In The Know: Auditor: Oklahoma mispent millions of federal school aid | $1.2B for high-speed internet in Oklahoma | 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

Audit finds special interest groups gave Oklahoma private schools first-dibs on federal relief money while rejecting poor kids: Millions in federal relief money meant to help Oklahoma students during the pandemic was misspent at the hand of special special interest groups who gave preferential treatment to private schoolers while hundreds of needy children missed out on financial aid, a state audit has found. [The Frontier]

  • Auditor: Oklahoma Spent Millions of Federal Dollars Incorrectly [Oklahoma Watch]
  • State auditor: Oklahoma ‘dropped the ball’ in handling millions in pandemic relief funds [The Oklahoman]
  • State ‘dropped the ball on compliance and oversight’ of federal pandemic funds, auditor finds [Tulsa World]
  • Audit shows Oklahoma likely misspent millions in federal relief funds [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • ‘Oklahomans should be concerned’: Audit shows Oklahoma misspent millions in federal funds [KOKH Fox 25]
  • Report: Millions in federal pandemic relief funding mismanaged [Journal Record]

State Government News

OK Senate fails to override Governor’s veto on tribal tobacco compact: The Oklahoma Senate has failed to override Governor Kevin Stitt’s veto of Senate Bill 26 in a session held on Monday, June 26. Senate Bill 26 would have extended the Tribal Compacts Tobacco Product Sales Tax until December 31, 2024. The extension would have allowed Oklahoma to continue to receive a share of sales tax on tobacco products sold by tribal entities. [Muscogee Nation News]

How much high-speed internet can $1.2 billion build? Oklahomans are about to find out: The Biden administration announced this week Oklahoma is receiving $797.4 million in grant funds for the work through the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, part of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved by Congress in 2021. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma AG says latest Supreme Court decision ‘promising’ for foes of Catholic charter school: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond says the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear a case that could have had implications for the nation’s first church-run charter school is “promising” for those who share his concerns about St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School. [Tulsa World]

Health News

New EXHALE Report Highlights Lack of Self-Care Available to Black Women: On June 6, EXHALE, the groundbreaking emotional well-being application tailored exclusively for Black women and women of Color, unveiled the highly anticipated release of “The State of Self-Care for Black Women” report. This comprehensive publication delves into the intricate dynamics of mental, emotional, and physical health experienced by Black Women. [Black Wall Street Times]

Number of Oklahoma high school students using e-cigarettes greater than national data: As e-cigarette sales have been increasing across the United States, the number of Oklahoma high school students using e-cigarettes has been going down — but state numbers are still higher than that of high school students nationally. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Trial day two: Toxicologist says Dan Kirby ‘was impaired,’ friends argue otherwise: Both the prosecution and defense wrapped up their cases this afternoon on the second day of the involuntary manslaughter trial for former Eufaula city councilman and former state Rep. Dan Kirby. [NonDoc]

Economy & Business News

Money taking a toll on Oklahomans’ mental health: Oklahoma is tied for the second-most financially stressed state in the nation, according to a recent report. Analysts at USA Today Blueprint using U.S. Census Bureau data found that 54% of Oklahoma residents are “very stressed financially.” [Journal Record]

Education News

Oklahoma AG’s opinion: Payroll deductions legal for teachers’ association dues: Oklahoma’s attorney general issued a formal opinion on Monday that state law allows school districts to make payroll deductions for teachers’ association dues. The opinion comes as State Superintendent Ryan Walters and Gov. Kevin Stitt have criticized teachers’ unions and the commonplace practice by which many of their members choose to pay their dues. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Ten Commandments mandate? Focus instead on why public education is 49th in US: One would think that the day after a national report showed a significant drop in reading and math scores among Oklahoma middle schoolers, a course of correction at least would be mentioned at the state Board of Education meeting. Instead, Oklahoma’s state schools superintendent decided a more urgent matter facing our students is that the constitutional position of separation of church and state is a “false narrative,” which he seems eager to change while policing morality and promoting Christianity in each classroom. [Clytie Bunyan Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: Did you know Oklahoma has a history of church-state issues in public education?: On June 5, Oklahoma approved the nation’s first Catholic charter school, which already has led to questions surrounding the legality of a publicly funded religious school. But this is not the first time a church-state issue has been raised in public education in Oklahoma. [Carol Rose Little Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Oklahoma has systemic issues that make me very concerned for taxpayers… If the federal government decides the State must pay back these questioned costs, you and I will end up paying the bill… The State of Oklahoma dropped the ball on compliance and oversight.”

– State Auditor Cindy Byrd, said in a news release after making the audit public. [State Auditor & Inspector’s Office]

Number of the Day

$29.3 million

Amount of questionable spending of federal grant money provided for pandemic relief during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. [State Auditor & Inspector] | [Full report]

Policy Note

The ‘Independent State Legislature Theory,’ Explained: On June 27, 2023, the Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature theory” in Moore v. Harper. This piece explains a dubious interpretation of the Constitution called the “independent state legislature theory” that links partisan gerrymandering of congressional maps in North Carolina, attempts to dissolve the Wisconsin Election Commission, and efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. [Brennan Center for Justice]

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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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