In The Know: Cabinet secretary never got financial records from State Ed Dept. | Oklahoma should invest in youth justice system | Fear is ineffective policy tool

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

Oklahoma should invest more in the youth justice system: With the overall occurrence of youth delinquency and detention at a historic low, Oklahoma has the opportunity to invest more resources in delinquency prevention and alternatives to incarceration in the youth legal system. The legislature has taken action in recent years to bring needed reforms to the youth justice system, including reducing and eliminating of some fines and fees assessed on justice-involved youth and their families (House Bill 3205), creating a juvenile expungement process (HB 1799), and the prohibiting the housing of youth in adult jails (HB 1282). However, there is more that legislators can do to make our youth legal system more fair for youth. [Jill Mencke / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Fear is an ineffective policy tool: While scares are integral to the recently passed Halloween season, fear is a year-round tool for some of Oklahoma’s elected officials. They create division among everyday Oklahomans by preying on our fears, concocting their own political gains as they turn neighbor against neighbor. [Shiloh Kantz/Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Stitt Cabinet official’s concerns over Oklahoma education agency finances prompted resignation: The governor’s former education secretary said she resigned from her position after three months because the state superintendent’s administration limited her oversight of his agency. Katherine Curry said she repeatedly asked for financial documents showing how the agency budgeted and spent money, but the Oklahoma State Department of Education never provided them. [Oklahoma Voice]

State Government News

State parks ‘duct taped and bailing wired’ to the limit, panel told: Oklahoma’s state parks have been “duct taped and bailing wired” so long that some are barely operable, Department of Tourism and Recreation Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt said Wednesday. Zumwalt said state parks have $350 million in maintenance backlogs on the books, including $200 million worth that are considered critical to continued operation. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma, Texas governors visit Israel for ‘solidarity mission’: The trip, coordinated by the Israel Consulate’s office in Houston and by the offices of both governors, would be short, said Humberto Cruz, the consulate’s academic affairs officer. Cruz said Stitt and Abbott would be in Israel for about 12 hours, then return home. [The Oklahoman]

Gov. Stitt tells Bartlesville crowd his focus is on tax cuts, education workforce: Gov. Kevin Stitt spoke with optimism Tuesday about the future of Oklahoma, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a business-friendly climate and leveraging the state’s strengths to overcome challenges. [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Federal Government News

Alabama’s Aderholt, Oklahoma’s Cole hope to chair powerful U.S. House Appropriations committee: Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, currently Rules Committee chairman, plans to run for the top Republican position on the spending panel and will make his announcement “at the appropriate time,” according to his communications director Melissa Stooksbury. [Oklahoma Voice]

Biden launches ‘Investing in Rural America’ push with Cabinet officials: The U.S. Department of Agriculture will distribute the funds across several program areas, including: $2 billion across 99 rural economic development projects in nine states and Puerto Rico, $1.7 billion for climate change mitigation and 81 conservation projects, $1.1 billion in just over 100 loans and grants for infrastructure upgrades, $274 million for high-speed internet, $145 million for renewable energy in rural communities. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tribal Nations News

Tulsa researcher, Shawnee Tribe will investigate root of substance abuse issues in Indigenous communities: The project aims to integrate clinical neuroscience and community-driven research, with a focus on cultural perspectives and knowledge. [KOSU]

Opinion: Tribal citizens share their stories on behalf of their ancestors, but also as Americans: Storytelling is a powerful tool. In the last month, we have all witnessed the release of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” the Martin Scorsese film providing an account of the Osage Reign of Terror, when more than 60 Osage people were killed for their headrights and the related financial assets. The events that provide the backdrop to this film happened in 1921, the same year as the Tulsa Race Massacre when over 300 Black Oklahomans were killed in the Greenwood District over similar jealousies. [heather ahtone / The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

Gov. Stitt establishes task force to bolster election security and campaign finance integrity in Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt has issued Executive Order 2023-29, creating the Campaign Finance and Election Threats Task Force. The purpose is to rigorously assess campaign finance, scrutinize foreign investment, and combat foreign interference in Oklahoma elections. [Fox 25]

Ryan Walters reported $5,000 campaign donation a year late. It may cost him: State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters has finally disclosed — a year late — a $5,000 donation to his 2022 campaign from a controversial political action committee. Walters was supposed to report the donation within 24 hours because it came in just days before the general election. His campaign on Friday filed a so-called “last-minute” report about the donation with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. [The Oklahoman]

Ryan Walters endorses Donald Trump, plans to join his reelection team: Oklahoma’s top education official has endorsed former President Donald Trump for reelection, a split from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s choice for the Republican nominee. [Oklahoma Voice]

Health News

Oklahoma doesn’t mandate sex ed, so some churches are trying to fill the gaps: Providing comprehensive sex education is a matter of faith for some Oklahoma churches. Some are filling gaps in a state that doesn’t require sex ed in its schools. [KOSU]

Millions of rural Americans rely on private wells. Few regularly test their water: More than 43 million Americans rely on private wells, which are subject to a patchwork of state and local regulations, including standards for new construction. But in most cases, residents are free to use outdated wells without having them tested or inspected. The practice is common despite concern about runoff from farms and industrial sites, plus cancer-causing minerals that can taint groundwater. [Oklahoma Voice]

A Tangle of Rules to Protect America’s Water Is Falling Short: America’s stewardship of one of its most precious resources, groundwater, relies on a patchwork of state and local rules so lax and outdated that in many places oversight is all but nonexistent, a New York Times analysis has found. [NY Times]

Ground broken on new Children’s Behavioral Health Center: The three-story facility, projected to be open by December 2026, will provide both inpatient and outpatient services. It will include 72 beds for short-term stabilization and long-term patient care. Additionally, it will include a gym, garden spaces and other features designed to enhance healing. [Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

Eight tied to Oklahoma biker gang shootout plead not guilty in mass arraignment: Oklahoma City police said the defendants were tied to a “shootout between several rival biker gangs” inside the Whiskey Barrel Saloon. [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

The Village on Walnut in OKC using unusual tech for affordable, historic neighborhood: A different kind of pocket neighborhood is being stitched onto the fabric of one of the oldest parts of Oklahoma City: The Village on Walnut, 22 new houses anchored by a historic home at NE 26 and Walnut Avenue. It’s different because of the nonprofit partnership developing it, the construction technique and materials used — insulating concrete forms, not lumber, think Legos filled with concrete — and because the land, until now, has been untouched since before statehood. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Extreme weather spurred high insurance payments for Oklahoma farmers: Anne Schechinger, an agricultural economist and the Environmental Working Group’s Midwest director, said severe weather prompted $118.7 billion in crop insurance payouts nationally from 2001-2022. Oklahoma ranked ninth in drought payments and fourth in freeze payments. Schechinger said insurance costs from weather tied to climate change have been increasing. [KOSU]

A federal jury in Kansas City awarded nearly $1.79 billion in a class-action lawsuit against the real estate industry. In their verdict on Tuesday, jurors found the National Association of Realtors and several major real estate companies had engaged in a conspiracy that “had the purpose or effect of raising, inflating or stabilizing broker commission rates paid by home sellers” and that their actions caused the plaintiffs “to pay more for real estate brokerage services when selling their homes than they would have paid absent the conspiracy.” [Journal Record]

Education News

Oklahoma’s House Bill 1934: Benefit to private school students or threat to public education funding?: House Bill 1934 is a voucher program written to help relieve tuition costs for students attending accredited private schools in Oklahoma. These vouchers can be responsible for up to $7,500 in tuition costs, but what does this mean for public schools and taxpayers? [KTUL]

Boeing commits $785,000 to Oklahoma STEM Education: Boeing unveiled a commitment of $785,000 aimed at fostering the growth of future STEM innovators, providing essential support to veterans and military families, and promoting economic advancement in underserved communities. [Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Karen Keith has big fundraising lead in Tulsa mayor’s race, campaign finance records indicate [Tulsa World]
  • Official Tulsa-themed Monopoly game unveiled after much public input [Tulsa World]
  • How the west was won: Film Row transformation triggering further downtown OKC development [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“When you’re responsible for something, you want to know details. That’s all I can say. I just needed information. … I never received information.”

-Katherine Curry, Gov. Stitt’s former education secretary, who said she resigned her position after repeatedly asking for financial documents showing how the agency budgeted and spent money, but the Oklahoma State Department of Education never provided them. [Oklahoma Voice]

Number of the Day


Rate of Oklahoma children under age 18 living in households where there was an uncertainty of having, or an inability to acquire, enough food for all household members because of insufficient money or other resources in the previous 12 months. [KIDS COUNT]

Policy Note

Food Insecurity Increased in 2022, With Severe Impact on Households With Children and Ongoing Racial Inequities: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual report on food security, showing that 44.2 million people (in 17.0 million households) in the U.S. could not afford enough food to eat at some point in 2022. Overall, food insecurity increased from 10.2 percent in 2021 to 12.8 percent in 2022 — resulting in 10.3 million more people, including 4.1 million more children, who lived in households that experienced food insecurity in 2022 compared to 2021 — reflecting higher food costs and the phasing out of many pandemic relief measures. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.

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