In The Know: Oklahoma election results | State adjusting its COVID alert system | Parole reforms have lessened prison crisis

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

Parole reform was crucial in ending Oklahoma’s status as the world’s prison capital: In 2016, Oklahoma incarcerated a higher percentage of its population than any other place on Earth. Much attention has been focused on the success of criminal justice reforms like State Question 780, but reforms to the state’s parole system — which grants early prison release for eligible inmates — had a tremendous impact on lessening Oklahoma’s prison crisis. [Damion Shade / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

The Oklahoma Election Board published results from all elections held Tuesday. A roundup of news stories from those races is included below: 

  • Tulsa reelects Mayor Bynum, decides GOP House nominees [NonDoc]
  • Tulsa Mayor re-elected as he staves off challengers from both the left and right [The Frontier] | [Tulsa World]
  • Upset: Tommie Johnson defeats incumbent OK County Sheriff P.D. Taylor [NonDoc] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Chris Amason wins Cleveland County sheriff GOP runoff [NonDoc]
  • Bice advances, Bynum wins again, Oklahoma County will elect first Black sheriff [KOSU]
  • Three more Senate Republican incumbents lose [NonDoc] | [Tulsa World] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Preston Stinson wins vacant HD 96 seat after victory in GOP runoff [NonDoc]
  • Stephanie Bice wins contentious CD 5 Republican runoff [NonDoc] | [The Oklahoman] | [Opinion / OKC Free Press]
  • Runoff voters cast congressional vote with who ‘can beat Kendra Horn’ on their minds [The Oklahoman]
  • Find more election coverage in the Local News section below

State to adjust COVID-19 alerts with regional hospital data after public health experts call original model unhelpful: The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Tuesday said it’s working to shift from statewide to regional hospital data to inform its weekly COVID-19 alert system. Public health experts have called Gov. Kevin Stitt’s alert system unhelpful because it lacks granular hospital data. Coronavirus hospitalizations by county or region would be a more useful tool to evaluate county risks — as the alert system purports to do — rather than relying on statewide numbers that can’t pinpoint local trends. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19: 14 more Oklahomans’ deaths reported with 650 new cases: The Oklahoma State Department of Health confirmed 14 more deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 650 more cases statewide. Across the state, 553 remain hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19; of 54,172 cases confirmed since March, 744 have been fatal. [Tulsa World]

Census deadline fast approaching: The opportunity for Oklahomans to be counted in the U.S. Census is only weeks away, and officials are concerned about participation. “If Oklahoma residents don’t self-report, no one will be looking for them after September,” said Larry Sanders, Oklahoma State University Extension agricultural policy specialist. “This is too important to put off any longer; there’s too much riding on the process.” [Okemah News Leader]

Health News

Oklahoma City launches ‘Mask Up’ campaign: Oklahoma City is launching a new campaign urging residents to wear their masks while inside city limits. The new citywide campaign is going to include advertising ranging from billboard ads, commercials. The Thunder is getting involved as well. Officials say there is also going to be a big social media push. [FOX25]

State Government News

Spike in coronavirus cases pumped the brakes on rebounding Oklahoma turnpike traffic: Traffic counts on Oklahoma turnpikes had been recovering as the state moved through Gov. Kevin Stitt’s reopening plan, which hit phase three on June 1. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma ranks 40th worst in the nation in seat belt use: Oklahoma ranks poorly nationally for motorists using seat belts, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority was told on Tuesday. Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz made the remarks during the OTA’s regular monthly meeting. [Tulsa World]

OJA hires director of behavioral health services: A licensed professional counselor has been hired as director of behavioral health services for the Office of Juvenile Affairs as the agency continues to strive to provide care for some of the state’s most vulnerable youth. [OJA / Norman Transcript]

Oklahoma state parks: Officials defend new fees: In a legislative hearing, the leaders of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department said the fees are necessary to fix years of deferred parks maintenance and fill a budget hole created by shrinking appropriations from Oklahoma’s Legislature. [The Oklahoman] Lawmakers from eastern Oklahoma complained Tuesday that the state’s newly imposed parking fees at state parks are essentially barring poor residents from spending time at their favorite local attractions. [CNHI via The Ada News]

Former Oklahoma health commissioner Gary Cox to earn $205,000 at OU: A replaced Oklahoma health commissioner will earn $205,000 a year at the University of Oklahoma, where classes began this week. The OU Board of Regents formally hired Gary Cox last month as a professor of health administration and policy and as a clinical professor of family and preventive medicine. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

McGirt to remain jailed while awaiting federal retrial necessitated by Supreme Court reservation ruling: Jimcy McGirt, who won a landmark Supreme Court ruling over the state of Oklahoma, will not be released from jail he awaits his retrial in federal court, a judge has ruled. [Tulsa World] Tell Us: What questions do you have about the McGirt V. Oklahoma ruling? [KOSU]

Economic Opportunity

‘In all reality, we live on a thin line’ (audio): After a long stint in the automobile repair industry, Micah Anderson has spent the last couple years going back to his familial roots of farming. In his audio diary for KOSU, Anderson discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic has made his life busier as a farmer and the concerns he has for his handicapped daughter. [KOSU]

Economy & Business News

Online platform targets supply chain issues: When the post-pandemic world arrives, commerce officials in Oklahoma want the state to benefit from companies ready to establish new business relationships or make investments after experiencing supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19. [The Journal Record]

Back-to-school challenges mount for businesses: Of all the challenges facing a major construction company juggling multimillion-dollar projects with altered working conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the item having the greatest effect on Bryan Timberlake’s workforce is not one the company can respond to or control: schools reopening. [The Journal Record]

Education News

More than 70 school districts in Oklahoma are reporting COVID-19 cases: Coronavirus cases are popping up in schools across Oklahoma. KOSU is tracking confirmed cases and outbreaks at schools in this post. [KOSU]

  • Tulsa school board formally approves TPS opening of school plan [Tulsa World]
  • 2 Edmond students, teacher test positive for COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
  • Football game between Enid, Putnam City high schools canceled due to COVID-19 concerns [KOCO]
  • 6 more Enid Public School positive cases are in isolation, but no new classes are in quarantine [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Norwood School closes due to COVID-19 cases [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Duncan Middle School announces possible COVID-19 exposure [Duncan Banner]
  • Hartshorne student tests positive for COVID-19 [McAlester News-Capital]
  • OSU launches online dashboard tracking COVID-19 testing on campus [Stillwater News Press]

123 school districts enroll in ‘Learn Anywhere Oklahoma’ plan: One month after Gov. Stitt unveiled details about the ‘Learn Anywhere Oklahoma’ plan, officials say 123 public school districts across Oklahoma have enrolled in the initiative. The initiative will use the Emergency Education Relief Fund to provide statewide access to digital content for both core classes and advanced coursework to students in kindergarten through the 12th grade. [KFOR] OK Policy: Gov. Stitt’s GEER plan widens the gap in access to technology and online learning for low-income students and students of color.

North Tulsa schools to bring tech support, staff public housing this fall: Some north Tulsa schools will soon be bringing school office help directly to where students and parents live through a new partnership with Tulsa Housing Authority. [Tulsa World]

Housing hesitance: Students living on campus can stress parents, budgets: As classes begin this week at OU, freshman parents around the OKC metro are faced with a choice. Many have sent their students to on-campus housing — where OU reported its first positive case of COVID-19 before classes even began — while others sought and received exemption from the university’s freshman housing requirements. [NonDoc]

Op-Ed: Taking my daughter to college in a pandemic felt like a high-wire act: Balancing my daughter Lizzie’s belongings on the curb recently, taking her to college in a pandemic, has felt like a circus act. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Editorial: State must rethink what it wants from its higher education system and how it will fund those aims appropriately: Gov. Kevin Stitt’s promise to make Oklahoma a Top 10 state hasn’t worked out well for the state’s two flagship universities. The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on education, says that state appropriations to the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University have fallen to the bottom 10% among state-funded colleges. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

General News

The 19th Amendment, which provided most women the right to vote, was officially added to the U.S. Constitution on Aug. 26, 1920: Aug. 26 marks the 100th anniversary of when the 19th Amendment was officially added to the U.S. Constitution, allowing women to vote across the United States. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Three Tulsa city councilors win re-election, three others headed to runoffs [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsans approve all 5 city propositions [Tulsa World]
  • Voters approve propositions in Glenpool, Jenks [Tulsa World]
  • No new taxes: All four Norman bond issues fail [NonDoc]
  • Dover bond issue passes; Woodward propositions defeated [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Methodical process ensures accurate count of absentee ballots, local election officials say [Tulsa World]
  • City of Tulsa sales tax collections higher than estimated so far in new fiscal year [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“This is too important to put off any longer; there’s too much riding on the process.”

-Larry Sanders, Oklahoma State University Extension agricultural policy specialist speaking about the 2020 Census [Okemah News Leader]

Number of the Day


Amount of federal funds per Oklahoma resident received annually. 

[Source: The George Washington University Institute of Public Policy]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The 2020 Census and Title I funding for schools: Interactive maps to localize your state’s stakes: In fiscal year 2017, the federal government distributed more than $15 billion in Title I grants to school districts based on the number of low-income children each district serves, relying on poverty data calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE). (Note that the federal government’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.) Title I funds are apportioned by school districts based on the number of low-income students each public school reports, although, per the Department of Education, school districts “also must use Title I funds to provide Title I services to eligible children enrolled in private schools.” [Journalist’s Resource]

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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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