In The Know: COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise | ‘1619 Project’ focus on proposed bill | Oklahomans deserve budget transparency

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

Policy Matters: Three days in May: How long do you think Oklahomans were able to review the state’s $7.7 billion budget between the time it was publicly released and when it was sent to the governor for signature? Three days. (Which, by the way, was the nation’s second shortest such time frame last year.) My colleague Paul Shinn wrote a piece on the Oklahoma Policy Institute blog last week about his three decades of watching the state’s budget process. During that time, he noted that Oklahoma has moved further away from transparency. But it doesn’t have to be this way. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Health News

COVID-19 hospitalizations on five-week rise with data still showing vaccines highly effective at preventing severe illness: COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide have risen for five weeks now — up to a three-day average of 744 from a recent low of 399 — underscoring the importance of vaccination and booster shots. [Tulsa World]

  • The state’s seven-day average in new coronavirus cases dropped 1,250 per day. [KOSU]
  • City council urges city to talk about COVID preventions [Public Radio Tulsa]

Editorial: The kids are not OK: In a rare public advisory, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy declared that America’s youth are facing a “devastating” mental health crisis, worsened by the pandemic. The 53-page report has startling statistics, including a significant increase in self reports of youth depression, anxiety and emergency room visits for mental health issues. Suicide attempts among adolescent girls in the U.S. jumped 51% in early 2021 as compared to the same time in 2019. For boys it increased 4%. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

State Government News

As critical race theory stirs national debate, Oklahoma bill seeks to alter teaching of slavery: A Sequoyah County lawmaker has filed a bill that would outlaw the teaching that America was unique in its use of slavery and takes aim at a New York Times’ project that sought to highlight the role slavery played in America’s founding. House Bill 2988, authored by Rep. Jim Olsen, R-Roland, would prevent the teaching that one race is the unique oppressor in the institution of slavery, that another race is the unique victim in the institution of slavery, or that America had slavery more extensively and for a later period of time than other nations. [The Oklahoman] He said the measure, which he believes is the first of its kind, has garnered strong support among his colleagues. He also said a similar measure is in the works in Missouri. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle] Olsen, who said he hasn’t studied “The 1619 Project” in its entirety, has in the past objected to such things as implicit bias training for physicians and teaching anything that might suggest racial inequality today. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Sen. Inhofe’s influence seen in defense bill, which heads to Biden’s desk: The Senate on Wednesday sent President Joe Biden a defense bill that reflects Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe’s influence on the total cost and on some policy provisions. [The Oklahoman] U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, got a lot of things he wanted in the defense bill that was passed and sent to President Joe Biden on Wednesday, but F-35s for the Air National Guard’s 138th Fighter Wing based in Tulsa were not among them. [Tulsa World] The bill, centered on $768 billion allocated for defense spending, passed the U.S. Senate Wednesday on an 89-10 vote, after it passed the U.S. House of Representatives Dec. 7 by a 363-70 vote. [The Lawton Constitution]

Justice for Greenwood calls for U.S. Department of Justice probe into Tulsa Race Massacre: A Tulsa advocacy group that has long pursued restitution for survivors and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a federal investigation into the century-old event. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

‘Conflict’ brews with end of Cherokee, Choctaw hunting and fishing compacts: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office confirmed Monday that he will not renew the state’s hunting and fishing compacts with the Cherokee Nation and Choctaw Nation, which are set to expire Dec. 31. [NonDoc] The Cherokee and Choctaw nations will offer new hunting rights to their members as a compact between the state of Oklahoma and the tribes is set to expire at the end of this month. The end of the agreement also is expected to cut revenue for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. [The Oklahoman]

Cherokee Nation unveils plan for new Tahlequah hospital: The Cherokee Nation is planning a new $400 million health care facility in Tahlequah to replace the 40-year-old W.W. Hastings Hospital. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Frozen in time: An Oklahoma family still seeks answers one year after deadly police encounter: One year after her brother Julian Rose was killed during a police shooting in Glenpool, Okla., Autumn Rose says the family still feels frozen in time, reliving the grief. [KOSU]

Economic Opportunity

Evictions On The Rise Months After Federal Moratorium Ends: There was a brief lull in evictions after the ban ended. But housing advocates say they’re on the rise in many parts of the country —- though numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels due to the infusion of federal rental assistance and other pandemic-related assistance like expanded child tax credit payments that are also set to end. [AP News / News 9]

Economy & Business News

Fired nurse to get her day in court: Oklahoma Supreme Court justices on the losing side of a recent 5-4 split decision contend the ruling could weaken Oklahoma’s at-will employment law and the right of employers to manage their businesses. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Report: Oklahoma 1st in regional teacher pay with cost of living, taxes factored in: Oklahoma teachers have the highest average salary in a seven-state region when adjusted for cost of living and state and local tax burdens, according to a report released Wednesday by a state legislative watchdog office. When the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency analyzed the “real buying power” of teachers in Oklahoma to those in neighboring states, local educators came out on top with an average 2019 salary of $55,161. [The Oklahoman]

Even with green light, few Oklahoma schools are requiring masks: More than 60 private schools and public school districts required their students to mask up this fall. That’s a far cry from the hundreds of public school districts that had mask mandates last school year. The Centers for Disease Control and Oklahoma’s State Department of Education recommend students mask in classrooms. But political and legal realities have made it incredibly difficult for schools to require them. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

State to Epic Charter Schools: $9.1 million is correct amount owed back for excessive admin costs: After a yearlong review, the Oklahoma State Department of Education has revised the amount it believes Epic Charter Schools owes back to the state for excessive administrative spending between 2015 and 2019 from $11.2 million to $9.1 million. [Tulsa World]

Staffing issues force Carver Middle School to distance learning: Staff absences are prompting another Tulsa Public Schools campus to suspend in-person classes, as Carver Middle School will pivot to distance learning Thursday. As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, seven Carver faculty members had called in absent for Thursday. [Tulsa World]

General News

‘It’s about making a difference.’ Dunbar library celebrates 100th anniversary in NE OKC: Little known racial history surrounding local public libraries is being shared publicly as the Metropolitan Library System commemorates a century of service to northeast Oklahoma City. The 1921 opening of the Dunbar Library was the local library system’s way of offering services to Black residents, but it came as the result of that same system excluding them from accessing books at Carnegie Library, which had been the only public library in the city at that time. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa County Commissioner Ron Peters announces retirement effective next month [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • City facing workforce crunch with applicants for nonsworn jobs ‘looking at the dollars’ [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We have to own that history and learn from that history to create equality, diversity, and inclusion for all of our communities.”

-Larry Nash White, OKC Metropolitan Library System executive director, speaking about the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Dunbar Library branch. The city opened the branch as a separate library for Black residents because they were barred from the city’s only library at the time [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults with very low and low financial well-being score ranges, which ranks the state 44th nationally. The national average is 18%. [Prosperity Now]

Policy Note

Wage inequality continued to increase in 2020: Newly available wage data from the Social Security Administration allow us to analyze wage trends for the top 1.0% and other very high earners as well as for the bottom 90% during 2020. The upward distribution of wages from the bottom 90% to the top 1.0% that was evident over the period from 1979 to 2019 was especially strong in the 2020 pandemic year, yielding historically high wage levels and shares of all wages for the top 1.0% and 0.1%. Correspondingly, the share of wages earned by the bottom 95% fell in 2020. [Economic Policy Institute]

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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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