In The Know: Early voting begins today | Education relief funding for Oklahoma remains unspent | Don’t destroy public education

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: Don’t destroy public education: With back to school upon us, I can’t help but think about the state of affairs for Oklahoma’s public schools these days. I find myself feeling like Alice stepping through the looking glass – experiencing a world where up is down, black is white, and nothing is as it seems. And I wonder: Was it really just over four years ago that thousands of Oklahomans rallied to support our teachers and schools? [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record

Oklahoma News

Why Governor Stitt’s second round of education relief funding remains unspent: Nearly $18 million in federal coronavirus relief dollars for education has been in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s hands since January 2021 but has yet to be spent to help Oklahoma students recover from the pandemic. An effort to select projects has stalled while state officials work with federal agencies to stay in compliance. The state’s handling of an earlier allocation drew scrutiny from federal watchdogs. Even if projects are announced soon, the deadline for awardees to spend all funds is Sept. 30, 2023. [The Frontier & Oklahoma Watch]

  • Outgoing lawmaker sues state over open records regarding education funds [Tulsa World]
  • GOP lawmaker: State may have misspent relief funds [The Journal Record]

Early voting begins Thursday for runoff primary: Early voting for the August 23 Runoff Primary begins Thursday for voters in all seventy-seven (77) counties. Early voting is available Thursday, August 18 and Friday, August 19 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Early voting will also be available Saturday, August 20, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. [Oklahoma Election Board] | [OK Voter Portal]

  • Voting early for Oklahoma’s runoff primary election? Here’s everything you need to know [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma farmers and ranchers wait on the governor’s signature for an emergency order: Intense drought coupled with skyrocketing hay prices is devastating farmers and ranchers across the state. Oklahoma’s American Farmers and Ranchers Cooperative is asking for the government’s help. [KOKH]

Lawsuit not authorized over Oklahoma Veterans Commission appointee, national group says: The national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart said Wednesday that a local chapter was not authorized to sue Gov. Kevin Stitt’s pick for the Oklahoma Veterans Commission. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

White House Lists Ways Biden Administration Believes ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ Will Benefit Oklahoma: In a fact sheet distributed Tuesday, the White House listed the ways the administration believes Oklahoma will benefit from the law. [AP via News 9]

Tribal Nations News

FEMA wants to do a better job helping Native American tribes prep for disasters. Here’s how: Federal officials unveiled a new strategy Thursday to help tribal nations recover from natural disasters and prepare for worst-case events. [The Oklahoman] FEMA has earmarked $50 million in grants for tribes pursuing ways to ease burdens related to extreme weather. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Osage Nation receives $40M grant for broadband connectivity: The award will provide “critical infrastructure where high-speed internet is lacking within the Osage Nation,” the tribe said in a news release. [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

New poll shows Markwayne Mullin leads T.W. Shannon, tight GOP race for Oklahoma treasurer: After a low-key runoff campaign period, U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin has a 19-point lead over Oklahoma City banker T.W. Shannon in the Republican race to succeed U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, according to a new poll that shows the only tight GOP contest is for state treasurer. [The Oklahoman]

  • Russ, Jolley clash over legislative records during state treasurer debate [NonDoc]
  • Todd Russ defends banking record as Oklahoma state treasurer candidates trade barbs [The Oklahoman]

Labor commissioner candidate sues fellow Republican House member: State Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, is seeking damages from Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, because of comments made during an Aug. 8 news conference concerning descriptions of domestic abuse by Roberts in his 20-year-old divorce case. [Tulsa World]

Ex-Rep. Kendra Horn looks for comeback in Oklahoma: Kendra Horn stands out as a rare Democratic candidate in a blood-red state with both the experience and the national profile to draw national attention to her argument that the GOP has alienated enough voters to put an otherwise unwinnable race within reach. [Roll Call]

Oklahoma governor’s race: Joy Hofmeister starts ad campaign; Kevin Stitt keeps funding edge: With nearly a half-million dollars in campaign cash on hand, Joy Hofmeister’s gubernatorial campaign announced the launch of a “six-figure” commercial buy this week, while Gov. Kevin Stitt has twice as much in the bank as the race for governor enters the final three months. [The Oklahoman

  • Stitt campaign raises almost $950,000 in less than two months [Tulsa World]

Health News

Monkeypox vaccination clinic to open in Tulsa, Dr. Bruce Dart says: Tulsans who are eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine can now make an appointment with the Tulsa Health Department as vaccine rollouts will begin on Monday, August 22, according to Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Criminal Justice News

Stitt grants death row inmate 60-day reprieve: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt granted death row inmate Richard Glossip a 60-day stay of execution on Tuesday while a state appeals court considers Glossip’s claim of innocence. [The Journal Record]

Five corrections officers face felony charges after inmate was beaten: Five corrections officers at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester are facing felony charges after surveillance video shows the alleged beating of an inmate. [Tulsa World] | [The Black Wall Street Times] | [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma ranks bottom six in jails/prisons vs colleges: A report on education and incarceration by Studee shows that Oklahoma ranks in the bottom six in the nation for the amount of jails/prisons vs colleges. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Economic Opportunity

Pending sales fall through as real estate markets begin to cool: More potential homebuyers have tapped the brakes on sales or backed out altogether nationwide recently, including in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as mortgage rates have risen and home inventory shortages have begun to ease. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma entrepreneurs launch digital bank Totem: Two Oklahoma-born entrepreneurs recently launched Totem, a digital banking app created by and especially for Native Americans. [The Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Arkansas, Oklahoma team up in drone technology sector: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday announced they had agreed to collaborate to boost the advanced mobility, or AM, industry, which focuses on new technologies driving transportation methods into the future. [The Journal Record]

  • ‘No. 1 in drone readiness’: Oklahoma, Arkansas to create hub for growing tech sector [Tulsa World]

‘It’s going to get worse’: open jobs outpacing workforce in Oklahoma: Lawmakers in Oklahoma are still trying to figure out what to do with federal pandemic relief funds, and one option is becoming more clear: the need to address a worker shortage in the state. [KOKH]

  • State Chamber says Oklahoma needs better workforce plan to land jobs like Panasonic [KTUL]
  • From OK Policy: Protecting Oklahoma’s economy requires labor force-oriented solutions [OK Policy]

Education News

Study finds Oklahoma teacher pay gap is second highest in the nation: A study of national wage data shows Oklahoma teachers have one of the largest pay disparities in the country when compared to workers with similar jobs. The study by the Economic Policy Institute finds that Oklahoma teachers are paid more than 30 percent less than their college-educated counterparts. [KGOU]

  • New study shows gap between teacher pay, other professionals [KFOR]

Mustang Public Schools sends ‘letter of appeal’ to State Board of Education: Mustang Public Schools Superintendent Charles Bradley has written a letter of appeal to the Oklahoma State Board of Education asking them to reconsider their recent downgrade of the district’s accreditation. [NonDoc]

Column: Back to school is getting more expensive: Each year at tax time, our preparer asks if my husband has met the $300 allowable deduction for out-of-pocket expenses spent on his public school classroom. I laugh each time. That’s met usually within the first few weeks of school. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County sheriff, local police align on school safety: The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday announced a multi-agency partnership to increase safety for schools in eastern parts of the county. [The Oklahoman]

General News

One year after Afghanistan evacuations, local services help Tulsa refugees build new lives: With their immediate basic needs handled, Afghan refugees in Tulsa are entering a new, equally challenging phase of life in their new home. Among the concerns in front of them now are job support, transportation, language classes and becoming permanent U.S. residents. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahomans come together to help Afghan refugee children with back-to-school needs [The Oklahoman]

‘Something that can’t be replaced’: What a turnpike project could mean for Oklahoma wildlife: Some animals in the path of the turnpike are protected by federal law, such as eagles and whooping cranes. But those protections only go so far when confronted with the interests of industry. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Nine Tulsa City Council seats, three charter amendments on the ballot beginning Thursday [Tulsa World]
  • OKC Council votes to seek bids for Fairgrounds arena [The Journal Record]
  • Oklahoma City Council approves plan for MAPS 4 as a $1.1 billion initiative [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“We have not served the children of Oklahoma, we have put undue stress on our education system, and we are now indebted to the federal government an unknown amount. We’re looking at the possibility of five out of every six dollars possibly being misspent.”

-State Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, in a press conference announcing his lawsuit to get records related to spending of federal relief funds for education. He said the state has failed to properly monitor and review the expenditures from the federal dollars it received for education relating to the pandemic [Journal Record]

Number of the Day

$17.7 million

The amount of federal coronavirus relief dollars for education in Oklahoma that has been unspent by the governor’s office since January 2021. The U.S. Department of Education placed conditions on how Oklahoma could distribute the fund due to state officials’ lack of communication with federal monitors and inability to account for nearly $40 million received under the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund in 2020. [The Frontier & Oklahoma Watch]

Policy Note

States with the toughest abortion laws have the weakest maternal supports, data shows: Nearly two dozen states, including Oklahoma, have moved to restrict abortion or ban it altogether since the reversal of Roe v. Wade — meaning more people, especially those with low incomes and from marginalized communities, will be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. So are states prepared to pay for the infrastructure needed to support these parents and children? The data paints a grim picture for many families: Mothers and children in states with the toughest abortion restrictions tend to have less access to health care and financial assistance, as well as worse health outcomes. [NPR]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.

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