In The Know: Officials wrestle with protecting children as school starts | Pediatricians encouraging masks, vaccinations | More

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

The winding path of SB 658 (Capitol Update): It appears from a brief search of various public school websites that classes will begin anywhere from one to three weeks from now. With the spiking COVID cases and hospitalizations, I can only imagine the anxiety of school board members and school administrators about how to make school safe. We are better off in many ways than August 2020. A lot of people, not including children under 12, are protected by vaccination. Doctors know better how to treat the seriously ill, and treatment drugs are more widely available. But some things are worse. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Tulsa Public Schools COVID safety plan includes mask expectation: With the first day of school less than three weeks away, Tulsa Public Schools is asking staff and students not to ditch their masks quite yet. Presented as part of a staff report at Monday night’s school board meeting, the district’s COVID-19 safety plan for the 2021-22 school year includes “expecting” students and staff to wear masks while on campus. TPS’ first day is Aug. 19. [Tulsa World]

More than 150,000 Oklahomans now receiving SoonerCare through expansion: More than 150,000 Oklahomans (breakdown attached) are now receiving SoonerCare health benefits due to Medicaid expansion. This amount adds to the already one million plus Oklahomans receiving SoonerCare benefits. Some of the new benefits for qualifying adults include behavioral health coverage, tobacco cessation, prescriptions and much more. [Tulsa World]

Health News

OU Health trying to strengthen nursing workforce amid shortage ‘crisis’: OU Health announced several new initiatives Monday aimed at strengthening the state’s nursing workforce amid a shortage of nurses in Oklahoma and nationwide. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

‘We don’t know their trauma’: Lawmaker wants to address law enforcement pursuit dangers, highlight harm experienced by innocent victims: State Rep. Ajay Pittman wants to identify ways to address the dangers of law enforcement pursuits for all Oklahomans and give voices to innocent people harmed by vehicular chases. [Tulsa World]

Commission approves new county roads and bridges work plan: The Oklahoma Transportation Commission signed off Monday on an updated five-year work plan for county roads and bridges. State lawmakers created the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges program in 2006 in order to help local governments pay for projects they couldn’t afford on their own. The updated plan covers work through fiscal year 2026. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

19 HBCUs are getting a boost in research funding from the USDA: The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping beef up research at 19 historically Black colleges and universities, and the money could have a broader impact for minority communities. The USDA and Black farmers have had a rocky relationship over the years, but the Biden administration says it’s working on that. It’s investing nearly $22 million in historically Black land grant institutions to support research. Langston University in north-central Oklahoma got funding for four projects. [KOSU]

Economic Opportunity

As federal eviction moratorium ends, Tulsa asks, ‘What’s going to happen now?’: With an eviction pending and the federal moratorium lifted, Lisa Hughes went to a Tulsa County courthouse on Monday morning to ask a seemingly simple question. “What’s going to happen now?” [Tulsa World]

  • Social services hub to prevent evictions will be onsite at court [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Rental assistance available despite eviction moratorium ending [News On 6]

Economy & Business News

Would you pay more for ‘responsibly sourced natural gas’? Producers think many consumers will: Many consumers will pay a premium for products they believe could help others, lead to more ethical treatment of animals or save the environment. These sorts of behaviors are leading some energy and utility companies to ask, is there a market for responsibly sourced natural gas that isn’t harmful to people or the planet? [The Oklahoman]

Long-stalled Deep Deuce development reimagined as ‘zero energy’ neighborhood: A new proposal to complete a long-stalled housing development in Deep Deuce calls for the region’s first “zero energy” neighborhood that would also honor the area’s African American heritage and change the orientation of remaining homes so that they face interior courtyards. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Judge gives Western Heights 8 days to respond to OSDE: Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Timmons is giving Western Heights Public Schools eight days to file a response to a State Board of Education emergency petition that asks her to order Western Heights’ board to acknowledge the state’s authority over the troubled district’s day-to-day operations. [NonDoc]

  • Multiple school buses fail inspection as Western Heights troubles deepen [The Oklahoman]

In Moore, a way forward from devastation: Moore Public Schools has come a long way in ensuring the safety of its students since an EF5 tornado tragically ended a May school day in 2013, Superintendent Robert Romines said during Friday’s JR/Now webinar. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Smoke from wildfires trips ‘unhealthy’ air quality warnings in Tulsa, Washington counties [Tulsa World]
  • Greenwood Rising history center grand opening set for Wednesday [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma County Commissioners award CARES money to Sheriff’s Office [OKC Free Press]
  • Cleghorn said unsuccessful recruitment efforts are causing issues for city departments [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“When it comes down to it, our students’ health should not be a political issue.”

-Katherine Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association [CNHI via McAlester News-Capital]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma adults (18 and older) who are fully vaccinated. (As of July 23, 2021) [CDC

Policy Note

What doctors wish patients knew about the dangerous Delta variant: For the first time in over a year, people have been feeling a sense of hope that the pandemic might be dispersing to the background, allowing a return to some sort of normalcy. But experts warn not to let your guard down just yet because of the quick spreading and contagious COVID-19 Delta variant. [American Medical Association]

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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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