[In The Know] Epic co-founders poured money into state politics | Anti-corruption PAC funded by dark money | U.S. Senate candidate debate

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.

Oklahoma News

Epic founders Ben Harris and David Chaney poured money into state politics: Two weeks before former Epic Charter Schools founders Ben Harris and David Chaney were arrested and charged with racketeering, conspiracy, embezzlement and other crimes, both men donated $375,000 on June 8 to a federal political action committee called Protect Our Freedoms, which had been formed 10 months earlier but had not received a single donation up to that point. [NonDoc]

Anti-corruption PAC Clean Up Oklahoma largely funded by dark money group: A new political action committee that aims to stamp out government corruption has received most of its funding from a dark money group that supports public education. [The Oklahoman

Pennsylvania billionaire’s PAC continues to fuel Oklahoma congressional campaign: The political action committee of a billionaire options trader from Pennsylvania has put another $1.17 million into Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, according to Federal Election Commission reports. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

State Veterans Affairs nurses to get raises: The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs on Tuesday announced the largest pay increase for nursing staff in agency history. The pay hikes range from 10% to 23% and average $12,385 yearly per nurse, according to the agency. [Tulsa World]

O’Connor urges quick action to keep Castro-Huerta behind bars: The Oklahoma attorney general’s office is racing to get Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta back into state custody, worried that the subject of a recent U.S. Supreme Court case could be released and even deported next week. [The Oklahoman]

Galloway named DHS interim director: Samantha Galloway was named interim director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the agency announced Tuesday. Justin Brown, who served as agency director since June of 2019, will step down from his role effective Aug. 19. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee chief talks governor’s race, McGirt at Rotary meeting: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. endorsed Joy Hofmeister for Oklahoma governor on Tuesday in a talk at the Bartlesville Rotary Club. Hoskin also discussed ongoing work and implications related to the McGirt ruling. When asked whether the tribe would pursue individual income taxes of members, superseding the state, he said doing so may not be in the best interest of the Cherokee Nation. [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Senate Candidates Debate Ahead Of Primary Runoff: U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin and former state Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon agreed on plenty Tuesday night during a pre-runoff debate at News On 6 in Tulsa, but each candidate vying to succeed outgoing Sen. Jim Inhofe tried to create separation from the other. [News 9]

  • Republican Senate candidates defend Trump, endorse federal abortion ban [Tulsa World]
  • Five things about Tuesday’s Markwayne Mullin-T.W. Shannon debate for US Senate [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Black-owned businesses, households affected by looming recession: Record high gas prices may be dropping across the U.S., but signs of an economic recession still loom. The question plaguing most Americans is, are we in a recession? And for Black Americans: How does a looming recession impact Black-owned businesses and households? [The Black Wall Street Times]

Gas prices fall for seventh straight week: Gasoline prices have fallen for the seventh straight week and are headed below $4 per gallon nationally soon, an analyst said. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Oklahoma’s Teachers Alarmed Over Non-Certified Educators Entering Classroom: Oklahoma educators are continuing to raise alarms over non-certified instructors entering classrooms amid an ongoing teacher shortage in the U.S. The Oklahoma Legislature recently passed a bill, officially known as Senate Bill 1119, that will allow schools to make further use of adjunct teachers by removing the previous cap that limited them to 270 hours per semester. [Newsweek]

Superintendent: Teacher shortage is ‘catastrophic: The teacher shortage is the most critical issue facing Oklahoma, according to Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools Dr. Deborah Gist. “We have a situation in Oklahoma right now that is of catastrophic proportions. I fear it is not getting the amount of attention it needs to get,” said Gist. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Oklahoma’s tax-free weekend: Here’s what you need to know: This back-to-school season, many parents want to buy their child’s fall essentials without breaking the bank. With U.S inflation reaching its highest peak since 1981, some families might find they have less to spend this year on items such as school supplies and clothing. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC sales tax revenues outpace projections, collections from last year [Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“We have a situation in Oklahoma right now that is of catastrophic proportions. I fear it is not getting the amount of attention it needs to get.”

-Tulsa School Superintendent Deborah Gist speaking about the teacher shortage [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Number of emergency teacher certifications recorded in Oklahoma schools from June to December 2021, which represents about half of the 2021-22 school year. The previous high mark was 3,320 during the full 2018-19 school year. [Oklahoma State Department of Education]

Policy Note

Improving quality of life—not just business—is the best path to Midwestern rejuvenation: There is compelling new data that traditional economic development tools may be ineffective compared to investments in quality of life and place. Our research on smaller communities has found that community amenities such as recreation opportunities, cultural activities, and excellent services (e.g., good schools, transportation options) are likely bigger contributors to healthy local economies than traditional “business-friendly” measures. Smaller places with a higher quality of life experience both higher employment and population growth than similarly situated communities, including those that rank high by traditional economic competitiveness measures. [Brookings]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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