In The Know: House, Senate present dueling teacher pay raise plans | #OKLeg withholds $600M in federal funding from OHCA | Policy Matters | 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.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: The state budget is a moral document: Far more than just a collection of agency appropriations, Oklahoma’s state budget represents a moral document that should reflect who we are and what we value. Too often, however, state budget choices are misaligned with Oklahoma values. We want all children to receive a high-quality education, but Oklahoma has the region’s lowest per pupil spending and is among the lowest nationwide. (Now lawmakers are seeking to siphon tax dollars from public schools to provide tax cuts that essentially underwrite private school tuition for the wealthy.) [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Sparks fly over dueling teacher pay-hike plans: Sparks continued to fly at the Capitol on Wednesday over dueling teacher pay raise plans, with House and Senate leaders and their staffs reporting conflicting information. [Tulsa World]

  • House, Senate leaders spar over ed reforms [KOKH]

State Government News

‘Not their job’: Legislature ties up $600 million they say Health Care Authority was ‘shopping’: In a move further underscoring tension about separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government, the Oklahoma Legislature’s Joint Committees on Appropriations and Budget advanced a bill today that functionally stops the Oklahoma Health Care Authority from spending $600 million without lawmakers’ input. [NonDoc]

‘Drastic step’: Insurance Department takes action against CVS/Caremark for prescription problems: Pharmacy benefits manager CVS/Caremark is in hot water after allegations that they errantly told Oklahoma consumers they could no longer fill a 90-day supply of medications in Oklahoma because of a state law. [KFOR Oklahoma City]

More delays for Oklahoma turnpike expansion likely as bond sale approval expires: Opponents of ACCESS Oklahoma, the proposed $5 billion toll road expansion plan, are asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to look at whether to require turnpike officials to seek new bond council oversight approval. [The Oklahoman]

State park restaurants under new management: Six state park restaurants – shuttered one year ago amid allegations of fraud – will reopen Memorial Day weekend under the operation of La Ratatouille, the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation announced Wednesday. [Journal Record]

  • Oklahoma state park restaurants to reopen Memorial Day weekend under new management [Tulsa World]

Report: $26K spent after nutrition card distribution error: A State Department of Education data error last month resulted in nearly $900,000 in federal pandemic supplemental nutrition benefits being distributed to ineligible students, according to a state analysis. While the Department of Human Services was able to freeze and cancel over $871,700 before it was spent, the families of 357 ineligible students had already spent $26,700 before their Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) accounts could be blocked, according to a DHS analysis released in response to CNHI Oklahoma’s request. [CNHI Oklahoma via the Duncan Banner]

Tribal Nations News

Their ancestors were enslaved in the Muscogee Nation. Behind their fight for citizenship: African American slaves freed by the Muscogee Nation became equal citizens after the Civil War. So did their descendants. But when the tribe adopted a new constitution in 1979, it left Freedmen families out. Now, two Freedmen descendants are appealing to a tribal district court judge. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Groundbreaking set for $400 million hospital in Tahlequah: Construction of a new $400 million hospital will soon be underway in Tahlequah. Planning for the health center, which will measure some 400,000 square feet and include beds for 127 patients, has been underway for some time by the Cherokee Nation. Officials have said it will replace the aging W.W. Hastings Hospital in the Cherokee Nation’s capital city. [Journal Record]

Criminal Justice News

As Safety Violations Pile Up, Hughes County DA Seeks to Close Jail: Conditions have become so dangerous at the Hughes County jail that the newly elected district attorney said it is no longer safe for detention officers or detainees and should be shut down. [Oklahoma Watch]

Economic Opportunity

Funding to help Oklahoma companies innovate, expand: Companies across the state have been invited to find out about the Oklahoma Innovation Expansion Program, which will award up to $15 million to help companies advance plans for growth. [Journal Record]

Column: If we want companies to come to Oklahoma, we must commit to welcoming all: I honestly believe any business that chooses to locate or expand in Oklahoma is making a great decision. Unfortunately, many business leaders who aren’t from here have trouble seeing how it would work. They understand Oklahoma is committed to providing competitive financial incentives and that our tax policies are considered pro-business. [Cliff Hudson / Guest Column]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma trims millions in pledged incentives to EV maker Canoo after delays and shifting plans: The electric vehicle startup Canoo missed a key deadline and lost out on a deal to reap up to $10 million in state incentives from Oklahoma after failing to start construction on a factory in Pryor. [The Frontier]

  • 110 new jobs coming soon as Canoo plans to assemble EV batteries in Pryor, CEO says [Tulsa World]
  • Take a look at electric vehicle startup Canoo’s contracts with Oklahoma [The Frontier]
  • MidAmerica Industrial Park CEO: ‘We will win a megasite’ [Tulsa World]

Education News

Five years after the Oklahoma Teacher Walkout, the stakes are higher than ever: In March, the legislature passed a historic raise for educators and allocated $50 million more to school funding. But by that point, Oklahoma’s education budget cuts were by far the worst in the nation and had a long way to catch up to pre-2008 levels. Many teachers felt like it was too little, too late. [KGOU]

Langston University president to retire from education: The president of Oklahoma’s only historically Black university will end his tenure after 11 years. Langston University announced Tuesday its president, Kent J. Smith Jr., will depart at the end of the current spring semester. [The Oklahoman]

Pandemic Disruption and A Data Error: Why School Report Cards Are So Late: A calculation error created a months-long delay in the 2022 school report cards, which still have not been released to the public.  The error caused some schools to receive inaccurate letter grades late last year. The Oklahoma Department of Education corrected the scores and gave school leaders until Monday to review. [Oklahoma Watch]

TPS audit, internal review flag $364K in questionable contracts: An internal investigation and an external audit both indicate that two vendor contracts connected to the former head of Tulsa Public Schools’ Talent Management Department had no documented “clear business purpose.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Political heavyweight-backed Treat wins election as next Oklahoma County clerk [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC citizen scientists to help expose ‘heat islands’ [Journal Record]
  • Now 5 years old, A Better Way program shows ‘Tulsans’ desire to help one another,’ mayor says [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Right after the walkout, I wrote a blog just to get some feelings out about how teaching is like an abusive relationship. And [the legislature] keep taking things away and keep smacking us around, metaphorically. You know, taking money away. And they’re saying, ‘Do it for the kids.’ … And I think that’s what we’re seeing now, is just teachers like, ‘You know what? I don’t have to stay here. I can still do it for the kids. It just won’t be Oklahoma kids.’”

–  Jennifer Williams, a former high school English teacher who now teaches at the University of Oklahoma, speaking about the experience of being an educator in Oklahoma public schools. [KGOU]

Number of the Day


Racial data captured in the 2020 census show 39% of American Indians and Alaska Natives are classified as one race alone, compared with more than 80% of Black, white and Asian Americans who are classified as one race alone. This disparity is a legacy of the complex effects that hundreds of years of colonization have had on the identities of Native Americans, as well as the modern-day technical processes that the Census Bureau uses to code individual survey responses. [Brookings]

Policy Note

Why the federal government needs to change how it collects data on Native Americans

This January, the White House released proposals for reclassifying racial data collection in the 2030 census. Most notably, the proposals include combining race and ethnicity into a single question, as well as creating a new racial category for Middle Eastern and North African people. [Brookings]

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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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