In The Know: Board of Ed appointee withdraws | OSSAA pledges enforcement at state football finals | Virus continue late-year climb

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

Gov. Stitt’s new appointee to Oklahoma State Board of Education backs out: Gov. Kevin Stitt blasted Democrats and teachers unions on Monday after his new appointee to the Oklahoma State Board of Education backed out amid criticism from even nonpartisan groups. [Tulsa World] Parents, teachers, education advocates and Democratic lawmakers criticized Crabtree’s lack of qualifications and her frequent social media posts focusing on debunked COVID-19 medical advice, conspiracy theories, and anti-vaccine content. [Oklahoma Watch] The governor appointed Crabtree after a surprise removal of board member Kurt Bollenbach. [The Oklahoman] The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to questions about Bollenbach’s removal. [AP News] Gov. Kevin Stitt said he respects Melissa Crabtree’s decision and will rescind her nomination to serve on the State Board of Education. He said he’ll reopen the search process and identify another appointee as soon as possible. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

Oklahoma continues late-year coronavirus surge, as hospitalizations remain at record high: There have been 218,389 confirmed cases in the state. The state estimates 184,736 people have recovered. At least 1,911 people had died as of Dec. 7 — 15 more reported deaths than the day before and 168 more than a week ago. [The Frontier]

  • COVID-19: 15 more deaths reported; nearly 32,000 cases remain active in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Logan County Detention Center discovers 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases [Guthrie News Leader]
  • Wastewater in Oklahoma City tested for COVID-19 to predict outbreaks [KFOR]

Oklahoma high school football: OSSAA, UCO to strictly enforce COVID-19 safety procedures at state finals: Those planning on heading to Edmond to watch state championship games the next two weekends need to do two things, Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association executive director David Jackson said Monday during a Zoom teleconference with media: wear a mask at all times and follow the social-distanced seating plan. If not, you could be removed from the stadium. [The Oklahoman] The state’s governing body of high school athletics must do a better job of enforcing safety protocols for its remaining championship football games during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization’s director said Monday. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Vaccinations near; will Oklahomans take them?: Hope is right around the corner, with Oklahoma set to receive the first doses of a vaccine to fight COVID-19 as early as Dec. 11. Now, officials are just hoping Oklahomans will take it. The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced Thursday that the state expects to receive 33,000 doses of a vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. [The Journal Record]

Tribe offers resources to help with seasonal, COVID depression: Due to environmental factors like dwindling exposure to sunlight, some experience a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). According to Psychology Today, SAD is estimated to affect 10 million Americans yearly. Another 10% to 20% of the population may have mild SAD. Women are four times as likely to have SAD, and the farther from the equator one lives, the likelier he or she is to be impacted. [Chickasaw Times]

State Government News

Oklahoma treasurer: November collections down about 2%: Overall collections to the state treasury last month were down about 2% compared to November 2019, due in large part to slumping oil and gas tax collections, Oklahoma Treasurer Randy McDaniel reported Monday. [AP News] Taxes paid into the state treasury continued to contract in November as the global pandemic and depressed oil and natural gas prices continued to squeeze the economy. [Tulsa World]

Transportation commission approves new ODOT 8-year work plan: The Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Monday gave the green light to the state transportation department’s latest eight-year construction plan. The work plan covers federal fiscal years 2021 through 2028. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

Hunter urges extension of CARES Act by Congress: Attorney General Mike Hunter has sent a letter to congressional leadership urging members to extend the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economy (CARES) Act funding until the end of 2021. The current deadline for officials to spend the money is Dec. 30. Any money not spent will go back to the federal government. [The Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Archbishop continues call for halt of federal executions: An Oklahoma City Catholic faith leader is asking the Trump Administration to end federal executions as the federal government schedules several for December and January. [The Oklahoman]

Trust holds off phone contract action, hears COVID reports from CEO: In Monday’s meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, the Trust heard reports from CEO Greg Williams about the current state of COVID-19 in the Jail. The Trust also struck one item to approve a contract for telephone services in the Jail, leaving the future of a new phone service in limbo for the time being. [OKC Free Press]

Economic Opportunity

High prices still a concern after an Oasis fills northeast OKC’s food desert: Northeast Oklahoma City has been a food desert for 25 years. In October, the city and Homeland Stores officials broke ground on a full-service grocery store for the community at NE 36th Street and Lincoln Boulevard. The store will offer fresh produce, baked goods, a butcher shop, prepared foods and a drive-thru pharmacy. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economy & Business News

Banks begin to welcome cannabis industry: Offering bank accounts to the cannabis industry is not only good business; it also may make the community safer, said Mel Barnes, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Oklahoma State Bank. [The Journal Record]

Amazon accused of pregnancy and disability discrimination in EEOC charge: An Amazon employee from Oklahoma on Monday filed a complaint against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, alleging pregnancy and disability discrimination. [Reuters]

Farm income up this year, mostly thanks to Uncle Sam: Balance sheets for farms may look better at the end of 2020 than they have in years. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest forecast. Some expenses have been lower this year, like diesel to power farm equipment, interest on bank loans and livestock. [Harvest Public Media]

  • Biden’s win leaves farmers less optimistic about the future [KOSU]

Education News

Epic approves another round of reforms: Epic Charter Schools continues to add internal reforms in response to complaints from a state audit and the Oklahoma State Department of Education. [The Oklahoman]

Head of pediatrics group latest to oppose Oklahoma’s in-school COVID quarantine program: Opposition to Oklahoma’s first-in-the-nation, temporary in-school quarantine program is growing. Democratic lawmakers and the 40,000-member Oklahoma Education Association have put out statements against the proposal to let students exposed to someone with COVID-19 at school spend their two-week quarantine in school but segregated from other students and subject to frequent testing. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

The Creek Freedmen push for Indigenous tribal rights decades after being disenfranchised: Growing up in Oklahoma City, Okla., Rhonda Grayson remembers spending time at her grandparents’ home in the small community of Wewoka — the place where many of her closest family members built their lives. It was there that she was told stories of her ancestors, known as the Creek Freedmen, and learned how to cook traditional Native American dishes such as wild onions with eggs, poke salad made with American pokeweed and hominy, the corn used to make grits. [The Hill]

Indigenous voters reject being labeled by media as “something else”: During last month’s election, Indigenous voters were key to President-Elect Joe Biden winning counties in Arizona, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Although they represent a smaller portion of the electorate, Indigenous voters can wield a lot of power. [KOSU]

Black Women Voices focuses on women in media for next virtual discussion: Black Women Voices will host an online discussion entitled “Let’s Talk About Media” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“Parents rely on the State Board of Education to ensure excellence, equity, accountability and leadership for all students for the benefit of our state. We implore our Governor to carefully select a nominee that has a vested interest in the success of our schools and brings appropriate experience to the task.”

-Statement from the Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee regarding the selection of a new State Board of Education board member [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of evictions filed in Oklahoma courts since the state declared a state of emergency in March

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Millions of Americans are heading into the holidays unemployed and over $5,000 behind on rent: Millions of Americans who lost their jobs during the pandemic have fallen thousands of dollars behind on rent and utility bills, a warning sign that people are running out of money for basic needs. Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, Moody’s Analytics warns. Last month, 9 million renters said they were behind on rent, according to a Census Bureau survey. Economists say the data underscores the deepening financial disaster for many families as the pandemic continues to shut off work opportunities, lending new urgency to negotiations over a second round of stimulus that could reinstate federal unemployment insurance and rental assistance, among other forms of aid. [Washington Post]

OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

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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.

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