been unthinkable [Pacific Standard].

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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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