In The Know: Gov.’s lawsuit against legislative leaders | School lunch debt returns | ‘Get politics out of education’ | 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 lawsuit against legislative leaders a challenge of ‘biblical’ proportions: Voiding the state budget is not the purpose of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s lawsuit. He wants to stop only two of the 52 bills enacted during the special session, and his lawyers have put forward several reasons the state Supreme Court should do so. One of those is that the two were the product of an unconstitutional process, which raises the question of whether the other 50 are, too. [Tulsa World]

School is back in session in Oklahoma. That comes with changes, challenges, and emotions: In just a few days, Oklahoma City students will be returning to their classrooms for the 2023-24 school year, alongside all of the challenges that comes with it. This year, The Oklahoman has examined all of the changes students, teachers, and parents will be seeing this year, and the issues they’re facing: From the end of free school lunches, to the exhaustion of the political divide reaching classrooms, and new laws and regulations deeply impacting LGBTQ families in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

School meals were free for 2 years, but now lunch debt is back on the table in Oklahoma: For two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government allowed every student in the United States to eat for free at their public school cafeteria rather than offering free food only in low-income areas or to children living in poverty. That pandemic program ended in June 2022, and though some states took on the cost of providing free meals for all students, lunch fees returned at many Oklahoma schools. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: It’s a new school year. Teachers want politics out of education: It’s in this climate that we asked readers, including teachers, to share their hopes for the coming school year. Readers are frustrated with the leadership at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Teachers are cautious, tired of politics, but their passion for teaching prompts a hopeful and optimistic outlook. Their concern is on fixing the system that has placed Oklahoma at No. 49 in the nation; they simply want to teach and students to learn; they want the “complexity and political environment,” as one reader said, to stop so teachers can better serve Oklahoma’s students; they want students to develop a love for reading heightened by a “diverse range of reading materials,” as another reader told us. The state Education Department might have lost its conscience, but clearly our teachers have not. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

What to know about Oklahoma’s newest tribal compact dispute: A dispute over state-tribal compacts took center stage in Oklahoma politics this summer, and the mercury could keep rising on the debate. [The Oklahoman]

Rep. Sherrie Conley apologizes for her remarks on the Tulsa Race Massacre: Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, issued an apology on Friday for her earlier comments to The Frontier on the Tulsa Race Massacre. Conley is one of the authors of HB 1775, legislation that has sometimes been called a ban on “critical race theory” in Oklahoma public schools. The 2021 law banned teaching certain concepts about race and gender. [The Frontier]

Lawmakers weigh in on Ryan Walters’ Tulsa Public School remarks: Lawmakers have varying views on State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ increasing criticisms of Tulsa Public Schools. [Tulsa World]

  • Ryan Walters on Tulsa versus Oklahoma City inner city school district comparisons [Tulsa World]

Norman legislators react to the approval of ACCESS Oklahoma: After a year of opposition from community members and leaders, Norman legislators reacted to the approval of infrastructure project ACCESS Oklahoma, advocating for reform of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. [KOSU]

Capitol Insider: Lawsuit filed in gubernatorial-legislative dispute over tribal compacts: After two vetoes are overridden, Governor Kevin Stitt asks the Oklahoma Supreme Court for ruling on whether the legislature has authority over state-tribal compacts. [KGOU]

Editorial: Kansans facing bad return on investment in landing Panasonic factory: Kansans may be feeling buyer’s remorse as the final tab emerges on what it took last year to land a Panasonic factory that will make batteries for Tesla electric cars. The state out-maneuvered Oklahoma to win the contract. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

D.C. Digest: Oklahoma delegation looks toward budget-making deadline: Republicans have prioritized “regular order” for appropriations and budget-making, which essentially means completing them by the start of a new fiscal year Oct. 1. [Tulsa World]

Congressman Frank Lucas hospitalized after ranch incident: U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas was admitted to the University of Oklahoma Medical Center on Friday after being injured on his cattle ranch, his office said Saturday. The injuries were not life-threatening, according to a statement. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Peoria tribe says it will appeal ruling in civil case involving casino management fees: Two men accused through their company of wrongfully taking more than $2 million in casino management fees have won a court victory on the matter. [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

With help from Democrats, AG Gentner Drummond tops fundraising among state officials: Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has raised more than $225,000 in campaign contributions in his first six months of office, which have been marked by a reassertion of his office’s independence and a willingness to challenge the governor on multiple fronts. [The Oklahoman]

  • Political notebook: Campaign fundraising for 2024 underway [Tulsa World]

Health News

Column: TU’s nurse anesthesia program vital: Early in August, the first cohort in The University of Tulsa’s nurse anesthesia doctoral program will complete coursework and clinical preparation and join the nearly 700 certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) caring for Oklahomans daily. This is a momentous occasion, as these 14 students are the first nurse anesthesia class to graduate in the state. [Ron Walker Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Corrections Education Program offers men a chance to further their education behind bars: Twenty-four men at the Hominy correctional facility earned high school diplomas, associate degrees or certifications Friday, with 14 of those earning degrees through the Tulsa Community College Corrections Education Program. The program, started in 2007, offers education opportunities to inmates with the hopes of better preparing them for employment once released from prison. Since its start, the program has awarded more than 500 certificates or degrees. [Tulsa World]

MAPS 4 Diversion Hub construction set to start in early 2024: A permanent home for the Oklahoma County Diversion Hub, launched two years ago to provide options to jail for low-level offenders, is advancing with construction set to start in early 2024. The $15 million project is funded with $13 million from MAPS 4 and a land contribution from the Arnall Family Foundation valued at $2 million. [The Oklahoman]

Now that OKC has replaced its police oversight board, what’s changing?: Oklahoma City management has announced a little-known police oversight board has officially been dissolved in the wake of a tense Oklahoma City Council meeting this month. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmaker asks AG to reprocess DNA in Anthony Sanchez’s death penalty case: An Oklahoma lawmaker is asking the state’s attorney general to reexamine DNA evidence in the case of death row inmate Anthony Sanchez, set to be executed in September. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell: Workforce challenge impedes positive momentum of business recruitment, expansion: As I visit with business owners, there is one consistent woe they each share with me: available and qualified workforce. In smaller areas, recruiting workforce has become a vicious cycle of poaching workers from other local businesses, leaving their neighbor with the same challenging hole to fill. [Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

As the school year begins, more funding and optimism along with challenges: Dr. Floyd Simon has spent more than 30 years on the board of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. He served until recently on the board of directors of the National School Boards Association. He has seen the test scores, heard the criticisms and confronted the challenges faced by public schools in Oklahoma. As the new school year begins, Floyd remains optimistic because of his interactions with kids in his dental practice in the western Oklahoma city of Clinton. [The Oklahoman]

Educator: What would Ferris Bueller do? He’d slow down and take it all in: As I enter into my 26th year in education, I want my students to have equitable access to resources that abound in wealthier neighboring ZIP codes, to be held to the same high academic standards as their crosstown peers, and to experience the joy of attaining the hard-fought academic and personal successes that Santa Fe South students are now experiencing while simultaneously celebrating who they are. [Rodney “Lj” Littlejohn Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Rader decides against bid for Tulsa mayor: The field of contenders for Tulsa mayor shrank Saturday with state Sen. David Rader’s decision to seek reelection to the Legislature. [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“I’ve got some kids that don’t eat school lunches because they know their parents can’t afford it. Those type of kids we’re sending home with backpacks and sending them to food banks, and we’re trying to help as many families as we can. We have seen an increase in food anxiety for those families.”

-Jeff Edwards, director of child nutrition for El Reno Public Schools. He said working families especially struggled with the one-two punch of rising inflation and the end of free school meals. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Life expectancy in years for American Indian/Alaska Natives, the lowest for any race/ethnicity in the U.S. The overall life expectancy in the U.S. is 76.1 years, which was about 17 percent higher than for the AI/AN population. [KFF]

Policy Note

U.S. Should Create a Federal Entity Responsible for Advancing Racial, Ethnic, and Tribal Health Equity, and Implement a Health Equity Policy Audit and Score Card: To improve health equity in the U.S., the president should create a permanent federal body responsible for improving racial, ethnic, and tribal equity across the federal government, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. In addition, Congress should create a new score card to assess how all proposed federal legislation might impact health equity in the future. The report also recommends federal agencies conduct an equity audit of their current policies. [National Academies]

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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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