In The Know: CARES funds should be invested in students | Rural schools begin classes | Schools need cleaning supplies

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

Undedicated higher education CARES funding should be invested in students’ immediate needs: Colleges and universities should dedicate CARES Act funding to help ensure students have access to necessities such as food and housing. This can significantly reduce the number of students forced to drop out of school due to financial hardship and help secure Oklahoma’s economic recovery in the aftermath of COVID-19. [Josie Phillips / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Businesses led change when elected officials didn’t: While many elected officials shirked governing responsibilities to help limit the virus, I want to recognize companies and corporations who stepped forward and required masks in their places of business even when it wasn’t a community or state requirement. Small businesses throughout the state were first to respond with mask requirements, followed by national companies like Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, Lowe’s, Target, McDonald’s and more. Following the corporate announcements, it became much more common to see mask wearing in public than it had been previously. I believe the business sector leadership helped make mask wearing more socially acceptable as several communities began passing local ordinances. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Stitt’s grants to private school students could reach more than impoverished families: Federal aid funds Gov. Kevin Stitt said would support low-income private school students could become available to families earning more than $100,000 a year. The $10 million Stay in School Fund program will distribute $6,500 grants to 1,500 families with children in private schools. The grants would help keep tuition affordable during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund program comes from nearly $40 million in federal stimulus funds that Stitt received to support education. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Gov. Stitt’s GEER plan widens the gap in access to technology and online learning for low-income students and students of color.

Back to school: Rural Oklahoma students are the first to head back into classrooms since March: The start of school is still weeks away in many urban and suburban districts, but children in rural Oklahoma have already begun their return. They are the first public school students back in classrooms since state education officials ordered every school closed in March when the COVID-19 pandemic struck — and at least one rural district has already had to contend with a confirmed employee case. [Tulsa World]

OEA: Teachers struggle to find cleaning supplies for classes: Educators, school districts and students are struggling to find cleaning supplies as in-person classes prepare to resume later this month, the state’s largest teacher’s union said. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

COVID-19: 17 deaths reported with 1,101 new cases in Oklahoma: The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced another 1,101 COVID-19 cases Wednesday with 17 deaths from the virus. The number of fatal cases has been higher only once in daily reporting, when 21 deaths were announced April 21. Oklahoma’s death toll is at 583. Only one of those deaths was identified in the past 24 hours, and two, both women over the age of 65, were in Tulsa County, which saw 325 new cases Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

  • Test processing times, accuracy differences posing potential problems for schools, businesses [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Trump: Birx to visit Oklahoma with targeted guidance: Dr. Deborah Birx, a leading member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, will visit Oklahoma next week to provide “targeted” guidance to the state, President Donald Trump said Wednesday. Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, will make the stop during a multi-state tour, Trump said.[The Oklahoman]  Over the weekend, Dr. Birx told CNN the COVID-19 pandemic had entered a new phase, saying the virus “is extraordinarily widespread” and has entered rural communities. [FOX25]

Oklahoma nursing homes get another month to apply for CARES Act grants: The Oklahoma State Department of Health is extending the deadline to Aug. 31 for nursing homes and long-term facilities to apply for CARES Act funding to reduce the presence of COVID-19 in their facilities. [Gannett via the Pawhuska Journal-Capital]

State Government News

State gives COVID-19 contracts to Gov. Stitt’s former campaign manager and adviser: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s former campaign manager and staff adviser is earning up to $130,000 in CARES Act funds on a state contract. Donelle Harder, 34, left Stitt’s office in February at a salary of $140,600. [Tulsa World]

Hunter argues state, feds can have jurisdiction in some crimes involving Indians: Laying out an approach to counter hundreds of anticipated criminal appeals stemming from a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Oklahoma attorney general’s office argued Tuesday that the state shares jurisdiction with the federal government on crimes committed by non-Indians against Indians on reservations. [The Oklahoman]

Delayed state income tax payments obscure Oklahoma’s continued economic weakness: The tax revenue outlook for Oklahoma’s state and local governments remained grim in July despite a sharp income tax revenue increase attributed to a three-month delay in the filing deadline, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

New federal stimulus needs to be focused where it does greatest good, U.S. Sen. Lankford says: Likening the nation’s economy to the coronavirus, U.S. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said Wednesday that the government’s next rescue package shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Norman police chief, city officials, seek to clarify ‘misinformation’ about police budget: Norman Police Chief Kevin Foster said Wednesday that calls for service have not been affected since the city council reallocated $865,321 from the police department’s proposed $31.1 million fiscal 2021 budget. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma County Jail administrator works to catch up coronavirus testing: Greg Williams, Oklahoma County Jail administrator, said Tuesday at the end of the workday that the numbers we got from his communications team about Oklahoma County Jail COVID positive tests were “good right now, but that will change, probably in the next hour.” [OKC Free Press]

Tulsa police release video of woman’s arrest outside Trump rally: A Tulsa police sergeant who oversees the agency’s special event planning and a member of President Donald Trump’s private campaign security team were behind the directive to arrest a local teacher before Trump’s June 20 Tulsa campaign rally. Newly released Tulsa police body camera footage shows the arrest of Sheila Buck, who sat inside the event perimeter while wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt as an act of protest. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Hope in a time of crisis: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought uncertain times and a growing list of worries to many Tulsans. The Rev. Jeff Jaynes, executive director of Restore Hope Ministries, believes losing your home shouldn’t be one of them. Founded in 1978, Restore Hope has worked toward hunger reduction and focused on homeless prevention efforts about 25 years ago. However, the current health and economic situation has prompted a new sense of urgency from community leaders regarding Tulsa’s affordable housing and eviction disaster. [Tulsa People] 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.

Economy & Business News

After Tesla battle, state proves it’s ready for auto industry: In the countdown leading up to Tesla’s recent selection of a site for its new cybertruck production plant, Oklahoma secured no fewer than 2,700 resumes of engineers and other highly trained individuals to allay any concerns that CEO Elon Musk might have had about the depth of the local talent pool. [The Journal Record]

Hiring continues as Amazon opens new fulfillment center in Tulsa: E-commerce giant Amazon opened its new fulfillment center in Tulsa this week, a company spokeswoman said Wednesday. The four-story, roughly 2.5-million-square-foot facility at 4040 N. 125th East Ave. will employ more than 1,500 people when it completes hiring, which is scheduled to continue the next few weeks. [Tulsa World]

General News

US Census Bureau urging Oklahomans to fill out 2020 census form before Sept. 30th deadline: So far, Oklahoma’s 2020 Census response rate is significantly lower than 2010. Oklahoma is ranked 42nd in the nation right now for filling out the form. This could severely hurt the state in receiving critical federal funding for schools, hospitals, and natural disaster relief. [KTUL]

  • The census can play a critical role in securing growth and prosperity for rural communities across the state. [Oklahoma Farm Bureau]
  • Census self-reporting in Lawton just north of 53-percent as deadline nears [KSWO]

Partisan ‘pink-slime journalism’ sites target Oklahoma: In 2019, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism discovered 450 websites designed to look like local and business news outlets which were actually part of a national network of “pink slime journalism” sites promoting conservative political interests. [NonDoc]

Dozens of bias incidents reported at OU over two-year period: During a two-year period at the University of Oklahoma, dozens of complaints over alleged biased or prejudiced behavior were reported, but details about the incidents remain unclear. [The Oklahoman]

Grand jury hears testimony on Boren: A criminal investigation of David Boren entered a new phase Wednesday when the state’s multicounty grand jury got involved. Grand jurors heard from witnesses about the retired University of Oklahoma president for the first time. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC downtown event centers poised for reopening [The Journal Record]
  • Applications open for second phase of OKC small business assistance [The Oklahoman]
  • Video: Unite Norman co-founder seen throwing brick at backing car [The Oklahoman]
  • Accusations fly as Tulsa City Council discusses Greenwood Mural [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Two Tulsa city councilors think their proposal could keep Black Lives Matter street painting in Greenwood [Tulsa World]
  • City-hired consulting firm recommends creation of independent organization to manage downtown Tulsa [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Doctor’s note, face shield required as mask alternative at Rogers County Courthouse [Claremore Daily Progress]
  • McAlester to require facial coverings at athletic events [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Some casinos suspend smoking as part of COVID-19 response [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Right now, we have districts competing with other districts for access to these supplies, and someone has to lose out. That’s not acceptable.”

-State Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, a former educator, commenting on the difficulty in procuring cleaning supplies. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Number of the Day


Drop in the rate of violent crime reported to Oklahoma law enforcement between 2010 and 2018

[Source: Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Many Americans Are Convinced Crime Is Rising In The U.S. They’re Wrong: During a 10-year span, the national Survey of Economic Expectations revealed something important about American fear: We are terrible at estimating our risk of crime — much worse than we are at guessing the danger of other bad things. Across that decade, respondents put their chance of being robbed in the coming year at about 15 percent. Looking back, the actual rate of robbery was 1.2 percent. In other words, we feel the risk of crime more acutely. We are certain crime is rising when it isn’t; convinced our risk of victimization is higher than it actually is. And in a summer when the president is sending federal agents to crack down on crime in major cities and local politicians are arguing over the risks of defunding the police, that disconnect matters. In an age of anxiety, crime may be one of our most misleading fears. [FiveThirtyEight]

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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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