In The Know: State Board of Education delays rehiring testing vendor

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.

The State Board of Education chose Thursday to delay the decision to rehire testing company CTB/McGraw-Hill. The company had previously been fired following two consecutive years of statewide disruptions during testing. Despite calls for her resignation from a Board member and a state legislator following accusations of cronyism, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi says she is not stepping down.

The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board is calling for Barresi’s resignation, arguing that she has lost the confidence of the state Board of Education and the people of Oklahoma. The state Board of Education also unveiled and approved membership of a standards creation steering committee on Thursday, over Barresi’s attempts to amend the motion. The committee will oversee the standards creation process approved this year following the repeal of Common Core. The Tulsa World spoke to three retired educators on the eve of their inductions to the Oklahoma African-American Educators Hall of Fame about their memories of desegregation in Tulsa. We’ve written before about how Tulsa schools are still largely segregated by race and income.

Oklahoma’s remodeled execution chamber, complete with reformed protocols, will be completed in time for executions in November, according to state Department of Corrections director Robert Patton. A federal judge had previously expressed concern regarding the state’s ability to meet the November deadline. A statewide campaign against “smurfing,” wherein a third party purchases pseudoephedrine for a meth cook who may be barred from purchasing the drug, kicked off Thursday. State officials hope the campaign will stem the production of methamphetamine in Oklahoma. In his Journal Record column, Arnold Hamilton argued that legislators’ recent efforts to push for a religious monument at the state Capitol is a cynical power play. The Oklahoma Gazette described tensions over energy production in Oklahoma, from earthquakes to taxation.

State officials have announced that Oklahoma exceeded its year-two Complete College America goals, achieving more than double the target number of degrees and certificates. The initiative aims to increased the number of degrees and certificates earned in the state by 1,700 per year through 2023. KGOU described how a growing trend of renting properties in downtown Oklahoma City could force people looking for affordable housing to outlying neighborhoods.

StateImpact explained confusion and controversy over the ‘Waters of the United States’ designation, the federal government’s attempt to define which bodies of water qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. Some state officials claim it represents a federal takeover of Oklahoma’s waterways and an additional headache for the state’s farmers and ranchers. Due to worsening drought, Oklahoma farmers have begun to plant winter wheat earlier than normal this year, hoping to use what little moisture remains in the soil.

The Number of the Day is the number of unintentional injury deaths in Oklahoma in 2012, 1 out of every 16 deaths in the state that year. The leading causes of unintentional injury death include poisonings, motor vehicle crashes, and falls. In today’s Policy Note, The Atlantic makes the economic case for paternity leave.

In The News

Oklahoma Board of Education delays decision to rehire testing company

State Board of Education members aren’t ready to give a controversial former testing vendor another shot at redemption just yet. Members voted Thursday to delay a decision on a no-bid contract worth $2.8 million with CTB/McGraw-Hill, the same vendor the state Education Department fired after two years of statewide testing disruptions.

Read more from NewsOK.

Despite calls for her resignation, Oklahoma schools Superintendent Janet Barresi says she will not step down

Outgoing state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi said Thursday she has no plans to step down early despite calls for her resignation from a state Board of Education member and an Oklahoma legislator. Board member Leo Baxter said it would be “in the best interest of education in Oklahoma” if she were to step down. “Sadly, today, anything with education which is associated with the state Education Department has become toxic,” he said at the board meeting Thursday.

Read more from NewsOK.

Janet Barresi should resign

State Superintendent Janet Barresi should resign. Her actions since losing her re-election bid are unacceptable, and she appears to have lost the confidence of the state Board of Education, not to mention the people of Oklahoma. On Wednesday, state Rep. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, called on Barresi to resign after she appointed the husband of her general counsel to a newly created post with a base salary of $90,000 a year.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

State Board Of Education Unveils Standards Creation Steering Committee

The State Board of Education unveiled and approved the membership of the standard’s creation steering committee Thursday despite State Superintendent Janet Barresi’s attempt to amend the motion. The steering committee will oversee the standards creation process approved earlier this summer after the repeal of Common Core standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts.

Read more from KGOU.

Retired educators remember long struggle to desegregate Tulsa schools

Having gone to segregated schools while growing up in Tulsa, Juanita Lewis-Hopkins began her teaching career in 1954, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education. She tried to explain the ruling’s significance to her ninth-graders at Carver Middle School, which was “all-black” at the time. Segregation, she told them, “was one of things in history that permeated America. And now, things should be done in a different way.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Schools, housing, & poverty: Thoughts on segregation in Tulsa from the OK Policy Blog.

Chamber will be ready for upcoming executions, director Robert Patton says

The reconstruction of Oklahoma’s execution chamber is nearly complete and will be ready for three upcoming lethal injections, the state’s prison director said Thursday. At a Board of Corrections meeting in Enid, director Robert Patton described how workers at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary had taken “the execution chamber down to the floor” to add space, improve lighting and make room for new medical equipment.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Judge worries Oklahoma execution protocol changes will not be timely from NewsOK.

Statewide campaign against ‘smurfing’ in meth trade kicks off in Tulsa

Authorities across the state have used a variety of tactics to stem the flow of methamphetamine into and around Oklahoma, including pseudoephredrine purchase limits and a comprehensive tracking system. On Thursday, the latest strategy was announced — a public awareness campaign aimed at curbing the practice of “smurfing” that is so prevalent in the state. Smurfing — when a third party buys pseudoephedrine for a meth cook who may be barred from such purchases — is tough to stop, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Bumper-sticker wisdom in the Bible Belt

Attorney General Scott Pruitt and the Legislature’s leading theocrats celebrated recently when a state judge dismissed a constitutional challenge to the Oklahoma Capitol’s Ten Commandments monument. The legal skirmishing is far from over. Judge Thomas Prince’s ruling will be appealed to the state Supreme Court. A similar federal lawsuit challenging the tablet’s placement on public property is set for trial next spring.

Read more from the Journal Record.

For good or bad, Oklahoma is an energy state

Sitting on a platform at the top of Boone Pickens Stadium, minutes after Oklahoma State University’s back-and- forth game with Kansas State ended in a 52-45 win, ESPN commentator Kirk Herbstreit’s eyes grew wide as another television anchor was asking a question about the big game. Herbstreit waited until the end of the question and then admitted he hadn’t heard a word. Instead, he had been distracted by the intense vibration of the stadium.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Oklahoma shatters degree-completion goal in Complete College America initiative

Oklahoma exceeded its year-two Complete College America goal by more than double, state officials announced Thursday. Oklahoma’s public and private higher education institutions and career technology centers have been challenged to increase the number of degrees and certificates earned by an average of 1,700 per year from 2011 to 2023.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma City Housing Shortage Could Send Residents To Outlying Neighborhoods

Over a seven-year period, the number of homes in downtown Oklahoma City will more than quadruple, and almost none of them will be for sale. Oklahoma City Assistant City Planner Ian Colgan says 96 percent of the homes downtown are rentals – demonstrating a growing trend of lease properties, as opposed to traditional, single-family homes for sale.

Read more from KGOU.

Confusion Fueling Oklahoma Outcry Over EPA’s ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule

Oklahoma Congressman Jim Bridenstine calls it a power grab by an imperial president. U.S. Representative Frank Lucas says it would trigger an onslaught of additional red tape for famers and ranchers in Oklahoma. That kind of hyperbole is expected anytime President Barack Obama’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does, well, anything. But the changes being proposed to the way bodies of water are classified are confusing.

Read more from StateImpact.

As farmers begin to plant winter wheat, drought intensifies across Oklahoma

As he drove a tractor through his Alfalfa County fields Thursday afternoon, Kenneth Failes sounded cautiously optimistic about the winter wheat he was planting. Failes planted the crop earlier than usual this year. The ground is dry, he said, but he wanted to make the best use of what little moisture there is in the soil. Failes, a wheat farmer and a member of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, said the soil moisture in the area could be better, but he’s worried it will get worse as the autumn wears on.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

“I’m not going to vote to give another $3 million to a failed vendor. When you take your car into the same guy twice and he screws it up both times, you go somewhere else. You don’t take it back to him and let him screw it up a third time.”

– State Board of Education member Lee Baxter, on the Board’s decision to delay a decision on a $2.8 million contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill, the vendor the state Education Department fired after two years of statewide testing disruptions.(Source:

Number of the Day


Unintentional injury deaths in Oklahoma in 2012, 1 out of every 16 deaths in the state that year. The leading causes of unintentional injury death include poisonings, motor vehicle crashes, and falls.

Source: State of the State’s Health 2014.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Economic Case for Paternity Leave

Last year, maternity leave suddenly got a makeover, courtesy of a most improbable source: Shinzo Abe. Japan’s prime minister is synonymous with machismo-spiked nationalism (he famously denied that women forced into sexual servitude by Japanese soldiers in World War II were “coerced”). But when he unveiled his sweeping economic revival plan, it included longer leave for mothers. And this wasn’t the usual pastel-hued sop to women voters; the way Abe framed it, longer maternity leave was a shot in the arm of Japan’s moribund economy. Though uncharacteristic, his reasoning made a certain amount of sense.

Read more from The Atlantic.

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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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