In The Know: KIDS COUNT 2021: Oklahoma in bottom 10 for child well-being | State prison staffing shortages | 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

KIDSCOUNT 2021: Smart policy decisions can help improve Oklahoma’s dismal child well-being outcomes: Oklahoma children need housing, food, health care, educational opportunities, and stable, nurturing environments to succeed. These essentials, however, are out of reach for many Oklahomans as the result of poverty, structural racism, and other barriers. Oklahoma’s disparities for child well-being were evidenced by Oklahoma’s low overall rank (42nd) in the 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released on Monday. [Gabrielle Jacobi / OK Policy] | [News Release]  

Reducing Oklahoma’s excessive reliance on incarceration (Capitol Update): Underfunding its corrections system brought prison riots and landed Oklahoma in federal court in the 1970s. The same could happen again. In a press release last Friday, Rep. Humphrey said an officer shortage leaves prison staff and the inmates themselves unsafe. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

More than 113,000 Oklahomans approved for health coverage through Medicaid expansion: More than 113,000 Oklahomans will have health coverage starting next month through Medicaid expansion. Of those, 17,591 are people who had never applied before, according to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. The rest — 95,829 — are people whose recent applications were reprocessed or those who were transitioned into SoonerCare from more limited benefit programs. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy and the CoverOK Coalition held a webinar Connecting to Health Care: The Ins and Outs of Enrolling for Medicaid Expansion to help explain how Oklahomans can apply for health care coverage through Medicaid expansion.

  • Newly eligible Oklahomans continue to sign up for SoonerCare [News 9]

As state prison staffing shortage persists, advocates fear violence: Oklahoma is facing a significant shortage of corrections officers, an ongoing problem advocates warn is causing widespread burnout among existing workers and is putting everyone who lives and works in state prisons at risk. The corrections department spent $19.4 million on overtime pay in fiscal year 2020, up 46% from fiscal year 2017. As of June 17, the agency had funding to fill 314 vacant correctional officer positions. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Oklahoma prisons facing employee shortage; lawmaker calls for state of emergency [News On 6]

Oklahoma ranks second nationally in elementary reading expectations: A new reports shows Oklahoma is making significant strides in setting high expectations for student academic proficiency, rising to second in the nation in expectations for elementary-level reading. In a state-by state comparison, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card, ranked Oklahoma second in the country in expectations for fourth-grade reading and seventh for eighth-grade reading for 2019. [Fox 24] [Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales]

Oklahoma spent $31M on private school vouchers while collecting almost no data. That’s about to change: For more than a decade, Oklahoma taxpayers have subsidized private school tuition for students whose disabilities made learning in public school difficult. And, until recently, the state failed to collect even the most basic information on those students’ disabilities, gender, race, grade and their families’ income. That is changing. The state Education Department recently started gathering and posting more information about those students to comply with a 2019 law. [Oklahoma Watch]

Health News

Oklahoma ranks last in U.S. in sequencing variants of concern as health officials warn of infectious strain: As federal health officials warn that the highly contagious delta variant is likely to become the dominant strain in the United States within weeks, Oklahoma ranks last in the country in tracking COVID-19 variants of concern. The state, said Oklahoma State Medical Association president Dr. Mary Clarke, has sequenced just 0.18 percent of all positive tests. That puts Oklahoma 50th in the nation in detecting such virus strains. [Tulsa World]

Over 75,000 missing COVID-19 vaccination records added to Oklahoma’s totals: Tens of thousands of previously missing COVID-19 vaccine administration records were added to Oklahoma’s totals this week, bringing the state’s total doses administered over 3.1 million on Wednesday. Oklahoma saw its total doses administered jump up by over 21,000 on Tuesday and almost 75,000 on Wednesday, which the state Health Department said is attributed to the missing records being added, as well as the state’s recent, ongoing COVID-19 vaccinations. [The Oklahoman]

  • Vaccine update: 9 charts that show how Oklahoma is handling the spread of COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Why COVID vaccine technology gives an Oklahoma mother hope for a shot to prevent CMV [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘People accepted the death’: Many who lost loved ones in 2020 no longer interested in delayed funerals [The Oklahoman]

State & Local Government News

After losing out on Tesla, Oklahoma Gov. Stitt helps land another auto manufacturer: Gov. Kevin Stitt and state officials pitched Tesla CEO Elon Musk on the merits of Oklahoma and why it was worthy, but to no avail. Tulsa was named a finalist, but Austin, Texas, was the eventual winner. Stitt and other state officials promised to continue pursuing manufacturing jobs and automotive businesses, but who would actually come? Thursday, that question was answered when an electric vehicle company called Canoo stepped into the picture. [The Oklahoman]

  • Electric car maker plans mega-microfactory, 2,000 jobs for Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Electric vehicle company picks Oklahoma for assembly plant [AP News]
  • U.S. electric vehicle startup Canoo to build plant in Oklahoma [Reuters]

Critics decry focus on social issues, but GOP lawmakers says session a success: Even as Republican lawmakers heralded the 2021 session as one of the most successful in recent history, critics complained it was one of the most divisive because of what they said were unnecessary battles over social issues. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

Amid fuss over other states’ election law changes, Oklahoma said to ‘strike a good balance’: Oklahoma voters might be forgiven if they’ve been a little perplexed by the brouhaha surrounding election law changes in some other states this spring. Some of these new laws, Oklahoma voters might observe, even sound less restrictive than their Oklahoma counterparts. [Tulsa World]

11 U.S. mayors commit to develop reparations pilot projects: Eleven U.S. mayors — from Los Angeles to tiny Tullahassee, Oklahoma — have pledged to pay reparations for slavery to a small group of Black residents in their cities, saying their aim is to set an example for the federal government on how a nationwide program could work. The mayors had no details on how much it would cost, who would pay for it or how people would be chosen. [AP News]

  • Oklahoma mayor joins national effort to provide reparations for Black residents [Tulsa World]

As Juneteenth becomes federal holiday, will Oklahoma follow suit? Not likely, advocates say: Bruce Fisher said he was shocked when President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday that formally recognized Juneteenth as a national holiday. Fisher, a former curator of African American history at the Oklahoma Historical Society, said he never thought he’d see that change made in his lifetime. Fisher, who is Black, hopes to see it happen at the state level in Oklahoma, but getting to that point could be politically difficult and time consuming. [The Oklahoman]

A Black owner pioneered business on Route 66. His descendants are working to save that history: Allen Threatt, a homesteader who came from Alabama sometime in the early 1900s, owned 160 acres of red dirt near the small town of Luther, along Route 7 half an hour northeast of Oklahoma City. And he capitalized on the highway traffic by opening a small filling station, where he not only sold gas but offered produce from his farm. [Tulsa World]

These are the stories of 15 fatal chases involving Oklahoma Highway Patrol since May 2016: Stolen property or traffic infractions prompted all but one of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol vehicular pursuits that killed 18 people the past five years despite policy requiring troopers to weigh if the benefits of apprehension are worth a chase’s risks. [Tulsa World]

  • Crimes worth the crash? 18 people killed in 5 years of OHP pursuits [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten: Running for state treasurer is ‘the right next step’: Oklahoma County Clerk David B. Hooten launched his campaign for state treasurer Thursday at the state Capitol. Hooten is the first to publicly express plans to run in 2022. Current Treasurer Randy McDaniel announced June 1 he would not seek reelection. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Courts ‘in limbo’ as Ottawa County tribes await reservation rulings: Over the next six months, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals is expected to make decisions about whether the landmark McGirt ruling applies to as many as eight tribal nations within Ottawa County, a situation that has left the county court system “in limbo,” according to District Attorney Kenny Wright. [NonDoc]

Promised Land: Biden administration pushes funding for McGirt ruling caseloads: Last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on McGirt v. Oklahoma sparked numerous questions and complexities surrounding Indigenous and non-tribal jurisdiction. As these questions arise from ongoing litigation and coming court decisions, Oklahoma journalists are working together to find answers via the Promised Land collaborative. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

State Prison In Northwest Oklahoma Will Close At End Of The Year: An Oklahoma state prison is scheduled to close at the end of the year. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections said William S. Key Correctional Center in Ft. Supply is unsafe and too expensive to keep open. [KGOU]

Dozens of Oklahoma lawmakers press for new investigation into death row prisoner’s conviction: Thirty-four Oklahoma lawmakers are asking Governor Kevin Stitt and the Pardon and Parole Board to begin an independent investigation into a death row prisoner’s first-degree murder conviction. [KGOU]

County criminal justice group hires FSB firm to develop jail solutions: On Thursday afternoon, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) met at the new MAPS 3 Convention Center to consider hiring a new jail consulting firm. CJAC has always been an idea group and was the body that developed the idea of a Jail Trust and a separate administrator for the jail other than the Oklahoma County Sheriff. [OKC Free Press]

  • Former Oklahoma County jail employees charged in separate inmate attacks [The Oklahoman]
  • A drug dealer was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The Oklahoma County Jail released him instead [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

OKC Homeless Task Force breaks down plans to address city’s homeless population: The City of Oklahoma City is asking for the public’s input on how to address its homeless population. In 2019, Mayor David Holt formed a Task Force on Homelessness in hopes to develop a plan to prevent and reduce homelessness in the city. In a 118-page report released in June 2021, the task force, along with key stakeholders, broke down its strategies to begin to combat the problem. [FOX 25]

Economy & Business News

‘What I saw gave me fear’: As public safety concerns mount, what’s next for Oklahoma wind farm?: Brandy Wreath, director of the commission’s Public Utility Division, testified before elected commissioners about what he had seen at the KODE Novus I and II wind facility as part of the division’s request for an emergency order to require Olympia to provide regulators with a site safety and security plan. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma has seen a marijuana land rush and some residents push back: Merle Haggard famously crooned, “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.” But now, medical dispensaries are scattered across Muskogee and pretty much every other town in Oklahoma and large-scale marijuana grow operations dot the landscape. [The Progressive Farmer]

Electric vehicle company picks Oklahoma for assembly plant: Los Angeles-based electric vehicle company Canoo announced Thursday it has selected Pryor, Oklahoma, for its U.S. manufacturing facility, which is expected to employ 2,000 people. [AP News]

Education News

Epic’s overhauled governing board inks $2.5 million licensing agreement with longtime board chair’s brother: Epic Charter Schools’ recently overhauled governing board just inked a new agreement that will send $2.5 million in taxpayer dollars to a technology firm owned by the brother of the board’s immediate past chairman. According to school officials, Futuristic Education has worked on Epic’s school management and student information system for the last seven years under contract with Epic Youth Services, the for-profit school management company that made Epic school founders David Chaney and Ben Harris millionaires. [Tulsa World]

General News

‘Supporting the truth is monumental’: Tulsans celebrate unity, freedom at Juneteenth festival: Unity was on display at Tulsa’s Juneteenth Festival this year. Tulsans of all demographics gathered on Greenwood Avenue to celebrate the holiday honoring the end of slavery in the United States. And both lifelong Tulsans and new residents said the celebration in Greenwood showed how important it is for people to come together. [Tulsa World]

  • Enid’s Juneteenth celebration ‘not just a cookout,’ in historic year for holiday [Enid News & Eagle]
  • ‘World is so diverse’ Historic Black town swaps white dolls at Juneteenth celebration [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Newly digitized OU Daily archives offer a window into university’s identity [NonDoc]
  • OKC’s Allied Arts spearheads efforts to ‘restart the arts’ after COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“If we really want to honor the legacy of Juneteenth and abolishing slavery, we have to look at our mass incarceration crisis.”

-Colleen McCarty, deputy director of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, a nonprofit coalition of business and community leaders that researches, educates and advocates for justice reform. [Tulsa World

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s overall rank for child well-being. [Oklahoma Data Sheet, KIDS COUNT 2021]

Policy Note

KIDS COUNT Data Book 2021: State Trends in Child Well-Being: At all times, but particularly during a crisis, every child needs food, health care and safe and stable housing. Millions of households with children already lacked these necessities before the pandemic, and this economic and public health catastrophe brought millions more face-to-face with challenges ranging from lost health insurance and bare pantries to the threat of homelessness due to eviction or foreclosure. [KIDS COUNT Data Book 2021]

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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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