In 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.
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In The News
Epic to receive state funds while OSBI embezzlement investigation continues: Epic Charter Schools will receive public funds as usual this school year, despite state investigators alleging the virtual charter school embezzled millions of taxpayer dollars. State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister confirmed Thursday that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation recommended that Epic receive its yearly allocation of state aid, which the state will begin distributing next month. [The Oklahoman] She said state funding for Epic won’t be disrupted as an investigation of the charter schools continues. [Journal Record]
Hofmeister: Epic complaints raised for years, but Education Department lacked power to verify: The state Board of Education met Thursday and discussed, both publicly and behind closed doors, the investigation of Epic Charter Schools. State and federal investigators are probing allegations of embezzlement of public funds by the online school’s leaders. They have denied wrongdoing. [Oklahoma Watch] Because of the state’s dedication to privacy, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister says the alleged abuse would not have been preventable under current state law. [StateImpact Oklahoma]
State election board preparing to purge 134,000 from voter rolls: More than 134,000 Oklahoma voters risk becoming inactive if they don’t confirm their address by this weekend. Every other year, Oklahoma removes thousands of voters for being inactive. In April, the state election board purged about 88,000 people from the rolls who, in 2015, hadn’t responded to or had an address confirmation mailer returned. [Public Radio Tulsa]
Post-secondary education needs to be revamped, expert tells Tulsa Regional Chamber: College might not be for everybody, but post-secondary education is, a leading authority on the subject told the Tulsa Regional Chamber on Thursday. A big reason for that is because 99 percent of jobs created since the Great Recession require some sort of post-high school credential, Howard said. That may also be one reason many sectors of the economy report labor shortages. [Tulsa World] Higher education has sustained drastic cuts to funding since 2008, with state spending on higher ed decreasing by 26 percent.
Oklahoma may be on track to hit another record of emergency-certified teachers: Public schools will be starting up again in a few weeks, and Oklahoma may be on track to hit another record for the number of emergency-certified teachers in K-12 classrooms. More than 1,600 emergency-certified teachers have been approved to instruct students at public schools around the state for the 2019-2020 school year. That’s 400 more than this time last year. [Public Radio Tulsa] What’s That? Emergency Certification
Interim study on student loan debt approved: State Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa) is set to begin work on an interim study into Oklahoma’s student loan debt. Provenzano hopes to use the recently approved study to work with local agencies to examine the student loan debt crisis in Oklahoma and to propose possible legislation that will lead to fewer Oklahoma students with extreme student loan debt. [Claremore Daily Progress]
Former state lawmaker’s death ruled suicide: The former state lawmaker who fatally shot himself last month was heavily intoxicated, according to an autopsy report released Wednesday. Jonathan Nichols, 53, died inside his home the evening of June 5 from a contact gunshot wound to the chest. [The Oklahoman]
Commissioners honor retiree, renew contracts, and question sheriff again: The Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners met in their regular weekly session Wednesday where they renewed contracts, questioned the sheriff, and honored a long-term employee who was retiring. [Free Press OKC]
Oklahoma Tax Commission adopts mobile app for vehicle registration renewals: Oklahoma vehicle registration renewal is the latest task you can complete with your smartphone. The Oklahoma Tax Commission has adopted the Gov2Go mobile app, which can handle every step of the process, from payment to reminding you the next time your registration is due. [Public Radio Tulsa]
‘Public service’ valuations complex but usually worked out, administrator says: A dance of sorts between the ad valorem division of Oklahoma’s Tax Commission and owners of “public service” companies plays out largely behind the scenes, every year. [The Oklahoman]
McKinsey advised Johnson & Johnson on increasing opioid sales: Although McKinsey is not a defendant, Oklahoma used McKinsey consulting records to help build its case against Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, for what the state said was irresponsible marketing of a fentanyl patch called Duragesic. [New York Times]
Alisa Bell: Medicaid kids need coverage to age 26 too: After years of working with expecting and parenting adolescent families, I see the link between lack of health care and struggle toward self-sufficiency. As we ponder the findings from the Tulsa World’s recent eight-day series on Adverse Childhood Experiences and mental health, we must consider increasing the age limit for SoonerCare coverage. [Tulsa World]
Tulsa World Editorial Board: All people released from prison should have job opportunities: Getting a job is foremost on the mind of Corey Atchison, a Tulsa man released last week from prison after serving 28 years on a wrongful conviction. During his first days spent with family, he spoke to Tulsa World reporter Samantha Vicent about a more pressing concern. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World] Access to educational opportunities for incarcerated Oklahomans is crucial to their successful reentry after release.
Swink Public Schools loses accreditation, consolidated with Fort Towson: The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday approved the mandatory annexation of Swink Public Schools with its neighboring district of Fort Towson after several board members expressed reservations and concerns. [Tulsa World]
Norman City Council member Scott launches Senate campaign: Alex Scott, a public servant, organizer and Norman City Council member, has launched her campaign to represent Oklahoma’s 15th Senate District in the Oklahoma State Senate. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Scott worked in Moore Public Schools prior to her election to city council. [Norman Transcript]
Ardmore refinery sues chemical manufacturers for toxic ‘forever chemical’: An Oklahoma petroleum refinery has sued several chemical manufacturers and fire suppression equipment companies for damages it expects to incur because of a type of chemical that was used in the fire-extinguishing foam stored and used at the refinery. [The Frontier]
Mayor, parks director explain why golf courses won’t get additional funding in Improve Our Tulsa renewal: The $639 million Improve Our Tulsa renewal proposal does not include additional funding for the city’s four golf courses because that is not a high enough priority, Mayor G.T. Bynum said Thursday. [Tulsa World]
Oklahoman Joshua Harris-Till now leads Young Democrats of America: When Joshua Harris-Till bought his car two years ago, it had 17 miles on it. After a tenure as president of the Young Democrats of Oklahoma and a campaign to earn the same title on the national level, Harris-Till now marvels when he looks at the odometer: 77,000 miles, and climbing. [NonDoc]
Quote of the Day
“There are times when people say, ‘Not everyone needs to go to college,’ and there are times when people say, ‘It’s just not worth the cost.’ And I will agree that maybe not everyone needs a bachelor’s degree. But everyone actually does need to have some sort of post-high school learning — unless any of us are OK with someone being able to earn only $9,000 a year.”
– Danette Howard, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the Lumina Foundation, speaking at the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s State of Education event this week [Tulsa World]
Number of the Day
Percent of adults served by Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) that were employed in jobs in their communities – one of the highest rates in the nation
[Source: Oklahoma Department of Human Services]
Probation and parole violations are filling up prisons and costing states billions: According to the most comprehensive report of its kind, states spend more than $9 billion a year incarcerating people who violate community supervision terms that even corrections officials admit are difficult to comply with. [Governing]
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