In 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.
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Today you should know that parents, teachers and members of the Oklahoma Board of Education asked the state Supreme Court to throw out a law repealing Common Core academic standards. Their lawsuit argues that the bill repealing Common Core gives the Legislature too much power to rewrite academic standards and violates the separation of powers. An Oklahoma Supreme Court referee heard arguments in Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent’s challenge to the state income-tax cut that was enacted during the past legislative session. Fent argues that the law was passed without following the constitutional requirements for a revenue bill.
Claiming the state is experimenting on “captive and unwilling human subjects,” 21 Oklahoma death-row prisoners filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the state’s execution protocols. The federal appeals court set to rule on Oklahoma’s same sex marriage ban has ruled that a similar ban in Utah is unconstitutional. On the OK Policy Blog, we discussed how community schools are proving to be an effective way to address the challenges of poverty without lowering expectations for low-income students.
Joy Hofmeister, who recently defeated Superintendent Janet Barresi in a Republican primary, said her agenda if she wins the general election will focus on fixing the A-F school grading system, developing new academic standards, and improving special education. State Superintendent Janet Barresi vowed to focus her remaining six months in office on the task of writing new reading and math curriculum standards. A video from a State Department of Education event on developing the standards shows Barresi telling teachers to prepare for the difficult process by reading the Book of Nehemiah in the Bible and telling would-be critics to “Go to Hell.”
David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses the heavy cost of Oklahoma’s plan to hike copayments for Medicaid prescriptions and doctor visits. OK Policy has urged Oklahomans to contact the Health Care Authority board, which will decide today whether to approve the copay increases. New Census data shows that Oklahoma is one of only seven states that grew younger last year, thanks in part to an influx of 20-something oilfield workers. Twenty-two more graduates completed the Women in Recovery Program which is providing an effective alternative to prison for women with substance abuse problems.
Tulsa World reporter Kevin Canfield expressed concern that barely more than 20 percent of voters participated in city council elections this week. The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved a $370 million renovation project for the football stadium. Oklahoma Kiowas are celebrating U.S. national soccer team forward Chris Wondolowski, the first tribally enrolled Native American to participate at the World Cup. The Duncan Board of Education has approved the purchase of 4,500 skateboard helmets for students and employees to wear in case of a tornado. A new study warns that ongoing climate changes pose serious risks to the agricultural and energy industries in Oklahoma and other Great Plains states.
The Number of the Day is the miles of public road in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Governing discusses how states are requiring tougher entry requirements for teacher colleges and more proof of subject mastery before teachers can enter the classroom.
In The News
Parents, teachers, education board members ask Oklahoma Supreme Court to throw out repeal of Common Core
Parents, teachers and members of the Oklahoma Board of Education asked the state Supreme Court Wednesday to throw out a law repealing Common Core academic standards. They allege in a petition filed with the court that a bill signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin on June 5 is unconstitutional because it gives the Legislature too much power to come up with a new set of benchmarks to replace the rigorous math and English standards in Oklahoma schools. Under House Bill 3399, the state Board of Education would draft new standards, but the Legislature would have the power to change those standards as it sees fit.
Referee hears arguments in legal challenge to Oklahoma income-tax cut
An Oklahoma Supreme Court referee heard oral arguments Tuesday in Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent’s challenge to the state income-tax cut that was enacted during the past legislative session. Fent said the law, Senate Bill 1246 — which would gradually drop the income-tax rate to 4.85 percent from 5.25 percent if revenues are sufficient — is a revenue bill. State law requires that revenue bills originate in the House and receive at least three-fourths vote in both legislative chambers, which it failed to garner, Fent said. The measure originated in the Senate, in violation of the law, Fent said.
21 death-row inmates challenge state execution protocols
Claiming the state is experimenting on “captive and unwilling human subjects,” 21 Oklahoma death-row prisoners filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Oklahoma City federal court challenging the state’s execution protocols. The prisoners, 20 men and one woman, ask the court to prohibit the state from executing them using the same “drugs and procedures employed in the attempt to execute” Clayton Lockett, who died following a botched execution attempt April 29.
10th Circuit strikes down Utah’s gay marriage ban; could apply to Oklahoma
The federal appeals court that has jurisdiction over Oklahoma ruled Wednesday that a ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. “Those who wish to marry a person of the same sex are entitled to exercise the same fundamental right as is recognized for persons who wish to marry a person of the opposite sex,” judges of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The 2-1 ruling by the Denver-based court pertains to a ban in the Utah state constitution against same-sex marriages, which is similar to a ban in Oklahoma’s constitution. Wednesday’s ruling foreshadows a pending ruling by the appeals court on same-sex marriages in Oklahoma because of the similarity of the two cases and because the same judges who made the ruling will make the ruling in the Oklahoma case.
Schools alone can’t overcome poverty. They need a community.
Improving educational outcomes for children living in poverty is one of the most difficult and important tasks that Oklahoma faces. The future of these children is the future of our whole state. The poverty rate has grown to the point that today nearly 1 in 4 Oklahoma children are living in poverty, and a recent study by The Southern Education Foundation indicates that low-income students (those who qualify for free or reduced lunches) are now the majority across the South. In 2011, 60.6 percent of Oklahoma’s students were considered low-income, and this number continues to grow. The difficulty of educating children in poverty stems from the issues they face outside of the classroom.
Joy Hofmeister Reviews Her Plan For Oklahoma Education
Fresh off her big win to secure the republican nomination for State Superintendent, Joy Hofmeister laid out some of her ideas to improve Oklahoma’s education system. She said the state has been in a crisis that can be resolved with a collaborative effort by parents, educators, administrators and lawmakers. This, she said, would be key to her plan if she wins in November. Hofmeister also said the rollout of the “A-F” grading system has been a prime example of a good idea that was not implemented well.
Barresi advises teachers to read Bible verse, tell would-be critics of new standards to “Go to Hell”
In the wake of her elimination in Tuesday’s primary election, State Superintendent Janet Barresi vowed to focus her remaining six months in office on the task of writing new reading and math curriculum standards, but a video obtained by the Tulsa World shows she had already launched into the endeavor two weeks ago. At the Oklahoma State Department of Education “Summer Convening” event, held June 9-11 in Midwest City, Barresi addressed a gathering of about 60 teachers from across the state and invited them to be a part of the new standards-writing process. She advised them to prepare for the difficult process by reading the Book of Nehemiah in the Bible and telling would-be critics to “Go to Hell.”
A heavy cost
On Thursday the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board will consider cuts intended to balance the Medicaid budget for the upcoming year. One of these cuts, which would hike co-payments on low-income adults for prescription drugs and other benefits, may be especially harmful on Medicaid recipients without saving the state any money. The Legislature this session left the Health Care Authority with $90 million less than is required to meet the need for services. Once federal matching funds are considered, the agency must slash some $225 million from the Medicaid budget. The bulk of the savings will be achieved by cutting provider reimbursement rates and imposing restrictions on certain medical benefits. The OHCA is also set to raise copayments to the maximum amount allowed by the federal government, which it claims will save $8 million.
See also: Act quickly to stop harmful Medicaid changes from the OK Policy blog.
State Younger, More Hispanic
Oklahoma is one of only seven states that grew younger last year, thanks in part to an influx of 20-something oilfield workers, newly-released Census data shows. The Sooner State also became slightly more Hispanic, as a higher birthrate within that population group more than offset a leveling-off of new arrivals from Mexico and other countries, Census officials said. Oklahoma barely made the list of states that managed to reverse the aging process. The median age ticked down to 36.2 years on July 1, 2013, a minuscule 0.007-year reduction from a year earlier. That means a median-aged Oklahoman was about 2½ days younger last year than his or her counterpart in 2012.
22 More Graduate From Tulsa’s Women In Recovery Program
Nearly two dozen women now have a better chance of success. Twenty-two more graduates completed the Women in Recovery Program offered through Family and Children’s Services. The mission is to provide women, who were on the wrong path and probably headed for prison, with better opportunities in life. “Each of these 22 graduates today have worked very, very hard over the last year on their trauma, on their substance use,” director Mimi Tarrasch said. “They have gained lots of employment skills.” So far, 168 women have completed the recovery program over the last five years.
When did 20 percent voter turnout become OK?
Not many people showed up to vote in Tuesday’s City Council primaries. That’s my opinion, anyway. Some people would tell you otherwise — that primaries historically have low turnouts, so cheer, why don’t you, when more than 20 percent of registered voters show up to cast ballots. And that did happen in three of the four council primaries. District 4 topped the list with 22.9 percent of registered voters participating. District 1 was next with 22.1 percent, followed by District 7 with 20.3 percent. But is that what we have come to: 1 in 5 eligible voters casts a ballot and we celebrate democracy at work?
OU regents approve $370 million stadium renovation
Months of rumors, whispers and speculation fell to reality Wednesday, when the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents green-lit a $370 million Gaylord Family-Memorial Stadium renovation project. If all goes as planned in terms of both fundraising and building, the Sooners will be playing in a remarkably updated home by the 2016 season. The south end would be bowled in with the east and west sides, completely enclosing the stadium for the first time and, ideally, giving OU an even more prominent homefield advantage.
Oklahoma Kiowas feel pride with their man at the World Cup
If a visitor strolled into the Kiowa Elders Center early Sunday evening, the hall looked much like it normally does. A buffalo head hung over the fireplace. Deer, moose and elk antlers were mounted over doorways. Old sepia-toned photos of famous Kiowa chiefs, such as Lone Wolf and Satanta, men who tangled with the likes of Custer and Sheridan, hung on the wall. But that visitor would also see nearly 100 members of this formerly nomadic tribe, faces painted with stripes of red, white and blue, waving American flags and watching a large flat-screen TV, cheering on the United States team in a match against Portugal in a stadium in Manaus, Brazil. The reason for this soccer fever was personal. Enrolled Kiowa tribal member Chris Wondolowski is a forward on the U.S. team — the first tribally enrolled Native American to participate at the World Cup.
Duncan Schools OK Purchase of Tornado Helmets
The Duncan Board of Education has approved the purchase of 4,500 skateboard helmets for students and employees to wear in case of a tornado. The board spent $34,650 on the helmets with funds raised by the Cover Our Kids campaign in Duncan. The campaign was created in response to the May 2013 tornado in Moore, which killed seven schoolchildren. Superintendent Sherry Labyer says the helmets will be available for use during the upcoming school year. She tells The Duncan Banner that three sizes of helmets will be available for use in elementary through high school and for employees. Moore schools have already purchased helmets, and Chickasha is beginning its campaign to buy helmets for students.
Study: Climate Change Challenges Oklahoma’s Temperature-Sensitive Economy
Future temperature changes pose serious risks to the climate-sensitive agricultural and energy industries in Oklahoma and other Great Plains states, a new study on the business and economic effects of climate change concludes. Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas will likely experience an increase in extremely hot days, and a corresponding decrease in extremely cold days, in the decades to come, which could reduce crop yields, the “Risky Business” study concludes. The heat will likely raise demand for air conditioning and affect the efficiency and reliability of electricity production and transmission, burdening the power sector as it struggles to build new generators to keep up.
Quote of the Day
“We’re seeing the demographic impact of two booms. The population in the Great Plains energy boom states is becoming younger and more male as workers move in seeking employment in the oil and gas industry, while the U.S. as a whole continues to age as the youngest of the baby boom generation enters their 50s.”
-Census Bureau Director John Thompson, speaking about new Census data that shows Oklahoma is one of only seven states that grew younger last year (Source: http://bit.ly/1sHx9S2)
Number of the Day
Miles of public road in Oklahoma as of 2008.
States are strengthening teacher preparation laws
Many states are requiring tougher entry requirements for teacher colleges and proof of subject mastery before teachers can enter the classroom, according to a new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. In total, 33 states have made “significant improvements” to teacher preparation policies over the last two years, according to the report, the group’s second annual study of teacher colleges. The first came under fire from the institutions, most of which didn’t directly participate, for inaccuracies and questions about methodology, but it’s clear states are enacting changes to laws designed to ensure teachers are ready for their jobs.
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