In The Know: Lawmakers approve $1B of ARPA spending | Gender care issue now on governor’s desk | How schools adapted to end of universal free lunch

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.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma lawmakers approve stimulus spending, drought relief, economic development fundsOklahoma lawmakers reconvened a special legislative session on Thursday to spend more than $1 billion in federal stimulus funds, $250 million for economic development projects and $20 million for emergency drought relief. [The Oklahoman]

  • Despite gender treatment fracas, lawmakers pass bills doling out more than $1 billion [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma legislature approves $14M in ARPA funding to upgrade Inola’s wastewater infrastructure [KRMG]

Gov. Kevin Stitt to decide bill targeting OU Children’s gender care: The Oklahoma Children’s Hospital would have to immediately halt any “gender reassignment medical treatment” on minors if Gov. Kevin Stitt signs legislation approved by lawmakers Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma Senate: No ARPA funding for gender treatment [The Journal Record]
  • Gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth limited by Oklahoma Legislature in ARPA health funding bill [KGOU]
  • OU Health ceasing some gender care after funds threatened [Public Radio Tulsa]

As pandemic response wanes, Oklahoma schools adapt to the end of universal free lunch: Some schools worked to continue offering free meals, but others have to go back to sending out free and reduced lunch applications and managing lunch debt. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

State Government News

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority: ‘We have to upcharge significantly for license plate tolling’: Drivers on Oklahoma turnpikes may have noticed a price hike in tolls after the rollout of the state’s new PlatePay cashless tolling system. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Editorial: State owes it to taxpayers to fund completion of OKPOP: The Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture’s request for state ARPA money was turned down, and lawmakers have been reluctant to provide more funding. Last session, the Legislature approved $46 million in bonds for the Oklahoma Historical Society — which oversees OKPOP — on the condition that none of it be used on the unfinished museum. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

White House Hunger Conference puts spotlight on Oklahoma group: This week’s White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health put a spotlight on 23 organizations that promote access to affordable food, including one from Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

USDA spending only a sliver of conservation funding on climate-smart practices, a new report finds: The U.S. Department of Agriculture spent $7.4 billion dollars on two of its conservation programs in recent years, but a report from an environmental group found a very small percentage of that money went to practices that help fight climate change. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma governor’s race tightening? Election analyst shifts race outlook: A national election analyst group is shifting its outlook on Oklahoma’s governor’s race less than six weeks from November’s midterms. [Fox 25]

Health News

OSDH: 4,100 more COVID-19 cases reported statewide, 54 virus-related deaths added to provisional death count: Fifty-four virus-related deaths and 4,100 coronavirus cases have been added to the state’s count since Sept. 22, according to weekly numbers released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. [NewsOn6]

Medical providers work to break down big barriers to help Oklahoman Hispanic community: Integris Health is working to provide more access to preventative care in Oklahoma’s Hispanic communities. [KOCO]

Economic Opportunity

Grants to benefit homebuyers, renters with low, moderate incomes: The Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency recently approved more than $2.65 million in HOME Investment Partnerships Program grants to benefit low- to moderate-income homebuyers and renters in Oklahoma City and other communities in the state. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Column: Oklahoma has 33,000 teachers choosing not to teach; we need them back: Oklahoma doesn’t have a teacher shortage; it has a shortage of respect and retention. For a little more than 10 years, professional teachers have been opting out of the industry, choosing careers with better pay and less headaches. The pandemic created a surge of that trend, putting the state in our current crisis and public education in an unfair culture war. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa World Opinion podcast: When Oklahoma’s certified teachers choose not to teach (audio) [Tulsa World]

Funding to encourage STEM education, future teachers: The University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Public Schools and Central Oklahoma STEM Alliance will collaborate in a new program to help educators earn master teacher credentials and ultimately encourage students to pursue careers in classrooms in Oklahoma. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma to receive nearly $12m to provide students with healthier learning environments: The U.S. Education Department says the money can be used for a number of projects to help student’s social, mental, emotional and physical well-being. It says some districts are using the money to hire more psychologists and expand counseling programs. [News9]

Tulsa school board extends Superintendent Deborah Gist’s contract: After a four-hour executive session, Tulsa Public Schools’ Board of Education voted 4-3 late Thursday to add another year to Superintendent Deborah Gist’s contract. [Tulsa World]

General News

Column: DRS promotes Disability Employment Awareness Month in October: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month in recognition of the critical part workers with disabilities play in a diverse and productive workforce. [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“It’s disturbing that some legislators have chosen to hijack what should be a straightforward special session focused on COVID relief funding to advance a political agenda. Unfortunately, instead of supporting the mental health of Oklahoma’s children, lawmakers are once again inserting themselves into private health care.”

– Statement from Oklahoma State Medical Association about lawmakers threatening to withhold federal relief dollars from the University of Oklahoma health system because of its program that offers gender-affirming care to LGBTQ youth. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma households with children ages 0 to 4 where adults had to take unpaid leave in order to manage child care disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic


Policy Note

The child care crisis just keeps getting worse: For both workers and parents, already-grim trends in child care have only gotten worse since the pandemic began: program costs have increased, while waiting lists in several states number in the tens of thousands. [Vox]

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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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