In The Know: Lawmakers study teacher shortage | Data reconciliation to increase COVID death count by 1,000 | Eliminating DHS 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.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma lawmakers studying worsening teacher shortage: Three former teachers now serving as Oklahoma lawmakers are studying the state’s worsening teacher shortage to see what policy measures might be of help. “The teacher pipeline is one of the critical issues we can address in the 2022 legislative session,” said Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, who previously taught government at Booker T. Washington High School. [Tulsa World]

Oklahomans may notice a jump in the COVID-19 death toll next week. Here’s why: The Oklahoma Health Department’s death toll for COVID-19 in Oklahoma will jump by about 1,000 next week as part of a data reconciliation process. The update will bring the Health Department’s toll, which stood at 9,402 as of its last update, closer to the one reported by the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma health update to add more than 1,000 COVID deaths [AP News] | [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Vaccine update: 9 charts that show how Oklahoma is handling the spread of COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Health officials still urge vaccination as Oklahoma’s COVID trends go in the right direction [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID-19 vaccine trials recruiting Oklahoma participants, including young children [The Oklahoman] | [KOSU]

State Government News

Op-Ed: Advocate voices needed to help eliminate DHS waiting list: There is no doubt the disability services system is complex, but it is still clear that Oklahoma’s system has serious flaws that leaves thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities without the necessary supports to lead the same kind of life as everyone else. [Lisa Turner Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Op-Ed: Waiting list for disability services forcing parents into early retirement: Some may consider early retirement an achievement, but it could soon become an unfortunate reality for me and many other Oklahoma parents once their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities complete high school. [Ginger Hendricks Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Long Story Short on a Teachers’ COVID Survey, Hofmeister’s Candidacy and Refugee Resettlement: In Episode 7 of Long Story Short (listen below), three Oklahoma Watch journalists share findings and insights from their latest stories with executive director Ted Streuli. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Poll: Gov. Kevin Stitt leads Joy Hofmeister in head-to-head gubernatorial matchup [The Oklahoman]

Congressional remapping looms: Much attention will be on paring down the 5th District: Last year, in a close race, Oklahoma City Republican Stephanie Bice won the congressional seat Democrat Kendra Horn had held for a single term, and she did it by beating Horn by considerable margins in Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. Horn actually won the largest part of the 5th Congressional District, Oklahoma County, by a razor thin margin. But Bice won overwhelmingly in the two small counties that are also part of the district. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma Indigenous activists urge Biden to declare climate emergency: Indigenous activists from Oklahoma gathered in the nation’s capital this week for The People vs. Fossil Fuels, a weeklong rally to urge President Joe Biden to stop pending fossil fuel projects and declare a climate emergency. [NonDoc]

National VA health executive praises Tulsa projects during visit: One of the nation’s top veterans health officials said he sees nothing but good things ahead for veterans in Tulsa who need medical services. Dr. Steven Lieberman, acting undersecretary for health for the Veterans Health Administration, was in Tulsa on Friday to attend the groundbreaking for the new Veterans Affairs hospital, followed by a tour of the new Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic. [Tulsa World] Collaboration among federal, state and local governments, the Oklahoma State University Medical Center and its affiliated Center for Health Sciences, plus $26 million from private donors, are the reasons for the interest. [Tulsa World] In 2015 Oklahoma City’s VA hospital was the subject of a USA Today article that documented a litany of failures, including the permanent disfiguring of one man’s face. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma rancher talks about issues facing supply chain, competition in market: Scott Blubaugh, a rancher in Oklahoma and president of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, has been involved in the conversation. Recently, he testified to lawmakers in Congress about the state of the livestock industry. [KOSU]

Lankford targeted by self-proclaimed RINO hunters: U.S. Sen. James Lankford made a small gesture, as if to indicate “What can I say?”, when asked how he feels about being called a RINO. Republican in Name Only is the horse collar Lankford’s announced primary opponents Jackson Lahmeyer and Nathan Dahm are trying to hang around his neck. Because Lankford did not vote to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president, they contend, and because he apologized to some Black constituents for saying something that offended them, says Lahmeyer, he’s not a real conservative. [Tulsa World]

Lankford campaign reports more than $1.2 million in third-quarter receipts: U.S. Sen. James Lankford’s re-election campaign reported third-quarter receipts of more than $1.2 million, according to Federal Election Commission documents filed Friday. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Fact check: How many people live in Oklahoma area covered by McGirt ruling?: A monumental Supreme Court ruling that changed how crimes involving Native Americans are prosecuted could shape Oklahoma’s future, all sides agree. But state and tribal officials concur on little else about McGirt v. Oklahoma. The deep division came into sharp focus again during Monday’s annual Sovereignty Symposium on Indian law issues. [The Oklahoman]

Muscogee Nation election appeal says 57% of absentee ballots missed deadline: An attorney for two candidates challenging the Muscogee Nation’s Sept. 18 election results says 57 percent of tribal citizens who submitted absentee ballots did not have their ballots counted because they did not reach the Okmulgee office of the U.S. Postal Service by an 11 a.m. deadline. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Rep. Humphrey Hopes to Change Corrections System and Update SQ780: Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, plans to draft legislation for next year that would completely change Oklahoma’s criminal justice system. He said his move to a community-based treatment model would better hold repeat offenders accountable for their actions while getting more appropriate help to those dealing with substance abuse and addiction or mental health issues. Humphrey detailed his plan in an interim study he held Friday before the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, which he chairs. [Oklahoma House of Representatives Media]

‘Highway robbers’: How a trip to buy farmland ended with police taking all his cash: A Vietnamese immigrant and his business partner are fighting to get back more than $100,000 seized by Oklahoma police who allege that it was drug money. Their experience highlights the controversial law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture, in which police can confiscate a person’s cash or other property even without bringing criminal charges. [NBC News]

Oklahoma executions could be called off for Julius Jones, others: High-profile death row inmate Julius Jones and five others scheduled for execution could get a reprieve because of a federal appeals court decision Friday. Jones, 41, is set to be executed Nov. 18. [The Oklahoman] A federal court of appeals ordered on Friday that Oklahoma death row prisoners be reinstated to a lawsuit challenging the State’s lethal injection execution protocol. [The Black Wall Street Times]

It’s been over a year since a trust took over the troubled Oklahoma County Jail. What’s changed?: In the 15 months since control of the Oklahoma County jail was turned over to the jail trust, there have been a dozen deaths, including at least four as a result of COVID-19. A state health department inspection in June found more than 30 deficiencies and led to the relocation of all juvenile offenders to Pawnee County. [The Oklahoman]

2 men who had fled Oklahoma jail and prison back in custody: Two men who had escaped from an Oklahoma county jail and a state prison in separate incidents have been found and returned to the facilities where they were being held, according to authorities. [AP News] | [The Oklahoman] | [OKC Free Press]

Grading Oklahoma: This state ranks 3rd in prison incarceration rates in the US: Grading Oklahoma is a weekly look at how we stack up on a national scale. Each week, The Oklahoman features a different subject area to illustrate and examine on a closer level. This week The Oklahoman takes a look at incarceration in this state. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

‘It takes a village’: Woman surviving domestic violence shares story; resources available: More than 10 million adults in the United states experience domestic violence annually, NCADV states. In Oklahoma, 49.1% of women and 40.7% of men experience physical violence, sexual violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetimes. [Enid News & Eagle]

Economy & Business News

As oil prices boom, Oklahoma producers show restraint: When the price of oil passed $60 per barrel and kept rising, Tom Seng was stunned that he didn’t see a comparable increase in drilling activity. Three years ago, when prices averaged $65, oil and gas producers were borrowing money against reserves in the ground and aggressively going after them. [The Journal Record]

Economy by the numbers: 5 charts that show which direction the economy is trending in Tulsa and Oklahoma: Which counties have the lowest unemployment rate? Where is gas the cheapest? Which areas have the highest weekly earnings? Find out with these charts and maps. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Schools look to recoup test score gains wiped out by pandemic: Lori Gregory is among the first to admit she and her staff have their work cut out for them. “The last couple of years have had an impact,” the Lewis and Clark Elementary School principal said. “Before COVID-19 hit, we had so many great things going for us.” Among the things going for the school prior to the pandemic were improving scores on the Oklahoma State Testing Program. [Tulsa World] Lower standardized test scores amid the pandemic have Oklahoma lawmakers’ attention, but using them to compare districts or even schools may not be possible. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Ginnie Graham: Oklahoma’s rush to the bottom of supporting college students will challenge new higher ed leader: The Legislature reduced higher education funding by 35.3% during that time. It remains at a level lower than in 2001. Oklahoma ranks among the bottom 10% in state-funded colleges, according to a Hechinger Institute report last year. Unlike public elementary and secondary education that also experienced destructive budget cuts, higher education passes the cost to students, and by extension their families. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World

General News

‘Mindset for greatness’: Wyjuana Montgomery works to empower teen girls: Wyjuana Montgomery is the founder of N.O. F.E.A.R., an Oklahoma City-based organization focused on empowering teen girls around the world by helping them develop a “mindset for greatness with real-life experiences and solutions.” [NonDoc]

Anita Hill is leading the fight for gender equality: Anita Hill has changed. To be sure, the calm, powerful voice of advocacy for gender equality is still there. Thirty years after her riveting testimony in the 1991 U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, she sounds the clarion call against sexual harassment as clearly as ever. [The Oklahoma Eagle]

City councilors continue push for brighter future for 61st and Peoria neighborhood: City Councilors Jayme Fowler and Jeannie Cue are hell bent on improving living conditions for Tulsans in the 61st Street and Peoria Avenue corridor. That’s a tall order. The area has been beset by crime and poverty for years, and recent violence — including the shooting of a 19-year-old man at Savanna Landing apartments — has lent renewed urgency to their work. [Tulsa World]

How Thunder Fellows is growing next generation of ‘Black Wall Street leaders’: As executive director of the Thunder Fellows program, Cedric Ikpo is the steward of a special group that includes 26 Black ninth and 10th graders representing 11 high schools in and around Tulsa. The 15 boys and 11 girls are athletes and musicians, robotics enthusiasts and aspiring YouTubers. [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Thousands of others just like our family are still waiting with no clear understanding of what the real plan is to eliminate the waiting list. Griffin has spent most of his life waiting, and there is simply no more time to waste.”

-Ginger Hendricks, a Tulsa mother whose 16-year-old son who first joined the state’s DHS waiting list for services starting in 2007 [Tulsa World

Number of the Day


Misdemeanor cases in Oklahoma leave defendants with almost $1,000 in court debt on average, while felony cases can cost well upwards of twice that  — and that’s without considering other costs, like the “room and board” costs assessed by jails and the steep costs of bail. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

Addicted to Fines: Small towns in much of the country are dangerously dependent on punitive fines and fees: High fine communities can be found in just about every state, but they tend to be concentrated in certain parts of the country. Rural areas with high poverty have especially high rates. So do places with very limited tax bases or those with independent local municipal courts. And these jurisdictions are far more common in the South than elsewhere. The states that stood out in our analysis were Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, plus New York. [Governing]

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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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