In The Know: Oklahoma City Public Schools names new superintendent

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

Oklahoma City Public School Board Announces New Superintendent: Oklahoma City Public Schools turned Tuesday to a seasoned administrator to lead the state’s largest district and try to slow a revolving door of superintendents. The school board voted 5 to 2 to hire Sean McDaniel to become the district’s 13th superintendent — full-time or interim — since 2000. For six years, McDaniel, 55, has led Mustang Public Schools, an 11,400-student district located about 16 miles west of Oklahoma City. McDaniel will succeed Aurora Lora, who resigned Jan. 30 [NewsOK].

Education Groups Call for Boycott on Businesses Supporting Teacher Raise Petition: Education groups are calling for a boycott of businesses gathering signatures to stop the upcoming tax increase for teacher raises. The group “Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite!” posted the list of businesses, but now some of those businesses are saying they shouldn’t be on it. A spokesperson for Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite says because of the boycott and backlash, they have removed the list of businesses who don’t want to be on the list from their website [News9]. Petition drive fuels questions about revenue [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise].

Teacher Walkouts in Oklahoma, Other States Push Senate Democrats to Propose Education Funding Plan: Teacher walkouts in Oklahoma and other states may be over, but their message has reached Capitol Hill, where Senate Democrats are proposing a more than $100 billion increase in federal education spending. The plan calls for $50 billion over the next decade for states to put toward teacher pay and recruitment, and another $50 billion to spend on school infrastructure and classroom resources [Public Radio Tulsa]. Is public education in Oklahoma fully funded? [OKPolicy].

‘We Have Two or Three Jobs,’ Says Teacher Celebrating Vote Closing Tulsa Public Schools for Election Day: The Tulsa school board unanimously voted to close schools for Election Day in November in a move to promote civic engagement among educators, school support staff and students. The board approved closing schools on Nov. 6. The idea for Tulsa schools to close sparked in early April, during the teacher walkout [Tulsa World].

Deadline Nears to Register to Vote in Upcoming Oklahoma Primary Election: County election boards are starting to send reminders to Oklahoma voters that the deadline is nearing to register to vote in the June 26th primary. In additional to political offices, there is one state question on the primary ballot: State Question No. 788 which would legalize the use, sale and growth of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Rogers County Board Secretary Julie Dermody said Friday, June 1 is the last day to apply for voter registration – as long as you are a U.S. citizen, a resident of Oklahoma and at least 18 years of age. [News6].

Entry Level: Half of Legislators Will Have Less Than 3 Years of Experience: Even if all incumbents manage to keep their seats after November’s elections, half of the members composing the next Legislature will have less than three years of experience. Two years ago, voters put about 50 new faces into the Capitol, turning over one-third of members. This year, dozens more are terming out or choosing not to run. Analysts said turnover shifts the institutional knowledge away from members, which might not always be helpful. However, turnover like this also prevents high concentrations of power within the Legislature [Journal Record]. What we know about Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative elections [OK Policy].

Many devils in the details as Oklahoma moves toward a Medicaid work requirement: Earlier this month, Gov. Fallin signed HB 2932, directing the state to apply for federal permission to be allowed to remove low-income parents from health care coverage for failing to work enough hours in a given week. We’ve warned before of the pitfalls of implementing a work requirement for SoonerCare coverage. However, with Oklahoma now committed to developing such a proposal, it is vitally important that policymakers proceed with caution [OK Policy].

Interim State Health Commissioner Discusses Audit, Grand Jury Findings: The State Health Department is facing scrutiny after a grand jury report showed the agency misled the legislature about needing $30 million. The agency also unnecessarily cut jobs and services, according to the report. To save money, the State Health Department unnecessarily cut funding to certain services, like child abuse prevention, saving roughly 900,000 dollars [News9].

He lost everything to addiction before an Oklahoma City nonprofit helped turn his life around: Because of methamphetamine, Kenny Belyeu, 48, lost his job. His wife left him. The bank foreclosed on his house. All because of methamphetamine. He was also close to losing his freedom before entering a program at Oklahoma City-based nonprofit The Education and Employment Ministry. The interfaith TEEM program helps people charged with or convicted of a crime turn their lives around after incarceration or avoid prison [The Frontier].

Judge Approves Class-Action Status for Earthquake Lawsuit Against Oil Company: A district court judge has approved class-action status for a lawsuit accusing an Tulsa oil company of being responsible for damage caused by earthquakes. The judge ruled that residents and business owners with property in nine counties — Cleveland, Creek, Lincoln, Logan, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Payne, Pottawatomie and Seminole — can join a 2015 lawsuit brought by resident Jennifer Lin Cooper after a string of earthquakes shook near the city of Prague in 2011 [StateImpact Oklahoma].

After a 4-3 vote earlier this month, two Tulsa school board members say they regret Lee yes votes: Two Tulsa school board members who voted for Lee Elementary school to keep its Confederate surname said this week that they regret their votes. The new name doesn’t go far enough in remedying the original name’s racist origins, said Cindy Decker, vice president of the school board. Suzanne Schreiber, the board president, said she regrets not changing the school naming process before the board ever got a chance to vote on the recommendation to rename the legacy Tulsa elementary Lee School [Tulsa World].

Amazon Incentive Deal Approved by OKC Council over Objections: Two Oklahoma City Council members challenged a $1.7 million Amazon incentive deal as being unnecessary for Amazon to build a distribution center in the metro. In the end, it passed. The public was not able to know about the proposal until late on a Friday afternoon only four days before it was taken up in the Economic Development Trust meeting Tuesday, May 15 and 11 days before Tuesday’s Council meeting [Free Press OKC].

Council Sets Dates for Voters to Consider Candidates for Ward 7 Seat: The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday set in motion the process to fill the Ward 7 seat being vacated by John Pettis. Pettis faces allegations of embezzlement and intentionally failing to file state tax returns. The city council called a special primary election for Aug. 28 and a special runoff, if necessary, for Nov. 6 for voters to fill the seat. Filing will be June 13, 14 and 15 [NewsOK].

Water Act Passed by Senate Committee Includes Several Oklahoma Improvement Projects: A number of projects ranging from  the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System to private developments around Army Corps of Engineers Lakes are part of the Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 passed this week by the U.S Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim  Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the committee and praised the unanimous passage of America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 [OKEnergy Today].

Quote of the Day

“I hear from some people ‘the polls are open 7 (a.m.) to 7 (p.m.), go vote.’ Guys, we have two jobs, we have two or three jobs — that’s why we’re in this mess.”

-Stephanie Jones, a Tulsa Elementary teacher, who successfully advocated to close Tulsa Public Schools for election day [Tulsa World].

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma births covered by SoonerCare in FY 2017.

Source: Oklahoma Health Care Authority

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How America Broke Its Economy: The April jobs report brought more incrementally good news for the economy: The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent, the lowest it’s been since late 2000. “The big thing to me was cracking 4,” President Donald Trump told reporters. “That hasn’t been done in a long time…. We’re doing great.” But the report also contained a now-familiar disappointment: wages remain stagnant. Average hourly earnings rose by 4 cents over March, bringing the total increase over the past year to just 67 cents, or 2.6 percent. Factoring in consumer inflation, the real increase is close to zero [The New Republic].

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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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