ByTrevor Brown, Jennifer Palmer, Mollie Bryant and Warren Vieth |
In one of the wildest sessions in recent memory, the state Legislature passed its 2018 budget and adjourned. The budget,which Gov. Mary Fallin has signaled she will sign, will have real-life ramifications for just about every state agency.
In the session’s closing days, legislators passed three bills totaling $476 million in new revenue, saying they skirted a constitutional ban against passing revenue bills during the last week. But lawmakers’ earlier comments indicate they could find it difficult to fight off court challenges, which, if successful, could throw the state back into a budget crisis.
Three leaders involved in children’s issues talk about the implications of state budget decisions on the lives of kids. Our “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum featured state Sen. AJ Griffin, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman, and Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth Director Lisa Smith.
Oil and gas companies, along with their trade groups, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to lawmakers over more than two years, with top Republican leaders at the forefront of budget talks taking in some of the largest amounts.
Virtual charter schools will have to start tracking student attendance in accordance with a new law signed Friday by Gov. Mary Fallin. The proposal arose after Oklahoma Watch revealed last year that all five of Oklahoma’s virtual charter schools reported between 98 and 100 percent attendance last year. Two reported 100 percent.
When school’s out, in summer or afternoon, many parents face a struggle. Research shows that children without access to summer and after-school learning programs can suffer academically, but finding good, affordable ones is an arduous task. Oklahoma provides no state funding, and a federal program could be eliminated.
In some Oklahoma schools, children whose school meal accounts aren’t paid in full sometimes face embarrassment in the cafeteria line. The schools take away their trays and give them a cold sandwich instead. Others put a stamp on the student’s hand that reads “lunch money.” The practices have triggered a backlash.