In The Know: AG announces resignation | Epic Charter Schools severs ties with co-founders | FY 2022 budget highlights

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.

New from OK Policy

FY 2022 Budget Highlights: OK Policy staff have analyzed the FY 2022 budget, which was signed by the governor. The FY 2022 budget reverses service cuts but remains at among lowest level in decades. The budget reflects a dramatic, if short-term, turnaround from last year due to the economic uptick coming out of the pandemic as well as the unprecedented investment of federal relief funds. The FY 2022 budget also includes $346.9 million of annual tax cuts, or about 4 percent of the current budget, which will likely never be reclaimed due to the supermajority requirements of SQ 640. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announces resignation: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter on Wednesday announced his resignation, citing “certain personal matters that are becoming public.” In a statement released by his office, the 64-year-old Republican said he plans to step down June 1. In the statement, Hunter expressed concern that his personal issues could overshadow the work of his office. Although the statement did not describe the personal matter, Hunter filed for divorce from his wife, Cheryl, on Friday. The couple has been married for nearly 40 years and has two adult children. Hunter’s resignation means Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt will name his replacement, allowing the governor to put an ally in the post. Stitt and Hunter, both Republicans, have occasionally clashed on various matters, including over Stitt’s decision to renegotiate the state’s gaming compacts with Native American tribes. [AP News]

‘This relationship is done’: Epic breaks with co-founders: Epic Charter Schools on Wednesday severed all ties with its co-founders and restructured its school board, signaling a turning point for the embattled virtual charter school system. Serving 52,000 students, Epic is the largest public school system in Oklahoma. Ben Harris and David Chaney, who founded Epic in 2011, will no longer have any financial interest or control in the school system. Their company, Epic Youth Services, managed Epic since the school’s inception. [The Oklahoman] Epic’s seven-member board of education unanimously approved a mutual termination agreement, effective July 1, to end its contract with Epic Youth Services, which reportedly has made millionaires of founders David Chaney and Ben Harris. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial News

Century after massacre, Black Tulsans struggle for a voice: Tulsa and Oklahoma City are now increasingly Democratic, with seven African American legislators. But the Legislature’s conservative Republican leadership keeps this group on the margins. Seventy-two of the 81 bills introduced by Black legislators this year never received a committee hearing, according to an Associated Press analysis. Only two made it to the governor’s desk. [AP News]

  • Black caucus member critical of Senate’s resolution commemorating Tulsa Race Massacre [Public Radio Tulsa]

From Black Wall Street to George Floyd, the echoes of trauma shape Black Americans’ reality: From a small office inside the Greenwood Cultural Center on a recent Saturday afternoon, Tiffany Crutcher could look south and see a Black Wall Street mural under a freeway, then east and see Vernon African Methodist Episcopal Church, the only Black-owned building that remains from the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. [The Oklahoman]

Police chief calls for community vigilance ahead of Tulsa Race Massacre centennial, presidential visit: The Tulsa Police Department has long been planning security for the events of the 100th anniversary of the race massacre, but with a presidential visit now in the mix, the agency is asking residents to be vigilant in the days ahead. [Tulsa World] Tulsa is preparing for its second consecutive June featuring thousands of visitors, demonstrations and a visit from the President of the United States, and the head of the city’s police force said Wednesday they’re better prepared from having experienced it last year. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Biden to meet with Tulsa Race Massacre survivors during visit [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson to be here for Tulsa Race Massacre centennial events [Tulsa World]
  • Rep. Cori Bush, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Nina Turner to attend Black Wall Street Legacy Fest [The Black Wall Street Times]

‘What happened here?’ Sculptor hopes art inspires curiosity about the Tulsa Race Massacre: Edward Dwight creates memorials to tell stories that leave people hungry for more information. Dwight’s Tower of Reconciliation and other sculptures at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park were designed with this premise in mind, the prominent artist said on Wednesday during the National Reconciliation Symposium in Tulsa. [The Oklahoman]

  • Greenwood Art Project hopes to add culture to centennial events [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Greenwood Art Project officially unveiled at public event: ‘Powerful to see’ [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Fresh and new’ even after a century: Historic Tulsa church shows off restored stained glass [Tulsa World]
  • A skillful narrative of excavating the truth about the Tulsa Race Massacre [New York Times]
  • Once overlooked in classrooms, Tulsa race massacre now seen as ‘important’ lesson in Oklahoma schools [NBC News]
  • Tulsa mayor says he’s tuning out international media coverage of centennial, focusing on local ‘mourning’ [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

OU Health to close public COVID testing site in Oklahoma City as demand declines: OU Health will close its public COVID-19 testing site in Oklahoma City at the end of the month, as cases and demand for the tests have declined. The site, located at 1200 Mark Everett Drive near Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, will close May 31. At one point, OU Health was conducting over 800 tests a day. [The Oklahoman]

  • COVID-19: State reports more than 800 new virus cases in last week as averages continue to drop [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Gov. Kevin Stitt signs bill allowing Oklahoma Legislature to fight ‘federal overreach’: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed legislation Republican state lawmakers say will allow Oklahoma to push back against federal overreach. Stitt signed House Bill 1236 that allows the Oklahoma Legislature to ask the state’s attorney general to review and evaluate the legality of federal actions, including executive orders from President Joe Biden. [The Oklahoman]

House passes anti-vaccination measure, may be finished for the session: The Oklahoma House of Representatives apparently heard its last few bills of the session Wednesday afternoon, including one that would prohibit schools, colleges and universities from requiring COVID-19 vaccinations. Senate Bill 658, by Sen. Rob Standridge, also would make it more difficult for schools to impose mask mandates and would ban them from requiring unvaccinated students to wear masks. [Tulsa World]

Lawmakers Borrow From State’s COVID Vaccination Playbook To Help With Driver’s License Delays: State lawmakers promised Wednesday help is on the way for thousands of Oklahomans facing months-long delays in getting driver’s licenses. Sen. Chuck Hall (R-Perry) said to help clear a roughly 300,000 person backlog, they’re taking a page from the state’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics and unemployment claim events and standing up “megacenters.” [Public Radio Tulsa] Lawmakers set aside $6.6 million for the centers, Hall said. [Tulsa World]

Mulready: Mental Health Awareness Month – know what’s covered: May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and many people have been experiencing greater stresses since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families are still facing economic challenges and anxieties about the health of loved ones. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I would like to take a moment to remind Oklahomans that all comprehensive major medical insurance plans are required by law to cover mental health and substance abuse services. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Justices signal they could limit Indian Country ruling: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted Oklahoma’s request to retain custody of a man who has been on death row for killing three Native Americans, a sign the court may be willing to limit the fallout from last year’s ruling that much of eastern Oklahoma remains a tribal reservation. [AP News] The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to keep Oklahoma death row inmate Shaun Michael Bosse in state custody while justices consider reviewing a key question about criminal jurisdiction on Native American reservations recently affirmed in the state. [The Oklahoman]

  • Supreme Court May Revisit Ruling on Native American Rights in Oklahoma [New York Times]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma City family questions police pursuit that killed pregnant mom Star Shells: Criticized by some experts as highly dangerous to innocent bystanders and in many cases ineffective when it comes to catching suspects, police-involved vehicular pursuits have increased here, with the Oklahoma City Police Department reporting 383 such chases in 2020, or the most in the last five years. [The Oklahoman]

‘Change starts in this room.’ Local Oklahoma leaders engage in conversations aimed at unity: Framed by the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and set amid the backdrop of the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Tuesday’s “Breaking Bread” breakfast, organized by the OK Justice Circle, had one focus — unity. [The Oklahoman]

Commutation hearing for death row inmate Julius Jones set for September: After spending more than two decades on Oklahoma’s death row for a murder he maintains he never committed, Julius Jones will finally receive a commutation hearing at 10:00 a.m. on September 13. [The Black Wall Street Times]

OKCPD officer fired following 10 allegations of misconduct: An Oklahoma City Police Department officer was terminated after an administrative investigation into 10 allegations of misconduct arising from an incident in September 2020. [The Oklahoman] After hearing testimony and documentation of the allegations, the Deputy Chief sustained the allegations and so did Chief of Police Wade Gourley. [OKC Free Press]

Education News

Oklahoma continues to battle teacher shortage, but pandemic hasn’t caused a mass exit yet: Annually, more than 4,000 of Oklahoma’s roughly 45,000 teachers leave the profession in the state and the number of new hires is consistently lower. And at Stilwell, the job is just plain hard. More than 90% of the school’s students are economically disadvantaged and nearly ⅔ are below target for academic achievement on the state’s school report card. That means there’s lots of trauma in the school, Faith Phillips said. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma seeking greater access, diversity in computer science education: A nationwide push for a more inclusive computer science workforce is taking hold in Oklahoma. Educators, lawmakers and nonprofits are advocating for expanded access in the state to classes that teach computing systems and programming. Only 37% of public high schools in the state teach any level of computer science, placing Oklahoma in the bottom 10 in the nation, according to the 2020 State of Computer Science Education report. [The Oklahoman]

OU’s proposed Cross Village settlement leaves bondholders feeling ‘swindled’: When First Bethany Bank & Trust President Priscilla Cude bought $500,000 worth of bonds in 2017 to help finance the University of Oklahoma’s controversial $251.7 million Cross Village housing project, she thought she was simultaneously supporting her alma mater and making an investment for her customers that would yield substantial interest returns over the next decade. [NonDoc]

General News

Native American groups fight ‘erasure’ after Instagram posts disappear: Leading up to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Awareness Day on May 5, Sutton King and her team at the Urban Indigenous Collective took to Instagram to spread the word about their missing persons project. But on May 6, she woke up to find some of the organization’s Instagram Stories – which should stay up for 24 hours – and permanent posts had disappeared. Then, other indigenous people and groups started reporting their posts had also been deleted. [Reuters]

Quote of the Day

“When you’re pulled over, you’re wondering, ‘OK, is this going to be my last day on this Earth?’ You’re tense, you’re nervous, you make sure you don’t say the wrong thing, don’t tick nobody off, make sure you follow all the commands. Keep your hands visible and be very polite and respectful. That’s a part of it and something you’ve got to endure and live with. I don’t get a fair shake. Sometimes you’ve got to be better than the other person just to be on the same level.”

-Lloyd Ware, a 63-year-old Black man who recently came from Tennessee to revisit Tulsa’s Greenwood District [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s average student-to-counselor ratio currently, compared to the recommended ratio of 250:1.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Note

The Pandemic’s Impact on Children’s Mental Health: The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the nation’s mental health, and a new issue brief shows that children are also facing worsening emotional and cognitive health. The brief examines factors contributing to worsening mental health and substance use outcomes among children and adolescents during the pandemic, looking closely at those who are at higher risk for negative mental health impacts, such as LGBTQ youth and children of color. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.