In The Know: Nearly $1.4M in federal grants unused by state ed. department | Supreme Court to consider gender-affirming care for minors | Eliminate justice-related fees and invest in Oklahoma’s justice system

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

Eliminate justice-related fees and invest in Oklahoma’s justice system: When Oklahomans become involved in the justice system, they can quickly accrue massive debt in the form of fees. These fees are collected by the courts and are used to fund essential parts of Oklahoma’s criminal justice system like law enforcement training, public defenders, and the operations of courts themselves. This funding strategy hurts justice-involved Oklahomans, especially those at a financial disadvantage. It also fails to fully fund these services as only a relatively small portion of these fees end up being collected on an irregular schedule. [Cole Allen / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Nearly $1.4 million in federal grants left unused by education department, lawmakers call for more from LOFT report: The Oklahoma Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency presented its report to lawmakers Thursday on federal grant funding for the State Department of Education and on the agency’s authority in student testing rulemaking. [KGOU]

Controversial new Oklahoma State Department of Education rules appear poised to take effect: Some controversial new rules favored by Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters and adopted this year by the Oklahoma State Department of Education apparently will be allowed to take effect. Gov. Kevin Stitt indicated on Friday his intention to allow the implementation of the rules, including one that would tie future accreditation of schools to results of certain state tests taken by students. [Tulsa World]

Legal roundup: McCurtain County election tossed, OKCPD officer cleared, PAC treasurer fined, OSDE cases continue: In the lead up to last week’s Oklahoma primary elections that resulted in some incumbents losing, other races headed to runoffs and a tie in the Carter County sheriff’s race, you might have missed a few developments concerning notable litigation. In addition, an Oklahoma City Police Department officer was cleared in a shooting, and the treasurer of a terminated super political action committee was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine by the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. The following roundup offers updates to important legal cases and other developments from the last couple of weeks. [NonDoc]

State Government News

Oklahoma governor renames cabinet secretaries after dust up: After losing a public battle over cabinet secretaries, Gov. Kevin Stitt quietly renamed them “chief advisors.” He’s since reinstated his former transportation cabinet secretary as one of his “advisors.” It wasn’t clear Friday though if the name change is enough to circumvent a May court ruling that found that cabinet secretaries can’t serve in other state leadership roles. [Oklahoma Voice]

Supreme Court rejects challenge to new horse racing anti-doping rules: The Supreme Court has rejected a challenge from Republican-controlled states to a horse racing safety law that has led to national medication and anti-doping rules. Oklahoma, Louisiana and West Virginia sought to have the law struck down, joined by several racetracks. [AP]

Oklahoma Attorney General responds to federal immigration lawsuit: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is reaffirming his push for state-level immigration enforcement in federal court. He responded to a lawsuit by Department of Justice officials over House Bill 4156 by calling all of their claims unjustifiable. [KOSU]

Departing state senator from Okemah takes new job at osteopathic association: State Sen. Roger Thompson, who last week announced plans to leave the Legislature in November, has accepted a new job as executive director of the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association. The Republican from Okemah will begin work for the association July 1. [Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: Primary election upset puts state senate leadership in flux: This year’s primary elections produced some surprises on Tuesday with several notable incumbents lost. [KGOU]

Federal Government News

‘Extremely low pay’ cited at U.S. Senate hearing as prime reason for teacher shortage: A federal bill proposes setting an annual base salary of $60,000 for public elementary and secondary school teachers. [Oklahoma Voice]

D.C. Digest: Mullin, Lankford rip Biden’s new immigration orders: U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Markwayne Mullin continued battering President Joe Biden on immigration policy and border security last week after Biden said his administration would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens, provided the spouses have been in the country at least 10 years and have no criminal record. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

What the Cherokee Nation found about equal treatment of its citizens of Freedman descent: During Juneteenth celebrations last week, Cherokee Nation leaders shared the findings of a recent task force focused on identifying service gaps and improving equality for tribal citizens of Freedman descent. [The Oklahoman]

Inmates seek to join lawsuit filed by Muscogee Nation against the city of Tulsa: Nearly a dozen inmates have sought to intervene in a federal lawsuit filed by the Muscogee Nation against the city of Tulsa over who has criminal jurisdiction over tribal members when it comes to traffic tickets and similar municipal citations. The inmates, 10 so far, all claim in filings this month to be tribal members who have an interest in the outcome of the case. [Tulsa World]

Chickasaw Nation launches $6 million recovery campaign for Marietta and Sulphur: The Chickasaw Nation is starting the Business Rebuilding and Recovery Campaign to help get local businesses in Sulphur and Marietta back on their feet after tornadoes slammed the areas on April 27. [KOSU]

Agalisiga Mackey reflects on writing songs in his native Cherokee language:  Agalisiga Mackey was one of the entrants to this year’s Tiny Desk contest. Mackey is from Kenwood, Oklahoma, a Cherokee community, and he sings in his traditional language. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

McCurtain County sheriff captured in bombshell recording loses seat in GOP primary: The southeast Oklahoma sheriff who was at the center of a national controversy about race and policing in rural America will soon be out of office. McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy placed third among three Republicans vying for the county’s top law enforcement job. His two challengers appeared headed to a runoff, according to Tuesday’s primary election results, which are not yet certified. [The Oklahoman]

Political notebook: Ethics Commission to air campaign finance ideas in Tulsa: The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has formalized three working groups to study campaign finance reforms. These include squeezing out independent expenditures from out-of-state sources, increasing reporting thresholds, allowing unlimited transfers from parties to candidates, and coordination between candidates and other entities. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: AG Gentner Drummond right to respond to citizens, issue letter about campaign reporting problems: The primary elections are over, but the political campaigns go on. So do the campaign violations. At least Attorney General Gentner Drummond did something to address a candidate’s blatant violation of campaign finance reporting laws in a warning letter. It was an unusual move and one without much teeth, but it let the public know that the lack of information wasn’t normal. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Health News

Supreme Court will take up state bans on gender-affirming care for minors: The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear arguments on the constitutionality of state bans on gender-affirming care for transgender minors. [AP]

  • Are bans on gender-affirming care for minors constitutional? Supreme Court to decide [USA Today]

Two years ago, SCOTUS overturned the right to an abortion. How Oklahoma and other states changed: Monday marks two years since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal right to an abortion. The Dobbs decision issued June 24, 2022 upheld Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks. Since then, states have enacted a range of laws from near-total abortion bans to shield laws protecting patients from other states who travel to get the procedure. Many active state laws are still in flux, and all eyes are on November when several states will put the abortion issue directly in the hands of voters. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Prison company proposes $12.9 million plan to keep inmates at Lawton through September: The inmates housed at the Lawton Correctional and Rehabilitation Facility would be moved out of the prison by Sept. 30 under a proposed transition agreement between the GEO Group and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. [The Oklahoman]

Schematic designs for new county jail aim to reduce criminal justice needs, designer says: While Oklahoma County officials are still ironing out details for the location of a new jail, the facility’s actual design is much further along in the process. Architects working on plans for the new jail completed a schematic design in recent weeks. The design includes hundreds of beds the county intends to use to treat and divert inmates with mental health issues away from Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. [The Oklahoman]

Cleveland County’s sheriff spars with commissioners over budget approvals: A 5-to-3 majority of Cleveland County budget board members voted Friday to accept an overall county budget of $61.8 million for the upcoming 2025 fiscal year. Most of that meeting was spent debating an increased budget request for Cleveland County Sheriff Chris Amason, whose office fell under intense scrutiny after he was accused of overspending in recent months. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Anti-Camping Law at Odds With Local Initiatives: Effective Nov. 1, Oklahoma will join several other states including Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, Georgia and Texas, in enacting a statewide anti-camping law that will limit where the estimated 3,800 Oklahomans experiencing homelessness are allowed to sleep when unsheltered. Those bans were adapted from model legislation provided by The Cicero Institute, an Austin, Texas-based think tank that works to persuade legislators nationwide to strengthen unauthorized camping laws and require government-sanctioned homeless encampments. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economy & Business News

National cyber director touts Tulsa’s advancements in tech sector: In an effort to fill half a million available cybersecurity jobs in the U.S., a White House official visited Tulsa on Thursday to highlight local partnerships designed to increase hiring. During his visit, National Cyber Director Harry Coker Jr. addressed a crowd alongside representatives from several Tulsa organizations. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

OU Board of Regents raises tuition, delegates sexual misconduct policy power to president: For the fourth year in a row, the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved a tuition increase for undergraduate, graduate and medical students today. The action coincides with a merit-based compensation boost for some OU employees costing about $15 million, and regents said recent tuition hikes have corresponded with increases in student-aid access and need-based scholarships. [NonDoc]

  • OU regents choose to increase tuition 3%, even after OSU decided against a hike [The Oklahoman]
  • University of Oklahoma takes McClendon name off its Honors College, but won’t say why [The Oklahoman]
  • OU unveils 1Oklahoma NIL program to enhance fan engagement [Journal Record]

Ryan Walters’ newly hired CFO out amid payroll issues at Education Department: A newly hired chief financial officer at the Oklahoma State Department of Education is out after less than six months on the job amid payroll issues at the agency. Employees reported seeing CFO Spencer Wood escorted out of the OSDE office building on June 7 and the department’s new comptroller gone as of June 10. [Tulsa World]

Metro Tech unveils $1.8 million in renovations at aviation campus: Metro Technology Centers unveiled $1.8 million in renovations to its aviation campus on Friday that officials said will help advance Oklahoma in the aerospace and aviation industries. [Oklahoma Voice]

3 Oklahoma colleges become first in state to offer degrees in artificial intelligence: More than 19,000 jobs in Oklahoma — from those in the military, to banking, to aerospace, to engineers of all types — require some sort of skill in artificial intelligence, or AI, according to data from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. That number is projected to grow by 21% during the next 10 years. [The Oklahoman]

Retirement bittersweet for Union Superintendent Kirt Hartzler: After almost 40 years in public education, Union Superintendent Kirt Hartzler is officially retiring at the end of the month. The 2023 State Superintendent of the Year, Hartzler started working for Union Public Schools in 1986 as a high school social studies teacher. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Recent study shows Tulsa Community College’s $1 billion effect on city: TCC commissioned a comprehensive economic study by Lightcast, a labor market analytics company, to assess the college’s impact on the Tulsa Metropolitan Statistical Area using FY 2021-22 data. The results proved what we already know: TCC is a pillar of our community, adding $1.2 billion in annual income to the Tulsa-area economy. [Lindsay White / Tulsa World]

Community News

‘Action steps’ in new Catholic Church guide on Indigenous outreach underway in Oklahoma: The Catholic Church in Oklahoma is already in the midst of some outreach efforts recommended in a new guide focusing on ministry with Indigenous people. The recommendations are outlined in “Keeping Christ’s Sacred Promise: A Pastoral Framework for Indigenous Ministry,” a new document recently approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the group’s spring plenary assembly June 12-14 in Kentucky. The document included the Church’s apology for “multigenerational trauma” inflicted on Native and Indigenous communities. [The Oklahoman]

My Brother’s Keeper-Tulsa Seeks To Transform Black Boys Into Men: My Brother’s Keeper-Tulsa, an organization focused on improving outcomes for boys and young men of color, has launched a new initiative to expand reading opportunities. The Books in Barbershops program comes a year after MBK-Tulsa was designated a “model community” by the Obama Foundation. [The Oklahoma Eagle]

When the Olympics come to OKC in 2028, visitors will see a city continuing to evolve: Everything is lining up for 2028 to become a pivotal year in the history of Oklahoma City with the announcement of the city’s likelihood of hosting Olympic canoeing and softball. [The Oklahoman

Quote of the Day

“There are not nearly enough shelters in the state, nor is there enough program funding to assist the thousands of Oklahomans who do not have a safe place to call home. We have a dire lack of affordable housing in this state already, and criminal charges often disqualify individuals from options that are available.”

-Mark Davis, Chief Programs Officer of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, speaking about recent legislation that criminalizes unhoused individuals camping on state-owned land. [Oklahoma Watch

Number of the Day


The average amount that Texas and New Mexico counties in a 2019 study effectively spent for every dollar of revenue they raised from fees and fines on in-court hearings and jail costs. That’s 121 times what the Internal Revenue Service spends to collect taxes and many times what the states themselves spend to collect taxes. [Brennan Center for Justice]

Policy Note

How the United States Punishes People for Being Poor: The United States criminal legal system punishes people for being poor, and it happens in more ways than you might think. Here are four ways the United States criminalizes people experiencing poverty. [Vera Institute of Justice]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.