In The Know: Teacher pay raise on the minds of new and returning lawmakers

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

Teacher pay raise on the minds of new and returning lawmakers: A teacher pay raise was on the minds of many of the new and recently re-elected lawmakers who were sworn into office Wednesday, the 109th anniversary of Oklahoma’s statehood. Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice John Reif administered the oath of office first in the House Chamber and then in the Senate Chamber as family members and friends looked on. The ceremonies attracted standing room only crowds in both galleries [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma legislators take oath of office: Members of the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives took their oath of office on Wednesday, promising to uphold the Constitution and not take any illegal compensation. Then they spent hours publicly introducing spouses, children, parents and others. Many prefaced their remarks by thanking God for the honor of being allowed to serve in the Legislature [NewsOK].

Gov. Mary Fallin wants to push for more criminal justice reform: Gov. Mary Fallin said she interprets the votes on State Questions 780 and 781 as a mandate to press for further criminal justice reform in the upcoming legislative session. The two state questions reclassified numerous drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, and provided for substance abuse and mental health treatment for offenders. Each passed handily on Tuesday [Tulsa World]. Here’s what to expect in the next round of criminal justice reform [OK Policy].

Report on overcriminalization offers sound ideas for Oklahoma lawmakers: From 2010 through 2015, Oklahoma legislators created an average of 26 new crimes per year, including a 2011 law that made it a felony for a bail bondsman to assist — even unknowingly — another bondsman whose license has been revoked. At the same time, two Manhattan Institute researchers found, no effort was made to purge outdated crimes from Oklahoma’s criminal code. Thus, it remains illegal here to break the Sabbath or to publicly display “any red flag or other emblem or banner, indicating disloyalty to the Government of the United States.” [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Oklahoma Education Funding Crisis Leaves Many Fearful For The Future: Public schools in Oklahoma are feeling the strain of the budget crisis now more than ever. On Election Day, voters chose not to pass State Question 779, which would have put $650 million back into the education system. “If we don`t have the money for that, then how are the kids going to, you know, go on to college,” Genia Morris said. Morris said she voted in favor of the penny sales tax, but Betty Chase said she was against it [KFSM].

Prosperity Policy: Back on the hook: Two days before last week’s election a friend posted on Facebook about State Question 779, the ballot measure to fund teacher pay raises and other education needs through a 1-cent sales tax increase. The friend is a strong education advocate whose mother was a lifelong public school teacher. She is very aware of the crisis in our public schools and the need for higher pay to address the devastating exodus of qualified teachers to other professions and other states. Yet she couldn’t get herself to support SQ 779 [David Blatt / Journal Record].

New factsheet shares the data on what poverty really looks like in Oklahoma: You may not be surprised to learn that, despite some progress in lowering the poverty rate the past three years, more than 600,000 Oklahomans lived in poverty in 2015. But did you know that two in five Oklahomans in poverty had been employed in the past year? Or that nearly two in three Oklahomans in poverty are white? These, and other takeaways, are summarized in our 2015 Poverty Profile, a two-page fact sheet examining the state’s poverty statistics from multiple angles [OK Policy]. The 2015 Oklahoma Poverty Profile is available here.

Libertarians have much to celebrate after elections: Donald Trump and the Republican Party are ascendent in the wake of the Nov. 8 election, but victory at the polls is not always measured by the most votes. Though they did not put any candidates in office, the Libertarian Party was feeling pretty good after its performance in Oklahoma – not just on Nov. 8, but throughout the year. Firstly, the party earned ballot access for the first time in 16 years through its petition, gathering 42,000 signatures – far more than the required 24,745 [Moore American].

Oklahoma Muslim group sees anxiety, hope following election: Leaders in Oklahoma’s Muslim community said Wednesday tensions have risen since last week’s election, but so have signs of support. Members of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the election of Donald Trump as president and the re-election of state Rep. John Bennett were disappointing results because of the rhetoric both candidates have used against the Muslim faith [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“The people of Oklahoma have decided that we can no longer afford to fill our prisons with individuals suffering from addiction. That strategy has been far too costly in dollars and in lives.”

-Gov. Mary Fallin, announcing her intention to continue pursuing criminal justice reform after the success of SQ 780 and SQ 781 (Source). 

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma workers who made the federal minimum wage or lower in 2015.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Privatization May Be Worsening Inequality: As state and local governments grapple with fewer resources for things like infrastructure or social services, many of them have opted to contract those responsibilities out to the private sector. But a new report warns that doing so may be widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots. Privatizing services like foster care or highway toll collection can disproportionately impact low-income users, according to the study, which was published by In the Public Interest, a policy center on privatization and responsible contracting [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.

One thought on “In The Know: Teacher pay raise on the minds of new and returning lawmakers

  1. The recodification of the state criminal code is a possible way to reform state sentencing at low cost, as the article above that one proclaims, an effort that states like WI, MD, and MO have seen marginally successful. The key would be to have the recod group identify offenses that should have similar sanctions and then finding the offense in that group with the lowest maximum sentence and/or sentence range. Since the offenses are essentially the same in their demand for punishment and the lowest sentencing one is currently deemed acceptable, much of the force for the higher sentences for the others can be argued against with stronger moral ground and evidence. Note that the states that have done this is the last decade or so have not had enormous success with it, but they didn’t go with the “lowest offense” goal either. And of course the whole thing can go awry with a “higher offense” outcome when it’s over. But the inconsistency of state criminal codes isn’t relegated just to offenses that make no sense anymore. Having basically similar offenses with little correlation in punishment and/or having some crimes like drug manufacturing pulling higher sentences than child sex abuse or second degree homicide, which you can be sure you will find examples of in OK, is silly, wasteful, and unjust. Which does describe OK laws generally, true, but, if you’re going for the rewriting anyway, at least think through using it for beneficial purposes before going the usual route.

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