In The Know: Inauguration day | Ryan Walters steps down from nonprofit role | Housing is unaffordable for Oklahoma’s low-wage workers

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

Housing is unaffordable for Oklahoma’s low-wage workers: Oklahomans working a full-time job should be able to provide basic needs for themselves and their families, but 2 in 5 Oklahomans are unable to afford a stable home working one full-time job. The combination of rising housing costs and stagnant wages is keeping too many Oklahomans from being able to secure safe and stable housing for their families. To address this affordable housing crisis policymakers must find solutions that close the gap between housing costs and wages. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma governor, elected leaders prepare for inaugural: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and other statewide elected officials are preparing to take their oaths of office on Monday ahead of a legislative session in which lawmakers are expected to consider cutting taxes amid record revenue collections. [AP News]

  • Democracy Watch: Corporations, Individuals Fund Inaugural Festivities [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Kevin Stitt, Ryan Walters and others are swearing in on Monday. Here’s what to know. [The Oklahoman]

Ryan Walters steps down from nonprofit role that drew scrutiny: Incoming State Superintendent of Schools Ryan Walters has tendered his resignation from the helm of a nonprofit whose donors include advocates for education privatization and charter schools. [The Frontier] | [Oklahoma Watch]

59th Oklahoma Legislature sets House Committee, leadership appointments: The Oklahoma House of Representatives committee leadership and Republican majority leadership appointments have been made for the 59th Oklahoma Legislature. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, was formally elected Tuesday, Jan. 3, by the full House to his fourth two-year term as speaker, making him the longest-serving speaker in state history. Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, was formally elected Tuesday by the full House to his first full term as speaker pro tempore, the chamber’s second ranking officer. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Oklahoma’s record tax collection pace shows signs of slowdown: Propelled by soaring taxes collected on the production of oil and gas and by strong consumer spending, Oklahoma recorded all-time-high revenues in 2022, state Treasurer Randy McDaniel reported Friday. Gross receipts collected for the year totaled $17.4 billion, nearly a 15% increase over 2021. That amounted to some $2.2 billion more in tax revenues available to be spent on government services. [Journal Record]

State Government News

Stitt promises tax cuts, “true school choice” in second term: Promising a second term much like the first, Gov. Kevin Stitt opened a long weekend of inaugural events with a sold out $200-per-person dinner and ball at the BOK Center. After an introductory video pledging tax cuts and “true school choice,” Stitt took the stage for a seven-minute speech that mostly re-enforced his “Oklahoma turnaround” catch phrase. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma firm claims out-of-state groups get special treatment to secure Medicaid contracts: Oklahoma’s push to outsource the management of its Medicaid program could face a new legal challenge, this time by a local healthcare organization that claims out-of-state groups are being given an unfair advantage to win contracts, counter to the Legislature’s intent. [The Oklahoman]

Map accuracy key to acquiring needed broadband upgrade dollars, Oklahoma leaders say: State officials are asking Oklahomans to check an interactive map of broadband service to verify available internet speeds. Officials say the map needs to be accurate to ensure the state gets as much money as possible to improve the system. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Republican files bill ending corporal punishment for students with disabilities: Rep. John Talley, (R)-Stillwater, believes that how parents decide to discipline their children is up to them. But when it comes to how a teacher disciplines a student, especially a student with special needs, that’s different. [KOKH Fox 25]

Column: Solutions to Oklahoma electricity challenges include collaboration, communication: Ensuring reliable, affordable and sustainable energy has been and will continue to be a challenge for Oklahoma and the nation. [Dana Murphy Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Kevin McCarthy secures speaker post after Brecheen and other Republicans gain concessions: Freshman Oklahoma Rep. Josh Brecheen and more than a dozen other Republicans won concessions on House operations and broke a four-day stalemate early Saturday by voting to elect California Rep. Kevin McCarthy as speaker. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

‘It was a massacre’: Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders push to rename Oklahoma site: As the sun rose on a cold morning in 1868, hundreds of U.S. soldiers, led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, attacked Cheyenne families camped for the winter along the Washita River. Stories passed down by survivors recount what happened as a massacre. Other evidence backs them up. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

People who haven’t had COVID will likely catch XBB.1.5 – and many will get reinfected, experts say: The newest COVID-19 variant is so contagious that even people who’ve avoided it so far are getting infected and the roughly 80% of Americans who’ve already been infected are likely to catch it again, experts say. [The Oklahoman via the USA Today]

OK firm says some getting special treatment in managed care bids:  Oklahoma’s push to outsource the management of its Medicaid program could face a new legal challenge, this time by a local healthcare organization that claims out-of-state groups are being given an unfair advantage to win contracts, counter to the Legislature’s intent. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma City police look to fill 200 openings in department: City council approved an 8% pay raise, and Oklahoma City police Chief Wade Gourley said this will be used to help to recruit. But the department is focusing on other ways to recruit new officers. [KOCO Oklahoma City]

Second Cleveland County jail death in December leads to another investigation: Another investigation at the Cleveland County jail is underway after the late December death of Kathryn Milano, the second woman to die as a detainee in the same month. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Column: Solutions to poverty require a modern definition of success: Now we can begin to discuss actual solutions to unlock the next great economic and cultural renaissance in America. It is important to define three types of poverty and agree that solutions should address one or more of them. [Justin Brown Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Want to know how your school has spent its share of Oklahoma’s $2.3 billion in federal funds?: A new online portal is available for Oklahomans to track how school districts are using federal COVID relief funds. The Oklahoma State Department of Education and public school districts in the state have spent about 58% of the $2.3 billion the U.S. Department of Education has allocated to Oklahoma to support students in the wake of the pandemic. [Tulsa World]

OU-Tulsa early childhood study shows Educare students retained advantage through early grades: The academic impact of high quality early childhood programming on children lasts beyond the earliest elementary grades, a multiyear study conducted by the Early Childhood Education Institute at the University of Oklahoma’s Tulsa campus suggests. [Tulsa World]

Support grows for giving free college tuition to teachers’ children: There’s growing bipartisan enthusiasm for an “outside-the-box” idea that aims to increase the number of qualified teachers in public school classrooms by providing their children access to free college tuition. [Duncan Banner]

Yukon Lawmaker Holds ‘Arm The Teachers’ Event: A Yukon lawmaker partnered with the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association to host an event assisting teachers with getting a license to carry a handgun. Representative Jay Steagall said he wants to use his store, Clover Precision, and his skills to make a difference in Oklahoma schools. [News 9]

General News

Migration from other states drives Oklahoma’s population over 4 million mark: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the population in Oklahoma, as of July 1, to be 4,019,800. The agency estimates the state topped the 4 million mark sometime during the one-year period between July 1, 2021, and July 1, 2022, when it grew by 28,575 residents. [Tulsa World]

Historic all-Black towns of Oklahoma are focus of new exhibition: As interest in Oklahoma’s historically all-Black towns grows and a related exhibition opens in downtown Tulsa, the state Historic Preservation Office is celebrating an award that will allow it to continue its efforts to survey the 13 communities. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • City Planning Office to resume town hall meetings Thursday on PlaniTulsa update [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Even for full-time workers, wages are insufficient to afford housing for Oklahoma’s low-wage earners. More than 1 in 5 Oklahomans working a single, full-time job cannot afford a modest one-bedroom rental at fair market rent, while 2 in 5 cannot afford a two-bedroom rental.”

– Sabine Brown, OK Policy’s Infrastructure and Access Senior Policy Analyst, speaking on the current state of the affordable housing crisis. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy]

Number of the Day


Number of hours a person working minimum wage needs to work each week to afford a one-bedroom rental at fair market rent. [National Low Income Housing Coalition]

Policy Note

Rents Are Out of Reach for Minimum-Wage Workers Toiling 40 Hours a Week: Affordable housing is becoming more and more precarious as rents keep climbing at a record pace, and wages for many Americans aren’t keeping up with inflation. The average worker on a 40-hour week would need to earn $21.25 an hour to afford a one-bedroom home in the US, and $25.82 to afford a two-bedroom home. [Bloomberg News]

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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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