In The Know: OSDE controversial partnership with PragerU | Broadband office reboots distribution of federal funds | Removing barriers for Oklahoma’s workforce | 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

Policy Matters: Removing barriers for Oklahoma’s workforce: Oklahoma has the potential to be an economic powerhouse thanks to an abundance of natural resources, geographic advantages, and our secret weapon – our residents. But too many bad policy decisions prevent our state from reaching its full potential. This starts with workforce development. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Behind Oklahoma Education’s new controversial partnership with PragerU: The Oklahoma State Department of Education has a new educational partnership with a controversial website. State Superintendent Ryan Walters said it will improve student’s knowledge of history. However, some lawmakers are exercising caution. [News 9]

  • Oklahoma education department’s partnership with controversial PragerU Kids sparks concerns [KTUL]
  • Ryan Walters makes deal to push Prager U content in Oklahoma schools [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Local districts on PragerU in Oklahoma classrooms [News 9]
  • Largest Oklahoma school districts to opt out of lesson plans with conservative advocacy group [KOCO]
  • Controversial PragerU videos, curriculum materials touted by Walters not adopted in area schools [Tulsa World]
  • What Is PragerU: Controversial Conservative Platform Entering Classrooms In Florida And Oklahoma [Forbes]

State Government News

Oklahoma’s broadband office reboots process for distributing $382 million in federal funds amid concerns: FOX 25 gathered new information about the nearly $400 million dollars in federal funds that will soon be going out to private companies to expand high-speed internet across Oklahoma. [KOKH]

Oklahoma Human Services announces Food Insecurity Grant: Oklahoma Human Services is proud to announce a Food Insecurity Grant to support the availability of and access to affordable and nutritious foods across Oklahoma in areas that have been negatively and/or disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. [Oklahoma Human Services]

Service Oklahoma focuses on hiring, new programs to reduce wait times: Oklahoma lawmakers formed Service Oklahoma last year to streamline the process for Oklahomans to get driver’s licenses and other government-issued credentials, but lines and lengthy wait times plagued some locations this summer. [Oklahoma Voice]

Editorial: This is no time for a complete tax cut: Governor Kevin Stitt’s proposal to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax is born of a boon mentality that will become a bust reality. [Editorial / Muskogee Phoenix]

Tribal Nations News

House speaker to hold study on tribal compacts: Lawmakers plan to probe the state’s compacts with Native American tribes later this year after the House’s top Republican lawmaker called for a deep dive on the issue. House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, has said he requested the interim study to better understand the history of the compacts, how they were formed and the importance of those agreements for both tribes and the state. [Oklahoma Voice]

Voting and Election News

State senator opts against third run for election: State Sen. Tom Dugger, who was first elected in 2016, said in a release that he’ll complete his current term representing Senate District 21 but will conclude his service in November 2024. The district includes much of Payne County and parts of Creek County. [Journal Record]

Health News

Research in OKC could help defeat deadly respiratory condition: A medical researcher’s discovery in Oklahoma City could be a key step in defeating a condition deadly to about 40% of people afflicted by it and ultimately blamed in many deaths of those who succumb to COVID-19. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma organizations will offer mental health aid training: The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is partnering with a local nonprofit to offer three free mental health first aid trainings to help Oklahomans respond to signs of mental health and substance abuse challenges. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Sanitation issues, missed health checks ongoing at Oklahoma County jail, health department says: A collapsed detainee in a men’s holding cell at Oklahoma County’s jail wasn’t checked on for nearly five hours. Another detainee on the jail’s medical floor was found unresponsive after not being checked on for about the same length of time. Those, plus continuing issues with bed bugs and mice, were among problems uncovered during the latest inspection of the jail by Oklahoma’s State Department of Health. The inspection was done on July 26. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma ranks high on hardest-working states list: Oklahomans work more hours and use less of their paid vacation time than many U.S. workers, a new study shows. [Journal Record]

Refinery planned in Lawton may be key to security: A refinery under construction in Lawton could play an important role in reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign countries as providers of critical minerals. [Journal Record]

Education News

High school sports authority adds no new security protocols after fatal Oklahoma shooting: Despite one school district’s call for minimum safety standards in the wake of a fatal shooting at a high school football game, the governing body for Oklahoma school athletics took no action to change current security regulations. [Oklahoma Voice]

Okla. Supt. Ryan Walters bans Black reporter from interviews: As Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters continues to push a “curriculum” that downplays slavery and indoctrinates students with ultra-conservative ideologies, his segregated media policy has begun to take shape. Walters’ administration now bans Black Wall Street Times reporters from taking interviews as of Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma lottery proceeds tapped for Teacher Empowerment Fund: High-performing teachers in Oklahoma could be in line to get raises worth several thousand dollars a year, according to lawmakers who supported creation of a new Teacher Empowerment Fund to provide cash to match money for raises pledged by local school districts. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa Welcoming Week events to celebrate immigrant community [Journal Record]
  • Tight MAPS 4 budget may result in cuts to Oklahoma River pedestrian bridge and plaza [The Oklahoman]
  • What we know about the $1 billion entertainment district, including OU arena, proposed in Norman [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“As long as we keep electing people who want to attack our teachers and run them out and run cultural war issues while they’re mismanaging the biggest chunk of a state budget, then we are going to continue to have these problems.”

– State Representative John Waldron, D-Tulsa, on the recently announced partnership with OSDE and PragerU Kids, a conservative education platform. [News 9]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s seasonally adjusted labor force participation rate in July 2023, which indicates the percentage of all people of working age who are employed or are actively seeking work. Oklahoma’s labor force participation rate generally has been declining since the end of the Great Recession in May 2009, when it was 64.2%. The state’s highest labor force participation rate in the last five decades was 65.5% in July 1986. [St. Louis Fed]

Policy Note

What works in workforce development—and how can it work better?: The good news is that federal spending on workforce development—including the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) system—improves disadvantaged worker outcomes. The bad news is that improvements are quite modest. In the words of one of our group members, we appear to be “stuck in a low-resource, low-efficacy” equilibrium. Small benefits at low levels of funding discourage higher levels of investment; yet without additional funding, it is unlikely we’ll see substantial improvement. At the same time, students and workers lack other options to finance training—for instance, Pell grants do not cover noncredit or shorter-term training efforts. The WIOA system, and the workers who use it, are caught in a policy catch-22. [Brookings]

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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.

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