In The Know: New report spotlights racial imbalances for Oklahoma’s children | Walters, OSDE to cut ties with OK State School Board Association | Legislation proposed to extend eviction timelines

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

New report spotlights imbalances among child well-being for Oklahoma’s children of color: A new national report out Jan. 10 shows that child well-being outcomes for Oklahoma’s children of color are generally worse than their national peers with index scores below the national average. However, those results are in the context of a nationwide failure to equip all children to succeed, with policy choices and lack of support for families resulting in particularly dire outcomes for Black, Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native. These policy choices have been especially acute in Oklahoma due to state lawmakers disinvesting in the services that help our children thrive. [Carly Putnam / OK Policy]

State Government News

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to sue over new law on board appointments: The Turnpike Authority board on Tuesday voted unanimously to file a lawsuit challenging the law that took effect in November. It allows legislative leaders to make four of the six appointments to the agency’s board. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Turnpike Authority to challenge new law giving Legislature control of board [NonDoc]

Oklahoma wildlife board doubles down on decision to block release of severance agreement: The state wildlife department’s governing board voted unanimously Monday to continue to block the release of the severance agreement it negotiated with its former executive director. [Oklahoma Voice]

Commissioners of the Land Office make investment changes after questions arise: Leaders of Oklahoma’s Commissioners of the Land Office said Tuesday they’ve made changes requested by legislators after being questioned last summer about an investment by the agency in a local real estate firm that uses a rent-to-buy plan for people struggling to qualify for a mortgage. [The Oklahoman]

How an order from Oklahoma’s governor seeks to defund DEI in state offices: Oklahoma has now joined other states, like Florida and Texas, that have moved to limit DEI programming in higher education institutions. Proponents of DEI say courses and trainings have a crucial role in fostering understanding and inclusivity in academic and work settings. [PBS News Hour]

Democracy Watch: Five Political Storylines to Watch in 2024: This week will be busy as lawmakers consider dozens of agency budget requests for Fiscal Year 2025 and the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board weighs public comment on a proposed rule change to restrict commutation access. As we look forward to a busy election year, here are five storylines I’ll be watching closely. [Oklahoma Watch]

Federal Government News

Oklahoma AG to testify before U.S. House committee in impeachment proceedings against Homeland Security Secretary: The hearing is part of that panel’s impeachment proceedings against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of the southwest border. Drummond is expected to tell committee members about his efforts to crack down on foreign nationals operating illegal marijuana grow operations in the state. [KGOU]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation tribe invests millions in roads, bridges: The Cherokee Nation completed more than $20 million in road and bridge repair and replacement projects in 2023, and officials have targeted another $15 million worth of projects in 2024. [Journal Record]

Voting and Election News

Long Story Short: Outside groups spent $2.3 million on Oklahoma elections in 2023 (Audio): Politically involved nonprofits and committees without contribution limits spent $2.3 million to influence Oklahoma voters in 2023, rivaling the $2.95 million candidates put toward campaign expenses. [Oklahoma Watch via KGOU]

In Oklahoma’s first election of 2024, Beaver County voters greenlight career tech expansion: Oklahoma voters in 18 counties went to the polls for the first time in 2024 Tuesday. Across the state, they had a total of 24 propositions to decide on. [KGOU]

Health News

Oklahoma is offering $1,000 bonus for caregivers for people with disabilities. Here’s how to qualify: The state of Oklahoma is offering a $1,000 signing bonus to people hired as direct support professionals to care for the developmentally disabled. The hiring spree comes after Oklahoma lawmakers allocated enough money to close out the state’s waiting list for developmentally disabled services. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Did Oklahoma charge a woman with felony child neglect for using legal medical marijuana during her pregnancy?: Brittany Gunsolus, 27, a medical marijuana license holder acting under the guidance of her doctor, faced charges despite child welfare investigations finding her child safe and healthy. [Oklahoma Watch]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Sen. Julia Kirt proposes legislation for extended eviction timelines in Oklahoma: Sen. Julia Kirt has filed legislation that is aimed at ‘giving people more time to come up with rent money or find a new place to live.’ Oklahoma is reported to have one of the shortest eviction timelines in the United States, and the majority of those facing homelessness are said to be families with children. [KOKH]

Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma names new CEO: The organization announced Monday that Jeff Marlow, most recently Food Bank chief culinary officer and executive vice president, has been named CEO. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma senator wants new agency to handle business growth, economic development: State Senator Kristen Thompson, R-Edmond, said she filed legislation to create the Oklahoma Office of Economic Development, Growth and Expansion – OK EDGE. The agency would target and unify the state’s economic development efforts, moving them away from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. [The Oklahoman]

Greater OKC Chamber identifies priorities for Legislature: The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber has outlined goals – ranging from development of iconic bridges to help identify the OKC metro as a major crossroads of commerce, sports, and tourism, to strengthened state initiatives to encourage workforce development and investment in business and industry – for lawmakers to pursue during the upcoming session of the Oklahoma Legislature. [Journal Record]

Education News

State Superintendent Ryan Walters plans to cut ties with the OSSBA: State Superintendent Ryan Walters announced Wednesday a plan for the Department of Education to cut ties with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. He also wants to end OSDE’s association with the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center. [KOKH]

Plaintiffs push to disqualify judge from St. Isidore religious charter school lawsuit: St. Isidore would be the nation’s first publicly funded religious school. The lawsuit was filed in July against the board that approved St. Isidore’s application — the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board — as well as the Oklahoma State Department of Education and State Superintendent Ryan Walters in his official capacity. [KGOU]

Bill may make some schools cell phone free: Sen. Ally Seifried, R-Claremore, said passage of her Senate Bill 1321 would establish a pilot program to allow Oklahoma public schools to create phone-free school sites. It would provide grant-style funding for up to nine middle or high schools to cover costs associated for sites going cellphone free during school days. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Where to find overnight shelter in OKC for the unhoused during extreme winter weather [The Oklahoman]
  • How a new athletic center will be an economic driver in Norman [Journal Record]
  • Planned 50-acre north OKC tourist destination has ‘all kinds of potential’ [Journal Record]
  • Cherokee Nation Chief to lead MLK Parade on Black Wall Street [The Black Wall Street Times]

Quote of the Day

“If Oklahoma lawmakers are serious about ensuring our children are college- and career-ready, they should make targeted investments that help build Oklahoma into the state we know it can be. If lawmakers continue with broadly targeted actions, this will result in continued underinvestment in the children who most need it.” 

– OK Policy Executive Director Shiloh Kantz, responding to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which spotlights imbalances among child well-being for Oklahoma’s children of color. [OK Policy]

Number of the Day


Of the 12 child well-being measures included in the 2024 Race for Results report, Oklahoma scored in the top half of states in only one indicator: 17th in percentage of children enrolled in nursery school, preschool, or kindergarten. [OK Policy]

Policy Note

2024 Race for Results: The Annie E. Casey Foundation has released its latest Race for Results® report a decade after its inaugural publication, revealing progress in some areas but persistent disparities for children of color in the United States. The report shows improvements have been made in at least six out of 11 comparable indicators across racial and ethnic groups over the past decade. Despite this progress, the nation falls short in adequately preparing children to achieve crucial milestones. [Annie E. Casey Foundation]

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Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.