In The Know: State Unveils Plan for A-F School Report Cards, Keeping Single Overall Grade

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 Unveils Plan for A-F School Report Cards, Keeping Single Overall Grade: Oklahoma schools would continue to receive a single letter grade from the state Department of Education under a new plan for school accountability released Tuesday, but the components of the grades would be expanded. The new system, if adopted by the state Board of Education and the state Legislature, will add measures of chronic absenteeism, post-secondary opportunities and academic growth of English language learners, in addition to student assessments in math, English and science [Oklahoma Watch].

Economists’ school-funding proposals may draw stiff resistance: Voters’ rejection of a sales tax increase to pay for teacher raises and other education initiatives has officials looking for other ways to boost school funding in Oklahoma. A panel of economists recently offered suggestions for doing so. But their proposals involve hard-to-achieve constitutional change and could draw bitter opposition from many school administrators, school boards and teachers unions. Speaking last week at a Greater Oklahoma City Chamber forum, Robert Dauffenbach, senior associate dean at the University of Oklahoma, endorsed “local option” in school funding by removing “these constitutional restrictions on millage.” [The Oklahoman Editorial Board]

Medicaid money to help solve state’s doctor shortage: Researchers with the National Governors Association will spend the next five months developing recommendations on how Oklahoma should spend Medicaid money on the doctor shortage. Unlike Medicaid allocations used for reimbursements, the research target is money earmarked for physician education, known as Medicaid Graduate Medical Education or GME. Last year, Oklahoma spent millions in federal and state funds across several types of physician workforce needs, including payments to medical schools and doctors who agree to work in rural areas. Gov. Mary Fallin announced last week that Oklahoma had received the grant [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Economic Outlook for 2017 Positive But Not Strong: Tulsa and Oklahoma City are expected to be the state’s engines in a slowly growing economy. While the national rate is just over 1 percent, OSU economist Dan Rickman predicts 0.4 percent growth for Oklahoma. Rickman said Tulsa will reverse its recent negative rate and outpace the state, and Oklahoma City should lead the way with about 1 percent growth [Public Radio Tulsa].

Schulz Announces Senate Committee Chair, Vice-Chair Appointments: Senate President Pro Tempore-Designate Mike Schulz on Tuesday announced his appointments of chairs and vice-chairs of Senate standing committees and appropriations subcommittees for the 56th Legislature. “The men and women who will serve as chair and vice chair for Senate committees and appropriations subcommittees have extraordinary talent, and a deep commitment to serving Oklahoma and its people. Like all Senate Republicans, the committee chairs and vice chairs will work on policies that will help foster economic growth and job creation long-term, helping the great state of Oklahoma right now and years down the road,” said Schulz, R-Altus [The Okie].

My story as a daughter of Oklahoma corrections officers: I was born and raised in the small town of Vinita, Oklahoma. My father was honorably discharged after eight years in the Army and began working at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center (NOCC) shortly before my birth. My mother stayed home to take care of my older sister and me until I was ten years old. We didn’t have a lot of money, but it never felt that way. My sister and I were always fed and clothed adequately, and my mother made sure we were getting a good education at both school and home [OK Policy].

Controversy churns over wind farm subsidies: Lucrative incentives for wind farms are again spinning up controversy, as industry supporters argue for continued support from the state while critics question whether Oklahoma can afford it. “Right now, Oklahoma is kind of ground zero for debate over wind policy, wind subsidies,” said Lance Brown, executive director of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy. Brown on Wednesday was promoting the group’s new report, “Oklahoma Depends on Wind,” which argues for the industry and advocates for tax incentives meant to encourage more farms filled with towering turbines [Ada News].

Oklahoma City Council approves $9.2 million mid-year budget cut: The Oklahoma City Council has approved a $9.2 million mid-year budget reduction. The City of Oklahoma City says the cuts match an amended sales tax projection for the fiscal year. The cuts were proposed during a Nov. 22 city council meeting. 39 positions were cut from the City of Oklahoma City [Fox 25].

Economic diversification stabilizes OKC: Last week the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber hosted its annual State of the Economy event. Several economists weighed in on our state’s economic well-being. A common theme among the experts was that even though our state has been affected by the drop in oil and gas prices, our city has endured the downturn better than in previous economic declines. This is due to intentional diversification of our economic base [Cathy O’Connor / Journal Record].

Several candidates file for OKC school board seats: A former Oklahoma City Public Schools Teacher of the Year and a construction company executive are among five people who declared their candidacy Monday for the Oklahoma City school board. Cheryl Poole, 65, a retired teacher, filed paperwork with the Oklahoma County Election Board to run for the seat occupied by Bob Hammack, who has said he will not seek re-election to District 1 [NewsOK].

Turnpike Authority approves contingent toll increases: It could soon cost passenger car motorists 50 cents more to travel from Oklahoma City to Tulsa under a series of turnpike rate increases approved Tuesday by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. The board approved 12 percent across-the-board rate increases for drivers on all Oklahoma turnpikes, with implementation of the increases contingent on the Oklahoma Supreme Court approving the constitutionality of a pending bond issue. Authority members conditionally approved the toll increases to help pay for a proposed $480 million bond issue that would be used to help finance construction of a new east Oklahoma County toll road, as well as work performed on the Gilcrease Expressway, the Muskogee Turnpike, the Turner Turnpike, the H.E. Bailey Turnpike and the Kilpatrick Turnpike [NewsOK].

Cushing Residents Seek Class-Action Lawsuit Against Oil Companies Over Earthquakes: Attorneys are asking a district court judge to approve a class-action lawsuit against oil and gas companies after a 5.0-magnitude earthquake rattled near the town of Cushing in November. The action, similar to one filed after the record-setting 5.8-magnitude quake near the town of Pawnee, was brought Monday on behalf of several residents seeking compensation for homes and businesses damaged by the quake and money for emotional distress. The filing also asks that punitive damages be levied on oil and gas companies operating wastewater disposal wells near the epicenter of the quake [StateImpact Oklahoma].

Quote of the Day

“Because what do you do when you cut taxes more? You cut spending. You cut education expenditures. Those have immediate, final demand spending effects in the economy. Well, what about all these benefits from low taxes? Well, obviously, it’s not doing very much if you’re lagging in growth.”

-OSU economist Dan Rickman, explaining that deep tax cuts have hurt Kansas’ economic growth and urging Oklahoma not to continue doing the same. Rickman projects 0.4 percent growth in Oklahoma, compared to 1 percent nationally (Source)

Number of the Day

3,796 per 100,000

Rate of incarceration for black Oklahomans in 2010, compared to 767 per 100,000 for white Oklahomans

Source: Prison Policy Initiative

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Where Are All the Social Workers Going? Turnover in public-sector jobs is a ubiquitous problem. But when it comes to social services, the problem is particularly painful. One well-known study found that with one caseworker, the chance for a child to achieve a permanent and stable living situation was 74 percent. If a child had two caseworkers in one year, the odds dropped to 17 percent. With three caseworkers, it was a mere 5 percent. “Turnover is devastating,” said Scott McCown, a former judge and now director of the Children’s Rights Center at the University of Texas Law School. “If you’re a caseworker, you develop a relationship with the parent and child. That’s what helps you help them. But every time there’s turnover, you start from scratch.” [Governing]

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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