In The Know: Advocates investigate Oklahoma’s partnership with PragerU | Calls for outside investigation into prisoners locked in showers | Lawmakers urge clemency for death row inmate | More

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

Oklahoma News

Church-state separation advocates dig into push for PragerU in Oklahoma schools: National advocates for the continued separation of church and state in the U.S. have launched an inquiry into State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ push for PragerU curriculum in Oklahoma classrooms. [Tulsa World]

  • Advocacy group to investigate Oklahoma Department of Education partnership with PragerU [StateImpact Oklahoma]

State Government News

Oklahoma AG requests state supreme court to rule on litigation authority: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is asking a federal court to allow the state’s court to make a decision in a dispute with the governor’s office. Attorneys for Stitt, from New York-based Sullivan and Cromwell LLP, argue Drummond does not have the authority to take the case away from the governor. [McAlester News-Capital]

Oklahoma lawmakers struggle to tackle artificial intelligence regulations: As Congress considers bills to regulate the technology, some states have also begun passing laws aimed at placing limits on the technology’s usage. Efforts to regulate AI usage in Oklahoma have largely stalled, and some lawmakers are concerned that the Legislature is now faced with playing catch up. [Oklahoma Voice]

As vote on NBA arena approaches, here’s how much the state has paid OKC Thunder as incentives: The team, which receives rebates under the name The Professional Basketball Club, has received more money than any of the hundreds of participants in the Quality Jobs Program, including large aerospace and energy companies with far more employees. So far this year, the team has received payments of $1.17 million in March; $1.5 million in June; and $982,871 in September from the program. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

CN breaks ground on state-of-the-art head start facility in Tahlequah: Leaders of the Cherokee Nation met Tuesday to break ground on a new 75,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Head Start facility in Tahlequah. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Opinion: Historic partnership between VA and Cherokee Nation will be boon for veterans: It’s exciting that the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have entered into a historic partnership to increase access to veteran care in rural Oklahoma. The two entities recently announced they formed a unique partnership that officials said could serve as a “roadmap” for how rural America can work with tribal nations to increase care. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: The True Story Behind ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ Is Being Erased From Oklahoma Classrooms: In a high school classroom in Dewey, Okla., copies of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the nonfiction book behind the film, were left unread because the teacher worried about running afoul of the law. Another teacher confessed that she was uncertain if she could refer to the settlers who murdered the Osage as white. [Jim Gray and David Grann / The New York Times]

Health News

What Oklahomans should know as Health Insurance Marketplace open enrollment begins: Oklahomans can choose from seven health insurance plans for 2024 coverage as open enrollment begins for the Health Insurance Marketplace on Nov. 1. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

  • From OK Policy: Together OK will host OK Wellness Watch event to help Oklahomans re-enroll in SoonerCare [Learn More]

Avian influenza confirmed in south central Oklahoma: Highly pathogenic avian influenza was confirmed in a poultry flock in Carter County Oklahoma earlier this week. According to the Oklahoma Department of Conservation, avian influenza is unlikely to be contracted by humans or other livestock, but it is extremely contagious and fatal to birds in almost all cases. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Editorial: Tulsa has a chance to transform brain health for kids: The growing urgency in unmet mental health care among Tulsa’s youth got a much-needed boost from $16 million in federal grants and private contributions. It ought to be the start of serious investment and transformation in how brain health services are administered to children and teens. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Prevent escalating illness by staying updated on flu, COVID-19 vaccines: We believe these inoculations have saved lives by reducing the severity of symptoms and curbed the spread of viruses. The pandemic unfortunately — and unsafely — turned trusted science into politicized tests. But, to prevent escalating illness, people who can get the vaccines ought to consider keeping their shots updated. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma lawmaker calling on Gov. Stitt to have outside agency reinvestigate after prisoners locked in showers: KFOR has been following this story all week about Oklahoma inmates at the Great Plains Correctional Center who were held inside showers for hours, and for some, even days. An Oklahoma lawmaker is now calling on Governor Stitt to bring in an outside agency to reinvestigate what happened. [KFOR]

  • ICYMI: Oklahoma Prison Held Inmates in Shower Stalls for Days [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma lawmakers urge clemency for death row inmate: An Oklahoma Republican lawmaker said death row inmate Phillip Hancock’s case was a prime example on why he would call for a moratorium on the death penalty in Oklahoma. [McAlester News-Capital]

  • Lawmakers call for halt to Hancock execution, say murders were self-defense [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Man sentenced to death in Oklahoma files for clemency [News 9]
  • Attorney for Oklahoma death row inmate claims DNA evidence would prove client’s innocence [KOCO]

FBI crime data: Oklahoma’s homicide rate went down for the first time since 2018: Both violent and property crime in Oklahoma continued to decline in 2022, the FBI’s annual crime data shows. The downward trend is in line with a national decline, though Oklahoma crime rates remain above the national average in many categories. [The Oklahoman]

Housing and Economic Opportunity News

Tulsa World Opinion podcast: How can we help the homeless, including mental health treatment?: Mike Brose is the former executive director of the Mental Health Association Oklahoma, adjunct university instructor and practicing licensed clinical social worker. He is a member of the Tulsa World Community Advisory Board. He speaks with Ginnie Graham about how Tulsa can help the homeless population, including those who who suffer from mental illness. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

OU project aims for more efficient, sustainable energy future: The U.S. Department of Energy recently asked OU to take the lead in a project to pioneer a new generation of “reversible electrochemical cells.” The cells have potential to revolutionize energy storage by integrating seamlessly with fossil fuel assets, OU said in a news release. [Journal Record]

Opinion: Workers are having a moment of empowerment: The rise of the working class isn’t novel in U.S. history, but it’s inevitable as inequities and inequalities get out of balance. Increasingly, union and non-union workers are organizing to demand more from their employers. Pay is always part of it, but working conditions have become equally important. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Education News

Absenteeism a chronic issue in Oklahoma and U.S. schools: The rate of chronic absenteeism, reflecting the number of students who miss 10% or more of the school year, has grown both in Oklahoma and nationwide since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data from the U.S Department of Education. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tulsa doctor, lawmaker push for Oklahoma schools to require hearing screenings for students: There are roughly 13 states that do not require hearing screenings in school, Oklahoma being one of those states. The others, like Oklahoma, are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to education. Scholl and Representative Meloyde Blancett want to change that with auditory screenings in schools. [KTUL]

General News

Osage County bison herd thrives on one of the last remaining tallgrass prairies in the world: The 39,650 acres of land dotted with oilwell jacks in chest high grass is the world’s largest protected area of tallgrass prairie and is the home of hundreds of native species, including 1,800 bison. This week, the Nature Conservancy is celebrating 30 years of successful bison restoration on the preserve. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • UPS to open $40M facility in northeast OKC [Journal Record]
  • Theme park update: Vinita annexes land, RV camp groundbreaking set [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“I’m going to say a proper investigation doesn’t sound like it’s been done. And I also say it’s always problematic when you investigate yourself.”

– Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, calling for more oversight and an outside investigation into recent reports that Oklahoma inmates at the Great Plains Correctional Center were held inside showers for hours, and in some cases, even days. [KFOR]

Number of the Day


Percentage of children under age 18 in Oklahoma families who received Supplemental Security Income (SSI), cash public assistance income, or Food Stamps/SNAP in the previous 12 months. [Annie E. Casey Foundation]

Policy Note

The Return on Investing in Children: The federal government invests more than $500 billion annually in children through direct cash payments, including tax credits, and in-kind goods such as childcare, education, food subsidies, and healthcare coverage. This represents about 10 percent of the federal budget. Research shows these investments, which are often used to combat poverty, can have large short- and long-term payoffs for the children receiving the benefits and society at large. [Tax Policy Center]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.

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