In The Know: Changing ideas on Medicaid expansion; education funding in budget talks; boost for higher ed…

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

Conservative sentiment changing on Medicaid expansion: When it comes to Medicaid expansion, some Republican lawmakers are finding new meaning in the old phrase, if you can’t beat them, join them. Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature has long been opposed to accepting Medicaid expansion funding through the Affordable Care Act. But as several other red states have approved expansion plans, Oklahoma may be close behind — either through a Legislature-approved plan or statewide vote. [NewsOK ????] Contact your legislators to expand health coverage in Oklahoma by going to

Lawmakers determined to increase school funding but wrestle with how to designate it: Oklahoma’s public schools will be getting more money in the next budget year, two top-ranking legislators said Friday. The only real dispute is whether it will come with a mandated teacher pay increase. Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Depew, vice chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, told a Tulsa Regional Chamber breakfast that legislative leaders are in general agreement on boosting support for common education. [Tulsa World

Budget talks to decide if teachers get pay raises: Whether Oklahoma teachers receive pay raises next school year is likely to be dependent on how budget negotiations shake out at the state Legislature over the next several weeks. A bill to give teachers a $1,200 pay bump did not advance before a Thursday legislative deadline. A second bill that would grant teachers the same pay boost advanced, but with a catch. [NewsOK] Teacher pay raise boosts Oklahoma to 34th in nation, new rankings find. [Tulsa World]

Boost in funding could be coming for Higher Education: After a decade of cuts to higher education funding, all signs from the state Capitol appear that an increase in funding could be on the way, though not as much as state regents had hoped for. Speaking this week at a meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, Rep. Kevin Wallace, who is chairman of the Appropriations and Budgets Committee, said he expected a $28 million increase in funding for higher education next fiscal year. [NewsOK] Over the past two decades, a dramatically shrinking share of the higher education budget has come from the state.

Opportunity Scholarship among bills failing last week’s legislative deadline: Thursday’s third-reading deadline in the Oklahoma Legislature culled fewer than 100 bills in this session’s filings, among them a measure to expand a tax credit program for certain contributions to benefit private and public schools, and another that would have set up a system for measuring water flows for “treasured streams” in eastern Oklahoma. [Tulsa World] The scholarship tax credit bill would have diverted even more dollars from public education.

Legislation makes finding employment easier for those with criminal past: John Masquelier knows all too well how hard it can be for a former inmate in Oklahoma to carry on with life after prison. Finding a job can be especially tough for some, said Masquelier, who worked for 10 years as a probation officer and for the last two years as director at the Enid Community Corrections Center. [Journal Record ????]

Justice reform bill would reduce ‘excessive sentences’ and lower crime: It’s possible that Oklahoma will be able to reduce crime while at the same time reducing its high incarceration rate, the author of a criminal justice reform bill making headway at the Capitol said Friday. “Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana…they’ve all reduced crime and incarceration rates at the same time. I think it’s time for Oklahoma to do the same,” said state Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City. [Journal Record ????]

Five questions surrounding this year’s criminal justice reform bills: In past sessions, many criminal justice reform proposals have lost momentum by April, when the last major bill deadline hits. But this year, a broad coalition of groups have gotten behind a package of reform bills. “We’ve had some real movement on criminal justice reform here at the Capitol and we continue on that path, and we’ll continue in the conference committee process to push that issue,” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said on Thursday. [Oklahoma Watch]

Point of View: Moving on criminal justice reform: For the first time in recent history, Oklahoma’s incarcerated population declined by more than 1,000 state inmates from this time last year. Yet our state’s incarcerated population still includes more than 27,000 men and women. And while the decrease was a welcomed change, we have a long way to go to modernize our criminal justice system and end Oklahoma’s reputation as the top state for incarceration. [Gov. Kevin Stitt, Sen. Kim David and Rep. Jon Echols / NewsOK]

Unable to purchase execution equipment, Oklahoma poised to build the device itself: Monday will mark five years since the botched Clayton Lockett execution. As Oklahoma attempts to move forward with a new death penalty protocol, the state is finding that implementing it will be harder than anticipated. Whoever becomes the next person to be executed in Oklahoma is going to face an entirely different experience than the last one. [The Frontier]

Lawmakers approve bill to expand tax credit for affordable housing: Housing advocates are awaiting the governor’s signature on a bill that would expand the state’s affordable housing tax credit. House Bill 1411 eliminates the 150,000-population restriction on where the tax credit can be used. Currently, the credit can’t be used in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Cleveland counties because their populations exceed 150,000. [Journal Record]

Stitt signs controversial bill on drug-induced abortions: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday signed a controversial bill dealing with abortion. Senate Bill 614 requires those who perform medication abortions using Mifepristone to tell the patient in writing that it may be possible to reverse the effects of the drug. Critics say the ability to reverse a medication abortion is not based on science. [Tulsa World]

Stitt touts his plan for state at Americans for Prosperity town hall: Gov. Kevin Stitt spoke to a capacity crowd Friday in the InterBank Community Room in Kingfisher, at a town hall meeting hosted by the Oklahoma chapter of the conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. [Enid News & Eagle]

Public school’s switch to charter allows Epic to operate rural district: To save his financially imperiled school district, Panola Superintendent Brad Corcoran in 2017 pitched a plan to convert the traditional public district into a charter school. In becoming a charter, Panola Public Schools would turn over its management to a company affiliated with Epic Charter Schools, the largest online school in the state. The school board agreed. [Oklahoma Watch]

OKC district hikes fees, rent for charter schools: Local charter school leaders expressed surprise over a letter from the leader of Oklahoma City Public Schools calling for rent and administrative fee increases. In the letter, Superintendent Sean McDaniel outlines a “cost-neutral” agreement for charters that lease OKCPS-owned facilities “moving forward.” [NewsOK ????]

Community colleges serve diverse student population with limited resources: Oklahoma’s 14 community colleges serve students that range from high school students getting an early jump on college credits to displaced workers seeking a certification for new skills. The majority are part-time students. The average age is about 25. Together they represent 42 percent of the 222,000 students in Oklahoma’s public higher education system. [NewsOK ????]

Federal grants are preparing a more diverse student body in Oklahoma: The freshmen who enter Oklahoma colleges in 2025 are likely to be more racially diverse than today’s student body, thanks to three federal grants targeting 12,000 pupils in 48 schools across the state. Last fall, the University of Oklahoma K20 Center was awarded GEAR UP grants totaling $68 million to work with three cohorts of middle-schoolers — one urban, one rural and one suburban. [NewsOK????]

Education and eSports are trying to level up in Oklahoma: The high score keeps getting broken. The world of competitive video gaming has been ratcheted up to new heights in recent years, and several high schools and colleges are trying to take Oklahoma to the next level. “Take the Super Bowl and replace football with people playing a video game against each other,” says Michael Aguilar, the lead adviser for Sooner eSports at the University of Oklahoma. [NewsOK]

GOP’s 2020 offensive in Oklahoma Congressional race underway: The Republican campaign to unseat deep-red Oklahoma’s lone Democrat in Congress is officially underway after a GOP state lawmaker Wednesday jumped into the fray for a seat both parties expect to work fiercely to win in 2020. [AP News]

At OU regents meeting, alleged victims call for Title IX review: While the OU Board of Regents met in executive session this morning, two accusers at the center of sexual misconduct investigations into former President David Boren and former Vice President Tripp Hall called for the university to release its internal report and review its Title IX Office. [NonDoc]

Quote of the Day

“We can’t just say, ‘Don’t vote for that.’ We can’t just keep saying, ‘No, no, no.’ We have to come up with a plan to improve health care in Oklahoma.”

-Gov. Kevin Stitt, speaking about the possibility of Medicaid expansion going to a ballot question [Source: Enid News & Eagle]

Number of the Day


Estimated number of Oklahoma workers who would directly benefit if the minimum wage was increased to $15 by 2024.

[Source: Economic Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Syphilis is spreading across rural America: Public health officials say rural counties across the Midwest and West are becoming the new battleground. While syphilis is still concentrated in cities such as San Francisco, Atlanta and Las Vegas, its continued spread into places like Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma creates a new set of challenges. Compared with urban hubs, rural populations tend to have less access to public health resources, less experience with syphilis and less willingness to address it because of socially conservative views toward homosexuality and nonmarital sex. [The Daily Beast]

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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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