In The Know: Tulsa Public Schools proposes closing, moving 3 elementary schools to offset projected budget cuts

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including Advocacy Alerts, the Legislative Primer, the What’s That? Glossary, and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Tulsa Public Schools proposes closing, moving 3 elementary schools to offset projected budget cuts: School consolidation, furlough days and reductions in athletic programming and district staff are part of a preliminary plan Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist proposed Wednesday to offset projected funding cuts. The proposed budget reductions for the 2017-18 school year would total $12.4 million to cover the amount of state aid reductions the district is anticipating, Gist told the school board at a special meeting [Tulsa World].  The Tahlequah Public Schools district is stuck in a waiting game with the state Legislature until May, with what Superintendent Lisa Presley calls a “real crisis” looming. “I do not believe our patrons have felt the impact,” said Presley. “We are in a crisis.” Presley said the district has already cut $1 million going into 2017, and faces another potential $600,000 in cuts [Tahlequah Daily Press]. Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017 [OK Policy].

Bill aimed to create new small loan with more regulations: House Bill 1913 will create a new small loan for those borrowing between $500-$1,500. …It recently passed the House of Representatives which was a heated debate for some lawmakers with personal experience. “I watched my dad crunch numbers, stretch meals, take on additional jobs and walk in and out of payday lending centers,” State Representative Cindi Munson (D) District 85 said [KFOR]. HB 1913 is scheduled to be heard by Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee this morning. Learn more about the bill and how to ask committee members to oppose HB 1913 here

“Prosperity Districts” won’t create prosperity for all… The Oklahoma legislature is currently considering a bill, HB 2132, that would create “a grassfire of prosperity” in our state according to Representative Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia). But Oklahoma doesn’t need another grassfire. They are unpredictable, dangerous, and usually leave behind a great deal of damage. Under HB 2132, any landowner or group of landowners could file a petition with their county to create a district on their land – and once the district is created, they can make most of their own rules [OK Policy]. 

A giant step backward for state insurance coverage is proposed: Oklahoma families with autistic children long struggled financially because autism coverage was not required for insurance policies sold in the state. In May, that changed when Gov. Mary Fallin signed a law requiring minimal insurance coverage. Now, the mandate is in danger of being reversed [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. SB 478 by Sen. Bill Brown (R-Broken Arrow) and Rep. Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia) would exempt insurers from all state mandates on their product, including autism coverage [OK Policy].

Senate panel passes teacher pay raise bill without a funding mechanism: A Senate panel on Wednesday passed a measure calling for a teacher pay increase. But officials have yet to identify a funding source at a time the state is facing a $878 million budget hole and is in a revenue failure. House Bill 1114, by Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, and Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, would provide a $6,000 teacher pay raise over three years [Tulsa World].

Controversial abortion bill gets new life in state Senate: An abortion bill came back to life in the Senate. Senate leadership reassigned House Bill 1549 to the Senate Rules Committee. The measure, dubbed the “Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2017,” would prevent the abortion of a fetus solely on the basis that it had a genetic abnormality. It makes no exceptions for rape or incest [Tulsa World].

Bill Aims At Lowering Costs For Corrections Department: A new bill set for a Senate committee hearing on Thursday could help the state corrections department lower the costs of medical and overcrowding, lawmakers said. Rep. Greg Babinec, R-Cushing, is the author of House Bill 1338. If passed, he said offenders who are 50 years of age or older, deemed “medically frail” by the Department of Corrections, and serving time for a non-violent offense could go before the pardon and parole board [NewsOn6].

Trio of bills would expand alcohol sales, store ownership: Oklahoma legislators are close to expanding several new alcohol laws that voters approved last year. Representatives unanimously adopted a trio of bills in House committee action Wednesday. The changes would amend provisions included in State Question 792, which passed overwhelmingly in November [NewsOK].

Getting on presidential ballot in Oklahoma may get easier: A bill that would make getting on the presidential ballot easier in Oklahoma advanced through the committee process Wednesday in the Oklahoma House. The state now has some of the most restrictive ballot laws in the country [Tulsa World].

Cycle of crisis: City leaders decry lack of mental health treatment options: They might be handcuffed, shackled, masked, boiling with an uncontrolled rage or simmering with an inconsolable fear. They might hurt themselves. They might hurt other people. They’re made to wait in this state for an unknown amount of time before someone can come and make a decision about them. It’s the extreme side of how mentally ill people could be treated during a crisis law enforcement has responded to. It’s unfair, and everyone knows it. But for places like Payne County, there isn’t much being done about it [Stillwater News Press].

Oklahomans leaving at least $400 million on the table to combat hunger, report shows: Oklahoma could end existing hunger in the state if officials accessed the more than $400 million in unclaimed federal money available annually for nutritional programs, according to a report released Thursday by Hunger Free Oklahoma. The comprehensive examination of state hunger comes from a group formed about five months ago to serve as a statewide advocacy voice around the issue [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]. The report is available here

Prosperity Policy: Not a poor state: Pop quiz! Can you guess how many of these states rank above Oklahoma in per capita income: Michigan, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Missouri and Nevada? The answer is none. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, per capita personal income in Oklahoma was $45,682. This ranked us 28th nationally, ahead of all the states on the above list, and within spitting distance of Florida, Texas and Kansas [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Employment rate up in most Oklahoma counties: Unemployment rates declined in most counties in Oklahoma in the last year, according to data released Wednesday. The four counties with the lowest unemployment rates were more than 1 percentage points lower in February than the state average of 4.6 percent, but three counties had rates nearly twice as high [Journal Record].

Good school/bad school: Broken Arrow High School patrons worry about split: More than 30 Broken Arrow community members spoke at a forum Tuesday evening about a preliminary proposal that would divide the Broken Arrow school district’s high school — long the largest high school in the state. Many participants opposed the idea of splitting into multiple comprehensive high schools, expressing concern about creating a “good school” and a “bad school” while diminishing the quality of programs such as the marching band [Tulsa World].

Tribal, state, federal leaders convene in Tulsa about strengthening Native American education: Tulsa played host Wednesday to a first-ever conference about how to strengthen education for American Indian students throughout Oklahoma. More than 300 public school educators and representatives of the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma gathered to hear from leaders at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Indian Education, and National Indian Education Association [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma court dismisses lawsuit against three energy companies: A lawsuit filed against three energy companies in Oklahoma that use hydraulic fracturing has been dismissed without prejudice. Last year, the Sierra Club and Public Justice filed a federal lawsuit against three energy companies that use hydraulic fracturing in the state [KFOR].

Quote of the Day

“This is something that affects every single teacher, bus driver, custodian, and these are folks that not only serve our children directly, but also we know are already inadequately compensated.”

– Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist on the proposed furloughs that are part of the district’s plan if their budget for the next fiscal year is cut as expected (Source

Number of the Day


Price per barrel of oil needed to cover operating expenses in Oklahoma’s SCOOP and STACK oil regions, the second lowest among all major U.S. oil-producing regions.

Source: Dallas Federal Reserve

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Gil Lykens’ story: Exhibit A in the case for preserving Medicaid: Many Americans following the debate in Congress over health care reform might understandably be confused when the topic of Medicaid comes up. Some might wonder who gets Medicaid, what it covers, how many people qualify. Others may hear phrases like “block grants” and “per capita caps” and tune out completely. If they learned of Gil Lykens, they may not tune out. Gil is the 17-month-old son of Craig and Lindsay Lykens of Ashburn, Virginia. He has a rare neuromuscular condition called Myotubular Myopathy (MTM), which causes his muscle cells to “build” improperly because they are missing a key protein. This, in turn, causes Gil to have low muscle tone across his entire body, affecting everything from limbs to lungs to his esophagus [Coalition on Human Needs].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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