In The Know: Teacher walkouts in Oklahoma public schools under consideration

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.

In The News

Teacher walkouts in Oklahoma public schools under consideration: The idea of replicating the public school shutdowns seen across Oklahoma in 1990 is beginning to circulate. The superintendent and some school board members in Bartlesville are responding to teacher interest in the idea by visiting with local parents and conducting an online survey to gauge the opinions of district leaders across the state. [Tulsa World] Teacher walkout talk reminds what happened during the push for House Bill 1017 [Tulsa World] 2018 Policy Priority: Increase Teacher Pay [OK Policy]

Quest for more state revenue fraught with peril: For all the talk and all the enthusiasm from Oklahoma’s business community, especially in Oklahoma City, the “Step Up” initiative seems to have never had much of a chance. House Bill 1033, the special session package in which more than $588 million in new taxes was wrapped, went down hard and fast on Monday. [Tulsa World] Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special sessions [OK Policy]

Oklahoma agencies brace for more cuts: Every state agency is bracing for another round of cuts as lawmakers said Thursday they must slash budgets to keep Oklahoma’s government afloat. State Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, who serves the chamber’s appropriations chair, said no agency will be sheltered from cuts that will save the Legislature about $45 million. Agencies will have to reduce spending by about 2 percent a month from March through June when the current 2018 budget cycle ends. [CNHI]

‘Grumpy’ governor’s aide gives grim assessment of legislative session: Chris Benge, chief of staff for Gov. Mary Fallin, summed up the glum atmosphere of Friday’s Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast. “I’m not very optimistic right now,” he said during a panel discussion. [Tulsa World]

Some Lawmakers Refocus Budget Work on Oklahoma’s Tax Incentives: While lawmakers are at an impasse over revenue, they’re willing to look at tax incentives as a way to help sort out Oklahoma’s finances. State Sen. Roger Thompson is running a bill to reform one of the state’s longstanding incentives: the Quality Jobs program. [Public Radio Tulsa] In wake of tax chill, reforms ‘absolutely should be considered’ [NonDoc] 2018 Policy Priority: End the Capital Gains Tax Break [OK Policy]

Health care advocates say proposed 75-cent cigarette tax hike too low: Health care advocacy groups say the latest proposal for a hike in the cigarette tax falls short. On Thursday, House Democrats endorsed a plan promoted by State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones that calls for increasing the cigarette tax by 75 cents per pack. For years, health care advocates have supported raising it by $1.50 a pack. [Tulsa World]

Shuffle onward, Oklahoma: Oklahomans are good at making due with less than they would like to have. Call it a historical holdover seared into Okie genetics by the sun of the Dust Bowl, or call it the only functional option for a people governed by decades’ worth of corrupt politicians. Combined with the state’s humble beginnings…it means Oklahomans have developed an impressive ability to shuffle onward during tough times. [William W. Savage III/NonDoc]

A Scorecard for Criminal Justice Reform: About a dozen new and holdover bills that would overhaul Oklahoma’s criminal justice system are in the legislative pipeline. Although it’s too early to tell, there are indications the bills have momentum. [Public Radio Tulsa] Bill Watch: Will 2018 be the year Oklahoma finally gets serious about criminal justice reform? [OK Policy]

Uncertainty abounds for rural hospitals with state, federal budget concerns: As budget situations on both the state and federal levels remain unclear, rural hospitals in Northwest Oklahoma are being left in a state of uncertainty about the upcoming year. “I think the biggest challenge is the uncertainty,” said Fairview Regional Medical Center CEO and Administrator Roger Knak. [Enid News & Eagle]

We don’t know who won in Monday’s defeat of Step Up Oklahoma, but we know who lost — you did: The Step Up Oklahoma initiative fell 13 votes short of the number it needed to pass on Monday, stalling the best hope available for adequate funding of public schools and a sustainable revenue stream for state government. That’s a terribly disappointing outcome that bodes very poorly for Oklahoma’s future. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World]

Cash infusion needed to keep state’s medical schools afloat: Less than a month into the legislative session, cash-strapped legislators already are scrambling to find nearly $140 million to keep the state’s two medical schools off life support. Without an immediate cash infusion of $31.7 million and additional allotment of $110 million for the upcoming budget year, top lawmakers said the health of the Oklahoma State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine is at risk if the Legislature doesn’t act immediately. [CNHI]

Oklahoma hurt by skewed priorities: As we give tax cuts out at the national level to those who need it the least and cut or postpone funding programs for those who need it the most, I’m reminded of the statement that says “a nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” [Craig Knutson/The Oklahoman] Lawmakers must continue their work until a substantial revenue plan gets the votes [OK Policy]

Most state funding for English language learners not actually going to help students who need it: Oklahoma school districts receive about $760 dollars for each student who struggles with English, a boost in state funding meant to help many students who have immigrated to the United States, or whose family may have been recent immigrants. However, once those students become proficient in English and no longer require language support, the school is likely to continue receiving the additional funds. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“I don’t know that there’s an answer to handling uncertainty. Because right now it’s on the federal level as well as the state level, because every program that we’ve depended on on the federal level is in that same state of uncertainty.”

– Roger Knak, CEO and Administrator of Fairview Regional Medical Center, on the biggest problem facing rural hospitals in Oklahoma right now (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of counties in Oklahoma that are medically underserved, meaning there are not enough health professionals to meet the community’s medical needs.

Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Is tech dividing America?: When Americans consider how technology has changed their lives, they tend to focus on how the internet and smartphones have altered how they watch TV, connect with friends, or how they shop. But those changes pale in comparison to how technology has already restructured the economy, shaking up the workforce and shifting opportunity to tech-centric urban hubs. As artificial intelligence quickly moves from fiction to daily reality, that revolution will arguably become much more consequential. [Politico]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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