In The Know: Gov. expresses support for Walters, opposes income cap on private school credits | Low voter turnout among young voters | More

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

Stitt defends Walters, opposes income cap on private school tax credits: Gov. Kevin Stitt says he remains confident in Ryan Walters, his secretary of education and the elected state schools superintendent, who continues to draw scrutiny for his comments and recent refusal to meet with lawmakers. [The Oklahoman]

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt weighs in on competing education bills from Oklahoma House, Senate [KOCO]
  • Gov. Stitt calls for elimination of income cap on parental school choice tax credits [Fox 25]

Grocery sales tax likely to remain, lawmakers say: Oklahoma’s 4.5% state sales tax on groceries isn’t likely to go away this year or anytime soon, two high-ranking lawmakers said Friday. Although both are Republicans, state Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, have very different views on the tax cuts and the reserve revenue the state is currently carrying. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Ryan Walters sent pornographic content to state email accounts, Oklahoma lawmakers say: Several Oklahoma lawmakers say state Superintendent Ryan Walters sent pornographic content to their state email accounts. [KOCO]

  • ‘Pretty graphic’: Oklahoma lawmaker confirms Ryan Walters sent him pornographic images [Fox 25]
  • Email shows State Superintendent shared pornographic images with legislators [Fox 23]

Matt Langston sticks to playbook as top adviser for state superintendent Ryan Walters: For the past year, Langston has worked for state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters, first on his campaign and now as his top adviser at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, overseeing the agency’s high-level departments. [The Oklahoman]

Shelley Zumwalt has helped improve Oklahoma government. Can she make people forget Swadley’s?: Since taking over the Oklahoma tourism department in October, Shelley Zumwalt has immersed herself in budget, personnel and park maintenance issues. But she knows she’s going to be judged on the success of the restaurants because of the controversy over Swadley’s exclusive contract to renovate and operate state park restaurants. The whole matter is now under investigation by the state attorney general and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Meanwhile, the restaurants have been closed for nearly a year. [The Oklahoman]

Broadband Office director, board agree on salary: The governing board of the Oklahoma Broadband Office in a special meeting today agreed to salary terms with director Mike Sanders, whom members voted to hire last week at the urging of Gov. Kevin Stitt. [NonDoc]

Company eyes state multimillion-dollar incentive package: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Friday said a company had applied for a nearly $700 million economic development package lawmakers put together earlier this year. The state is attempting to lure a major manufacturing plant to the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor. [Tulsa World]

Political notebook: Insurance commissioner at odds with CVS/Caremark: Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready has scheduled a press conference for Monday as his department’s battle with CVS pharmacies and its affiliated Caremark pharmacy benefit manager heats up. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Stitt pitches state projects to U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg: Extending Amtrak, improving rural highway shoulders and adding electric vehicle charging stations were some ideas Gov. Kevin Stitt pitched last week to President Joe Biden’s transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg. [Tulsa World]

‘Sad day for America’: Oklahoma Republican officials call Trump indictment political, dangerous: The historic indictment of former President Donald Trump by a grand jury in Manhattan drew sharp criticism from some Republican officeholders in Oklahoma and also concern that the criminal case was aimed at influencing the 2024 election. [The Oklahoman]

D.C. Digest: House delegation backs energy bill: Oklahoma’s House delegation was, not unexpectedly, effusive in its support of H.R. 1, the Republican majority’s sprawling energy bill the Senate is unlikely to consider. [Tulsa World]

Column: Parents’ Bill of Rights aren’t about protecting children: The conservative movement sweeping the nation in various parents’ rights bills appears innocuous on the surface. These are sold as fighting for reviews of public school budgets, curriculum and books, access to teachers and the chance to address their school boards. Those are already in place and exercised daily in hundreds of Oklahoma districts. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Native Graduates Have the Right to Wear Eagle Feathers, Tribal Regalia: Education has always been sacred to the Cherokee people. Investing in education was one of the first and highest priorities for Cherokee Nation after the Trail of Tears. Despite the extreme hardships of that time, we quickly established schools in our new land. Within a few years, we had built the first primary schools and institutes of higher education on our reservation. [Native News Online / Chuck Hoskin Jr. Guest Column]

Voting and Election News

As Voting Turnout Dips, Young Oklahomans Risk Losing Political Influence: Less than 25% of registered voters age 30 and under cast a ballot last November, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of State Election Board data. Fewer than 10% of them voted on March 7 to decide State Question 820, an initiative seeking to legalize recreational marijuana and streamline the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions. Voters soundly rejected the question, which appeared as a rare standalone item on the ballot. [Oklahoma Watch]

Mid-Del, Putnam City, El Reno have school board runoffs: On Tuesday, April 4, voters in school districts across the Oklahoma City metro will head to the polls to elect candidates to various boards of education. In particular, Midwest City-Del City Public Schools, El Reno Public Schools and Putnam City Public Schools will each see an election for their respective school boards. [NonDoc]

  • Runoff will fill Western Heights school board seat after November’s resignations [NonDoc]
  • Kennedy, Price vie for Norman school board seat in runoff election [Norman Transcript]

Derrick Scobey, Maressa Treat compete in Oklahoma County clerk special election: Democrat Derrick Scobey and Republican Maressa Treat are in the final stretch of their campaigns for Oklahoma County clerk, putting up signs and meeting with potential voters before Tuesday’s special general election for the post. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma County clerk candidates Scobey, Treat readying themselves for Tuesday’s election [The Oklahoman]

Health News

StateImpact discusses Oklahoma’s decision to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage: Oklahoma has always offered special coverage during pregnancy, but it used to last 60 days after birth. The state just got permission to extend that coverage to one year. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Column: Latest Oklahoma Supreme Court abortion ruling an important first step: In this state, a pregnant woman who becomes septic will be left to die as long as the fetus has a discernable heartbeat. Hypothetical dystopia? No. It is the lived reality in many restrictive states. And it is reality in Oklahoma, as well. The flurry of abortion bans that state legislatures passed in their post-Dobbs euphoria contained exceptions that were so chillingly restrictive and vague as to effectively render most bans “exceptionless” in practice. [Janet Koven Levit  Column / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

New trial coming in negligence case after fatal motorcycle crash involving Tulsa County deputy: An appellate opinion handed down in Tulsa County has “shaken” trust in the justice system for the parents of a deceased teen motorcyclist but leaves the Sheriff’s Office with hope for a second chance. [Tulsa World]

Undercover drug operations should be ongoing at Oklahoma County jail, District attorney says: The special prosecutor who advised a state grand jury in its investigation of the Oklahoma County jail said undercover drug operations need to be happening there all the time. [The Oklahoman]

Two former guards sentenced for using ‘Baby Shark’ to punish Oklahoma County jail inmates: Two former Oklahoma County jailers have pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor cruelty charge for forcing inmates to listen to “Baby Shark” as punishment. [The Oklahoman]

Column: Enough is enough, Oklahoma. Women shouldn’t be punished for defending themselves: We’re experiencing a pivotal moment where Oklahoma can say “enough is enough” and allow women to protect themselves, even in complicated situations. Let me explain. For the last decade, I’ve been at the University of Oklahoma, and while my journey may be unique, it has always followed the evidence. [David A. McLeod Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Column: To cut crime, reduce barriers to higher education in prison: Crime is an issue of concern for Oklahomans from all backgrounds, and they deserve to have their lawmakers use every proven tool to tackle it. A simple one — widening access to higher education for incarcerated students — can substantially cut their risk of re-offending. By passing Senate Bill 11, our legislators can protect communities and help more people build new lives at the same time. [Sarah Decker Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Column: Bills address childcare deserts: There’s a childcare crunch in Oklahoma, and working families are struggling because of it. Two bills in the state Legislature aim to get more children in public pre-Ks and provide an oasis for Oklahoma’s childcare desert so more parents can return to the workforce. To get there, it will take a multi-pronged, multi-year approach that supports parents, employers and providers. [Jennifer Krebs-Ellis / Lawton Constitution]

  • States seek to ease child care crunch [Stateline]

Education News

More new college graduates are staying in Oklahoma, data shows: According to recent numbers, more than 80%, both residents of Oklahoma and from out of state, are still here and working five years after they graduate from an Oklahoma college or university. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma State University opens nursing bachelor’s degree program: Oklahoma State University has begun accepting applications for a new four-year nursing degree program that officials hope can help address the state’s nurse shortage. The program, which will allow students to earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing, will kick off this fall on the Stillwater campus. [Tulsa World]

General News

March through downtown Tulsa brings light to transgender-rights advocacy: Transgender-rights advocates marched through downtown Tulsa on Friday afternoon to protest bills in the Oklahoma Legislature targeting transgender care. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Crime reports show a growing hate-filled America: Two recent reports show that the country — Oklahoma included — is in the grip of the most hate and antisemitism in decades. These are not one-off compilations. The annual crime reports paint a grim picture based on generations of statistics gathering. The reports reaffirm what many have experienced anecdotally in daily life. Such data ought to make Americans take pause and reflect on why such anger is boiling up. Corners of our culture have become so bitter, so divided, that civil society is morphing into a place where violence and harassment are to be expected. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Public School board to vote on pay raise for staff [KTUL]
  • Tulsa Fire Department, Family & Children’s Services teaming up for new 24/7 de-escalation emergency response [Tulsa World]
  • Elected leaders break Ramadan fast with Oklahoma Muslims [The Oklahoman]

“If you’re not participating from 18 to 30, then someone who is older and at a different point of life than you, and probably makes more money than you, is deciding what laws and policies you live by. That’s a really dangerous, commonsensical thing that I think a lot of the youth don’t understand.”

– Emily Stacey, Rose State College political science professor, speaking on how if the trend of low voter turnout continues, the younger generation risks having less of a voice on policies that impact their day-to-day life. [Oklahoma Watch]


The decrease in years of the life expectancy for American Indians and Alaska Natives between 2019 and 2021. The average life expectancy for AI/ANs in 2021 was 65.2 years, the shortest of all classifications by race or origin and more than 11 years shorter than for white Americans. [Centers for Disease Control]

Health Equity in Indian Country: Advancing health equity in Indian Country requires a thorough understanding of the historical injustices and longstanding structural inequities that have led to the dire health inequities now experienced in Tribal communities. The systemic issues which give rise to AI/AN health inequities are rooted in the long history of harmful federal Indian policies: genocide; uprooting AI/ANs from homelands and Tribal community structures; bans on cultural practices and language; forced relocation to reservations; abusive boarding schools; and other destructive polices. The consequences of such longstanding structural discrimination are many. [National Indian Health Board]

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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