In The Know: ‘Ghost students’ at Epic, State could take steps to curb ‘epidemic’ of missing Native American women, Kiowa Leade

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

OSBI warrant: ‘Ghost students’ at Epic: A state investigation alleges Epic Charter Schools, the state’s largest virtual charter school system, embezzled millions in state funds by illegally inflating enrollment counts with “ghost students.” The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation alleged Epic co-founders David Chaney and Ben Harris “devised a scheme to use their positions as public officers to unlawfully derive profits from state appropriated funds. [The Oklahoman] The agent reviewed bank statements and found Chaney and Harris split school profits of at least $10 million between 2013 and 2018, the affidavit states. [Oklahoma Watch] State superintendent reacts to Epic Charter Schools investigation; online school official claims innocence. [Tulsa World

Missing in Oklahoma: State could take steps to curb ‘epidemic’ of missing Native American women:Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of missing or murdered Native American women, according to a report from the Urban Indian Health Institute. But the report doesn’t show a complete picture of the problem because of a widespread lack of comprehensive data. [The Oklahoman]

Kiowa Leader: Find other solutions to increase state revenues: Following a letter by Gov. Kevin Stitt to the Tulsa World on July 8 regarding renegotiation of state gaming compacts, the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma Chairman Matthew Komalty has responded with a suggestion for the state to find another way of increasing revenue. [The Lawton Constitution] Gaming compact debate expected to fuel discussion at OIGA conference. [Journal Record ???? ]

Pain meds as public nuisance? Oklahoma tests a legal strategy for opioid addiction: Johnson & Johnson was the sole defendant in a closely-watched trial that wrapped up in Oklahoma state court this week, with a decision expected later this summer. The ruling in the civil case could be the first that would hold a pharmaceutical company responsible for one of the worst drug epidemics in American history. [NPR]

OSBI continues mission despite low numbers: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Director Ricky Adams said the agency is rebuilding after a decade of budget cuts. The state’ primary investigative agency has 73 personnel, with a goal of increasing to 93 by the end of the year and hopes to achieve the optimal number of 132 employees by 2025. [McAlester News-Capital]

Public Service Co. of Oklahoma joins sister utility to propose significant wind development across north-central Oklahoma: Public Service Co. of Oklahoma and its sister company, Southwestern Electric Power Co., are once again asking regulators to allow them to recover costs for projects that would add more wind power to their generating fleets. [The Oklahoman] The proposed move is part of a long-range plan to increase reliance on natural gas and renewable energy resources. [Tulsa World]

The Oklahoman Editorial Board: Academy wants Oklahomans’ views on energy: Each year since 1985, the Oklahoma Academy has gleaned feedback from the public and used it to give policymakers recommendations about a range of issues. This year’s topic — energy — should generate plenty of ideas. [Editorial Board / The Oklahoman]

OKCPS Board denies Wheeler District charter again: It’s “no” again for frustrated Wheeler District developers who want to establish a charter school with a fixed collection zone similar to John Rex charter downtown. They now have 30 days to appeal the decision. [Free Press OKC]

Pathway to Greatness plan nears completion about month before OKCPS school year starts: Oklahoma City Public Schools is still making changes to its Pathway to Greatness plan, which will be implemented during the upcoming school year. District officials are detailing the progress being made on their website. [KOCO]

Proposed pay raises for Cherokee Nation officers rejected: Members of a key rules committee voted earlier in the day on Monday and the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council voted Monday evening to turn down a recommendation for raises that would have more than doubled the salary of the tribe’s deputy chief, raised the principal chief’s pay by 84% and increased other salaries by 26% to 35%. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma lawmakers react as House votes to condemn Trump’s racist tweets: Read responses from Oklahoma lawmakers after the Democratic-led U.S. House voted Tuesday to condemn President Trump’s racist tweets directed at four nonwhite congresswomen. [The Oklahoman]

Apollo program had many Oklahoma engineers: In the early days of NASA and the space program, many Oklahomans had critical jobs to protect astronauts and make sure their missions were a success. Oklahoma natives were seemingly present at every stage of the Apollo program, especially at Mission Control in Houston. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“The OSBI served a search warrant last night in northwest Oklahoma City regarding our investigation into Epic Charter Schools. At this point, our investigation is ongoing.”

– Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Brooke Arbeitman. In court filings, OSBI alleges Epic Charter Schools, the state’s largest virtual charter school system, embezzled millions in state funds by illegally inflating enrollment counts [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

$906 million

The inflation-adjusted decline in state budget appropriations since FY 2009

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

An Epidemic of Disbelief: What new research reveals about sexual predators, and why police fail to catch them: Each year, roughly 125,000 rapes are reported across the United States. Sometimes the decision to close a case is surely correct; no one wants to smear an innocent man’s reputation or curtail his freedom because of a false report. But in 49 out of every 50 rape cases, the alleged assailant goes free—often, we now know, to assault again. Which means that rape—more than murder, more than robbery or assault—is by far the easiest violent crime to get away with. [The Atlantic]


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.

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