Corrections workers seek raises
Correctional officers from across the state urged legislative leaders and the governor Wednesday to reconsider their decision to omit pay raises for them in the $7.1 billion legislatively appropriated budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The Corrections Department sought a $12.2 million funding request that would have increased the starting pay for correctional officers from $11.83 per hour to $14 per hour. All other agency employees would have received a 5 percent pay increase. Sgt. David Edelman, who works at the Lexington Correctional Center, said only 62 percent of the Corrections Department's 5,800 authorized correctional officer positions are filled, meaning most correctional officers are working 12-hour shifts or six days a week. Most have to work at least one or two double shifts a week, or a total of 60 to 80 hours a week, to make up for the manpower shortage, he said. “We're tired, we're worn out,” he said. Edelman said only six correctional officers could respond to a riot involving about 150 inmates in March at his facility. Five of the six correctional officers were injured; the inmates could have inflicted more harm but they chose not to, he said. David Ramsey, a training officer at Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington and board president of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals Association, said a correctional officer at the Mack Alford Correctional Center near Stringtown worked 93 hours last week. “It's going to get worse,” he said. “We need funding for the agency.”
Testing contract is targeted
The contract to provide core curriculum and end-of-instruction exams should be terminated and the company sued for “egregious errors and delays,” according to a measure filed by several House Democrats. House Resolution 1025 calls for the state to terminate the contract with CBT/McGraw-Hill and requests the state attorney general's office file a lawsuit against the company. Students finishing statewide core curriculum and end-of-instruction exams last week had their work invalidated because of repeated server outages at the site of the test provider, CBT/McGraw-Hill. The company had no provisions to duplicate, cache or otherwise back up completed testing data. “We have high school students who may not graduate because of this testing fiasco,” said Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner, and resolution co-author. “We have teachers who will be assessed based on the results of invalidated exams. We have schools that will be graded based on a shoddy product. … We deserve a refund and McGraw-Hill should be kicked to the curb.”
New law prohibits sole sourcing
Gov. Mary Fallin has signed into law Senate Bill 630, which prohibits sole source specifications on all public construction projects in the state. It is effective immediately. The law states that for public construction projects at least three equivalent items from more than one manufacturer and more than one supplier or representative must be included in the bidding specifications. It also states that any sole source bid proposal cannot set a geographical boundary from which the product or material must be obtained.
MICHAEL MCNUTT, CAPITOL BUREAU