In the Know: Oklahoma ranks 46th overall for child well-being | Oklahoma’s primary election for federal, local seats are June 18 | Cherokee Nation modernizing rural communities | OG&E consumers may be facing a historic rate hike

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Too Far from Top Ten: Oklahoma Ranks 46th
in 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book as OK Policy Urges Legislators to Invest in ChildrenOklahoma ranks 46th overall for child well-being in the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The data show Oklahoma leaders must do more to position Oklahoma children and families for success. [OK Policy]

  • Note: OK Policy is the KIDS COUNT affiliate for Oklahoma.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma is the 46th best state for a child. That’s no better than last year. Why?: In the latest Kids Count report, Oklahoma ranks 46th overall for child well-being — a position no worse than last year’s ranking but also no better. The 50-state analysis, published Monday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ranks Oklahoma ahead of only Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico. Oklahoma’s individual rankings in major categories were: Education: 49th, Health: 45th, Family and Community: 40th and Economic well-being: 39th. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

LISTEN: ‘Pretendians’ podcast explores Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Cherokee identity: Canadaland’s podcast Pretendians hit feeds in May, exposing people across different industries, who have falsely claimed Indigenous ancestry. The third episode in the series, ‘Make Native America Great Again,’ focused on Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s identity as a Cherokee citizen and the surprising clashes he has had with tribal leaders in the state — including the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. [KOSU]

Stitt tries another vehicle to solve PlatePay problems: Oklahoma Turnpike Authority officials recently said they need a way to bill drivers with tribal tags who owe an estimated $11 million in unpaid tolls. A model compact Gov. Kevin Stitt sent afterward to the state’s tribal leaders could serve as that vehicle. [Tulsa World]

“Women’s Bill of Rights” defining biological sex signed into Oklahoma law: House Bill 1449, titled “Women’s Bill of Rights,” which would define “sex” as the natural person’s biological sex at birth was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt despite criticism it doesn’t provide new rights for women and harms LGBTQ+ individuals. The bill could impact the way federal grant money is distributed to public services helping all women. [Black Wall Street Times]

Federal Government News

Congress must invest more into the future of our election security: The public is paying more attention than ever to our electoral process as we head toward November. People absolutely should be, as the United States faces more threats — foreign and domestic — to the safety and integrity of our elections than ever. Oklahoma is unique in our administration of elections. But needs evolve, and so do the threats to our system. [NonDoc]

Opinion: America’s tax cut era has outlasted its welcome: For more than two decades, America has pursued a policy as costly as the New Deal of the 1930s or the Great Society of the 1960s, but with a much narrower aim: cut taxes. Judging from the Congressional Budget Office’s latest forecasts, it has gone much too far. [Kathryn Anne Edwards / Bloomberg via Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

AmeriCorps awards more than $2.8 million to Native Nations and Native-led organizations: AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, awarded more than $2.8 million in federal funding to Native Nations and native-led nonprofit organizations providing healthcare education, weatherization and home repair services, legal assistance, academic coaching and employment training. [Cherokee Phoenix]

Cherokee author shares children’s book celebrating homecoming: Literary powerhouses Traci Sorell, Cherokee Nation, and illustrator Michaela Goade, Tlingit and Haida Nations, embrace change in their latest literary project ‘Being Home’. [ICT]

Cherokee cyclists take on Trail of Tears in 40th year for Remember the Removal ride: A dozen Cherokee cyclists hit the road Monday on their journey back to Oklahoma, re-creating the Trail of Tears their ancestors walked. [Tulsa World]

Cherokee Nation modernizing rural communities, one facility at a time: Bringing state-of-the-art facilities to small towns has been a trend for the Cherokee Nation, opening a VA clinic in Vinita and community centers in Marble City and now Kenwood. [Tulsa World]

  • New Cherokee Nation community center brings hope to small Oklahoma community [KOSU]

First-of-its-kind digital sovereignty center for tribal nations launches: Last week, the National Congress of Americans Indians and the American Indian Policy Insitute at Arizona State University announced the Center for Tribal Digital Sovereignty during the NCAI 2024 Mid-Year Convention and Marketplace. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Incumbent Frank Lucas has 2 challengers in GOP primary for 3rd District congressional seat: For only the sixth time in 16 election cycles as an incumbent congressman from Oklahoma, U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas has drawn a Republican primary challenge this year for his district, which covers nearly half of the state’s land mass, including much of rural western and north-central Oklahoma and western portions of both the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas. [The Oklahoman]

Longtime residents seeks House District 73 post: Ron Stewart and Darrell Knox are long-time residents of House District 73 whose paths never crossed until they decided to run for the Oklahoma House of Representatives this year. Stewart, 45, is a Tulsa firefighter and medic, and also owns a building in which he rents space to start-up and small businesses. Knox, 56, operates the restaurant Sweet Lisa’s with his family while working as a medical aide and studying to become a nurse. The district encompasses historical Greenwood and reaches from downtown to 66th Street North and from Lewis Avenue into the southeast corner of Osage County. [Tulsa World]

Meet the candidates facing off in Tulsa County District 2 primary races June 18: The race for District 2 Tulsa County commissioner begins in earnest on June 18 with Democrat and Republican primaries. The candidates are vying to succeed Commissioner Karen Keith, who is running for mayor. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s primary election for federal, local seats are June 18: Here’s your voters guide: Oklahomans will vote in primary elections on June 18 for U.S. House and Senate seats, county offices and more. Votes cast in the primary elections will help determine which candidates will represent the Republican and Democratic parties in the November election. [The Oklahoman]

Three in GOP vie for seat on Corporation Commission: Three Republican candidates for the commission will face off in the June 18 primary election. The winner will advance to face Democrat Harold Spradling and Libertarian Chad Williams in the November general election. The Republicans, Brian Bingman, Justin Hornback and Russell Ray, all hope to take the post being vacated by Anthony, who is term-limited after serving six terms. [Tulsa World]

SD 21 Republican primary pits rancher against doctor: While Dr. Randy Grellner and James Winn both discussed a perceived “decline in our country” as reasons for entering the race, Grellner argued that he wants to push back against what he sees as federal government overreach, and Winn said he is running because he has many ideas to bring to the state Legislature. [NonDoc]

1st Congressional District tops primary ballots for most Tulsa County voters: Not all Tulsa County voters will be eligible for the June 18 primary elections, but almost all will be able to cast a ballot for 1st Congressional District representative. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Alzheimer’s impacts thousands of Oklahomans and their families. A look at the numbers: More than 70,000 Oklahomans 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Over the next several decades, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is expected to nearly triple. [The Oklahoman]

Recent Tulsa hospital cyberattacks reaffirm industry’s continuing draw for thieves: The ransomware attacks that have affected two of the Tulsa-area’s trio of large private health systems are part of a national trend that’s not going away anytime soon, cybercrime experts say.[Tulsa World]

  • Patient records system at Ascension St. John back online after cyberattack [Tulsa World]

Opinion: How Oklahoma can help reduce America’s dependence on offshore biotech services: The birth of the biomanufacturing industry is dawning in Oklahoma. With the BIOSECURE Act legislation reaching critical momentum in the U.S. House, last month, the impetus to compete fairly will give way to big opportunities to build capacity, create good-paying jobs here, and help improve access to cutting-edge medicines right here in Oklahoma. [Jesse McCool / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma sheriff suspended after embezzlement, bribery charges: Creek County Associate District Judge Laura Farris ordered the interim suspension of Pittsburg County Sheriff Chris Morris after he was charged with two felonies of embezzlement and bribery by a public official. [KOSU]

Tulsa County officials received regular notices on juvenile detention center conditions, records show: More than a year ago, in May 2023, Tulsa County commissioners and other top county officials were emailed a report detailing conditions at the Family Center for Juvenile Justice. The news from the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs was not good, the warning clear, according to documents the Tulsa World obtained through an open records request. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Juvenile offenders are often victims of childhood trauma left untreated: Why is Oklahoma more prepared for youth offenders than for treating their mental health? In Oklahoma, 58,000 children reported having depression. Of those, 60% didn’t receive care. Could this be because there are only six state-funded psychiatric hospitals? [Tulsa World]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

$3 million grant approved for north Tulsa economic development: In the summer of 2023, the Indian Nations Council of Governments assisted the Tulsa Economic Development Corp. with a federal funding request to support the renovation and repurposing of a former hospital that will become Greenwood Entrepreneurship @ Moton. [Tulsa World]

New statewide homelessness council returns after predecessor axed by governor: The Interagency Council on Homelessness of Oklahoma launched recently as a new nonprofit organization more than a year after Gov. Kevin Stitt dissolved the former Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness. [Tulsa World]

Some Oklahomans may be eligible for a student loan payment pause. What to know: Student loan repayments restarted last fall after President Biden’s forgiveness plan was stopped by the Supreme Court. Still, the president and Department of Education are working to forgive as many loans as possible and with a new plan proposed, news around student loan forgiveness can be confusing. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Some energy consumers may be facing a historic rate hike. Where is all the extra money going?: When it comes to rising electric bills, Rick Dowell sees Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. as a utility that is pursuing a historic rate hike that will not just hurt residential consumers but could also send Oklahoma City’s economy into a tailspin. Dowell, and thousands of other OG&E customers, face a 13.85% increase in their bills if the request by the utility is approved by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Education notebook: Muscogee language classes, underwater robotics and summer hours: Among the 182 consent agenda items approved by Tulsa Public Schools’ Board of Education last Monday night was a memorandum of understanding with the Muscogee Nation to provide language instruction for TPS students and staff in the 2024-25 school year. Funded by a grant received by the tribe, instruction and materials will be available to TPS campuses within the Muscogee Nation’s reservation. [Tulsa World]

Pandemic aid for schools is ending soon. Many after-school programs may go with it: Countless after-school programs across the country rely on federal pandemic-era relief dollars known as Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, funds. But those federal dollars are starting to expire this fall, leaving the future of many after-school programs up in the air. [KOSU]

Proposed Catholic charter school using borrowed money as two legal challenges loom: The Catholic church in Oklahoma is bankrolling the startup of what could be the nation’s first religious charter school, even as the fates of two lawsuits aiming to prevent the school from opening loom large. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Transition Academy could move to another former school following initial pushback: A former midtown elementary school building is now being looked at to host a post-secondary transition program for special education students. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa, Union, Jenks public schools receive Opioid Abatement Board grants: The Oklahoma Opioid Abatement Board awarded $11 million in grants to 71 cities, counties, school districts and trusts, including Tulsa, Jenks and Union public schools on Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Community News

‘Closest to Mardi Gras’: Revelers converge at Cry Baby Hill: Cry Baby Hill is part of the route for bike racers on the last day of Tulsa Tough, but over the years, it has become an event of its own, with endless drinking, creative costumes, baby dolls everywhere and a free pass to embrace something new. [Tulsa World]

From Native opera to sensory-friendly theater, Oklahoma NEA grants help make arts diverse: The National Endowment for the Arts, or NEA, in May made its second major grant announcement of fiscal year 2024, revealing more than $110 million in recommended grants in all 50 states and U.S. jurisdictions. The federal agency is awarding three Oklahoma organizations, including Canterbury Voices, more than $1 million in grants. [The Oklahoman]

When is Juneteenth? What to know about the holiday commemorating freedom from slavery: With summer comes a slew of holidays and observances, including one central to Black communities across the nation. This will be the third year that Juneteenth is celebrated widely as a federal holiday, but the holiday itself has been celebrated for more than a century-and-a-half. Here’s everything you need to know about Juneteenth, including when it is and the meaning behind the day. [The Oklahoman]

Local Headlines

  • New hotel, office construction to erase gap between OKC’s Innovation District and downtown [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC considering job ‘mega-site’ to draw business with annexation plan [The Oklahoman]
  • ODOT begins street improvement work in Duncan on Monday [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“These numbers confirm what has long been obvious – Oklahoma is not making the investment it should in the health and well-being of our children. For two decades, lawmakers have chosen revenue cuts over meaningful, sustained investments in the shared services that are proven to help our children thrive.” 

-Shiloh Kantz said responding to the latest results of the KIDS COUNT report that ranks Oklahoma the 46th worst state for child well-being in the nation. Kantz is the Executive Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, which is Oklahoma’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. [OK Policy]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma ranked 46th for overall child well-being in the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. [KIDS COUNT]

Policy Note

States Should Reverse Course on Defunding Public Education Through Private School Vouchers and Property Tax Cuts: During this year’s legislative sessions, at least one in three states are considering or have enacted school voucher expansions alongside broad, untargeted property tax cuts. Over half of states have already enacted deep personal and corporate income tax cuts in the last three years. These policies will result in under-resourced public schools, worse student outcomes, and, over time, weaker communities. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.