In The Know: COVID-19 deaths missing from nursing home data | Bill would reduce court fees | COVID & Oklahoma’s child care crisis

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 and COVID-19: Two Years Later) COVID-19 worsened an existing crisis for child care in Oklahoma: Countless Oklahomans rely on access to high-quality, affordable child care in order to work. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on our state’s child care industry, impacting parents’ ability to work and businesses’ ability to recruit and retain a reliable workforce. Due to underfunding, Oklahoma’s child care system for providers and families was in crisis long before the first COVID-19 case at a child care center. [Gabrielle Jacobi / OK Policy

Oklahoma News

At Least 537 COVID-19 Deaths Missing From State Nursing Home Data: At least 512 nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 are missing from state reports. Also unaccounted for in state reports are 25 nursing home staff who died from COVID-19. [Oklahoma Watch

Bill would reduce fees associated with convictions in Oklahoma courts: A bill moving through the Legislature would remove some fees charged to offenders convicted of certain crimes. Senate Bill 1458, by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, passed the Senate last week and now heads to the House for consideration. [Tulsa World

80% of applicants failed to qualify for Oklahoma’s $1,200 ‘Return to Work’ job incentive: A state program designed to lure employees off unemployment and back into the workforce last summer drew over 50,000 applications from workers hoping to snag the extra $1,200 offered. But problems with most of the applications led to more than 8-in-10 applications being rejected for various reasons, according to state officials. [Tulsa World

State Government News

School choice, controversial voucher bill divide Oklahoma Republicans: In a Republican state where GOP politicians occupy all of the highest offices, there’s usually few issues on which top elected officials disagree. But a controversial bill that would spend taxpayer dollars to fund private-school costs has divided Republican elected officials and their constituents. [The Oklahoman

  • Oklahoma lawmaker compares librarians to cockroaches, district disputes incident she outlines [KOSU
  • Column: Public schools remain the cornerstone of communities and democracy [Column / Tulsa World

Outlook: Keeping medical marijuana safe is goal of local lab, Oklahoma oversight agency: Oklahoma is producing so much medical marijuana, it likely exceeds the capacity of the state’s patients to consume it, a cannabis testing professional says. [Tulsa World

‘Prompt and Reasonable’: Why Oklahoma’s Public Records Standard Breeds Frustration: The state’s guidance under the Oklahoma Open Records Act is a “prompt and reasonable” standard, which in practical terms can mean anything from the same day to weeks, months or even years depending on the complexity of the request. “I think we’ve reached the point where everyone’s frustrated,” said Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association. [Oklahoma Watch

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford says he won’t debate Jackson Lahmeyer, calls appeals a ‘sideshow’: Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said he doesn’t plan to debate his Republican primary opponent, Jackson Lahmeyer, and he compared the Tulsa pastor’s calls for a debate to  a “sideshow.” [The Oklahoman

Health News

Outlook: St. John $27 million ICU expansion to help meet critical care needs of Tulsa, northeastern Oklahoma: Officials with Ascension St. John didn’t need a global pandemic to tell them that their ICU needed to grow. But COVID-19, which has continued to put a strain on hospital ICUs, definitely underscored the point. [Tulsa World

Economic Opportunity

$150k grant, other funding to help Afghan refugees in Tulsa with transportation: Afghan refugees who are starting new lives in Tulsa will soon have more options for getting around. Officials announced recently that some of the short- and longer-term transportation needs of refugees will be addressed through a $150,000 grant from Open Society Foundations. [Tulsa World

‘We aren’t just looking at what we can gain’: Alyssa Sperrazza on unionizing Starbucks: Your morning coffee might soon be coming with a side of worker power. On Feb. 9, employees at the Starbucks on Northwest 63rd Street and Grand Boulevard in Oklahoma City announced their intention to unionize. Of the approximately 9,000 company-operated Starbucks stores in the United States, the location is the 97th to file for unionization, and it was the first to do so in Oklahoma. [NonDoc

Gov. Stitt thinks this small, Oklahoma town is set to boom. Here’s why he might be right: For decades, Harrah has been just a small, quaint city on the far reaches of eastern Oklahoma County. But in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s State of the State address last month, he boasted that the city expects its population to double in the next three or four years. [The Oklahoman

Economy & Business News

Home prices continue to rise in OKC, Tulsa, nationwide: The median price for homes sold in February across the nation jumped to an all-time high of $389,500, representing a 16% year-over-year increase. The $235,000 price commanded in Oklahoma City was 11.6% higher than the median of a year ago, according to online brokerage Redfin. [The Journal Record

General News

Number of guns carried in Oklahoma, national airports rising at higher rate than passengers: The number of guns being carried into Oklahoma airports is rising above pre-pandemic levels, even as passenger volume is yet to fully recover. [The Oklahoman

Evacuating disabled refugees is Tulsan’s new mission in Ukraine: ‘The best protection is to get them out’: Carrie Moss has dedicated her life to helping people with disabilities. It’s the reason she went to Ukraine in the first place. It’s what’s kept her there for the last eight years. But the Tulsa native’s skills as a physical therapist are not what her patients need most from her right now. [Tulsa World

  • Devon pledges millions to help Ukrainian victims of war [The Journal Record
  • Oklahoma church hosts vigil in response to war in Ukraine [The Oklahoman
  • Pulitzer Prize winner watches factors that could indicate how Ukraine crisis might play out [Tulsa World

Quote of the Day

“We are not cutting state agencies. We are funding it. We are just going to take it off the backs of the people.”

-Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, speaking about Senate Bill 1458 that would remove some court fines and fees, which would then be replaced with state appropriations [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Child care facilities in Oklahoma that closed from 2015-2020. [Source: OK Policy Analysis of Oklahoma Child Care Resource and Referral Association data]

Policy Note

Make Child Care More Stable: Pay by Enrollment: As federal agencies and state administrators strategize how to spend new funds in this area sorely tested by the COVID-19 pandemic, they should not simply restore the system we had before, where subsidies do not meet families’ needs or cover the cost of providing high-quality ECE. Fragmentation in delivery, paired with perpetual underfunding, results in uneven quality and access to services, places financial burdens on families, and perpetuates inadequate wages for the ECE workforce. We need better policies to build a system that enables every child to thrive. That starts with investing in the backbone of our ECE system—child care providers. [New America]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.