In The Know: Virtual charter school growth continues to net most of Oklahoma’s midyear state funding allocation

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

Virtual charter school growth continues to net most of Oklahoma’s midyear state funding allocation: Eleven charter schools, including all four of the state’s virtual school choices, were among the top 20 in gaining state aid in annual, midyear adjustments just made by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. In making midyear adjustments, state education officials distributed the final remaining 1.44 percent, or $26.4 million, in state aid for the fiscal year ending June 30, across 512 school districts and 28 charter schools [Tulsa World].

Teacher raises, school funding are top issues: Public school funding and teacher raises continue to be the biggest issues state educators face in the new year. Several local superintendents voiced their frustrations regarding the ongoing inability of Oklahoma’s lawmakers to pass a budget plan to fund a teacher pay raise. A failed legislature measure in November would have provided a $3,000 annual pay increase in public school teacher pay [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]. Another year goes by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy].

Double duty for Legislature’s lawyers: As the Oklahoma Legislature’s second special session continues, the attorneys on staff are working double time. Lawmakers convened for three attempts at building a budget last year, and the last try is ongoing. Members on Dec. 22 passed legislation that provided the funding necessary to prevent immediate cuts, but several agencies are still lacking a year’s worth of operating money. Gov. Mary Fallin and House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols have said reforms are still on the table with finance measures [Journal Record]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy].

Last-minute rate change too late for some Medicaid providers: Oklahoma health care officials prevented reimbursement rate cuts last week, but some providers said the damage has already been done. Before the end of the year, the Oklahoma Legislature provided some emergency funding to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers Medicaid. The program, which uses state and federal money to provide medical coverage for low-income residents, pays medical providers on a fee-for-service scale [Journal Record]. 

Records show anger, fear and frustration expressed by hundreds of state health department employees in wake of scandals: Not long after Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin placed Preston Doerflinger in charge of Oklahoma’s beleaguered state Department of Health, the former Office of Management and Enterprise Services director instituted a new program. The department’s 2,000-plus employees, concerned about the future of the agency given money issues, high-profile resignations of agency leaders, furloughs and low staff morale, could anonymously report “concerns” through a third-party company called “” [The Frontier]

Why Oklahoma Has the Most Women Per Capita in Prison: Oklahoma incarcerates more women per capita than any other state—about 151 out of every 100,000 women, double the national average. The total prison population, including men, reached 28,850 in June 2016, according to an official report. Voters passed two measures aimed at effecting change, and both went into effect in July despite lawmakers’ efforts to repeal them [Wall Street Journal]. What works to stop crime (hint: it’s not incarceration) [OK Policy].

Opening of city’s new jail scheduled for March as operating cost estimates rise: The city’s new lockup facility is expected to open by the end of March and could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more a year to operate than originally anticipated, according to the Mayor’s Office. Amy Brown, deputy chief of staff for Mayor G.T. Bynum, said Tuesday that the city is finalizing an agreement with a private contractor, G4S Secure Solutions, to operate the facility at a cost of between $1.2 million and $1.8 million a year [Tulsa World].

Prosperity Policy: The truth about Oklahoma schools: Another year has gone by, and Oklahoma still leads the nation in cuts to education. In its most recent 50-state comparison of school funding, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that Oklahoma’s per pupil state aid funding – the most important funding source for schools’ daily operating expenses and the salaries of teachers and other school staff – is down 28.2 percent since 2008 adjusted for inflation. No other state even tops 20 percent [David Blatt / Journal Record].

History center gets go-ahead from courts: The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes are expecting to open their tribal history center this quarter, though a date has not been announced. Wichita and Affiliated Tribes’ President Terri Parton said in the tribes’ November newsletter that displays were still being installed but soon the tribes would be able to tell their story as being the indigenous people of Oklahoma. The center’s opening comes after a federal court battle that lasted more than a year [Journal Record].

Gov. Mary Fallin names secretary of state to additional Cabinet post: Secretary of State Dave Lopez will also serve on the governor’s executive Cabinet as secretary of education and workforce development, Gov. Mary Fallin announced Wednesday. He will begin his new duties immediately, but the Oklahoma Senate must still confirm the appointment. “Dave Lopez is a hard-working, energetic Cabinet member whose expertise has been very beneficial to my administration,” Fallin said in a statement [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Builders Bullish on 2018: Builders in Oklahoma expect steady or increased business in most project types this year. In a survey, 56 percent of Oklahoma builders said they anticipate more business this year than last year while none anticipate less. For the entire U.S., 53 percent of builders expect more business, and 9 percent expect less. Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen Sandherr said there are two main reasons for their optimism [KWGS].

Extreme cold means upswing in demand at already strained homeless shelters: For Tulsa agencies that serve the homeless, the surge in demand from the recent spell of brutal cold is straining resources that were already stretched thin, officials say. “We’re filling the building up wherever we can,” said Steve Whitaker, chief executive officer of John 3:16 Mission, which prior to the frigid temperatures was operating well above its bed-capacity at 115 percent. “We have overflow into the lobby,” he said [Tulsa World].

Weather’s impact on Oklahoma’s upcoming wheat harvest remains to be seen: There is no doubt about it: Colder-than-normal weather is having an impact on some U.S. crops this year. But concerns about a major impact on the nation’s winter wheat crop by this year’s weather are premature, an Oklahoma agronomist and a farmer agreed Wednesday. Both David Marburger, a small grains extension specialist who is an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University, and farmer Don Schieber said recent cold weather hasn’t really concerned them [NewsOK].

Wind Catcher power line route finalization nears; community meetings set: Planning for the 360-mile Wind Catcher Energy Connection line from the giant proposed wind farm in the Oklahoma Panhandle to a substation at Tulsa is nearing completion, save for three sections, one of which is the final approach into Tulsa. The site of the substation is part of that mix, according to Stan Whiteford, a spokesman for American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma. “Our original plan has it being in north Tulsa near (U.S.) 75, but that’s not in stone, depending on the route of approach,” he said [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“Education is one of those core services. I understand that the state has challenges budgetwise like the state health department, the prisons and roads. All of these are core services that should be adequately funded, but so should education.”

– Bartlesville Public Schools Superintendent Chuck McCauley (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of children in Oklahoma in 2016, 25 percent of the state population

Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Most Americans do not support making cuts to programs for people with low incomes: If House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has anything to do with it, the next step for Congress will be cutting welfare programs that benefit low-income Americans — a move that is not particularly popular with the American public, including the congressman’s own party. The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein reported earlier this month that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce the federal deficit. …Ryan said on Fox News last week that House Republicans will attempt to trim the federal deficit by cutting spending on Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs [Washington Post].

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.