In The Know: Five Tribes vote no confidence in Stitt’s new Native Affairs liaison | School teacher shortages | Update on state’s foster care system

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

Five Tribes vote no confidence in Governor Stitt’s new liaison for Native affairs: Leaders of five of Oklahoma’s largest tribes voted Thursday to express no confidence in the new state liaison for Native American affairs. In a joint resolution that passed 20-0, the Five Tribes cited Stitt’s “record of hostility” toward tribal governments and contended Nofire aligns with the governor’s views. They said they would not support Nofire or his position until the “Governor ceases his challenges to tribal sovereignty and engages in a constructive dialogue with tribes to advance the best interests of all Oklahomans.” [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma tribes pass no-confidence resolution on governor’s new liaison [KOCO]

Oklahoma schools face substitute teacher shortages: While some schools have increased wages, 73% of districts in the state say they still anticipate a shortage of substitutes this school year, according to a survey by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. COVID-19 heightened demand for substitutes to a critical level, but school leaders say there was a shortage even before the pandemic. [Oklahoma Voice]

Top 10 in poverty: Oklahoma urged to invest, not cut taxes: As state lawmakers prepare to convene for an October special session focused on cutting taxes, a state think tank is urging the governor to expand investment in core services in a state that remains top 10 in poverty rates. [The Black Wall Street Times]

State Government News

Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan update: Access to therapeutic foster care improves: The experts evaluating improvements to Oklahoma’s child welfare system say “good faith efforts” have been made to help foster kids with special needs and give children in the system a sense of permanency. As part of the 2012 settlement to a class-action lawsuit, out-of-state experts called “co-neutrals” issue biannual progress reports related to the state’s foster care system. Two more “good faith” determinations are needed on the remaining performance measures identified in the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan. [Tulsa World]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: State Superintendent Ryan Walters, Tulsa Public Schools, ranked-choice voting and more: The panel discusses State Superintendent Ryan Walters testifying before Congress on the Chinese Government’s involvement in U.S. education, State House Speaker Charles McCall saying there were no plans to open an impeachment investigation into Walters and Tulsa Public Schools getting a new leader and a new attorney. [KOSU]

As child poverty doubles, states launch or expand their own tax credits: The federal pandemic-era child tax credit expansion lifted millions of children out of poverty in the second half of 2021. But Congress allowed it to expire at the end of that year, and new U.S. census data shows the child poverty rate more than doubled in 2022, erasing the record gains that were made. Fourteen states, including Oklahoma, offer child tax credits. [Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: No new turnpikes needed in Oklahoma: Building more turnpikes in a state that has more turnpike miles than all the others is foolish and designed to further enrich special interests. [Bobby Cleveland / Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: ‘Tinkle down’ economics neither protect nor serve Oklahomans: We’ve seen this movie before. It has nearly as many sequels as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But the fantastical script remains the same: Cutting taxes for wealthy individuals and rich corporations magically generates even more state revenue! Except that it doesn’t. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Federal Government News

US Rep. Frank Lucas heading back to DC still recovering from bull attack: U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, has spent the past few weeks in a very slow recovery from a bull attack on his ranch. But with a government shutdown looming and his vote critical to a slim Republican majority, Lucas plans to board a plane on Tuesday and head back to Washington. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Tribal nations in Oklahoma receive federal funds to plug orphaned oil and gas wells: The U.S. Department of the Interior is investing almost $40 million to plug and clean up abandoned oil and gas wells in tribal communities across the country.
More than half of that money, which comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, is going to tribes in Oklahoma. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Historical Society could soon return headrights to Osage Nation: Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear says his nation has been approached by the Oklahoma Historical Society about returning headrights formerly belonging to Lillie Morrell Burkhart. The return would mean that the Osage Nation would manage Burkhart’s trust. [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘She wanted everyone to thrive’: Leader of Ottawa Tribe dies after 12 years in office: Ethel Cook brought people together. First, she taught employees how to work as a team as a corporate trainer. Then, she emphasized the importance of collaboration as the chief of the Ottawa Tribe. She led the northeast Oklahoma tribe for 12 years until her death Sunday. She was 72. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma research could lead to new treatment for heart valve condition: Research out of Oklahoma could lead to a new treatment for a heart valve condition impacting millions of Americans. [KGOU]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma executes Anthony Sanchez, the 10th death sentence carried out in 23 months: Oklahoma executed Anthony Sanchez on Thursday, the tenth death sentence the state has carried out since ending a moratorium in 2021. Sanchez, 44, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2006 for killing Juli Busken, a 21-year-old dance student at the University of Oklahoma. Busken was abducted, raped and shot in the back of the head, police said. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma judge will not hear cases after allegedly shooting at parked cars in Texas: A longtime judge has agreed to stay away from the courthouse after being accused of recklessly shooting at parked vehicles in Austin, Texas, Sept. 11. Brian N. Lovell, a Garfield County associate district judge, also is accused of intentionally striking another vehicle at a red light and nearly pushing it into cross traffic. [The Oklahoman]

Council hears recommendations on how to lower Oklahoma County jail population: The Criminal Justice Advisory Council heard a presentation Thursday on recommendations to lower the Oklahoma County Detention Center’s population. The discussion was about who needs to be behind bars and who doesn’t. CJAC staff said there are inmates at the jail that could be sent somewhere else. [KOCO]

Oklahoma County jail reports seventh inmate death of 2023: A 33-year-old woman was found unresponsive in her cell on Wednesday morning by an officer who was distributing meals. She was the seventh Oklahoma County jail inmate death of the year, but the first since three inmates died in four days in April. [KGOU]

Editorial: Osage County officials would be smart to avoid police-as-entertainment reality shows: We caution against approving contracts for police-themed reality shows, as Osage County Undersheriff Gary Upton is pressing the commissioners to do as soon as next week. Tulsa’s participation in the police-as-entertainment industry proved harmful to the city’s reputation and those who were arrested on camera. [Tulsa World]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Child care deserts in Oklahoma contribute to workforce shortages, survey shows: The lack of child care in parts of Oklahoma has hurt the state’s workforce, but organizations in the state are stepping up to help. Parts of Oklahoma have been described as child care deserts. A survey by the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness said Oklahoma needs to step up childcare to fix the workplace shortage. [KOCO]

Economy & Business News

Roundtable tackles Oklahoma’s STEAM-skilled workforce challenges: As Oklahoma struggles to prepare, recruit and retain STEAM-skilled workers, business and state leaders on Thursday workshopped the challenge of solving that problem. [Journal Record]

Opinion: Lockett: Oklahoma needs nurses yesterday, today, tomorrow: As leaders of our state and of the health care profession, it’s key that we take steps today to ensure our nursing workforce strengthens to meet the demands of the future, and so that we can expand the number of highly qualified nursing professionals who care for Oklahomans today. [Jackie Lockett / Journal Record]

Education News

Ryan Walters cites false information about Black History to AP Students: A recently unearthed video shows Ryan Walters allegedly presenting false information to his AP US History class. On film, the former appointed Oklahoma Secretary of Education incorrectly cites Black History figures and studies multiple times. This occurred prior to his election to Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Education Watch: State Asks Judge to Dismiss Lawsuit Over Catholic Charter School: Two state entities being sued to block the nation’s first religious charter school filed responses in court this week. A hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. December 21. [Oklahoma Watch]

Former TPS official accused of $600K embezzlement appears in court: A former Tulsa Public Schools administrator charged in a high-profile embezzlement case entered a not guilty plea during his initial appearance and arraignment on one count of wire fraud conspiracy but will take “full responsibility” for his actions, his attorney said Thursday. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Ebony Johnson taking on challenges in Tulsa Public Schools few are willing to accept: The job of superintendent has because so pressurized and politicized that education leaders are reluctant to take on that kind of challenge. But, in comes the Tulsa born-and-educated Ebony Johnson to accept the interim position from her role as chief academic officer this past week. She has been a tireless administrator with 24 years experience, a doctorate degree and reputation as a diplomatic and fair leader. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

General News

These 2020 census results break down people’s race and ethnicity into details: The latest set of 2020 census results, released Thursday, offers a nuanced look at the racial and ethnic diversity of the United States. For the first time since 1960 — when the Census Bureau started allowing U.S. residents to self-report their identities — the agency asked people who marked the box for “White” and/or “Black” to also fill out a write-in area with their non-Hispanic origins, such as German, Haitian, Irish or Jamaican. [NPR via KOSU]

Tulsa Race Massacre: Unusually large Oaklawn grave contains two coffins: An Oaklawn Cemetery grave thought to hold a crate of some kind turned out to contain two coffins — a normal adult-sized one and a child’s, officials reported Thursday. The size of the grave shaft had caused the archeologists searching for unmarked burials from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre to think they had found an oversized crate, which could have been significant because of an oral history that some victims may have been buried in such containers. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City to host national Republican women’s convention [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Oklahoma Historical Society secures CNHI approval for online archive of The Edmond Sun [NonDoc]
  • Sand Springs City Manager Mike Carter receives transparency in government award [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“What we need are data-driven solutions and proposed policies in order to address the inequities we have in our state, and part of it is funding our essential services more to strengthen our social safety net.”

-Gabriela Ramirez-Perez, OK Policy’s Immigration Policy Analyst, speaking about addressing Oklahoma’s poverty rate, which is the nation’s eighth highest. [The Black Wall Street Times]  

Number of the Day


The poverty rate for Black Oklahomans in 2022, which was more than 1 in 4 of the state’s Black residents. This was almost double the 12.8% poverty rate for white Oklahomans. [U.S. Census via OK Policy]

Policy Note

Poverty Results from Structural Barriers, Not Personal Choices. Safety Net Programs Should Reflect That Fact (2021): Many families—especially people of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic—were already facing severe economic challenges because of structural barriers preventing them from reaping the benefits of a strong economy. These families sometimes rely on federal safety net programs to access the resources they need to afford food, rent, and other necessities. But the social safety net is fundamentally inequitable. The structure of programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ignore systemic barriers rooted in structural racism that disproportionately affect people of color, especially Black Americans. Instead, these programs are meager and punitive, designed to blame individual shortcomings—even though evidence debunks the myth that laziness or poor choices cause poverty. [Urban Institute]

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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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