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Today In The News

Within Teacher Shortage, Pool of Special Education Teachers Dwindles: Special education teachers have become so scarce that districts face fierce competition to find and keep good candidates and sometimes leave open positions unfilled. That’s why late one night last month, Ponca City Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Arrott sprang into action when she heard the distinctive ding of her cell phone. The alert meant a job application had been submitted online to the district. She scrambled to arrange an interview the next morning for the applicant [Oklahoma Watch]. However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down [OK Policy].

Lawmakers gear for a fight as special session approaches: Lawmakers are gearing up for a fight that looks remarkably similar to one that played out in May when House Democrats and Republicans couldn’t come to an agreement to plug the budget hole. Gov. Mary Fallin last week said she planned to call lawmakers back to the Capitol for a special session after the Oklahoma Supreme Court agreed with those who challenged a $1.50 cigarette “fee,” saying it was passed unconstitutionally [Tulsa World]. Lawmakers have a second chance to get the budget right, and they shouldn’t waste it [OK Policy]. Oklahoma has cancelled its annual dignitary trip to Taiwan after Gov. Mary Fallin announced she will call a Sept. 25 special session to address the state’s health care budget hole [NonDoc]. In preparation for a special session, legislative staffers asked agency officials what a 3.17-percent budget cut would look like [NewsOK].

Cuts to senior food programs loom in Oklahoma: Norman resident Caroline Tiner, 70, eats half her noodle casserole and pea salad lunch before she produces a plastic container from under the table to save the rest. “Dinner,” she whispers, as she scoops up the food. Tiner and other Norman seniors eat lunch five times a week in the dining room at the Rose Rock Villa senior housing complex in Norman [NewsOK]. In the dispute between Republican leaders over DHS funding, here are the facts [OK Policy].

Seven candidates vie Senate District 37 Republican special election primary: Seven candidates are on the ballot Tuesday for a winner-take-all Republican special election primary in Senate District 37. Tuesday’s outcome will not decide the successor to Sen. Dan Newberry, who is leaving office for business reasons, but the winner should be a heavy favorite in the Nov. 14 general special election against Democrat Allison Ikley-Freeman [Tulsa World]. Following the resignation of Rep. Scott Martin to take a private sector job, Republican Darin Chambers and Democrat Jacob Rosecrants will face one another in Tuesday’s special election for House District 46 [NewsOK]. Oklahoma City residents will head to the polls next week to consider bond and sales tax initiatives in the ‘Better Streets, Safer City’ election [KFOR]. Oklahoma County will have a new sheriff for the first time in 20 years after voters go to the polls Tuesday for a special general election [NewsOK]. After two failed bond issues, Seminole school officials are hoping for a different result Tuesday when residents are set to vote on a $21.66 million bond proposal to finance construction of a new four-year high school [NewsOK].

Special election to replace Rep. Jim Bridenstine could cost $600,000, State Election Board says: A special election in Oklahoma’s 1st Congressional District could cost up to $600,000 and require a supplemental appropriation to the state Election Board, board secretary Paul Ziriax said this week in a letter to Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger. “Should a Special Election be necessary, the State Election Board estimates the total cost to the state for a Special Primary Election, Special Runoff Election and Special General Election to be approximately $600,000,” he wrote [Tulsa World].

Auto tax ruling has newly defined course of Oklahoma history: The Supreme Court ruled last week on the constitutionality of HB 2433 that, last session, removed the sales tax exemption and added a 1.25 percent sales tax on the sale of motor vehicles. Boy, was I wrong!! I would have bet the farm that the court would hold HB 2433 in violation of SQ 640 and unconstitutional [OK Policy]. The court’s ruling confirms that lawmakers have numerous options to fill the budget hole in special session and prevent devastating cuts [OK Policy].

Senators talk education, finances: State Sens. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, and Paul Scott, R-Duncan, shared some of their thoughts on public education Thursday at a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute University of Oklahoma Executive Council. Before the event, AEI-OU chair Seth Nightengale said he expected the event to focus on higher education, but much of the discussion was dominated by state budget and common education issues [Norman Transcript].

Access, money, education stand between Oklahomans, oral health: Your teeth matter. That’s the message Dr. Jana Winfree, the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s dental director, wants to spread. Poor oral health impacts social, mental and physical health and is associated with diabetes, depression, heart disease, stroke and other health problems. And Oklahomans are struggling to gain access to consistent, affordable and available dental care. Dental diseases are almost entirely preventable, but Oklahomans lack dental insurance at roughly double the national rate [CNHI].

Sales tax revenue up for fifth consecutive month in Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City’s sales tax revenue was up 3.4 percent for the September reporting period. It is the fifth consecutive monthly increase after a slide that persisted for 18 months. Some perspective is warranted, however, said Doug Dowler, Oklahoma City’s budget director. Dowler said the city received $18,069,788.89 for the general fund, the account for most day-to-day operating expenses [NewsOK].

Ardmore board rejects “rural” charter school, setting up appeal: A proposed “rural” charter school in Ardmore has been rejected by the local school board, setting up a potential appeal to the state Board of Education, which already has overturned decisions by two other local boards this year. But first, the group behind the proposed Ardmore Community Academy charter school plans to resubmit its application to the Ardmore City Schools board of education for a second and final review [NewsOK].

Edmond Schools superintendent voices concern over teacher shortage: The Edmond School Board agenda now allots time for a regular report from its superintendent, and Bret Towne took advantage of that to convey his deep concerns over a growing teacher shortage problem. “We used to have 2,000 applications every year for teacher openings,” he said Tuesday during the regular monthly meeting of the Edmond School Board. “We now have half that number.” [NewsOK]

Q&A: Explaining the proposal for a dollar-store moratorium and the accompanying controversy: The Tulsa City Council has been stymied for months on a policy-driven measure to limit dollar-store developments, a proposal that has become a contentious moral issue involving the north Tulsa community. Passionate pleas for racial parity have run into strong stances by city councilors who call the idea of a moratorium — especially one that would be citywide — less than ideal, at best [Tulsa World].

Governor Mary Fallin to Speak at The Atlantic’s Event on Women’s Incarceration and Criminal Justice Reform in Oklahoma: Oklahoma incarcerates women, many of them mothers, at a rate more than twice the national average. As the state grapples with an emerging political consensus around criminal justice reform, The Atlantic will convene an afternoon event in Oklahoma City centered around the experiences of women affected by the state’s justice system. “Defining Justice: The Experience of Women and Children Behind Bars” will take place on September 20 from 1-5 PM CT at Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Theatre (4322 N. Western Ave) [The Atlantic].

Quote of the Day

“I think if there ever was time for statesmen, now is the time. I think the citizens of this state want us to fix the problem. I think they are tired of partisanship and political bickering and really want to see us do the necessary hard work. None of this is going to be easy.”

– Oklahoma Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger on the upcoming special session (Source)

Number of the Day

399

Total number of professionally active psychiatrists in Oklahoma in 2017

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What If Government Just Gave Everyone Cash, No Strings Attached? Right now in Oakland, Calif., there’s a family getting $1,500 a month for doing, well, whatever it wants to do. This family, along with 99 others in the city, is receiving a monthly check without conditions of any kind. They can work, not work, travel, volunteer with a charity. They can spend it on food or rent or medicine — or yoga classes or movies or bikes. It’s all part of a nascent effort to answer a question that’s on the minds of a lot of economists and social scientists and a growing number of public officials: Can giving people cash without any strings attached help lift them out of poverty? This is universal basic income, the idea that everyone deserves a certain level of economic security — and a regular paycheck — regardless of their level of employment [Governing].

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