In The Know: Gov. Stitt to let state workers sub for teachers | Omicron crippling hospital care | Proposal to aid DDS waiting list

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

Join the team: OK Policy is currently hiring for three positions: Digital Communications Associate / Storybanker, Manager of Organizational Advancement, and Staff Accountant. Applications for these three positions close on Friday, February 25 at 5:00 PM (CST). [Learn more and apply]

Oklahoma News

Gov. Kevin Stitt announces program allowing Oklahoma state employees to substitute teach amid a rampant Omicron surge: Gov. Kevin Stitt held one of his first COVID-19 briefings in several months on Tuesday, as health and education leaders expressed fears that the severe Omicron surge was getting worse. His address, which introduced a controversial policy to combat the state’s acute substitute teacher shortage, contradicted much of what the experts had said hours before he took to the podium. [State Impact Oklahoma

  • Stitt to let state employees sub at schools, hospital leaders plead with public [NonDoc]
  • Stitt announces state workers to sub for teachers amid school staffing crisis [Oklahoma Watch
  • Amid rampant COVID surge, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt turns to state employees to shore up substitute teaching slots [KOSU
  • Oklahoma Gov. Stitt authorizes state employees to substitute in schools as COVID cases surge [The Oklahoman]
  • Oklahoma schools ask state officials to substitute as COVID crushes staffing [The Oklahoman]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt wants state employees to serve as substitute teachers during COVID-19 surge [Tulsa World]
  • Governor offers plan to solve teacher shortages with state employees, but some believe it’s unworkable [CNHI via The Norman Transcript]
  • Stitt offers ‘guest educators’ as teacher-shortage fix [The Journal Record

Omicron wave hurting hospital care: Rural Oklahoma patient with kidney failure because of COVID dies while awaiting transfer: The COVID-19 wave is overwhelming Oklahoma hospitals and hurting patient care, and health leaders are pleading for the public’s help as some patients are unable to get the care they need in a timely fashion. A rural Oklahoma hospital couldn’t find a place — in state or out — to transfer to a higher level of care a patient whose kidneys began to fail because of COVID-19. [Tulsa World

  • Oklahoma City hospitals again overrun by COVID-19, administrators say [The Norman Transcript
  • Oklahoma virus hospitalizations surge due to omicron variant [AP]
  • Oklahoma City hospitals staff ‘nearly crippled’ amid surge in COVID-19 patients in ICU, staff shortages [OU Daily]
  • 19 states have fewer than 15% of ICU beds left as health care staffing shortages complicate care [CNN]
  • Tulsa Public Schools reinstating mask policy; other districts announce instructional shifts [Tulsa World

State Government News

City legislators Kirt, Munson file proposals they say will increase transparency for disabled Oklahomans on DDS waiting list: Senator Julia Kirt and Representative Cyndi Munson have introduced legislation intended “to improve transparency about who is currently being served by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) and who is still waiting,” according to a legislator press release. [The Oklahoma City Sentinel]

Oklahoma County commissioners seek state funding match for jail construction: The Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 today to ask the state of Oklahoma to help fund the construction of a proposed $300 million new jail. But the U.S. Department of Treasury recently issued a final rule that restricts the use of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act for the construction of jails or prisons. [NonDoc] Instead, their new request, passed unanimously Tuesday, is to refine their request to money that would fund treatment of those that the Oklahoma County Detention Center or Jail is holding. [OKC Free Press]

Could Oklahoma legalize sports betting? State lawmakers could look into it this year: An Oklahoma lawmaker wants to legalize sports betting in Oklahoma to create more jobs, improve economic development and boost education funding. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma set to get $266.9 million from infrastructure bill to repair and replace bridges: Oklahoma is set to receive $266.9 million to improve its bridges as part of a new funding program being launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding, to be allocated over five years, is part of $26.5 billion going to states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Dozens of McGirt ruling petitions still pending at U.S. Supreme Court: The U.S. Supreme Court will make a third attempt on Friday at determining whether to review its 2020 decision affirming the Muscogee (Creek) reservation in Oklahoma, the court announced on Tuesday. Dozens of petitions filed by the state seeking review of the decision in McGirt v Oklahoma have been scheduled for the justices’ conference on Friday. [The Oklahoman] The U.S. Supreme Court took no action Tuesday on the state of Oklahoma’s series of appeals that seek to overturn the court’s landmark McGirt decision or expand it to permit state action in some criminal cases. [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

State Republican voter registration advantage continues to grow: The Oklahoma State Election Board counted 2,218,374 registered voters on Jan. 15 following the board’s biennial deletion of inactive registrations. That compares to 2,090,107 on the same date in 2020, an increase of 6.1%. [Tulsa World] Registered Republicans increased their majority among Oklahoma voters in the last two years, while Democrats lost ground and percentages of registered independent and Libertarian voters both increased, according to figures released Tuesday by the Oklahoma State Election Board. [The Journal Record

Criminal Justice News

Under looming threat of criminalization, one new program seeks to help Oklahoma mothers with substance use disorders: In Oklahoma, pregnant women with substance use disorders can face a number of criminal charges. One new program aims to address the issue in a better way. [KGOU

Activists want to see changes after multiple deaths at OCDC: Tuesday, the Oklahoma County Commissioners approved a request for funding, which would go towards a new Detention Center, as well as mental health services. Dozens gathered this morning as County Commissioners discussed this new proposal, requesting $110 million from the Joint Committee on Pandemic Relief Funding of the Oklahoma Legislature for a new jail. [KWTV

This Trump backer was inside U.S. Capitol only minutes. He’ll spend two years on probation: A judge Tuesday put a Chandler man on probation for two years and fined him $1,500 after he expressed little remorse for breaching the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. [The Oklahoman

Economy & Business News

The Winter Gas Bill From Hell: Oklahomans face paying $1.4 billion over snow storm: When Neil Crittenden heard that an extreme winter storm was about to hit Oklahoma last winter, he did what officials advised him to do and kept his heat on and water running so that his pipes wouldn’t freeze. The 40-year-old Oklahoma City resident even used hair dryers to keep them thawed. What Crittenden didn’t know at the time was that the energy he used was going to cost him significantly. [Oklahoma Watch

Worker shortages in the groundwater industry have sparked education initiatives: Humans rely on groundwater for most of our usable water. But the shrinking pool of workers in the groundwater industry in the U.S. is a problem Oklahoma State University is trying to address. [KOSU

Education News

Editorial: Confidence in public schools shows with surging enrollment: A year after pandemic-related shutdowns and remote learning, Oklahoma students have returned to public schools with an increase that is nearing a 700,000 enrollment. It’s a sign of confidence for public education among families. It ought to be a sign to lawmakers to start investing in public schools, bringing up the per-pupil expenditure from 46th in the nation. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World

Oklahoma Local News

  • Fate of OKC backyard chicken coops headed for City Council vote [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC’s housing market is on fire. Here’s how that heat affects inventory, prices and more [The Oklahoman]
  • Stillwater groups helping educate, acclimate Afghan families [KOSU]

Quote of the Day

“Teachers are not a disposable resource. Teachers are highly qualified professionals, and they cannot simply be replaced. At (Jenks Public Schools), in-person learning has always been the priority, and we believe a professional educator is still the most effective leader for a classroom.” 

– Statement from Jenks Public Schools in response to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order directing state agencies to create mechanisms for state employees to substitute teach during the latest COVID-19 surge [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


The living wage for a single Oklahoman with no children

[Source: MIT Living Wage Calculator]

Policy Note

Small Businesses Get a Boost From a $15 Minimum Wage: Minimum wage increases during recessions are not uncommon. (see Figure 2) Indeed, the minimum wage was first adopted during the Great Depression, when mass unemployment suppressed wages far below subsistence levels and the necessity of a federal wage floor became painfully evident . . . Economic literature has found that increases in worker productivity, reductions in turnover, and aggregate increases in consumer spending offset a large portion of the increased payroll costs. [Center for American Progress]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.