In The Know: Teachers accuse Board of Education of violating Open Meeting Act

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Today you should know that two educators have filed a complaint alleging the Oklahoma State Board of Education violated the state’s Open Meeting Act.  Oklahoma has among the highest local sales taxes in the nation, even taxing groceries and medicine, because unlike other states our municipal governments depend almost entirely on the sales tax for general revenues.  

Hispanic students now comprise nearly 30 percent of Tulsa Public School enrollment, and they represent the majority at 16 of 75 school sites.  While state lawmakers have proposed several bills to turn Medicaid over to for-profit managed care companies, the state is already successfully practicing managed care through patient-centered medical homes and other innovative methods.  A failed bridge linking the small town of Lexington to Purcell has battered local businesses and brought long commutes for residents.

A 2012 state law to refocus corrections spending on cost-saving strategies is not being used by judges and DAs – and a lack of commitment to implementation is costing the state millions in unrealized savings.  Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris wrote in support of utilizing alternative sentencing in Oklahoma.  Drought, utilities, and an agreement to sell water to Texas are threatening the viability of Lake Texoma and its surrounding communities.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board argued that a recent state Supreme Court ruling should pave the way for additional reforms that remove the competitive advantages given to CompSource, the state-run workers’ compensation insurer.  In today’s Policy Note, the National Priorities project showed how the federal government spent your federal income tax, as a share of one dollar.  The Number of the Day is the percentage of children under 15 months covered by SoonerCare who had at least one well-child visit. 

In The News

Two women file complaint that accuses Oklahoma Education Board of open meeting violation
A current and a retired educator have filed a complaint with Enid police, asking the department to investigate the Oklahoma state Board of Education for an alleged violation of the state’s Open Meeting Act. The complaint filed Wednesday by Westmoore High School teacher Elise Robillard and Mary Francis says the board did not give the required 10 days notice that it changed location for its February meeting from Oklahoma City to Enid.

Read more from NewsOK

Little chance of change in sales tax ranking for Oklahoma
Some states levy high income taxes, property taxes and sales taxes. Yet when it comes to sales taxes alone, Oklahoma really stands out. One reason, as we’ve noted many times, is that municipal governments depend almost entirely on the sales tax for general revenues. This isn’t true elsewhere. It’s also the reason Oklahoma continues to tax groceries and medicines. City governments depend on this, particularly in small towns where not much but groceries is on offer.

Read more from NewsOK

Hispanic students are at or near majority in 16 Tulsa Public Schools
Hispanic students now fill nearly 30 percent of the school district’s seats and hold the majority at 16 of its roughly 75 sites. For the first time ever, a Tulsa high school —East Central — is in that category. All the while, the percentage of black and white students enrolled has decreased to 26.7 percent and 27.83 percent, respectively.

Read more from Tulsa World

‘Medical home’ concept could cut health-care costs over time, experts say
State lawmakers have proposed several bills this session to turn the state Medicaid program over to private companies in hopes of reducing costs through managed care. However, the state actually is practicing managed care through use of patient-centered medical homes and two related programs, together known as “SoonerCare Choice.”

Read more from Tulsa World

Sudden closure of bridge linking Oklahoma cities batters businesses, brings long commutes
Kay Collett once enjoyed a commute that would be the envy of many: cross a river, hang a left at the end of the bridge and walk into the bank branch she can see from her back porch. Total travel time: two minutes, maybe three if there’s traffic. Since highway officials barricaded the bridge linking her tiny town of Lexington to Purcell, where she works, though, her commute has been akin to those endured by people in bigger cities, such as Oklahoma City 40 miles to the north.

Read more from Associated Press

Alternative sentencing program for offenders could save Oklahoma money
Melissa Winkle’s drug addiction and resulting mistakes could have cost Oklahoma taxpayers nearly $100,000. Winkle received an eight-year suspended sentence for a 2009 robbery charge, when she stole prescription pain pills from a Tulsa pharmacy to feed her addiction. A first-time offender, the courts gave her a shot at a short, drug treatment program behind bars and let her out on probation. It worked for about two years, but then Winkle fell back into drugs and partying.

Read more from Tulsa World

Support, fund Justice Reinvestment Initiative
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative was signed into Oklahoma law in May 2012, and promised as a plan that would increase the use of sentencing alternatives and other measures to steer nonviolent offenders away from prison, lower incarceration rates, save on prison costs, and allow savings to be reinvested in public-safety efforts.

Read more from Tulsa World

Worsening Drought Exposes Host of Other Problems for Lake Texoma Residents
At the end of August 2013, Lake Texoma was full of water. But drought, and decisions by state and federal officials have meant a drop in levels. That’s a big problem for Kingston, Okla., a community that depends on lake tourism for its local economy.

Read more from StateImpactOK

Oklahoma court ruling upholds reform of CompSource, but more is needed
The Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of a law changing the structure of CompSource, the longtime state-run workers’ compensation company. The court’s recent decision is good: Change is definitely needed at CompSource. But that doesn’t make every claim about this CompSource law accurate. Nor does it mean there’s no need for additional reform. CompSource was created in 1933 as an insurer of last resort for those who can’t otherwise get coverage (called the “residual market”). Last year, lawmakers voted to transform the business into the CompSource Mutual Insurance Company as a supposed privatization effort.

Read more from NewsOK

Quote of the Day

“Unless something happens quickly, they’re going to be in real trouble.  And I can’t tell you what a difficult challenge it would be to adjust to living in this environment without a hospital close by.”

Lexington City Manager Charlie McCown, on a failed bridge linking the town to nearby Purcell

Number of the Day

98 percent

Percentage of children under 15 months covered by SoonerCare who had at least one well-child visit

Source:  Oklahoma Health Care Authority 2013 Annual Report 

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Tax Day 2014
April 15 is Tax Day. Do you know where your taxes went? Here’s how the federal government spent each one of your 2013 federal income tax dollars.

Read more from National Priorities Project

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