December 10, 2013
Teacher salary increases by educator shortage task
The Educator Workforce Shortage Task Force worked Tuesday on finalizing its recommendations to the Legislature, which include provisions to raise teacher salaries in the state to the regional average or above that, improve career advancement opportunities and support and increase pipeline expansion and preparation.
Group members were tasked with narrowing down the nearly 46 early recommendations to their top three priority items.
“Really the top priority was clear,” said Kerri White, Assistant State Superintendent of Educator Effectiveness. “The other top two were clear as well but not as prominent.”
The highest priority was salary increases.
Discussions on salary increases have been ongoing among state officials since before the creation of the task force. The conversation among task force members has focused heavily on making teacher compensation suggestions to the Legislature since their first meeting in August.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Barresi called on school districts earlier this year to increase state teacher salaries by $2,000 using school carryover accounts and by repurposing district discretionary funds. The suggestion was made to raise Oklahoma teacher salaries to be comparable to surrounding states.
“We’ve looked at those numbers, $2000 will get us past Missouri and Arkansas and only cut our deficient with Texas by half,” Barresi said.
December 10, 2013
Panel moves forward with recommendations
The Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel for Developmental Disabilities discussed draft recommendations for the governor Tuesday, which are to be finalized in January when all members are present.
The recommendations are provided via strategies. Strategy number one pertains to strengthening information access. The recommendation for such strategy is the creation of “an executive council of heads of agencies that provide services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities….” The recommendation states the council’s duty would be to increase knowledge and access about resources and services available.
Strategy number two is to “provide resource navigation and improve inter-agency service coordination.” Recommendations under this strategy are for the Governor to “charge the executive council with improving coordination of services for Oklahomans with disabilities across the lifespan…” by simplifying access for services, provide resource navigation services and strengthening service coordination.
December 10, 2013
Virtual Charter School Board hears presentations f
The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board on Tuesday heard presentations from the three candidate schools seeking a virtual charter certification from the board.
The three applicants, ABLE Charter School, Insight School of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Connections Academy, were given the opportunity to present their applications for approval by Nov. 1. At board’s last meeting, members adopted parameters for applicants seeking a charter which included a 15 minute presentation by administration officials and/or governing boards with an additional five minutes added for questions.
Board members questioned applicants using a 12-step checklist, which was approved by the board in September. The checklist includes application content requiring a mission statement, description of governing body, organizational structure, requirement of a financial plan for first three years of operation, hiring policy and a demonstration of support from community residents.
Moreover, applicants were required to submit a plan outlining what provisions they would have in place for students with inadequate technology resource as well as an explanation of how they plan to monitor student success.
During the interview process board members raised questions on accountability and how the three organizations plan to check for truancy in a virtual environment.
December 10, 2013
LRCPC approves first eight-year plan
The Long-Range Capital Planning Commission gave its approval Tuesday to its first eight-year plan. The plan totals $167.0 million and includes 536 projects.
State agencies submitted requests for 1,518 projects totaling more than $5.6 billion, Ben Davis, senior planner with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services' division of capital assets management, reminded members Tuesday. After the commission’s October meeting, Davis had reviewed the preliminary plan and removed projects on higher education campuses because of the institutions to obtain other funding, such as bond issues, he said.
The project list for the first year of the plan, fiscal year 2015, will be submitted to the governor and legislative leaders, as well as the entire Legislature. If lawmakers do not act in 45 days to disapprove the plan, it will be considered approved and the capital assets management division can begin working with the state agencies involved on the various projects. Funding for the projects is to come from the Maintenance of State Buildings Revolving Fund, which received an appropriation of $30 million for the current fiscal year and can be augmented with the proceeds of the sale of underutilized state facilities.
Projects recommended for the first year total $29.5 million, Davis reported to the commission.
December 10, 2013
Agricultural exports grow, program sees increased
Oklahoma’s international agricultural exports resulted in a $440 million industry from January to September 2013, members of the Board of Agriculture, Food and Forestry were told Tuesday. In 10 years, Oklahoma’s exports value has doubled, when in 2003 the industry brought $160 million.
Oklahoma’s agricultural exports are divided into commodities. The commodities with the highest export dollar amount include: $158.5 million in pork, $164.5 million in grains and cereals, $55.3 million in oil seed and $17.8 million in prepared meats. Oklahoma exports products to more than 84 countries and the state ranks 38th in the nation for exports, according to Jamey Allen, Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry director of market development.
Allen reported to the State Board of Agriculture Tuesday morning Oklahoma’s exports to Japan, Canada and Mexico are primarily pork and poultry products, but Mexico also receives wheat exports. Japan, Canada and Mexico comprise 53 percent of Oklahoma’s Agriculture International export market. Exports to China comprise about four percent of Oklahoma’s market.
December 10, 2013
Justices hear work comp law arguments
The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday concerning the constitutionality of SB1062, the workers’ compensation reform measure approved earlier this year by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin.
Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma, filed the suit challenging the constitutionality of the measure. John McMurry, attorney for the plaintiffs, focused much of his attack Tuesday on whether the new law created a special class and treated one group of employees differently from another and whether injured workers’ access to the courts would be impaired. He also argued the bill violated the Oklahoma Constitution’s single-subject rule.
Oklahoma Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick, appearing on behalf of Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt, refuted McMurry’s claim that the law created a special class of workers, arguing that all workers would be entitled to the same minimum benefits, whether their employers participated in the administrative workers’ compensation system created by the law or whether they opted-out and operated their own workers’ compensation plan. He also disputed that injured workers’ access to the courts would be slowed and that bill violated the single subject rule.
At least justices expressed some reservations about the law in their questions. Justice Douglas Combs questioned both McMurry and Wyrick about the standards of review imposed on the judiciary by the bill, which differ for claims originating from the administrative system and for those from systems operated by employers. Justice John Reif, too, indicated he believed the law imposed two different processes for injured workers’ claims, one which would be handled by the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s system and the other that would be internal until appealed. Chief Justice Tom Colbert also appeared concerned about the appeal of claims to an internal panel at employers who opt-out of the administrative system and run their own plans.
“Who protects the claimant?” asked Colbert.