In The Know: AG seeking student funds from Epic Charter founders | State maternal death rate up sharply | Reconsidering Oklahoma’s primary systems

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.

State Government News

Oklahoma AG worries Epic Charter Schools founders still have taxpayer money: The Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office is going after Epic Charter Schools’ student funds, which apparently are still in the possession of the school founders who are facing criminal charges in a massive racketeering and embezzlement case. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s maternal death rate has risen sharply, new report shows: Although Oklahoma’s maternal death rate had declined prior to 2018, a report from the Oklahoma Maternal Health Task Force shows the number of deaths increased from 25.2 per 100,000 live births for the 2018-20 reporting period to 31 deaths per 100,000 in the 2019-21 reporting period. [The Oklahoman]

‘Prepared for the rush,’ Architect of new school tax credit website says it will be ready on time: A website to handle Oklahoma’s new school choice tax credit program will be ready to go at 8:30 a.m. on Dec. 1, the moment the application period opens. That’s the promise from the company hired by the Oklahoma Tax Commission to set up and administer the state’s new program to provide credits to Oklahoma families with the cost of private education. [The Oklahoman]

Capitol Insider: New Oklahoma anti-abortion laws on hold: Courts have stopped five anti-abortion laws in Oklahoma. It’s hard to keep up with Oklahoma abortion law from one day to another. So where does Oklahoma stand on abortion right now? [KGOU]

Tribal Nations News

‘Why now?’ Oklahoma tribal leaders look for answers amid confusion, fear over state car tag policy: State police have already ticketed at least two motorists because they said the drivers lived outside of their tribal boundaries. The apparent shift in policy has shattered already-frigid relations between many tribal leaders and Gov. Stitt. [The Oklahoman]

Stitt says Oklahoma tribal tags present fairness issue, urges tribes to compact: The Oklahoma Highway Patrol recently started ticketing Indigenous citizens who have tribal tags but don’t live within their nation’s boundaries — an apparent change in enforcement that spurred confusion and outrage from many tribal members. Troopers are not pulling people over solely because of their license plates but are addressing the tag issue if a driver is pulled over for another reason, tribal officials have said. [Oklahoma Voice]

Voting and Election News

Would Oklahomans approve a change in the state’s primary election system?: Supporters of the open-primary proposal say it’s not much different than what Oklahoma City and Tulsa already use for mayoral elections, so it should be familiar to a wide swath of state voters. They hope that its nonpartisan nature appeals to voters across the spectrum. [The Oklahoman]

Sometimes overlooked by campaigns, Native voters could decide major elections in 2024: Grassroots efforts to get Native American voters to turn in their ballots for the 2024 election are in motion across swing states as Democrats and Republicans are both vying for power. [NPR]

Health News

Oklahoma TSET awards nearly $4.6 million to health improvement projects: The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust awarded nearly $4.6 million to fund 11 community projects aiming to better health outcomes in Oklahoma through enhanced infrastructure. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa Man Recounts Serving 31 Years In Prison After Wrongful Conviction: Perry Lott was arrested after the lineup. He was tried and convicted and given a 100-year prison sentence. However, in 2014, the Innocence Project ordered DNA tests of the rape kit, which showed that Lott was not the rapist. [Oklahoma Eagle]

Education News

Oklahoma board wants proposed textbooks altered after Moms for Liberty complained: A state board requested a major publisher remove portions of its math textbooks for students in pre-K through fifth grade after a local conservative group complained. Despite the textbooks receiving the top rating from a review team made up of dozens of teachers, the chairwoman of the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee on Friday asked McGraw Hill to remove the “math thoughts” sections in its “Reveal Math” books in order to receive approval from the board. [Oklahoma Voice]

‘Did not think we could win’: Kingfisher Public Schools to settle football lawsuit for $5 million: While the future employment of head football coach Jeff Myers remains unclear, Kingfisher Public Schools reached a settlement agreement this week in the hazing lawsuit filed by former player Mason Mecklenburg, according to the district’s superintendent and the plaintiff’s attorneys. The lawsuit had been set for trial in less than three weeks, but criminal charges against four people remain pending. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma schools turning to the new, old way of teaching students to read: The “science of reading” is returning to the limelight, and Oklahoma schools and universities are using those techniques to teach literacy to the next generation. [Oklahoma Voice]

English language learners flourish in Tulsa’s Newcomer Academy: Serving high school-age students who are new to the United States, the Newcomer Academy works with those students to build their English skills while also covering the academic courses required to earn a high school diploma. [Tulsa World]

Norman High’s Kallan McKinney honored at White House as National Student Poet: An Oklahoma student was one of five poets from across the nation to be honored by First Lady Jill Biden at the White House on Monday during the Class of 2023 National Student Poets ceremony. [NonDoc]

Opinion, Sen. Kay Floyd: Public schools in OK shortchanged as costs for public private schools funding rise: The Oklahoma Constitution is clear. We have a mandate to fund and maintain a public school system for the benefit of every child in our state. Despite recent investments, we are still dealing with the negative impact of previous cuts. [Sen. Kay Floyd / The Oklahoman]

General News

Economic hardship threatens Oklahoma’s historic Black towns: Black leaders in Oklahoma want to keep the state’s historic freedmen towns alive. They were established after the Civil War on Indian land but are now experiencing economic hardship. KWGS reports there’s no clear path to how they could survive. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City of Tulsa seeks pause in civil rights lawsuit filed by woman arrested outside 2020 Trump rally [Tulsa World]
  • Edmond continues to chase water line leaks as plant upgrades continue [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“There are so many reasons to dislike closed, partisan primaries. Mine is mostly just about good government and the fact that the entire electorate makes better decisions than subsets of the electorate do.”

-Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt, speaking about the advantages of open primary elections [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


The health care and social assistance industry was the largest industry among families who were eligible for the federal Child Tax Credit in 2021. At 16%, this was the largest industry among Oklahoma’s eligible recipients, followed by retail trade and manufacturing at 10% each. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

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. Though the payoff of any one investment can be difficult to assess, strong evidence suggests that investments that reduce poverty and direct resources at very young children have particularly high returns. [Tax Policy Center]

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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.

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