In The Know: AG withdraws opinion supporting religious charter schools | Supt. revises academic standards to remove ‘woke’ language | OG&E profits up 18%

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

Oklahoma attorney general withdraws opinion supporting religious charter schools: Oklahoma’s attorney general said he is withdrawing a legal opinion that gained national attention for its support of creating religious charter schools, dealing a blow to local efforts to found a church-run public school in the state. Attorney General Gentner Drummond said his predecessor, John O’Connor, cited cases that have “little precedential value” to public charter schools and never should have issued the opinion in the first place. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma AG reverses education opinion [The Lawton Constitution]
  • Oklahoma AG Finds No Legal Justification for State-Sponsored Catholic Charter School [Oklahoma Watch]
  • New AG finds no legal justification for state sponsorship of Catholic online charter school [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma attorney general withraws opinion enabling religious charter schools [KOKH Fox 25]

Word ‘diverse’ cut from Okla. computer classes amid Walters’ efforts to avoid ‘woke standards’: Oklahoma’s academic standards on computer science won’t include the word “diverse” or any reference to bias and equity because these concepts are “woke,” the state’s top education official said. These changes mostly involved removing the word “diverse” and replacing it with “different.” Multiple references to the word “culture” were changed to “environment.” [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘Woke language’ removed from academic standards, Marla Hill still absent at State Board of Ed meeting [NonDoc]
  • State board approves new academic standards with Ryan Walters’ last-minute revisions [Tulsa World]

After year of utility bill hikes, OG&E profit jumps 18%: Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. posted a profit of nearly $440 million last year, an 18% increase over 2021, after imposing hikes that drove up the average Oklahoma customer’s bill by more than $23 per month. The profit of $439.5 million for 2022 compares to $360 million in 2021, $339 million in 2020 and $350 million in 2019. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Education plans advance through Oklahoma Legislature: Plans to expand parental choice without providing vouchers are progressing through the legislative process with the support of lawmakers representing rural communities – but without the support of Democrats who argue education dollars would still be distributed unfairly. [Journal Record]

  • Private School Tuition Tax Credit Proposal Passes House [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma bills target drag shows, part of a nationwide GOP trend: At least four bills filed this year in Oklahoma that target drag shows, which are often musical performances that challenge gender assumptions. But Oklahoma’s Legislature isn’t alone in targeting drag shows as Republican lawmakers have introduced similar bills in at least 14 other states. [The Oklahoman]

  • An Oklahoma Bill Could Jail Drag Performers. Why the Right Is Targeting Drag Shows [Time]

Column: No blank check for taxpayer dollars:  There may be a perennial debate about the proper goals for our schools and how best to achieve them — and calls for reform whenever schools seem to fall short — but the core principle that the acceptance of public dollars is tied to public governance and oversight has been held sacred. This social contract is now being contested in Oklahoma by the well-organized and generously funded movement for school vouchers. [David Blatt Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Podcast: Superintendent Ryan Walters, education priorities, recreational marijuana and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discuss about a bill to require legislative oversight of State Superintendent Ryan Walters if he attempts to downgrade a school’s accreditation, Walters removing the pictures of Education Hall of Fame members and the State Equalization Board approving an extra $2B for lawmakers to spend in the 2024 fiscal year budget. [This Week in Oklahoma Politics / KOSU]

Voting and Elections News

Opinion: State Question 820 Helps Address Inequities, Create a More Just Oklahoma: On March 7, I plan on voting yes on State Question 820 — which legalizes recreational marijuana for adults over 21 — for a lot of reasons. Oklahoma can generate nearly half a billion dollars in tax revenue in the next five years if SQ 820 passes. We can create a reliable, commonsense regulatory framework that ensures the quality and safety of a product that is already being widely used. We can generate thousands of new jobs and economic investment in underserved communities across the state. [Damion Shade Op-Ed / Black Wall Street Times]

Health News

Oklahoma’s food insecurity means children eat less fruits and veggies: The study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data from the 2021 National Survey of Children’s Health and found that nationally, 32.1% of children did not eat fruit daily, 49.1% did not eat vegetables daily and 57.1% drank at least one weekly sugar-sweetened beverage. [The Oklahoman]

New funding to help improve health care in rural Oklahoma: The Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes program employs digital technology to connect health care providers and patients in smaller towns and rural areas with specialists at academic medical centers in places like Oklahoma City and Tulsa. And that’s important, as rural Oklahoma communities, which account for more than a third of Oklahoma’s population, typically struggle to provide robust access to health care due to hospital closures and provider shortages. [Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma lawmaker wants AG investigation of Department of Corrections: A state lawmaker has requested an independent investigation into nearly a dozen “sexual in nature” allegations at an eastern Oklahoma women’s prison. [CNHI via Muskogee Phoenix]

Column: In light of facts, poll, state must reassess death penalty: This week, the Oklahoma chapter of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty released results of a recent Cole Hargraves Snodgrass & Associates’ statewide poll showing 78% of registered Oklahoma voters support pausing executions. Make no mistake: Many poll respondents still expressed support for the death penalty. But it’s also clear an ever-increasing number of Oklahomans are troubled by the state’s history of botched executions and by questions about the guilt of some facing lethal injection. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Education News

State superintendent questions whether Oklahoma students should attend state colleges and universities: State Superintendent and Education Secretary Ryan Walters, speaking to the State Board of Education on Thursday, questioned whether the state should be sending its students to Oklahoma colleges and universities. He announced at the start of the State Board of Education meeting that he has “great concerns about our state’s universities” being focused on ideology rather than setting up students for success in the workforce. [Tulsa World]

General News

Rep. Monroe Nichols Column: Diversity, equity and Inclusion isn’t about blame; it’s about collective progress: My brother, my first cousins and I are the first generation in our family born with the basic rights and freedoms guaranteed to all Americans. The short history of realized freedom in America makes the current dog whistle political rhetoric about DEI from Gov. Kevin Stitt, State Superintendent Ryan Walters and other political leaders so dangerous and anti-American. [Rep. Monroe Nichols Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Former Brazilian President Bolsonaro meets Stitt, Broken Arrow officials during Oklahoma visit: Stitt’s spokeswoman Carly Atchison said the governor spoke with Bolsonaro on Monday at the Governor’s Mansion. “I do not know the purpose of the former president’s visit to Oklahoma,” Atchison said. The Broken Arrow Police Department confirmed Thursday that officials there met with Bolsonaro earlier this week. “This was a personal visit,” said Police Department spokesman Ethan Hutchins. “There was no official business involving the city of Broken Arrow.” [Tulsa World]

  • Less than two months after insurrection, Bolsonaro visits Broken Arrow [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Central live chat with Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt [The Oklahoman]
  • Design change for Edmond city center complex spurs transparency questions [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“Students who can build technology solutions for our communities have to be thinking about the ways in which they are including others in their solutions. We see phrases like ‘diverse’ being changed to ‘different,’ which may sound mostly synonymous but they are not the same.”

– Levi Patrick, a member of the committee and the executive director of the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, speaking on how Superintendent Ryan Walters’ decision to remove the words “diverse” and “culture” from Oklahoma’s academic standards on computer science undermine efforts to ensure students are responsive to all people. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Black small business owners who indicated that they were denied a bank loan at least once when they started their businesses—compared to 37% of non-Black business owners. [Intuit] | [More coverage from Forbes]

Policy Note

Black History is Oklahoma History: By providing resources that give context for the Black experience in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Historical Society hopes to spark civil discourse and open dialogue about the role of race in the history of our state. While these conversations about our past may not be comfortable, they are necessary to understand where we have been and how we can best move forward together. [Oklahoma Historical Society]

February is Black History Month

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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