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.
Yesterday, Fort Sill allowed a limited number of members of state and national media to tour its barracks, where over one thousand refugee children from Central America are being housed until they can be placed with family and sponsors. The average child stays at Fort Sill for 15 days before being placed. The White House has asked the Department of Defense for the authority to house another 5,000 children along side the 3,000 already housed on three bases. It is not yet clear if more children would be brought to Fort Sill.
Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman unveiled a proposal to better fund schools without costing taxpayers more money by diverting funds generated by the franchise tax. Dorman estimates his proposal would add an additional $50 per pupil. Franchise tax revenues currently go to the General Fund that supports most state agencies, including education. A guest post on the OK Policy blog introduced the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC), which helps supply schools with a variety of resources they would otherwise be unable to afford. A new report finds that four in five Oklahoma adults who receive publicly-funded mental health services are unemployed. State advocacy groups are calling for greater assistance from public officials in aiding those with mental illness to find jobs.
The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission expressed dismay that the legislature approved a $3 million withdrawal from the Commission’s revolving fund to balance this year’s state budget. The Commission receives no appropriations and was not consulted about the withdrawal. The City of Tulsa is considering partially automating its 911 service in an attempt to reduce wait times for callers. The automated system would direct callers to dispatchers from the specific emergency department needed. The Tulsa County Commissioner is calling to have a new city-county jail agreement in place by September. The city and county have previously disagreed on how much the city should be charged to hold an inmate in the county jail and how a ‘municipal inmate’ should be defined.
The state Department of Health has announced that the state’s first case of the West Nile virus this summer has been found. The virus is spread by mosquitoes and the highest-risk months are July through October. Thursday was Tulsa’s rainiest day of 2014 so far, with nearly two inches of rain recorded at Tulsa International Airport. Researchers from Oklahoma State University have received a $750,000 grant from NASA to develop a material that will protect astronauts from radiation while in space.
The Number of the Day is is the number of organ and tissue transplants in Oklahoma in 2013. In today’s Policy Note, FiveThirtyEight argues that as economics and demographics of migration in America shift, immigration has changed much faster than the immigration debate.
In The News
Obama administration wants to place 5,000 more unaccompanied minors on U.S. military bases and extend their stays
Faced with an unrelenting stream of children crossing the southern U.S. border, the Obama administration wants to greatly expand the number of unaccompanied immigrant minors housed at domestic military bases and extend the time they can stay there. The Department of Health and Human Services has asked the Defense Department for the authority to house another 5,000 children on bases, in addition to the roughly 3,000 or already being sheltered at three bases, including Fort Sill, according to Capitol Hill sources. It was not clear Thursday evening whether Fort Sill would gain more children — or even continue housing children past October when the first authority expires.
Media tour Fort Sill facility housing immigrant children and teens
In quiet barracks, 60 teenage girls were knitting with bright yarn, making tissue-paper flower bouquets and playing bingo from a kindergarten-level English word game. Part of a cafeteria was being used as a classroom for rudimentary English and math, and four soccer games were being played by boys outside. The housing areas for 1,160 children and teens from Central America at Fort Sill were clean and sanitary with occasional bursts of color from drawings and posters typical of a teenager’s room. All dorms had references to Jesus, God or Christ in youth-created artwork. On Friday, Oklahoma media from 30 organizations were invited to tour the section of the military base used to house youths who were detained at the U.S. border attempting to cross illegally.
Governor Hopeful Unveils Plan To Fix Oklahoma’s Education Problems
A governor hopeful makes a stop in Tulsa to unveil a plan he said will fix some of the state’s education problems without costing tax payers any extra money. State Representative Joe Dorman calls it “Classroom First” proposal. He said it redirects existing franchise tax dollars to buy textbooks, teaching material, and equipment. “We have to start this going in the right direction. We have seen a shallow attempt to put money back into the programs. We have to have a dedicated effort. We have to start building that back up,” Dorman said. He said his plan budgets about fifty additional dollars per child. Right now, the franchise tax isn’t designated to go to a specific purpose.
Providing essential resources to schools without the financial burden
It’s news to no one that our public schools face enormous challenges in virtually every area of operations, including finances. Oklahoma education funding is among the lowest in the nation and yet mandates remain, leaving schools without the proper resources to support them. Smaller schools and districts feel this more intensely, as they don’t often have the funding to support full-time staff in key areas of administration and support services for teachers and students. Because of this, we often see school staff juggling multiple roles to the point where it affects instruction, burnout becomes widespread, and ultimately, students suffer. This is where the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC) comes in. OPSRC was created as a non-profit center with the goal of supporting small schools—both rural and public charters—across the state in several key areas: finance, legal, technology, communications, teaching & learning, and educational policy.
Report finds 80 percent of Oklahomans served by public mental health system are unemployed
Nearly 80 percent of Oklahomans who receive publicly funded mental health services are unemployed, according to a report released Thursday. The National Alliance on Mental Illness released the report Thursday, pointing out there are models for job programs for people with mental illness but they often are underfunded. Mike Brose, the executive director of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, said public officials should take a leadership role in making Oklahoma a forerunner in helping people with mental health issues find jobs. “The state of Oklahoma, via the governor and Legislature, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitative Services and other state agencies need to take leadership and communicate through all avenues the value to the workforce of Oklahoma to hiring people with disabilities, particularly those who live in recovery with mental illness and substance abuse histories,” Brose said.
Moore residents still having trouble with insurance companies one year after the tornado
Since the May 20th tornado 2NEWS reported several homeowners suing their insurance companies for not settling fairly with them after the storm. One insurance company has decided to sue their client. Paul Hernandez said Liberty Mutual offered him settlement to repair his home after the tornado. Liberty Mutual’s structural engineer said the house could be repaired. Hernandez’s own engineer said there was no way. The city of Moore slated the house for demolition. Liberty Mutual said the home is evidence. “His home is no longer a home, now it’s evidence. I think it’s evidence of bad faith. And I would be more than happy for jurors to walk through his home,” said Jeff Marr, Hernandez’s attorney. Last week, a Cleveland county judge ruled in Hernandez’s favor, said the house can be torn down.
Tulsa mom fights for medical marijuana legalization in Oklahoma
A Tulsa mother hopes voters get a chance to decide if medical marijuana is legalized in Oklahoma this November. Brittany Hardy says her 23-month-old daughter, Jaqie, suffers from epilepsy. She said Jaqie suffered 150 seizures a day. Hardy said she tried every anti-seizure drug available in Oklahoma, but nothing worked. She decided to move her family to Colorado, to allow Jaqie to be treated with medical marijuana. She said it reduced the number of seizures Jaqie suffers. Brittany said the number of seizures Jaqie now suffers in a week is fewer than the number she suffered in a day without the medicinal marijuana. That’s why she hopes Oklahoma legalizes medicinal marijuana soon. “I do believe that my child and other children like her in this state have the right and deserve the right not to suffer, to not die and to be healed,” Brittany told 2News. “I absolutely will fight until the day I die, if it’s not legalized before then. I will never ever give up. Too many need this.”
Aeronautics Commission Concerned About Legislature’s Raid Of Their Fee-Based Fund
Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission members expressed concern about a $3 million withdrawal from the agency’s revolving fund by the Legislature. The agency’s revolving fund was one of several lawmakers tapped for funds to appropriate for fiscal year 2015. Aeronautics Commission Executive Director Vic Bird noted the agency was the only one from which money was taken that does not receive appropriated funds. He said the general appropriations bill was drafted without input from the commission and the agency received no notice the money would be taken. More than 90 percent of the commission’s funding comes from the excise tax on aircraft sales. By statute, that revenue is dedicated to the commission for the maintenance of aerospace infrastructure across the state. “The most disturbing thing I would have stressed to the Legislature is the nature of our funding – It comes from our users, the aerospace community across the state,” Bird said.
City considering partially automating its 911 service
In the not too distant future, Tulsans calling 911 could be greeted by a recording — not a human being — city officials said Thursday. Terry O’Malley, director of the city’s 911 center, said the automated system could handle as many as 50 calls at once. “If I only have two or three people to answer the initial calls, and the (automated system) would answer 50 calls at once, wouldn’t that be great?” O’Malley asked city councilors on Thursday.
County commissioner wants Tulsa Jail deal done by late September
Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo would like to have a new city-county jail agreement in place by the end of September, he said Thursday. The Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority recently approved a 90-day extension to the current agreement that puts the expiration date at Sept. 30. As of now, however, the city and county have yet to begin negotiating. Any effort to move forward will be complicated by the authority having asked for a cost-accounting analysis to examine the accuracy of Sheriff Stanley Glanz’s reported expenses for operating the Tulsa Jail.
The first case of West Nile virus in Oklahoma this year has been confirmed in a Major County resident. The Oklahoma Department of Health said Thursday the victim is over the age of 50 but declined to release more details. There were 84 cases of West Nile virus confirmed in Oklahoma last year, including eight deaths. Those infected ranged in age from 17 to 92 years. The virus is spread by the Culex mosquito, which feeds on infected birds and transmits the virus when biting humans, horses and other mammals. Symptoms include a sudden fever, headache, dizziness, and muscle weakness.
Thursday has been Tulsa’s rainiest day of 2014 so far
Tulsa hasn’t seen a day like Thursday since 2012. With 1.98 inches of rain recorded at the National Weather Service’s site at Tulsa International Airport, Thursday was Tulsa’s rainiest day so far in 2014. The rainfall prompted the weather service to issue a flood warning until 11:30 p.m. Thursday for north-central Tulsa County, east-central Osage County and southern Washington County. The weather service received two reports of flooding Thursday afternoon.
A team of researchers from Oklahoma State University campuses in Tulsa and Stillwater have been awarded a $750,000 grant from NASA. The grant announced by OSU on Thursday is for a project to develop a material that will protect astronauts from radiation during space missions. The project is one of 15 selected for funding through the NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. Researchers are working to develop a material that will shield astronauts from ionizing radiation during missions to asteroids near Earth, the moon and Mars.
“They may have experienced abuse and other threats to their safety. They may have been trafficked or smuggled in. To allow images of their faces would compromise their safety and privacy.”
- Jesus Garcia, special assistant to the deputy assistant secretary for external affairs at the US Dept. of Health and Human Services, explaining why reporters touring Fort Sill are forbidden from videoing, photographing, or interacting with the children (Source: http://bit.ly/1ooJeUl)
Number of the Day
Number of organ and tissue transplants in Oklahoma in 2013. As of March 7, there are 897 Oklahomans on a waiting list for a transplant.
Immigration Is Changing Much More Than the Immigration Debate
In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson aired television ads showing people scrambling across the Mexican border near San Diego. “The rules are being broken,” a narrator intoned. “Pete Wilson has had the courage to say enough is enough.” Wilson, who at one point trailed in the polls, ended up cruising to an easy re-election. Two decades later, the rhetoric around immigration hasn’t changed much — just look at Virginia, where long-shot challenger Dave Brat upset Eric Cantor in part by promising to “secure the border” and “reject any proposal that grants amnesty” to undocumented immigrants. But while the rhetoric has stayed largely the same, immigration hasn’t. The immigration debate, now as then, focuses primarily on illegal immigration from Latin America. Yet most new immigrants aren’t Latinos. Most Latinos aren’t immigrants. And, based on the best available evidence, there are fewer undocumented immigrants in the U.S. today than there were in 2007. Even the latest immigration crisis — a sudden influx of unaccompanied minors, for which President Barack Obama requested $4 billion in emergency funding to address on Tuesday — represents a break from past patterns: The children are from Central America, not Mexico, and are primarily escaping violence in their home countries, rather than seeking jobs in the U.S.