In The Know: State teacher shortage ‘getting worse,’ superintendent says, as 224 more emergency certificates issued

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

State teacher shortage ‘getting worse,’ superintendent says, as 224 more emergency certificates issued: Public schools’ reliance on under-qualified teachers shows no signs of letting up at the dawn of a new fiscal year. The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday morning approved 224 more emergency certificates for the month of July. Those are provisional licenses that allow individuals to be employed as classroom teachers before they complete the education or training requirements for regular or alternative certification [Tulsa World]. In 2015, we argued that the evidence of the teacher shortage crisis facing Oklahoma was “overwhelming and undeniable” [OK Policy].

Education advocates plan initiative, seeking voters’ approval for income tax for schools: Faith, education and elected leaders on Thursday announced an initiative petition drive, with the goal of winning voters’ approval for a local income tax for public schools in Oklahoma City. Education advocates hope Oklahoma City voters will favor a pair of temporary 0.25 percent income tax hikes to address a “crisis” in public schools, with the aim of paying teacher bonuses and reducing class sizes [OK Policy]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Lankford ‘a solid undecided’ on Republican health care bill: Oklahoma’s U.S. senators said they were still reviewing the GOP health care bill unveiled Thursday before deciding how they would vote on the measure. “Congress should pass a bill that provides a smooth transition from the Affordable Care Act to a better system that provides more affordable coverage options for everyone, with the goal in mind of doing no harm to current enrollees as the transition occurs,” said U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. Lankford did not say whether the GOP bill would achieve that goal [NewsOK]. Senate Republicans on Thursday revealed the Better Care Reconciliation Act, their plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill asks low- and middle-income Americans to spend significantly more for less coverage [Vox]. The Senate health care plan released today makes even deeper cuts to Medicaid than the version that passed the House. Besides deep funding cuts, this would fundamentally change the nature of Medicaid by ending its responsiveness to the economy and slashing the safety need when it’s needed most, as we explained in February [OK Policy].

Inhofe’s Influence at EPA Grows: Make it at least five, maybe six former staffers of Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe at the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee to move on to the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s clear the 82-year old republican Senator is having an impact on the giant agency he has criticized under the Obama administration. The latest is Daisy Letendre, a spokeswoman for the EPW committee and Inhofe’s office [OK Energy Today].

Prosperity Policy: Why ‘smart on crime’ works: Going into the legislative session, one of the biggest hopes was that lawmakers would take real action toward smarter criminal justice. By the end, their failure to do so was one of the biggest disappointments. A well-vetted set of reforms was denied a vote in the last days of session, after one legislator refused to hear the bills in committee and House leadership refused to move them to a fairer venue. The need for change isn’t going away, not only because leading the world in incarceration is costly in dollars and human lives. Oklahoma needs change because current policies are not reducing crime or making us safer [Gene Perry / Journal Record]. The link between incarceration and crime is surprisingly weak [OK Policy].

Study shows economic impact of Oklahoma arts nonprofits: A recent study in Oklahoma shows the nonprofit arts industry generates as much commerce as it does culture. Oklahomans for the Arts presented the results of its Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study on Wednesday. It found that expenditures from Oklahoma nonprofit and municipal arts organizations and audiences totaled to $872.8 million during the 2015 fiscal year. The study examined the impact of these organizations and their audiences on job creation, spending and tourism in the state [NewsOK]. The study is available here. In these times of educational crisis and budget shortfalls, the Legislature should look to arts and culture as part of the solution [OK Policy].

The state could use a lot more Leslie Osborns: No legislator grew more in my esteem this year than Rep. Leslie Osborn. Previously, I knew Osborn, R-Mustang, had a sharp mind and was a talented debater. But the issue that had brought her the most attention on this side of the state was her effort a few years ago to eliminate state funding for OETA. So, I knew she had a lot of legislative talent, but I wondered about the uses that she applied it to [Wayne Greene / Tulsa World].

Gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson suing to stop revenue legislation: Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson said Thursday he is challenging three key pieces of the state’s fiscal year 2018 budget package. The three bills were passed in the closing days of this year’s legislative session to help resolve a nearly $1 billion revenue gap for the budget year that begins July 1. Together, they are expected to net the state about $125 million for FY ’18 [Tulsa World]. The state budget is sitting on shaky constitutional foundations [OK Policy].

OK State Election Board Allows Voters To Sign Up For Election Reminders: The Oklahoma State Election Board announced a new service allowing voters to sign up for text or email alerts reminding them about upcoming elections in their county, said Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax. The GovDelivery service also allows voters to sign up for reminders to renew their annual absentee ballot requests. Board officials said subscribers can get reminders from their county of residence a few days before an election [NewsOn6].

Proposed ordinance would fine people for panhandling and hitchhiking: A proposed ordinance is making it harder for people to fundraise in the city of Tulsa. The ordinance details that no one can step or stand in the road or on a median or extend a body part into the roadway to solicit a ride, donation, employment or business from someone in a vehicle. If someone is caught violating the ordinance, they would be fined $150. District Five City Councilor Karen Gilbert said the proposed ordinance is centered around safety [KJRH]. When a similar suggestion was made in Oklahoma City, we warned that criminalizing panhandling would only serve to burden more people with fines they have no ability to pay [OK Policy].

Oklahoma City sees dip in homelessness, but increase in homeless families: A year after the city’s homeless population ticked up sharply, advocates say fewer people are living on Oklahoma City streets, according to numbers released Thursday. But the news isn’t all good. Despite success in reducing the number of homeless people overall, advocates are facing challenges in finding housing for certain segments of the homeless population, including families with children [NewsOK].

Legislature shifts higher education costs to students, parents — again: It’s going to be more expensive to go to a public college or university in Oklahoma next year. University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University have raised tuition rates for in-state undergraduates by 5 percent in recent days. Increases for graduate and out-of-state students are generally a little higher. Other state schools are taking similar routes. As the state has shirked its obligation to fund higher education, the schools have had no choice but to demand more money from their students [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World]. The link between education levels and state prosperity is clear [OK Policy].

OKPOP museum clears hurdle to build in Tulsa with $25 million in bonds approved: Efforts to build a museum of popular culture in downtown Tulsa cleared another hurdle on Thursday. The state Council of Bond Oversight approved the sale of $25 million in bonds to build the four-story facility across from Cain’s Ballroom in the Brady Arts District. “This is the culmination of one more very significant step toward the ultimate creation of this facility,” said Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber [Tulsa World].

Restoring Oklahoma to a healthy place: Across far too many categories, our state is physically unhealthy. Oklahoma has the fifth-highest, age-adjusted mortality rate and the sixth-highest rate of adult smokers in the nation. We also have the third-lowest percentage of adults who engage in physical activity. These are dangerous numbers that represent a grave threat to our citizens. But Oklahoma is currently unhealthy in more ways than one: Our state budget situation is unsustainable, and we don’t seem to have a viable strategy in place for addressing these budget woes [Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma President & 2016-17 State Chamber of Oklahoma Chairman Ted Haynes / Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Put me down as a solid undecided.”

– Oklahoma Senator James Lankford on the Senate Republican health care bill unveiled on Thursday. The bill would scale back financial help and consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act while fundamentally restructuring and deeply cutting Medicaid (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of counties in Oklahoma (out of 77) where 50 percent of the population or greater does not have a grocery store nearby.

Source: Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Not just for the poor: The crucial role of Medicaid in America’s health care system: Despite many assertions to the contrary, Senate leaders are now saying they want to vote on the replacement bill for Obamacare before the month is out. Front and center is the planned transformation of America’s Medicaid program, which covers 20 percent of Americans and provides the backbone of America’s health care system. As a professor of public policy, I have written extensively about the American health care system and the Affordable Care Act. Living in West Virginia, perhaps the nation’s poorest state, I have also seen the benefits of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion since 2014. To understand how the ACHA’s proposed changes to Medicaid would affect people and our health care system, let’s look more closely at the program [The Conversation].

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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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