In The Know: Oklahoma public school students are diverse; teachers mostly white | A look at Tuesday’s election | 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.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma’s public school students are diverse. Their educators are mostly white: Research has found a positive impact when a school’s staff reflects the diversity of its student body, but Oklahoma’s education workforce has vastly different demographics from the students it serves. Less than half of Oklahoma’s public schoolchildren are white, but 84% of the state’s teachers and principals are Caucasian, as are about 80% of superintendents. [The Oklahoman]

Tuesday’s ballots include partisan contests, school and municipal questions: Oklahoma voters will pick nominees for U.S. Senate races and several statewide offices on Tuesday, while some will also choose between candidates in legislative and county races and decide local school district and municipal questions. [The Oklahoman] | Here’s who’s on the ballots as voters head to the polls Tuesday [Tulsa World] | [Visit the State Election Board’s OK Voter Portal to find your sample ballot and polling place

State Government News

Commissioner says utility rate moratorium not an option: In responding to a request that the Oklahoma Corporation Commission halt any new utility rate increases, the chair of the three-person regulatory body said there wasn’t much that could be done to stop electric and natural gas bills from rising at a time of inflation and growing costs. [The Oklahoman]

Paul Smith drops teaching job, John O’Connor frustrated by ‘attributed statements’: In a statement emailed to the Attorney General’s Office and texted to NonDoc shortly after midnight Friday, Pontotoc County District Attorney Paul Smith said he has resigned from his position teaching U.S. government classes at Holdenville High School. [NonDoc]

Gov. Stitt open to ‘redeploying’ Panasonic funds: Stitt (R) told FOX23 News last week he is open to finding another use for the nearly $700 Million in state funds set aside for a failed attempt at luring Fortune 500 company Panasonic to the state. [FOX23]

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma tribes are spending more on state elections — and directing the money in new ways: The committee is also the driving force behind an overall surge in campaign spending by tribes on Oklahoma races. The outcome of the election — particularly for the governor’s office — stands to define the state’s working relationship with tribes for the next four years. [The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

Stitt campaign taps major donors to build huge financial advantage: Perhaps nothing illustrates the differences in the fundraising profiles of Gov. Kevin Stitt and Democratic challenger Joy Hofmeister than this: Stitt raised twice as much as Hofmeister from June 14 to Aug. 8 but needed only half as many lines to report it. [Tulsa World]

Education secretary, Shawnee superintendent face off in GOP runoff: Republican voters are being asked once again to make their choice for their party’s nominee for state superintendent. Ryan Walters and April Grace finished first and second atop a four-candidate field in the June 28 primary with 41.46% and 30.63% respectively of the votes cast. [Tulsa World] | Oklahoma state superintendent candidates weigh ‘woke ideology,’ school funding, teacher shortage [The Oklahoman]

Fiery press conference punctuates tense GOP runoff for Oklahoma County DA: The heated race for the GOP nomination in this year’s Oklahoma County district attorney election will come to an end with Tuesday’s runoff, but voters were offered one more unusual development in the closing days: a 21-minute dueling press conference between one candidate and the other candidate’s boss. [NonDoc]

  • In runoff race for Oklahoma County DA, both candidates have found support [The Oklahoman]

Election roundup 

Health News

More Oklahomans will soon be eligible for monkeypox vaccinations: Monkeypox vaccinations will be more widely accessible starting next week in Oklahoma, as federal health authorities have made dosing changes that allow states to stretch their vaccine supplies further. [The Oklahoman]

This young woman wants to Indigenize mental health care: Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, and according to Indian Health Services, American Indians and Alaska Natives are particularly vulnerable. Some Indigenous youth don’t benefit from western style therapy. [KOSU]

Education News

On new law about teaching race, Gov. Kevin Stitt says some are ‘blowing this out of proportion’: As educators in Oklahoma have expressed concern about what they can teach about race and history because of a law banning certain concepts, Gov. Kevin Stitt said some are overreacting. [The Oklahoman]

Area schools’ Return to Learn plans reflect an endemic approach to the pandemic: Several area school districts implement Return to Learn plans for the coming year that reflect an endemic approach to the pandemic. [Tulsa World]

Stillwater Public Schools receives complaints, calls to remove some library books: At least one Stillwater parent has filed a request for the removal of a book from a school library after several people raised concerns at a recent school board meeting. [The Oklahoman]

Guest column: How classroom discussions may help us find common ground: If you’re worried about the polarized nature of our political system these days, here’s a word you should remember — “cyclical.” [William C. Wertz Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Guest Column: Oklahoma children are facing real issues. We must do better: Ranking 45th in education is a long way from the top 10. When you look at this ranking alongside the other metrics surrounding children in our state, it is not a huge stretch to see the correlation between all of these measures and our ranking in the bottom 10 nationally for child well-being. We must do better. [Mary Mélon-Tully Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Guest Column: Oklahoma public schools are at risk: The welfare of Oklahoma’s public schools is at risk. A thriving state economy begins with strong community schools. If Republican voters want to ensure their public schools survive, they must show up on Aug. 23 and vote with discernment. Our children are counting on us to choose wisely. In the recently released 2022 Kids Count Data Book, we were given a thorough analysis of how Oklahoma’s children are faring, and the results are dismal. [Erika Wright Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

General News

‘We can do better’: Gov. Stitt tours apartments where Afghan refugees are experiencing problems: Housing woes − like non-working air-conditioning units − have plagued some Afghan families since they moved to Oklahoma City to start a new life. The problems have caused alarm among some of their Oklahoma sponsors, the volunteers from local houses of worship and other organizations who have been helping the refugees. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma National Guard tuition program takes effect to boost recruitment – Sen. Kim David and Rep. Nicole Miller issue praise: State leaders praised the positive impact of the Oklahoma National Guard Educational Assistance Act that went into effect July 1, providing a more affordable pathway for Oklahoma National Guard members to pursue a higher education. [The Oklahoma City Sentinel]

Guest column: Business leaders must do more to put female entrepreneurs on road to success: It’s easy for business leaders and lawmakers to say they support women in the workforce, but many of them do not understand the situation. Studies from the personal finance website WalletHub and Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business recently revealed women in Oklahoma are at an extreme disadvantage. Oklahoma was ranked one of the worst states for women to live in regarding economic and social well-being, health care, safety, poverty level and incarceration rates. [Lauren Mingee Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Guest column: Gender cannot be regulated. Why this scares some people: Recently, the topic of gender identity and diversity has received some negative airtime. There has been some general disagreement in the public due to inaccurate rhetoric about what gender is, how it functions and why it is significant. And many people have not received an adequate gender education to dispute false claims, so these inaccurate claims only grow and mutate. [Hannah Scout Hossaini Anvar Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Motel described as ‘fentanyl den’ of OKC sees surging homicides and crime [The Oklahoman]
  • Cleveland County to open Rainy Day fund; commissioners say increases transparency [The Norman Transcript]
  • Developers propose housing, retail, hotel, offices for downtown OKC’s I-235 gateway [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“Where I worry about our teachers, you’ve got one (law – HB 1775) that told you not to cause discomfort. And then, you have another one that’s telling you to develop dialogue about bullying, bigotry, stereotyping and discrimination. All of those things may cause discomfort. I feel like one law was written from one angle, and the Holocaust (policy) was written from another. But a teacher could be caught up in the web either way.”

-Wyjuana Montgomery, a school board member of Epic Charter School, giving an example of a new academic standard that requires schools to teach about the Holocaust in a way that develops a dialogue on the ramifications of bullying, bigotry, stereotyping and discrimination; and also encourages tolerance of diversity. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

8 in 100

Ratio of Oklahoma families receiving TANF assistance for every 100 families living in poverty in Oklahoma. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is federal funding for states to provide basic cash assistance for families with children when they face a crisis or have very low incomes. Oklahoma’s “TANF-to-poverty ratio” has fallen 33 points since 1995-96. If TANF reached the same share of families in poverty that its predecessor AFDC did in 1996, 22,448 more families in Oklahoma would be helped by TANF now. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

Policy Note

To Promote Equity, States Should Invest More TANF Dollars in Basic Assistance: Since replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1996, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant has been the primary source of funding for states to provide basic cash assistance for families with children when they face a crisis or have very low incomes. But states only spend a little over one-fifth of their combined federal and state TANF dollars on basic assistance for families with children, our analysis of the latest data from fiscal year 2020 shows. States continue to use their considerable flexibility under TANF to divert funds away from income support for families and toward other, often unrelated, state budget areas. By redirecting the funds back toward cash assistance, however, states could promote racial equity and child well-being. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

Note: Today, August 22, marks the 26th anniversary of the signing of the bill that created the TANF program in place of the earlier Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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