In The Know: New school consolidation study; milestone in child welfare reform; Oklahoma bond outlook improves…

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

School consolidation pushed by some, but remains tough political sell: Oklahoma has too many school districts and could save nearly $30 million if it had a number of districts more in line with states of similar size, according to a policy paper recently published by an education professor. In a report titled “Right-sizing Oklahoma Districts,” James Machell, dean of the University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies, highlights Oklahoma as an outlier when it comes to the number of school districts. [NewsOK ????] You can read the full report here.

Closing Laura Dester facility is mile marker in potentially long road to satisfy foster child abuse lawsuit settlement: The closure of Laura Dester Children’s Center as a shelter doesn’t signal a forthcoming dismissal of a 2008 federal class-action lawsuit alleging abuses of foster kids in state care. It may be years down the road before terms of the settlement are satisfied. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services voluntarily decided to stop operating shelters as part of wide-scale reforms of the state’s child-welfare system. [Tulsa World]

With budget crisis seemingly resolved, Oklahoma bond outlook improves: The bond rating service Moody’s has upgraded Oklahoma’s status from negative to stable, which could make investors more eager to lend the state money after years of financial turmoil. Moody’s affirmed the State of Oklahoma’s Aa2 rating, but revised the state’s outlook from negative to stable. While a negative outlook connotes downward pressure and the possibility of a downgrade, a stable outlook translates to stability and the rating agency’s belief the rating will remain unchanged for the next 12-24 months. [NewsOK]

‘They was killing black people’: The black city council member driving a black SUV came to a dead stop along a gravel road. Vanessa Hall-Harper pointed to a grassy knoll in the potter’s field section of Oaklawn Cemetery. “This is where the mass graves are,” Hall-Harper declared. She and others think bodies were dumped here after one of the worst episodes of racial violence in U.S. history: the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [Washington Post]

Lawmakers contend with boilerplate-style legislation: As lawmakers ready themselves for bill filing season, many will likely consider boilerplate bills with writers who are allowed to go anonymous. Across the country, state lawmakers often use what is known as model legislation. Those bills crop up in several states with only a few changes, such as the names of affected state agencies and the states themselves. [Journal Record]

Voters to decide if governor and lieutenant governor should be on same ticket: Voters on Nov. 6 will decide whether the governor and lieutenant governor should run on the same ticket. Lawmakers last year passed Senate Joint Resolution 66 putting the issue on the ballot. Currently, the state holds separate elections for governor and lieutenant governor. [Tulsa World] Find background information, arguments by supporters and opponents, ballot language, and more on State Question 798 in our fact sheet. [OK Policy]

Justice reform one issue of agreement between Oklahoma governor candidates: Democrat Drew Edmondson and Republican Kevin Stitt agree that efforts must continue to try to drive down Oklahoma’s prison population. And, as was evident at a forum with the gubernatorial candidates last week, they concur that improving mental health and substance abuse services must be part of the overall equation. This is encouraging. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Democrats air ad linking Stitt to Fallin: The Democratic Governors Association began airing a television ad on Thursday claiming Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt has the “same bad ideas” regarding education as Gov. Mary Fallin. The ad is being financed by the national Democratic group through a political action committee established in Oklahoma called Stronger Oklahoma. [NewsOK]

Former lawmaker switched parties, beat rival: When Ken Luttrell last worked at the Capitol, he was a Democratic state representative from the Ponca City area in northern Oklahoma. He is set to return to office in February — this time as a Republican after switching parties and defeating the political rival who had defeated him eight years ago. Luttrell beat Steve Vaughan convincingly during the June 26 Republican primary with nearly 58 percent of the vote. He has no Democratic opponent in the general election. [NewsOK]

Legislative candidate forums set: Together Oklahoma and Oklahoma Watch are collaborating for legislative candidate forums in Lawton and Muskogee. The Lawton forum will be in the McCasland Ballroom at Cameron University, 501 SW University Dr., on Oct. 9. The Muskogee forum will be at the Roxy Theater, 220 W. Okmulgee Ave., on Oct. 23. [Journal Record ????] Find election information, State Question fact sheets, and voter tools on our #OKvotes page. [OK Policy]

Environmental groups file suit seeking to overturn EPA’s transfer of coal ash disposal regulation to state: group of conservation and environmental organizations is asking a federal court to overturn the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision this summer to transfer its regulation and oversight duties for coal ash disposal to Oklahoma’s state environmental agency, the Department of Environmental Quality. [The Frontier]

Appropriations bill includes $25 million for Oklahoma medical schools: Among the passengers on one of the “minibus” appropriations bills signed by President Donald Trump on Friday were Oklahoma’s two state-owned medical schools. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe said Friday afternoon the legislation included $25 million for the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University physician training programs. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma gets $4.28 million in grants for rural transportation service: The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has been awarded $4.28 million in federal grants to help upgrade rural public transportation fleets and facilities, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao announced last week. About $3.9 million of the grant money will be used to help 12 Oklahoma rural transit agencies purchase buses, vans, minivans and related equipment to better serve 51 rural Oklahoma counties, state transportation officials said. [NewsOK]

Point of View: Oklahoma needs restorative system for women in prison: The Sooner State is known for its pioneering spirit, but it’s not always good to be first. Oklahoma has the highest women’s incarceration rate in the nation, and there’s no end in sight. The state’s correctional population is already at 113 percent of capacity and expected to grow by more than 7,000 people in the next decade — many of whom will be women. [Craig DeRoche / NewsOK]

Embrace OKC seeks to prevent mental illness in OKCPS: At the Oklahoma City Public School System working board meeting Sept. 24, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health Commissioner Terri White introduced a “historic” collaboration. She explained that the OKCPS has committed to Embrace OKC, a holistic process to study and systematically address the district’s mental health challenges. [John Thompson / NonDoc]

All Dried Out: Oklahoma’s path to liquor modernization proves slow and perilous: Monday marks a long overdue step for consumers, but also the biggest day in the Oklahoma liquor industry since state repeal of Prohibition. [NewsOK] Democracy, capitalism, and an entire state’s history’s worth of resistance to the alcohol industry collided in 2016 at voting booths across Oklahoma. [NewsOK ????] Oklahoma alcohol legislation changes take effect Monday, Oct. 1, and with those changes come an adjustment to a multimillion-dollar tax revenue stream. [NewsOK ????]

Tulsa County judge issues injunction against B.A. Medical marijuana ordinance: A judge in Tulsa County has issued a temporary injunction that prohibits the city of Broken Arrow from enforcing new regulations on medical marijuana. Court records show Judge Patrick Pickerill granted the injunction Friday in a lawsuit that alleges that city officials in Broken Arrow didn’t have the authority to impose the new restrictions. [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘Accidental health care exec’ hopes to improve state’s well-being as new OHA president: Patti Davis, the new president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, calls herself an “accidental health care exec.” “I didn’t choose health care; health care chose me,” Davis likes to say. For a serendipitous career, Davis has some meaty credentials. In the ’80s and early ’90s, she served 14 years as CEO of Carnegie Tri-County Municipal Hospital and the past five, on the executive team of OU Medicine. In between, she worked 17 years at the OHA, helping advance many key initiatives. [NewsOK]

Quote of the Day

“DHS’ own records present, with an overwhelming and compounding amount of detail, the unacceptably high level of risk and unsafe conditions created by placing together in one facility so many children with significant and complex needs and behaviors without ensuring an appropriate level of staff, training and organizational and programmatic management and oversight.”

-Court-ordered monitors of Oklahoma’s child welfare system discussing their order to close the state’s only remaining child shelter, which discharged its last resident in June [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Poverty rate for Black children in Oklahoma, nearly double the statewide child poverty rate (21.5%).

[Child Trends]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Native American women still have the highest rates of rape and assault: A new Department of Justice study shows that of over 2,000 women surveyed, 84 percent of Native American and Alaskan Native women have experienced violence, 56 percent have experienced sexual violence, and, of that second group, over 90 percent have experienced violence at the hands of a non-tribal member. Most women reported they were concerned for their safety, and around half said they had experienced physical violence like pushing, shoving, or being beaten. Over 60 percent had experienced psychological aggression or coercive control. Experts say these record numbers still underestimate the number of women affected by violence, and the infrastructure for women to report and handle incidents is underfunded. [High Country News]

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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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