In The Know: Oklahoma Labor Commissioner to serve as Gov. Fallin’s Secretary of Education

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.

[TONIGHT: Join us in Tulsa for “Black Lives Lost: An evening with author Danielle Allen.” See more about the event here.]

In The News

Oklahoma Labor Commissioner to serve as Gov. Fallin’s Secretary of Education: Oklahoma’s governor has appointed Melissa McLawhorn Houston to her executive Cabinet. Governor Mary Fallin announced June 5 that McLawhorn Houston will serve as the secretary of education and workforce development on her Cabinet. She begins her duties immediately. McLawhorn Houston was appointed in 2015 to fulfill the remainder of Labor Commissioner Mark Costello’s term after he was killed in a stabbing. She is not running for re-election to the position [FOX25].

Oklahoma City Council Chooses Pastor, Planning Commissioner to Fill Ward 7 Vacancy: The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday appointed the Rev. Lee Cooper Jr. to fill the Ward 7 vacancy created by John Pettis’ resignation. Cooper has been senior pastor of Prospect Missionary Baptist Church on N Missouri Avenue for 31 years and serves on the Planning Commission. The council met behind closed doors for 30 minutes Tuesday morning before reconvening in public to make the appointment. The vote was 7-0 [NewsOK].Oklahoma City Council adopts $1.57 billion budget, new fiscal year begins July 1 [NewsOK].

State’s Republicans Cheer Scotus Baker Ruling and Freedom Oklahoma Says It ‘Was Not a Loss’ for Gay Rights: Social conservatives in Oklahoma cheered a U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday in favor of a Colorado baker punished for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple but the state’s leading gay rights group said the ruling was not a loss for their side. The high court ruled 7-2 that a state commission violated baker Jack Phillips’ religious liberty [NewsOK].

Denying Immigrants Access to the Safety Net Would Have Terrible Consequences for Us All: Most Americans agree that it’s important to have a social safety net.  Bad luck and hard times can hit any of us, and when that happens there should be something there to keep us from falling into destitution while we work to get back on our feet. That’s what the safety net does – it helps people avoid extreme deprivation and produces long-term benefits, especially for children. But recent moves by the Trump administration could create holes in the safety net, allowing many working families to crash straight through [OKPolicy].

Proponents: Lawsuit to Be a Long, Aggressive Fight Against Private Prisons Operating in Oklahoma: Two Oklahoma City Democratic Party candidates, one seeking to become governor, the other vying for a Tulsa congressional seat, spoke out Tuesday in support of a prison reform lawsuit. Gubernatorial candidate Connie Johnson and Gwendolyn Fields Black, a candidate in the 1st Congressional District race, joined representatives from other Oklahoma City-area groups at a news conference in downtown Tulsa to rail against private prisons and what they say is a state prison system that disproportionately incarcerates African-Americans at greater rates than whites [Tulsa World].

More Companies Sign on to Wind Catcher Settlement: Four companies have agreed to support a proposed $4.5 billion wind power project. The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, Oneta Power LLC, South Central MCN and Tri-County Electric Cooperative reached an agreement with Public Service Co, or PSO, who announced the Wind Catcher project last summer. Wind Catcher could provide up to 2 gigawatts of electricity and could potentially be the largest wind farm in the country [KGOU].

Is Oklahoma on the Verge of a New Morning? During May, the U.S. News and World Report, the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian reported on the best and worst of Oklahoma City’s schools. During the last week of the month, the New York Times re-shared and the New Yorker published laudatory pieces on the efforts by education advocates to improve the entire state (not just our underfunded schools) [John Thompson / NonDoc].

State House District 66 Candidates Discuss Issues at Chamber Forum: The Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum with candidates for state House District 66 Monday at Tulsa Technology Center’s local campus. The candidates for the seat are Rusty Rowe (D-Tulsa), Angela Graham (D-Sand Springs), Brian Jackson (R-Sand Springs), Emily DeLozier (R-Sand Springs) and incumbent Jadine Nollan (R-Sand Springs). The statewide primary election is June 26 [Sand Springs Leader].

Resilient Tulsa Plan Aims to Make City Stronger Through Equity: The City of Tulsa released on Tuesday its plan to make Tulsa a unified, equitable city for all residents. Resilient Tulsa aims to make Tulsa an inclusive city and make Tulsans healthy, prosperous people, no matter where they live. The plan is part of Tulsa’s involvement in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities. North America Manager Otis Rolley said Tulsa showed character in acknowledging the overarching reason for needing improvement [Public Radio Tulsa]. Here are 41 steps Tulsa will take to become a stronger, more equitable city [Tulsa World]. DeVon Douglass on taking on Tulsa’s toughest challenges [OK PolicyCast]. See the full Resilient Tulsa plan here.

Neighbors Object to Proposed Name Change at Columbus Elementary: The proposed new name for the Columbus Elementary School is on hold. The Tulsa School Board heard a report from a special committee last night. The committee wants to rename the school the ‘Delores Huerta Elementary School’. Huerta was a labor leader involved in the plight of migrant farmers. The area’s neighborhood association objected. Ed Garcia says it would be much simpler to rename the school ‘Valley Glen’ for the neighborhood as well as the community swimming pool [Public Radio Tulsa].

Local Families, Faculties Eye ‘Community Schools’ to Improve Educational System: A group of teachers and child advocates is hoping to bring a new type of education not just to local kids, but also their families. The community school model has seen success in places like Tulsa, Oakland and New York. Local leaders believe it could be one answer to the state’s budgetary and educational concerns [News9]. Schools alone can’t overcome poverty. They need a community [OKPolicy].

Tribes Use Gaming Profits to Build Assets: Efforts to bring more money to Native American governments are stretching well outside casino walls, tribal leaders said. The Citizen Potawatomi Nation has long operated three grocery stores and will soon add a fourth. The Sac and Fox Nation has started a holding company, which, depending on where it invests its money, could help businesses win federal contracts. “The tribes cannot continue to be dependent on the federal government,” said Kay Rhoads, principal chief at the Sac and Fox Nation. “It is important as tribes that we identify the needs of our people” [Journal Record].

Smoking Is on the Decline in Oklahoma: A new report says Oklahoma has high rates of death from heart disease, stroke, cancer and respiratory disease despite a decrease in smoking. The Tulsa World reports that the State of the State’s Health Report was released Monday. The report shows that less than 20 percent of Oklahoma adults smoke. That’s down from 25 percent a decade ago. The teen smoking rate was 13 percent in 2015, down from about a third of teens smoking in 2005 [Public Radio Tulsa].

Study Finds Possible Deep Faults, Possible Earthquake Source: Scientists may have found previously unmapped faults in Oklahoma that could be contributing to a sharp increase in induced earthquakes in the state, according to a report on a study that used magnetic imaging to explore the rock formations below the earth’s surface. The apparent faults extend from what appeared to be the end of mapped faults directly to areas where many quakes occurred, Oklahoma Geological Survey Director Jeremy Boak said Tuesday [AP News].

Scott Pruitt Enlisted an Epa Aide to Help His Wife Find a Job — with Chick-Fil-A: Three months after Scott Pruitt was sworn in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, his scheduler emailed Dan Cathy, chief executive of the fast-food company Chick-fil-A, with an unusual request: Would Cathy meet with Pruitt to discuss “a potential business opportunity”? A call was arranged, then canceled, and Pruitt eventually spoke with someone from the company’s legal department. Only then did he reveal that the “opportunity” on his mind was a job for his wife, Marlyn [Washington Post].

Oklahoma Selects New Vendor for Auto Insurance Verification System: Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak is notifying auto insurers operating in the state that a new contract has been awarded for the operation of the insurance department’s Oklahoma Compulsory Insurance Verification System (OCIVS). The Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise Services awarded the contract to MV Solutions Inc. (MVS). During the 2017 legislative session, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill transferring OCIVS from the Department of Public Safety to the Oklahoma Insurance Department [Insurance Journal].

Quote of the Day

“When we see communities wrap around schools, we see attendance improve, we see graduation rates improve and eventually we start looking at literacy rates and test scores that start improving.”

Erin Velez, program manager for the Center for Community School Strategies in Tulsa, which is helping to start a new community school in Del City [News9].

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma renters that are cost burdened (spending 30% or more of household income on rent and utilities)

[Prosperity Now]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

50 Years After the Poor People’s Campaign, Poverty Persists Because of a Stingy Safety Net and a Dysfunctional Labor Market: The bottom bar shows us that, among those working-age individuals who are otherwise employable, 63 percent are working and 45.5 percent are working full time. An additional 37.2 percent are not working, but this share includes 1.6 million people living below the poverty line who are actively seeking a job. The data make it clear that millions of people who are active participants in the labor market are unable to make ends meet, either due to insufficient hours or low wages [Economic Policy Institute].

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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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