In The Know: Survey shows at least 2,800 education jobs lost, statewide teacher shortage persisting

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

Survey shows at least 2,800 education jobs lost, statewide teacher shortage persisting: A new statewide survey found that at least 2,800 public school jobs have been lost to budget cuts and in the first part of August, schools were still in need of more than 500 teachers. In the Oklahoma State School Boards Association survey during the first two weeks of August, school districts representing about 83 percent of all public school students participated. Budget cuts were the primary factor in districts’ decisions to eliminate 1,500 teaching positions and 1,300 support worker positions [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma voters choose nominees in primary runoff election: Oklahoma voters will head to the polls Tuesday for a primary runoff election that will decide the final list of party nominees for a handful of legislative seats and a congressional seat in November’s general election. Voters in central Oklahoma will choose between former state Sen. Al McAffrey and retired university professor Tom Guild in Tuesday’s runoff for the Democratic nomination in the 5th Congressional District. The winner will face Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Russell, who is seeking a second two-year term, and Libertarian Zachary Knight on Nov. 8 [Associated Press].

Research On Tulsa’s Head Start Program Finds Lasting Gains: In 1998 Oklahoma became one of only two states to offer universal preschool, and it’s been one of the most closely watched experiments in the country. Today, the vast majority of these programs are in public schools. The rest are run by child-care centers or Head Start, the federally funded early-childhood education program [NPR]. Head Start works; now let’s work on the rest of the education system [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

We have a moral responsibility to our children: Recently, a mother from our congregation told me that her fourth-grade son had never had the same teacher for a whole year. In fact, one school year he had four different teachers. She wanted to know if it was too much to ask for her son to have one teacher for a full school year. His whole educational life had been filled with learning gaps created by a revolving door of substitute teachers [Rev. Ray A. Owens / Tulsa World].

Oklahoma City school board to discuss multimillion-dollar bond for building repairs, improvements: With school back in session, many district officials say more needs to be done to keep classes running smoothly. On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Public School Board will be discussing a proposed bond to help aging schools in the district. The bond, which would be for $106 million, would provide funds for the purpose of improving schools around the district and fixing equipment that is in need of a repair [KFOR].

Metro Group Holds Discussion To Lower Oklahoma’s Suicide Rates: A new report shows Oklahoma’s suicide rate is 37 percent higher than the national average, but last week the state cut $300,000 from the suicide hotline program. The Oklahoma City-County Health Department reports suicide rates rose from 12 per 100,000 people in 2010 to 16.6 per 100,000 by 2013. As funding decreases, advocates say now it is more important than ever to “Silence The Stigma” of mental illness in an effort to save lives [News9].

Five more questions added to the general election ballot: Gov. Mary Fallin signed paperwork on Monday to place five more state questions on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. The deadline for the governor to sign election proclamations for state questions to be placed on the November 8 general election ballot is Friday. Those five are in addition to the two already on the ballot; State Question 776 would declare that the death penalty is not cruel or unusual punishment and would allow the Legislature to designate any method of execution if a current method is declared unconstitutional [NewsOK]. 

Oklahoma liquor store owners not giving up on initiative petition effort: Amie Hendrickson, manager of Edmond Wine Shop, has spent the past several weeks trying to get the word out about State Question 791, the initiative petition effort Oklahoma liquor stores are backing to change the state’s alcohol laws. On Monday, Hendrickson spent her day off delivering signature forms to area liquor stores. Saturday, she and other liquor store workers gathered in a local park to collect signatures [NewsOK].

Economic uncertainty persists for Oklahoma City as summer turns to fall: Oklahoma City’s economic consultant told the city council that he expected the new year to arrive with a better sense of how the economy will recover from the oil- and gas-driven downturn of the past 18 to 24 months. Russell Evans, executive director of the Economic Research and Policy Institute at the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University, last week gave council members a “summer update” of his annual economic forecast [NewsOK].

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to consider increasing tolls: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority will meet Tuesday to consider increasing tolls in three increments, totaling 17 percent. The increase is to help pay off nearly a half-billion dollars in bond debt the authority plans to incur to fund new construction. Major expansion and improvements are to include an eastern Oklahoma County toll road between Interstate 40 and the Turner Turnpike [NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin Unveils New Oklahoma License Plate: Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and other state leaders unveiled the state’s new license plate design on Monday. State leaders held a news conference at 1 p.m. at the State Capitol to unveil the new license plate design, “Explore Oklahoma.” The new design highlights Oklahoma’s diverse ecology with the outline of our state’s bird, a scissor-tailed flycatcher, soaring over lakes and mountains. The new plates will start being issued on January 1, 2017. Every Oklahoma motorist will pay an additional $5 beginning later this month for the new license plate [NewsOn6].

GRDA hires university to look at Illinois River carrying capacity: For the first time in nearly 20 years, researchers will look at recreation levels and their impact on Oklahoma’s popular Illinois River. At its Thursday board meeting, the Grand River Dam Authority approved a study to be carried out by the Oklahoma State University Department of Geography researching the number of people and boats the river holds and what levels may be best for the river and for the people who like to live and play there [Tulsa World].

Jabar Shumate On Campus Student Activism, Diversity Programming Following SAE Incident: The University of Oklahoma made national headlines in March 2015 when members of a the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were recorded singing a racist chant on a bus while traveling to an event. Immediately following the spread of the video, the university expelled two students and shut down the SAE fraternity’s chapter on campus. In the months following the incident, OU implemented required diversity training for all incoming freshmen and transfer students, and university president David Boren named Jabar Shumate as the university’s first vice president of the University Community [KGOU].

Quote of the Day

“People who have never trained a day as a teacher are now responsible for teaching elementary school students how to read and do math. We have high school students who can’t take Spanish because their school can’t find a teacher. We are hemorrhaging teachers to Texas, Arkansas and Kansas. This is what it looks like when a state fails its schools and its children.”

– Shawn Hime, Executive Director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, on a survey that found that at least 2,800 public school jobs have been lost to budget cuts (Source)

Number of the Day


How much teachers earn in Oklahoma compared to other college graduates in the state, the 6th lowest percentage in the nation.

Source: Economic Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why public defenders are less likely to become judges—and why that matters: There’s been a lot of talk about racial and gender diversity of judges—such as the fact that President Obama chose Merrick Garland, a white man, as his Supreme Court nominee. What doesn’t get as much attention is diversity in judges’ professional backgrounds. At the federal and state levels, judges and justices are much more likely to be former prosecutors than former public defenders [Fusion].

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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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