In The Know: Lawsuit against Oklahoma’s critical race theory ban begins | State Senate announces budget process overhaul in 2024 | Group pushes for new criminal justice reform as Oklahoma’s incarceration rate rises

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

Oklahoma’s overreliance on incarceration is increasing prison population (Capitol Update): It looks like the relief the state’s corrections system received by passage of State Question 780 in 2016 has ended, and Oklahoma’s incarceration numbers are beginning to increase again. The trend back to higher incarceration rates was predictable due to lack of substantial criminal legal reform in the state despite tremendous efforts by reform advocates. Efforts are thwarted during each legislative session by a combination of lobbying by prosecutors and law enforcement, apathy, and fear by many legislators of being perceived as “soft on crime.” [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Group pushes for new criminal justice reform as Oklahoma’s incarceration rate rises: A grassroots movement in Oklahoma is underway to reshape criminal justice by improving crime prevention programs and developing better alternatives to incarceration, supporters say. Faith leaders, social workers, attorneys, tribal officials and nonprofit organizations want to change long-standing beliefs about crime and punishment. [Oklahoma Voice]

Federal judge considers fate of Oklahoma law on race, gender teaching: After two years of waiting, House Bill 1775 finally had its day in court. The 2021 law, one of Oklahoma’s most controversial, bans eight race and gender concepts from public school classrooms and prohibits mandatory diversity training at universities. Oklahoma City federal Judge Charles Goodwin heard oral arguments Monday on a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • After 2 years, HB 1775 lawsuit gets hearing on injunction [NonDoc]
  • After two years, arguments in stalled lawsuit against Oklahoma’s critical race theory ban begin [The Oklahoman]
  • Controversial bill on teaching race, gender has first hearing in federal court [Tulsa World]
  • Federal judge hears opening statements in lawsuit against Oklahoma’s House Bill 1775 [KOSU]

State Government News

Oklahoma Senate leader details plans to make state budget process more transparent: Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, on Monday announced the Senate will take steps to make the budget process more transparent for lawmakers and the general public. In a first, the Senate will publicly unveil by mid-March its proposed spending plan for the upcoming budget year. [Oklahoma Voice]

Tribal Nations News

Federal judge indicates he will dismiss civil lawsuit over Tulsa’s right to issue tickets to tribal citizens: A federal judge said Monday that he would dismiss a civil lawsuit that challenged the city of Tulsa’s right to issue traffic tickets to tribal citizens. Chief U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson of the District of New Mexico told attorneys during an online status conference hearing that he would issue the order “in the near future.” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma tribal nations receive roughly $8 million to bolster recycling efforts: The Environmental Protection Agency is granting more than $8 million dollars to bolster Oklahoma tribal nations’ recycling efforts. All of these grants are part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America Plan. It is an effort to bolster the EPA’s National Recycling Strategy. [KOSU]

You’ll be able to buy or rent ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ digitally this week. Here’s how: Martin Scorsese’s Oklahoma-made cinematic epic “Killers of the Flower Moon” will be available to buy or rent starting this week, Apple Original Films announced Monday. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

OHCA removed 250,000 from Medicaid including some who were still eligible: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority began removing more than 250,000 people because they were temporarily added to Medicaid during COVID-19. The state’s effort to be complaint to the rules leaves the homeless out; some will lose their Medicaid and have little recourse. [City News OKC]

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) concerns aren’t just for infants: The dangers of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, for older adults is nothing new. But, like so many things, our awareness of it and other contagious respiratory illnesses increased with the advent of COVID-19. In particular, the dangers of RSV became more evident with last year’s so-called tripledemic, when — alongside COVID and the flu — the virus filled hospitals with infants and older people alike. [Adam Cohen and Dr. Judith James / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Report reflects rising opposition to capital punishment: More Americans now believe the death penalty, which is undergoing a yearslong decline of use and support, is being administered unfairly, a finding that is adding to its growing isolation in the U.S., according to an annual report on capital punishment. Only five states – Texas, Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Alabama – conducted executions this year. That was the lowest number in 20 years, said Robin M. Maher, executive director of the nonprofit center, which takes no position on capital punishment but has criticized the way states carry out executions. [AP via Journal Record]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

‘This is important:’ How shift in public opinion helps OKC improve homelessness: Oklahoma City wants to get more people experiencing homelessness into permanent housing. Last week, MAPS4 began its first phase of affordable housing improvement. A change in public perception has led to more conversations about the unsheltered population. City leaders said this creates strong partnerships to lift people out of homelessness. [News 9]

Economy & Business News

Applications for unemployment benefits trend higher: Claims for unemployment benefits continued to creep up in mid-November in Oklahoma and across the country. According to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, for the file week that ended Nov. 18, the number of initial claims for unemployment benefits filed in the state, unadjusted, totaled 1,389, an increase of 182 from the previous week. For the same file week, the less volatile four-week moving average of initial claims was 1,341, an increase of 25 from the previous week’s average. [Journal Record]

Google grants $65,000 to bolster female entrepreneurship in Oklahoma through accelerator programs: This grant from Google will fund StitchCrew, an Oklahoma-based accelerator that develops public-private partnerships to connect traditionally overlooked entrepreneurs with the capital, network, and resources they need to build and scale companies across the region. [KOKH]

Poultry processor closes Oklahoma facilities: Cooks Venture is shutting down its operations and facilities in eastern Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. The company breeds pasture-raised heirloom chickens and it produces regenerative agriculture systems. Two processing plants in Jay and Tahlequah are being shut down, along with six farms and plants in Arkansas. There were 511 employees at all locations combined. [KOSU]

Opinion: Oklahoma needs a new workforce delivery system to build a strong economy: Most people can easily understand that, for the economy to function, businesses need staff and people need jobs. What’s not easily understood is how much effort and coordination go on behind the scenes to connect people to work … and therein lies opportunity. Over the past year, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC), CareerTech, and Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) have been working together to build this system. [Trae Rahill / The Oklahoman]

Education News

Opinion: If students avoided sleep deprivation, absenteeism and cellphones, grades would improve: As a teacher, I have three enemies: 1. Sleep deprivation; 2. Absenteeism; 3. Cellphones. I am convinced that if students avoided all three, then their grades would improve by at least one letter grade. [K. John Lee / The Oklahoman]

General News

Oklahoma’s environmental agency could be awarded $500 million in federal grants. It needs your ideas: State environmental officials hope to land potentially millions in federal grant funding aimed at improving air quality and reducing pollution in Oklahoma. Officials met with industry and community leaders Tuesday in Oklahoma City to discuss eligible projects, and now, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is soliciting feedback on ideas as the group develops a long-term, statewide Priority Climate Action Plan. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City offering free rides on public transport in December, including new bus line [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC arena vote: Here are some columnists’ takes on the plan [Opinion / The Oklahoman]
  • OK County officials address concern new jail site could affect OKC Stockyards [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Running out of time’: Delay with new Jail site confounds county leaders [NonDoc]
  • U.S. Department of Energy awards Tulsa $50K for phase 1 of clean energy project: [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“When this law was first passed, me and my colleagues, we were afraid. This is an attack. This is an attack on Black minds, on Black children.”

– Anthony Crawford, a Millwood High School teacher and one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to overturn HB 1775, saying that it limits the ability of Black students and teachers to openly discuss their history. HB 1775 bans eight race and gender concepts from public school classrooms and prohibits mandatory diversity training at universities, among other provisions. [Oklahoma Voice]

Number of the Day


Percentage of children in Oklahoma small towns and rural areas who had Medicaid/CHIP coverage in 2020-2021, compared to 46% for urban areas. [Georgetown Center for Children and Families]

Policy Note

Medicaid’s Coverage Role in Small Towns and Rural Areas: Medicaid’s vital role as an insurer for low-income families, people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, and individuals in need of long-term services and supports in the nation’s health care system has continued to grow over the past decade. According to federal administrative enrollment data, one-quarter of all residents of the United States and more than half of all children — nearly 94 million people — were covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as of March 2023. [Georgetown Center for Children and Families]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.