In The Know: Education priorities for 2022 session | Military medical teams provide ‘immense relief’ | SoonerCare virtual town halls

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 hasn’t always been inclusive of our immigrant communities. It’s time to change that: There are nearly 237,000 immigrant residents in Oklahoma, making up about 6.1 percent of the state’s population. These individuals have built lives, raised families, and become an integral part of our communities, but for many years, legislation has treated our immigrant residents as threats rather than neighbors. Oklahoma’s immigrants want their families to thrive, but frequently, unnecessary barriers keep them from being able to realize their full potential— both for themselves and their contributions to our communities. [Gabriela Ramirez-Perez / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Teacher pay and ’empowerment’ accounts: Lawmakers debate education priorities: Oklahoma lawmakers filed approximately 768 education-related bills for the 2022 session, but the leaders of the Legislature’s education committees have said they are most focused on the ones aimed at promoting workforce development and keeping teachers in the classroom. [NonDoc

  • (Audio) Capitol Insider: Oklahoma House Will Not Hear Senate School Choice Bill [KGOU] [The Journal Record
  • Bob Doucette: Public education’s 30-year neglect needs a real cure, not half-measure treatments [Column / Tulsa World
  • Great teachers have always valued social-emotional learning [Opinion / NonDoc]
  • Viewpoint: Oklahoma legislators should remember to ask our teachers, educators what they need [Opinion / The Oklahoman

‘Immense relief’: Military medical teams give needed support to OKC hospitals amid COVID wave: Dressed in the same scrubs their civilian counterparts wear, the military members in Oklahoma City hospitals look like any other health care workers. After a few days of training and onboarding, the teams have quickly gotten to work at OU Medical Center and Integris Health hospitals in Oklahoma City, offering extra support as the hospitals have struggled with the impact of the omicron surge on their staffing and capacity. [The Oklahoman]

OK health leaders to host SoonerCare virtual town halls: SoonerCare members have the opportunity to provide feedback to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority on improving health care for them and their families. OHCA will host three virtual town halls on Friday, Feb. 18. [KFOR

Health News

Medical, nursing school enrollment numbers paint complicated picture of Oklahoma health care: As a teen, Spencer Garrett dreamed of going to business school and someday becoming a CEO. But the more she thought about her career trajectory, the more she realized she loved helping people, and the more she wanted to see the day-to-day results of her actions making a difference. After exploring a hospital through a high school leadership program, Garrett’s decision was made. She wanted to be a nurse. Within a few years, a pandemic was raging across the country. Garrett’s choice had been a timely one. [The Oklahoman

Editorial: Keep our kids alive by fighting ‘epidemic’ of Oklahoma youth suicide: During an average year, Oklahoma has about 32% more kids ages 10-17 dying by suicide and accidental drug overdoses than the rest of the nation. Now, that rate has morphed into an “epidemic,” say the state’s brain health advocates. Our kids are hurting, and we have to act now. [Editorial / Tulsa World

State Government News

Audit: Pay for top Oklahoma Health Department job increased several times during pandemic: The annual salary for the state’s health commissioner had been $189,000 in 2019, before the start of the pandemic. By Jan. 1, 2021, the pay for the top job at the Oklahoma Health Department had increased to $335,160, according to an investigative audit report released last week. [The Oklahoman]

Political notebook: Legislature’s committee agendas chock full to start the week: The second week of the 2022 legislative session gets off to a quick start with several measures of note scheduled for their initial committee hearings. [Tulsa World

We fact-checked Gov. Kevin Stitt’s State of the State address: Gov. Kevin Stitt touted his job creation skills and criticized public schools during his fourth State of the State speech Monday. Stitt had hard numbers to back up many of his remarks, but we found a few spots where the facts got blurry. The Frontier used public records, and checked with state agencies and other sources to verify some of the governor’s claims. [The Frontier

  • Oklahoma governor knocks McGirt ruling [Cherokee Pheonix]
  • Behind the manslaughter conviction called out by Stitt: A complex case and a grieving family [The Oklahoman
  • Stitt calls for infrastructure boost [Southwest Ledger]

Recently from OK Policy: OK Policy’s State of the State Response, 2022: While we heard a lot of rhetoric in today’s State of the State address, we heard precious little that builds bipartisan solutions helping Oklahomans live healthier lives, raise thriving families, and make our communities safer. 

Lawmakers advance millions to increase nursing in state: Grappling with one of the lowest nursing rates in the country, Oklahoma lawmakers are fast-tracking a plan that would allocate millions in federal coronavirus aid to beef up infrastructure at colleges and universities in a bid to expand the training pipeline. [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]

Federal Government News

Rep. Tom Cole wants lawmakers with student debt barred from potential loan forgiveness: Saying lawmakers shouldn’t put their own pocketbooks above policy, Rep. Tom Cole introduced legislation this week that would bar members of Congress with student loan debt from participating in any program to eliminate or reduce the debt. [The Oklahoman]  It also would bar members of Congress from any service- or employment-based student loan cancellation for time served as a Member of Congress. [The Lawton Constitution]

State rep: Congress not eyeing salary caps for nurses: There are no efforts underway in Congress to try to put a cap on nurses’ salaries, though some federal lawmakers have expressed concerns recently about health care staffing companies potentially padding revenues with taxpayer-provided pandemic relief funds. [The Journal Record

Poll: Americans find Black women nominees more qualified than Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court: Within the Supreme Court and like most major corporations and industries, there have always been qualified Black candidates. Yet being selected for a job, even as high as the Supreme Court, is rarely based on mere qualifications. [The Black Wall Street Times

Tribal Nations News

Violence Against Women Act reauthorization would expand jurisdiction of tribal courts: A bipartisan agreement to reauthorize a bill to protect women from domestic violence will help tribal authorities streamline the process for prosecuting domestic violence crimes in Indian Country. [KOSU

Chief Chat: With new session underway, Cherokee Nation has many friends in Legislature: Cherokee Nation citizens can be found all over the world, but the largest Cherokee communities are right here on our 14-county reservation in Northeastern Oklahoma. We know that over the long term, a prosperous Cherokee Nation and a prosperous Oklahoma go hand in hand. That is why we pay close attention to what happens at the Oklahoma State Legislature. [Tahlequah Daily Press

Voting and Election News

‘Aggressively moderate Democrat:’ Joy Hofmeister talks about her politics as she gears up for gubernatorial run: When Joy Hofmeister announced last year she would run for governor in 2022, it wasn’t a surprise. Her name had been tossed around for the last couple years as a potential opponent for incumbent Republican Kevin Stitt. But what did come as a surprise for some was that Hofmeister, a lifelong Republican, was running as a Democrat. [The Frontier

James Lankford buys ad time as opponent fumes about conservative group’s endorsement: A conservative group’s endorsement of Sen. James Lankford sparked a backlash this week from a Republican challenger and supporters who have sought to portray the Oklahoma senator as out of step with the GOP. [The Oklahoman]

Ginnie Graham: Swing states showing big-time fights over voting laws: Oklahoma lawmakers have proposed some pretty bad bills, but they got one thing right: voting rights and processes have been largely left alone. [Column / Tulsa World

Criminal Justice News

Rebecca Hogue receives 16 months in prison with time served, judge says: Rebecca Hogue — the Norman mother convicted of first-degree murder after her former boyfriend killed her son — will receive 16 months in prison, lowered to 13 months with time served. [The Norman Transcript] Hogue was convicted of enabling child abuse in the 2020 death of her 2-year-old son was sentenced Friday to just over a year in prison under the state’s failure-to-protect law. [AP] Sentencing Hogue, Judge Michael Tupper told her she did “not deserve to die in prison”. [BBC]

Dying on Tulsa Time: The Death Penalty Information Center also dives into the conditions in a handful of counties that account for an outsize number of executions. Just five counties—Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, and Bexar counties in Texas and Oklahoma County, Okla.—account for 20 percent of all executions in this country since 1976. [The Nation]

New diversion program being pursued by OKC criminal justice reform advocate: When Tina Brown was working as a prosecutor and public defender, she met a lot of people in the criminal justice system who needed a way out that she didn’t see available. Now, she has started exploring a criminal justice reform that would focus on diversion before arrest for low-level offenders. [The Oklahoman]

Gun thefts from vehicles up in Norman, following similar pattern in states with few regulations: Norman’s increase in gun thefts from vehicles follows trends in other states that have made it easier to carry on the road, but some experts have cited factors beyond permitless carry as reason for the spike. [The Norman Transcript]

Economic Opportunity

Drought concerns on rise among wheat, cattle producers: Oklahoma’s drought status continues to intensify, and rainfall within the next few weeks is crucial for a profitable 2022 wheat crop, especially in the northwestern part of the state. [The Journal Record

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma Customers Paid Billions for Natural Gas In Last Winter’s Storm. Here’s Who Cashed In: A year after an extreme winter storm gripped Oklahoma and the central United States, utility customers are finally getting a look at which companies sold natural gas during a record price spike. [Oklahoma Watch

Report reflects enormous impact of energy industry on Oklahoma: Through depths of a historically deep recession in 2020 and its long-lingering after-effects, the energy industry has continued to serve as a vital economic engine for the state, according to a report produced by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board that reexamines the darkest earliest days of the pandemic. [The Journal Record

Where are Oklahoma’s unplugged oil wells hiding? Will infrastructure funds reveal them?: Hundreds of thousands of wells have been drilled throughout Oklahoma history, propelling the state’s economy for decades.  But for all the effort put into drilling wells, the state has for years had a startlingly narrow idea of how many non-operational “orphaned wells” are in existence. Even fewer have been plugged, sometimes sitting unused for years at a time. [The Oklahoman

Oklahoma Local News

  • City departments’ struggle to maintain staffing levels highlighted in early budget proposals [The Oklahoman
  • Altus seeks deal to save ambulance service [Southwest Ledger]
  • Black History Month: 20 Black-owned restaurants in OKC to visit all year long [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“From an education perspective, where my focus really is going to be this year is on the workforce and making sure we work together. I can tell you right now, we need teachers, we need nurses, we need engineers. I’m hearing from businesses all over the state, and really all over the country. We know we have workforce shortages in those different critical skill sets, so let’s figure out how we produce those people and get them interested and exposed while being innovative doing that.”

– Senate Education Committee Chairman Adam Pugh (R-Edmond), speaking on the Legislature’s education committee priorities for the 2022 session, which are promoting workforce development and keeping teachers in the classroom [NonDoc]

Number of the Day

236,882

Number of immigrants in Oklahoma in 2018, comprising 6 percent of the state population

[Source: American Immigration Council]

New from OK Policy: Oklahoma and the economy benefit from immigration, and our lawmakers have the responsibility to look after those they govern, regardless of immigration status.

Policy Note

The impact of DACA Nine years after implementation: New FWD.us analysis described below gives fresh insight into just how much DACA recipients’ lives have changed in the nine years since the policy was implemented. With DACA, these Dreamers have grown to become graduates, professionals, and parents of more than 400,000 U.S. citizen children. There is no question that DACA, with both its opportunities and limitations, has changed the course of their lives in America, and that their futures, and their families’ futures, are deeply intertwined with the future of the policy. [FWD.us]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristin Wells joined OK Policy in October 2021 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. 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.

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