In The Know: Many school districts not using PragerU materials | School board races seeing increase in cash, politics | Future of the state Ethics Commission? | Tribal, state relations

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

Why Oklahoma teachers, school districts not interested in PragerU’s cartoon version of history: Touting the cartoon videos created for school kids by conservative nonprofit PragerU, Oklahoma state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters said recently that he particularly liked the ones about great speeches in U.S. history and the context PragerU provides. That context comes from a group with a clear agenda: to counter what it calls “the dominant left-wing ideology in culture, media and education.” And many of the videos now linked to the Oklahoma State Department of Education website aren’t about the real words spoken by historical figures. They are words written by PragerU and put into the mouths of historical figures. [The Oklahoman]

  • Controversial PragerU videos, curriculum materials touted by Walters not adopted in Tulsa area schools [Tulsa World]

Infusions of cash, political operatives change face of local school board races: The landscape of local, nonpartisan school board elections is quickly evolving because of a new, intensive focus placed on the races by political party operatives and a flood of new cash being spent to influence votes. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Leaders concerned about the future of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission: Policy wonks say budgets reflect priorities. If so, Oklahoma gives a very low priority to enforcing its state ethics and campaign finance laws. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma attorney general says marijuana agency director qualified for job: The Oklahoma attorney general’s office this week defended the director of the state’s marijuana regulatory agency from a legal challenge that she’s not qualified for the job and said the Oklahoma Supreme Court doesn’t have the authority to review her status. [The Oklahoman]

AG calls for ‘consistent enforcement’ of building and fire codes at Oklahoma marijuana farms: Dozens of medical marijuana manufacturing facilities have been operating without taking required precautions to prevent and combat fires, state officials say. Attorney General Gentner Drummond complains there is “a culture of rampant noncompliance” with building codes in the marijuana industry. [The Oklahoman]

Capitol Insider: Slowing Oklahoma economy reflected in declining state revenue collections: Gov. Stitt is continuing to push for cuts in the individual income and grocery sales taxes. That’s premised on the state of Oklahoma having a strong economy and more than $5 billion in savings accounts. But, there are signs the economy is slowing and it’s having an effect on state revenue collections. [KGOU]

Political notebook: State tax revenue continues lower: Prospects for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s tax cut likely were not helped by last week’s gross revenue report. Total tax payments to the state were almost 9% lower in August than for the same month a year ago, continuing a recent trend, state Treasurer Todd Russ said. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: State’s Texas-style governance underwhelms: In the decade-plus since gaining control of both statehouse chambers and the governorship, Oklahoma Republicans zealously pursued that strategy: cutting corporate taxes, loosening regulation, and blocking local governments from reining in any corporate excess. Mission accomplished? Sort of … but not necessarily in ways they imagined or hoped for. [Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Rep. Charles McCall Opinion: Stitt lawsuit promotes ‘my way or the highway’ approach, and that doesn’t work: Recently, a lawsuit was filed regarding Oklahoma’s tribal compact laws. This lawsuit, brought by Gov. Kevin Stitt and following two prior failed lawsuits of the same kind, seeks to undermine decades of cooperation with the state’s tribal partners. It promotes a “my way or the highway” approach to compacting, and it moves us further away from being One Oklahoma. [Rep. Charles McCall / The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

D.C. Digest: Hern wants more details on Ukraine aid: The U.S. Senate returned to the Capitol last week from the August recess, with the House of Representatives scheduled to begin a hectic month of work this week. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Every vote matters in the 2023 MCN Election: The Primary Election for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief, Second Chief and National Council Representatives Seat A will be held on Sept. 16. The primary election will determine who will proceed to the general election later in November. [Mvskoke Media]

Catholic Dioceses seek boarding school attendees’ personal accounts: The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa continue to seek participants for the Oklahoma Catholic Native Schools Project launched in November 2021. The mission of the project is to better understand the history of Catholic Indian boarding schools in Oklahoma by gathering oral histories from former students and their descendants, studying documentation on Catholic Indian boarding schools from parishes, religious orders, tribes, the U.S. Department of the Interior and other reputable sources. [Mvskoke Media]

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief David Hill Opinion: Oklahomans suffering consequences of Gov. Stitt’s attempts to ignore the law: Oklahomans rightly expect their leaders to govern as sensible representatives who seek collaboration and compromise for the greater good. Unfortunately, our current governor’s behavior is more schoolyard bully than diplomat. His belief seems to be “finders keepers, losers weepers” when it comes to the state’s past illegal disregard of tribal jurisdiction. But as all bullies eventually do, Gov. Kevin Stitt is finding out that there are consequences for his actions — consequences that the residents and taxpayers of our state ultimately suffer. [Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief David Hill / The Oklahoman]

Citizen Potawatomi Nation Vice Chair Linda Capps Opinion: Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s growth and success benefit all Oklahomans: Citizen Potawatomi Nation is committed to creating a thriving community for our members and for our neighbors. The Shawnee area is home to our tribe, where the community knows we establish jobs and economic opportunity through a variety of enterprises, including gaming and manufacturing, as well as vital public services like housing, banking and infrastructure. [Citizen Potawatomi Nation Vice Chair Linda Capps Opinion / The Oklahoman]  

Opinion: By respecting tribal sovereignty, Oklahoma has become a stronger state: Tribal sovereignty is often perceived by Oklahomans as some “special deal” that Native Americans got that gives them benefits that non-Native people do not enjoy. I offer this as a rebuttal to that view because the benefits of tribal sovereignty extend far beyond tribes’ reservations and Native Americans. Tribal sovereignty should be supported by every Oklahoman because it benefits every one of us. [Carla D. Pratt / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Stitt seeks to keep eastern Oklahoma from becoming reservation? McGirt settled that: Gov. Kevin Stitt has become more and more outspoken against tribal governments and tribal sovereignty in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling three years ago in the McGirt case. This continued in his State of the State address recently, where he said several things that need correction. [Mike McBride III / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Custer had his scouts. Governor Stitt has Wes Nofire: As Speaker of the Council of the Cherokee Nation, I had a front row seat to observe Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s new Native American Liaison, Mr. Wes Nofire, while he served on the Council. What I saw should terrify anyone who supports tribal sovereignty because Mr. Nofire opposes it. [Cherokee Nation Speaker of the Council Mike Shambaugh / Cherokee Phoenix]

Voting and Election News

Sapulpa, Allen Bowden bond packages on Tuesday ballot: Tuesday is Election Day for voters in two Creek County school districts, as Sapulpa and Allen Bowden are each sending multimillion-dollar bond packages to patrons. [Tulsa World]

  • Here is the full list of municipal and school elections being held on Tuesday, Sept. 12 [Oklahoma Election Board]

Health News

Thousands of health care providers have joined Oklahoma’s health information exchange: Thousands of Oklahoma health care providers have joined a statewide health exchange that allows a patient’s digital medical records to follow them to most doctor’s offices. And, thousands of Oklahomans now have their information stored inside that health information exchange that’s been in the works for more than a decade. [Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: Oklahoma is entering a new era of health care: Under the direction of Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Oklahoma Legislature, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is partnering with physicians and private health care companies to offer SoonerSelect Medicaid recipients a choice in who provides their care. [Dr. Doug Cox / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Opinion: Stop punishing Oklahoma women who survive domestic violence: As a current professor and a former police detective, I’m on my third decade of investigating violent behavior for a living. The evidence is clear: Self-defense isn’t a “logical” decision. It is a neuro-biological response, hardwired in our brains as a subconscious imperative for self-preservation. Survivors of domestic violence are human beings, doing what humans are designed to do: survive. We, on the other hand, are punishing them for it. [David McLeod / The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

OG&E seeks approval for new power generators, customers would see rate increases: Oklahoma Gas & Electric is seeking approval to replace two aging power generation units, and if approved, customers would have to foot the bill. In a letter to customers, the utility company says it wants to replace the nearly 60-year-old power generation units at Horseshoe Lake Power Plant in eastern Oklahoma County. [KGOU]

Education News

Here are the 10 most and least equitable school districts in Oklahoma, and why: WalletHub ranked 506 Oklahoma school districts from most to least equitable, based on average household income and expenditures for public elementary and secondary schools per pupil. [The Oklahoman]

Over 80 employees have left Oklahoma State Department of Education during Walters’ tenure, records show: About 86 employees have left the Oklahoma State Department of Education since Ryan Walters took office as state superintendent in January, records show. The agency has hired only 33 people in that timeframe, according to documents Oklahoma Voice received from an Open Records request. The data reflects all employee hires and departures from January through early August. [Oklahoma Voice]

Universities to press for legislative policies to increase Oklahoma STEM graduates: Oklahoma’s colleges and universities plan to press lawmakers for additional funding and policies that will allow them to focus on increasing graduation rates in high-demand professions. In particular, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education plans to focus on boosting the number of graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. [Oklahoma Voice]

How can someone accused of a sex crime get back into coaching?: Mark Ward served less than a week as the new baseball coach and assistant athletic director for the northwest Oklahoma school district in Woodward. He resigned after a public outcry condemning him for an incident with a minor nearly 30 years ago. [The Oklahoman]

General News

‘Rebuilding Black Wall Street’ docuseries debuts September 29 on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network will premiere a six-part docuseries, “Rebuilding Black Wall Street,” hosted by Morris Chestnut (The Best Man, Rosewood, Boyz n the Hood), who will trace the century-long impact of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre and chronicle the resilient community community rebuilding on Friday, September 29 at 8 p.m. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Deep Greenwood: Community read series of ‘Built from the Fire’: Local author and National Magazine Award nominee Victor Luckerson is taking his new book, “Built from the Fire,” on a different kind of tour to connect the history of Greenwood to people and places in the present day. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Hand excavations scheduled in search for Tulsa Race Massacre burials: The search for possible unmarked burials from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre continues on Monday, when hand excavations will start at grave shafts found at Oaklawn Cemetery. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s newest Superfund site has radiation in its soil, ponds, and groundwater: The Environmental Protection Agency announced a new Superfund site at Oklahoma’s Fansteel Metals, Inc. Covering 105 acres in Muskogee on Cherokee Nation land, the facility contains radioactive and toxic materials that could threaten the health and safety of people living nearby if not properly contained. [KGOU]

Free Mom Hugs debut conference offered hope, hugs to LGBTQ+ allies and advocates: A best-selling author married to one of the nation’s first openly gay politicians recently praised an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit for its unequivocal support and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. Chasten Glezman Buttigieg, whose spouse Pete Buttigieg is currently U.S. Secretary of Transportation, spoke on Friday at the first-ever Free Mom Hugs Conference, encouraging attendees to continue their advocacy. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: History offers us a lesson on how Oklahomans can live well together: Viewed through the lens of my great-aunt and uncle’s life together, I see a history of Oklahoma that is complex — just as are our distinctive cultural histories, as are our family histories, as are our individual lives. [Amanda Cobb-Greetham / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: The importance of home: Now, after more than 40 years, The Center is finally able to give Oklahoma’s nonprofits a physical place to call home. In addition to our beautiful space inside Tulsa’s Legacy Plaza, The Center has a new headquarters in the heart of Oklahoma City’s thriving Innovation District. [Marnie Taylor / Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Council expected to learn details of NBA arena plan, but some are voicing concerns [The Oklahoman]
  • As PAC development with downtown Tulsa grocery store deadline nears, uncertainty abounds [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“It is important to understand that districts do not have to use this material and parents or guardians can opt-out of their children receiving PragerU content. However, it is deeply concerning that the State Department of Education would even endorse this unvetted, non-evidence-based material to be able to reach students in Oklahoma.”

-Katherine Bishop, President of the Oklahoma Education Association, in a statement regarding OSDE’s new partnership with PragerU.  [The Oklahoman

Number of the Day


Homeownership rate for American Indian/Alaska Natives in Oklahoma, which is below the state average of 65.5%. The highest rate of homeownership in Oklahoma is for white residents at 70.1%, while the lowest is for Black residents at 39%. [Prosperity Now]

Policy Note

The Unequal Costs of Native American Homeownership: Using the confidential Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data from 2018 to 2021, we document disparities in interest rates and rate spreads on home loans between American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) borrowers living either on or off federally recognized reservations and White borrowers. Consistent with past research, we find large raw interest rate and rate spread disparities, especially for on-reservation AIAN borrowers. These rate disparities are largely driven by the disproportionate use of home-only loans, which are not tied to real property. While on-reservation AIAN borrowers are more likely to have leasehold interest in the underlying property, property interests alone cannot explain the greater reliance on home-only loans by on-reservation AIAN borrowers. We find that living closer to a manufactured home dealership is highly correlated with a greater likelihood of securing a home-only loan, but this factor, along with distance to a city and stated preferences about trust in the banking system, cannot account for the differential rate of home-only loan usage between AIAN and White applicants. [Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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