In The Know: State passes up federal health care grant

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.

In The Know will be on hiatus next week because OK Policy will be hosting our second annual Summer Policy Institute! You can follow the event on Twitter under the hashtag #okpsi.

 This summer, the state of Oklahoma declined to apply for a federal grant that would have allowed the state to develop more efficient ways of delivering health care, Oklahoma Watch reports. This continues a pattern of the state bypassing federal money intended to improve health care in the state. The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board praised the growing use of telemedicine to deliver mental health care, particularly in rural areas.

Despite significant outcry following last year’s deadly tornadoes, little progress has been made in the effort to install storm shelters in more Oklahoma schools. The President of the Oklahoma PTA called for less political grandstanding and for politicians to compromise to develop better educational standards. The OK Policy Blog reported on recommendations made by the Oklahoma Tax Commission to make better state budget predictions in the future. QuikTrip Corp. has made more than $1.5 million in payments to nearly four dozen disabled people in a federal complaint over discrimination at its gas stations and convenience stores.

The state Workers’ Compensation Commission, which has been under fire for violating the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, postponed a scheduled meeting on Thursday. Writing in the Tulsa World, a local physician points out that the city lacks a dedicated Level I trauma center, which represents the highest standard of expertise and care. A sales tax holiday starting today and extending over the weekend will allow residents not to pay sales tax on clothing and shoes. Last year, the sales tax holiday weekend saved shoppers over $7.2 million in tax.

Residents of an Oklahoma town that have been without a local source of clean water since 2002 had been hopeful that city officials will be able to construct a well on the grounds of a local prison, but now say that corrections officials are waiting until the legislature can address the issue. Ozarka Water Company has announced that it is moving its entire production to Oklahoma. It had previously outsourced some production to another company. The chairman of the Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force has suggested that a funding package for dams on the Arkansas River could be on the ballot in the spring.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission said Thursday that 480 barrels of fracking-related hydrochloric acid, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool, had spilled out of a tank in in an alfalfa field in Kingfisher County. The cause of the spill is under investigation. KGOU asked if fracking could be tied to the increasing number of earthquakes in the state. State and federal officials are investigating the deaths of several birds at a neglected oil field site in northwestern Oklahoma. Despite recent rain, over 80 percent of the state is under some level of drought, requiring continuing water conservation efforts.

Teachers from Spain, recruited and employed by Tulsa Public Schools, have begun arriving in town. The guest teachers are part of a pilot project for school systems facing a critical world language teachers shortage. The Tulsa World has updated its searchable database of public school employee salaries. The Number of the Day is the number of occupational fatalities per 100,000 workers in Oklahoma, nearly twice the national average. In today’s Policy Note, Slate reports that the American middle class is now poorer than it was in 1984.

In The News

State Sits Out New Obamacare Grants

Three years after turning down a $54 million federal grant to set up an Affordable Care Act demonstration project, the state of Oklahoma has declined to participate in another big “Obamacare” grant program. Yet the Oklahoma State Department of Health did choose recently to participate as a partner in a separate Medicaid grant application headed by a Tulsa health-care organization. That application was rejected by the Obama administration.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Growing use of telemedicine helps Oklahoma deliver mental health care

OMDHSAS says it has more than 500 licensed users on the TeleHealth Network. In fiscal year 2012, about 26,000 Oklahomans received mental health or substance abuse help via the network. In FY 2013, the number was 33,840, an increase of 28 percent. The agency says it saved $3.4 million in FY 2013 by delivering services via telemedicine. In a recent article about the growing use of videoconferencing by states, pointed out that the supply of psychiatrists is expected to dwindle in the years ahead because more are retiring than are coming into the field.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

Little Progress Made To Put Storm Shelters In Oklahoma Schools

If there was a silver lining in the deaths of seven children at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore last year, it could only have been the resulting commitment to make sure such a tragedy could never happen again. State and local leaders were quick to declare the need for storm shelters in every school — no student, teacher or other school staff should be unprotected in the event of severe weather. The declarations were emotional and passionate.

Read more from News9.

Time to begin working to make every student’s potential a reality

Oklahoma’s public school students are like children caught in the middle of a messy divorce. Their embittered “parents” (legislators, administrators, bureaucrats) are parties in what appears to be a custody battle — a battle raging full bore over public school academic standards that must be developed since the repeal of Common Core. Hanging in the balance are the future of the state and the children and youth of Oklahoma.

Read more from NewsOK.

Can Oklahoma make better budget predictions?

Oklahoma’s state budget was thrown into turmoil this year when much less money came to the General Revenuef fund than was expected. For the full year, General Revenue was 4.8 percent below the estimate; if the shortfall had reached 5 percent, nearly all state services could have been forced to make budget cuts in the middle of the year.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

QuikTrip pays disabled customers $1.5 million in federal discrimination suit

QuikTrip Corp. has doled out more than $1.5 million in payments to nearly four dozen disabled people for discrimination at its gas stations and convenience stores, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday. In a news release, the Department of Justice said Tulsa-based QuikTrip has carried out the necessary changes. Those alterations followed a Justice Department investigation into several QuikTrip locations that determined ramps were too steep, doors were too difficult to open and gasoline pump handles were too difficult to squeeze.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Workers Comp Commission meeting postponed

The Workers Compensation Commission on Thursday abruptly canceled a special meeting set for later in the day. The commission has come under fire recently after allegations that it violated the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act on multiple occasions. Thursday’s agenda items ranged from an openness and transparency action plan to wording on agendas.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Tulsans lack access to highest level of trauma care centers

Here is a good cocktail party question to stump many of your friends: Wichita has two, Oklahoma City has two but Tulsa has none. What potentially life-saving resource do we lack in Tulsa? The answer is a Level I Trauma Center. Trauma results in 180,000 deaths per year in the U.S. and disproportionately affects children and young adults. The Centers for Disease Control recently published research documenting unintentional injury and violence as the leading cause of death in the U.S. for those in the 1-year-old to 30-year-old age group.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Sales tax holiday starts Friday

Let the shopping begin. Friday marks the start of a three-day shopping feast where residents pay no sales tax on certain clothing or footwear that costs less than $100 individually. This is the eighth year for Oklahoma’s sales tax holiday weekend, which last year saved money-conscious shoppers more than $7.2 million in sales taxes, according o the Oklahoma Tax Commission. It’s also is a boon to retailers that reap from the annual rush.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Long search for clean water may take longer than expected for residents of Oklahoma town

Some residents of this small town have been fighting for more than a decade for clean drinking water, a battle that recently brought them to the steps of the local prison. After a meeting this week with state Corrections Department officials, some of those residents are feeling a mixture of optimism and disappointment. The Lexington Assessment and Reception Center sits above an area of the Garber-Wellington aquifer that is thought to be deeper and cleaner than nearby areas south of State Highway 39, where contaminants include salt and sulfur.

Read more from NewsOK.

Ozarka Water makes a splash by moving all bottling in-house to Oklahoma

The CEO of a bottled water business has bought a multimillion-dollar machine to produce the company’s entire inventory in Oklahoma. Ozarka Water CEO Steve Raupe bought the 5,000-square-foot production line to fill, cap, label and package water bottles, The Journal Record reported. The equipment can produce 360 bottles per minute, meaning Ozarka’s entire stock will be bottled in-house. The production line will help the company save money, but Raupe did not disclose exact figures.

Read more from The Republic.

River task force chairman suggests spring vote on dams

Don’t look now, but another river development proposal could go before voters within a year. The chairman of the Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force suggested on Thursday that a funding package to construct and modify low-water dams in the Arkansas River be placed on a spring ballot. The chairman, Tulsa City Councilor G.T. Bynum, said at the meeting that he simply wanted to begin the discussion.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Frackers Spill Olympic Pool’s Worth Of Hydrochloric Acid In Oklahoma

An acid spill on Monday in rural Kingfisher County northwest of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma could turn out to be the largest spill “in relation to fracking materials” in the state according to an Oklahoma Corporation Commission spokesman. Spokesman Matt Skinner said 480 barrels of fracking-related hydrochloric (HCL) acid, nearly enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, emptied out of a tank where it was stored. Acid is used in the fracking process to both clean wells and stimulate the flow of oil and gas. The cause of the spill, which occurred in an alfalfa field, is under investigation.

Read more from ThinkProgress.

Is Fracking To Blame For Increase In Quakes In Oklahoma?

Until very recently, earthquakes in Oklahoma were unheard of. But this year, the state has seen more tremors than California. Why is that? It’s a subject of debate. Some scientists point to the way the oil and gas industry disposes of wastewater, a byproduct of drilling and of the process called fracking.

Read more from KGOU.

U.S. Wildlife Authorities Join State in Investigation of Owl Deaths at Oil Field Site

Federal authorities have joined state officials in an investigation of bird deaths at a neglected oil field site in northwestern Oklahoma. Two oil-covered barn owls were found along with several other dead birds. The owls were taken in by a Fairview caretaker licensed to handle non-migratory birds, but both owls later died, the Enid News & Eagle and Associated Press report. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation are investigating the bird deaths

Read more from StateImpact.

Dwindling Drought Doesn’t Mean A Slowdown In Water Conservation Efforts

Despite more than 80 percent of the state still being under some level of drought, recent wet weather and below average temperatures continue to reduce the severity and size of drought in Oklahoma. As The Oklahoman‘s Graham Lee Brewer Reports, this week’s rainfall “bookended one of the wettest July’s on record for the state, with some areas receiving more than seven inches of rain.”

Read more from KGOU.

TPS to teachers from Spain: Bienvenidos

Eleven teachers recruited from Spain by Tulsa Public Schools have begun arriving for the new academic year, and they are just as eager to learn about America as they are to teach local students their language and European culture. Four of the 11 had arrived by Thursday morning, and Zarrow International School teacher Carolyn Williams has been hosting them in her home since they have yet to secure apartments and vehicles. So far, the group is reeling from the selection and size of goods sold at Wal-Mart and by Coca-Cola’s new Freestyle machine, which can dispense nearly 150 different soft drink flavors.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Updated payroll database: Public school employee salaries

Search a Tulsa World database of public school staff salaries for school year 2013-2014. Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education, February 2014. There is one record per job, some staff members have many jobs so there may be multiple records per person. In some cases, staff members’ salary information may be available with their first initial only. By state law, the department only carries over a maximum of five years out of state teaching experience. Total compensation is the sum of the base salary, total fringe benefits, extra duty pay and other salary.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

“Policymakers need to remember that the repeal of Common Core doesn’t lessen the overwhelming burden placed on students by these tests. This burden was here before, and without intervention this burden will remain. One in five students suffers from high test anxiety. A further 16 percent have moderate anxiety. How much learning can be accomplished under this kind of duress?”

-Oklahoma PTA President Jeffery Corbett, who said that 340 delegates at the Oklahoma PTA’s annual convention unanimously voted to cal for a moratorium on high-stakes testing as the basis for graduation or grade retention (Source:

Number of the Day


Occupational fatalities per 100,000 workers in Oklahoma. The national average is 4.1.

Source: 2014 State of the State’s Health.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Middle Class Death Watch: The Median Household Is Now Poorer Than in 1984

You’re probably aware that a great chunk of America is poorer today than before the housing crash. But recently, the Russel Sage Foundation delivered a reminder that middle-class wealth is in fact still lower than it was a generation ago. As shown on the graph below, the median household in 2013 was worth about 20 percent less than in 1984. As Allison Schrager writes over at Bloomberg Businessweek, middle class families are poorer today than in the Reagan days for two main reasons. For starters, housing collapsed—and for most Americans, their home is their biggest source of savings by far. Second, household debt has risen significantly over time.

Read more from Slate.

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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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