In The Know: Employees union to sue Dept of Health; Medicaid rule raising concerns; OK lags in after-school suppers for kids…

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

Oklahoma employees union to sue Health Department over layoffs: On Dec. 8, Lana Shaffer got the message to pack up her desk at the Harper County Health Department and not come back. After 16 years of service, Shaffer was told the Oklahoma State Department of Health didn’t have the funds to pay her and most of her colleagues in the partner engagement office, which worked with communities to get grants and other help for their health-improvement projects. [NewsOK]

Medicaid work rule raising concerns over lost coverage: While Oklahoma officials work to implement Medicaid work requirements, the policy’s effect is taking shape in Arkansas. The Trump administration has given states the opportunity to apply for waivers that offer more flexibility when regulating Medicaid use. That program uses state and federal money to offer low-income residents health coverage. [Journal Record] OK Policy previously published a guest post from Joan Alker, Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families in Georgetown, on how Oklahoma’s proposed work rule would harm mothers and children here.

121 percent more at-risk kids get after-school suppers, but Oklahoma still feeds fewer than average: Maybe a dozen kids took advantage of free evening meals when the YMCA began its supper program at three Tulsa elementary schools during the spring semester. Now upward of 100 show up after every school day to eat and talk with mentors. Organizers suggest the shift in participation for the new Welcome Table program aligns with a statewide effort to provide more free dinners to children from low-income neighborhoods. [Tulsa World]

With more than 20 area seats up for grabs in November, here are five legislative races to watch: Oklahoma’s tumultuous political year has already produced more than its share of thrills, spills, upsets and surprises, and we could see more of the same in the Nov. 6 general election. A full slate of statewide offices will be on the ballot, as will all five congressional seats and five state questions. Nineteen state Senate and 72 state House of Representatives slots will be decided. [Tulsa World]

As #oklaed heats up, three seek superintendent seat: In an election year when education has been many people’s primary focus, the three candidates for Oklahoma state superintendent of public instruction talked to NonDoc about their visions for the future. [NonDocFind more information from OK Policy on Oklahoma’s upcoming elections and state questions here

Oklahoma gubernatorial candidates share stance on veterans issues: We are just three weeks away from the Oklahoma general election. News 9 has continually explored the candidates’ platforms since the primary run-off. Reporters Bonnie Campo and Aaron Brilbeck take a deeper look into issues facing Oklahoma veterans. [News9]

Kevin Stitt’s teacher problem: At a recent campaign stop at a coffee shop in the GOP stronghold of Bethany, Oklahoma Republican gubernatorial hopeful Kevin Stitt pitched his plans to boost teacher pay without increasing taxes to nods and approving applause. But from the back of the crowded room, one Stitt supporter called out that he needed to do more to engage teachers in the state. [The Frontier]

Locking down the Legislature: These four states keep lawmakers’ records secret: Legislative bodies in four states have made themselves exempt to public record laws. Despite their role in literally enacting those laws, they are not held to the same standard of transparency as the rest of the governmental bodies in those states. For years, the Legislature in Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Oklahoma have all barred their records from the public causing points of contention amongst open government advocates, journalists, and constituents seeking more information about their lawmaker’s day-to-day doings. [Muckrock]

Dorman: Three interim studies focus on children’s issues: The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy has had the opportunity over the past few months to work with state lawmakers on a range of issues covered in legislative interim studies. State senators and representatives can request from the presiding officer of their respective chambers the opportunity to delve into a topic about an important issue. [Joe Dorman / Journal Record]

‘Felt like a brand new school’: Whitman Elementary School students celebrate new library funded by bond package: When sixth-grader Kewon Newton admitted that he didn’t know whom to thank for the new library at Whitman Elementary School, his district’s top executive had an easy answer for him: voters. District officials celebrated the opening of the modernized library addition at Whitman, located at 3924 N. Lansing Ave., with students and teachers during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

Report: More Oklahoma parents opting out of vaccinations: Most kindergarteners are vaccinated when they start school, but an increasing number of parents are opting out, according to the latest report from Oklahoma State Department of Health. More than 90 percent of Oklahoma public school students start class with all their shots current, according to the findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Kindergarten Survey, which reviews millions of youth across the nation, including 48,000 in Oklahoma. [CHNI]

ReMerge program for women looking forward to new OKC home: A comprehensive diversion program for women is getting closer to a new home in central Oklahoma City, with a fundraising effort nearly complete and a groundbreaking ceremony in the memory book. ReMerge, which helps mothers and pregnant women avoid incarceration through treatment and rehabilitation, has raised roughly $7.5 million toward a $9 million capital goal for a 20,000 square-foot building at 823 N Villa Ave. [NewsOK ????]

Commission sees plan to fund Route 66 improvements through taxing districts as a good start: The group charged with driving Route 66 revitalization in Tulsa sees potential in a new plan to encourage development. City officials started the process Monday of establishing two districts near 11th and Lewis where increased property taxes and the undedicated portion of city sales taxes would be set aside for 25 years. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Congressman Markwayne Mullin offers to defend Donald Trump Jr. ‘on the mat’: Second District Congressman Markwayne Mullin didn’t exactly tell Michael Avenatti to pick on somebody his own size, but he did suggest Avenatti quit picking on Donald Trump Jr. “It’s ridiculous that @MichaelAvenatti would even challenge @DonaldJTrumpJr to a fight,” Mullin said Tuesday morning on Twitter. “But if he’s looking for a publicity stunt, I’d be more than happy to meet him on the mat.” [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“We know that children with incarcerated mothers are five times more likely to end up in prison themselves. ReMerge gives these mothers the opportunity to be part of their children’s lives and chart a new course for their family’s future.”

-Bob Ross, president and CEO of the Inasmuch Foundation, on a comprehensive diversion program in OKC that helps mothers and pregnant women avoid incarceration through treatment and rehabilitation [NewsOK]

Number of the Day

$504.8 million

Value of exports to Mexico from Oklahoma (2016).

[Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The teacher pay penalty has hit a new high: If the policy goal is to improve the quality of the entire teaching workforce, then raising the level of teacher compensation, including wages, is critical to recruiting and retaining higher-quality teachers. Policies that solely focus on changing the composition of current compensation (e.g., merit or pay-for-performance schemes) without actually increasing compensation levels are unlikely to be effective. Simply put, improving overall teacher quality, preventing turnover, and strengthening teacher retention requires eliminating the teacher pay penalty. [Economic Policy Institute]

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


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.

Leave a Reply

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