In The Know: Gov. signs education funding change | Legal challenge for charter school funding | Legislative transparency needed

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.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Just plain bad governance: Oklahomans should expect crystal-clear transparency from their elected officials, along with plentiful opportunities to engage in lawmaking whether through public hearings or testimony from impacted communities. Instead, we’re walking through a carnival fun house where the mirrors distort reality and nothing is as it seems. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Gov. Kevin Stitt signs controversial education funding change: Despite opposition from the state’s top education official and many public school advocates, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a controversial education funding measure that will have school funding more closely follow students. [The Oklahoman] HB 2078 and SB 783 passed the Senate and House respectively today despite significant opposition from educators, particularly in rural areas. HB 2078 will adjust the state aid formula in an effort to tie funding more closely to current student enrollment, while SB 783 establishes a statewide student transfer policy intended to offer parents greater opportunity to enroll their children in other school districts. [NonDoc] Critics of HB 2078, including Republican State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister, said the change would particularly harm rural schools, where district enrollment can fluctuate dramatically based on economic factors. [AP News] As it was, 11 Republicans in the Senate and 16 in the House, most of them representing rural constituencies, voted against the measures. [Tulsa World]

First legal challenge to charter school funding move by State Board of Education is filed: The first of possibly several legal challenges to a settlement deal by four members of the Oklahoma State Board of Education who are intent on increasing state funding to charter schools was filed Wednesday. Oklahoma City Public Schools went to district court and filed a petition challenging the state board’s authority in the matter and seeking a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction to block any reallocation of revenue that currently flows only to traditional public schools. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma charter school leader explains lawsuit that has ‘seismic effect’ on education funding [StateImpact Oklahoma]
  • OKCPS predicts it will lose millions of dollars after recent funding resolution [KGOU]

Oklahoma County jail officials blame short staffing, poor infrastructure after inmate killed: Four days after Oklahoma County Jail detainees took a guard hostage while demanding better living conditions, officials deflected blame onto a staffing shortage and longstanding infrastructure deficiencies. The deadly incident Saturday focused a new spotlight on the 30-year-old jail, which has long been plagued with complaints about sanitation, flooding, food and safety for the 1,600 or so people locked up in the 13-story tower. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma County jail, site of deadly standoff, had substandard conditions, report found [New York Times]
  • New report paints picture of an understaffed, malfunctioning Oklahoma County jail [KGOU]
  • (Video) Oklahoma County jail shares update following hostage situation [The Oklahoman]
  • “My son didn’t have to die”: OKC police kill county jail inmate [The Black Wall Street Times]

Health News

COVID-19: Most metrics continue downward trend; Tulsa County sees slight increase in new cases: Oklahoma’s coronavirus metrics were continuing a largely downward trend on Wednesday. The state reported that 2,229 new cases were confirmed within the one-week period that ended Wednesday, bringing the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases to a low not observed since mid-June last year: 318. Tulsa County, however, reported 306 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the week, a slight increase in a metric that had been decreasing since mid-January. The region’s seven-day rolling average rose from 40 to 44. [Tulsa World]

  • Trends look good but COVID still uncontrolled in Oklahoma, epidemiologist says [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19 in Oklahoma tracker: Updates on new cases, deaths, vaccines for March 2021 [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma County to provide up to 10,000 virus vaccinations [AP News]
  • Tulsa Health Department COVID-19 vaccine clinic at River Spirit Expo to move to Expo Square Pavilion [Tulsa World]

‘Access equals hope’: Oklahomans are more likely to die from an overdose than from a car accident or gun violence, says Dr. Kelly Dunn, executive director of clinical treatment for Oklahoma State University’s National Center for Wellness and Recovery. In fact, nearly 1,000 Oklahomans die each year from an overdose, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute. [Tulsa People]

State Government News

Proposed change to Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program would raise stakes for students: Northern Oklahoma College’s president says a proposed state bill adding more strings to scholars in Oklahoma’s higher education scholarship program would have a “chilling effect” on the state’s future work force. [Enid News & Eagle]

Bill banning ‘gender and sexual diversity training’ resurrected in House committee: Legislation that Democrats and LGBTQ advocates thought they had killed reappeared in a House committee Wednesday afternoon in the guise of an unrelated bill. Rep. Danny Williams, R-Seminole, managed to get language barring all state and local governments from providing mandatory “gender and sexual diversity training” inserted into Senate Bill 627, by Rep. David Bullard, R-Durant, which came from the Senate as a measure reconstituting the Red River Boundary Commission. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Legislature sees an increase in anti-transgender bills targeting schools and youth: Several anti-transgender bills have been filed this legislative session, and while most have failed to clear initial deadlines, advocates say the damage has already been done in the message it sends to Oklahoma’s LGBTQ youth. At least 10 bills were filed this year to limit everything from participation in school sports to health care access for transgender or LGBTQ youth, according to an analysis by The Frontier. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma health officials can’t account for more than $20 million in protective equipment spending: In its rush to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the Oklahoma State Department of Health paid out more than $20.4 million for protective equipment that it has no record of receiving, a report from the state auditor has found. The purchases were part of 62 wire payments the health department made last year for protective equipment that totaled almost $37 million, according to a routine statewide audit. [The Frontier] The audit also found several payments from the Health Department that weren’t entered into the state accounting system during the 2020 fiscal year: 18 wire transfers totaling over $18 million. [The Oklahoman]

Legislative leaders lift Oklahoma House, Senate mask requirements: Legislative leaders have relaxed COVID-19 protocols at the Oklahoma state Capitol in light of a decrease in new infections and widespread vaccine offerings. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, lifted Monday a requirement that Capitol visitors and state employees wear masks in legislative areas of the building when social distancing was not possible. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Lawmakers Move Forward On Redistricting, Despite Delays In Census Data: Oklahoma lawmakers have a state constitutionally-required deadline on May 28th, the end of their current session, to pass new legislative district maps. But this isn’t just the case in Oklahoma. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are 12 other states with constitutions calling for redistricting in the year after the census. [KOSU]

Oklahoma asks court to rethink overturning murder conviction: Oklahoma’s attorney general on Wednesday asked the state’s highest criminal court to reconsider its ruling overturning a man’s murder convictions and death sentence because of jurisdictional issues stemming from the U.S. Supreme Court’s determination that much of eastern Oklahoma remains an American Indian reservation. [AP News] The Chickasaw Nation on Wednesday asked the Court of Criminal Appeals for leave to file a brief in the Bosse case responding to Hunter’s request for a rehearing. The tribe also proposed a 60-day extension of the stay in the case, hoping to give all the parties a timetable. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘Fracture’ in criminal system created by Supreme Court decision, Tulsa County DA says [Tulsa World]

Court vacates decision involving ODOT, old hotel: The highway widening project is long since finished. The hotel that had some of its property condemned to make way for the road project – and even more of the property flood-damaged during construction – closed a decade ago. But the court case involving the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Trade Winds Motor Hotel East is ongoing. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Looking at what CDC extending nation’s eviction moratorium means for Oklahomans: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the nation’s eviction moratorium, saying more than 10 million families are behind on rent. But there are ways for those families to get help paying rent now. [KOCO]

Sen. Lankford calls treatment of children at border ‘human tragedy’: U.S. Sen. James Lankford briefed the press Wednesday on his recent trips to the southern U.S. border, detailing the large numbers of illegal crossings and describing the treatment afforded asylum seekers, many of them children, as a “human tragedy.” [Tulsa World]

Expanded unemployment benefits harm children, Hern says: Republican Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma’s first congressional district says that generous, pandemic-inspired unemployment benefits are harming American children. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Video has become the strongest witness for the prosecution in police shootings: Prior to the introduction of body-worn cameras, prosecutors and the public had to largely rely on police accounts of fatal shootings. Early information the Oklahoma City and The Village police departments released to the public about three police shootings in the past year where officers were later charged differed in key details from what body camera footage showed when it was later released, according to video, press releases and other public records reviewed by The Frontier. [The Frontier]

City of Oklahoma City sued for gunshot injury to protester by OKC police: A protester who participated in a May 31, 2020 protest in Oklahoma City filed a lawsuit against the City of Oklahoma City Wednesday. She is claiming injuries from a projectile fired by Oklahoma City Police (OKCPD) Officers that night permanently injuring her right arm. [Free Press OKC]

Economy & Business News

Study: Oklahoma is great for retirement: When it comes to living happily ever after, Oklahoma is a good choice for a comfortable retirement. The cost of living in Oklahoma City is 15% lower than the national average, according to PayScale. And the state overall has the second-lowest cost of living in the country on some rankings. [The Journal Record]

Report suggests seaweed as sensible supplement to cattle feed: Thoughts of gassy cows don’t exactly keep David Lalman up at night. However, the professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Oklahoma State University said he has been intrigued by a new study that suggests feeding seaweed to cattle could help reduce their gassy emissions and, thus, help to curb global warming. [The Journal Record]

General News

Tulsa Race Massacre topic of new ABC Audio podcast: The first episode of a new ABC Audio podcast — “Soul of a Nation: Tulsa’s Buried Truth” — will debut Tuesday, April 6. The podcast, written and hosted by ABC News senior national correspondent Steve Osunsami, is timed to premiere in advance of the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [Tulsa World]

  • (Video) First Greenwood Art Project works go on display [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Infrastructure a common thread in OKC Ward 1 race [NonDoc]
  • OKC Ward 3 candidates a contrast in vision [NonDoc]
  • OKC school board candidates focused on COVID recovery, diverse views [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Children in rural Oklahoma deserve to have a high quality education, and HB 2078 potentially jeopardizes that. This bill removes financial safeguards meant to protect all students from the impact of abrupt changes in the local economy.”

-State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, speaking about a bill that changes Oklahoma’s school funding formula [NonDoc

Number of the Day


Percentage of small business-owners in California who reported paid family and medical leave having a positive or neutral effect on profitability

[Source: American Progress Institute]

Policy Note

Key Takeaways from BPC’s Survey of Small Business Views on Paid Family Leave: Studies on paid family leave in the US and other developed countries indicate short- and long-term health benefits of leave taking for children and mothers, such as a decreased incidence of low birthweight and preterm births, increased breast-feeding, reduced rates of hospitalizations among infants, and improved maternal health. [Health Affairs]

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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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