In The Know: #OKLeg education policy fights continue | Upcoming public hearings on missing, murdered Indigenous peoples | Local elections matter

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: Upcoming local elections vitally important: “Think globally, act locally” may be a well-worn phrase, but it should serve as a north star for Oklahomans who want to create change. That’s why the upcoming April 4 election for school boards and municipal general elections are so important to our state’s future. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Education Watch: Report: Oklahoma Should End Tax Shelter for Private School Scholarships: After the IRS cracked down on a tax shelter that allowed donors to private school programs to break even or make money off donations by claiming it was a charitable donation, Oklahoma’s largest fund began giving out new advice: report your donations as a “federal business expense.” [Oklahoma Watch]

House, Senate continue to disagree on improving educational outcomes in Oklahoma: The House and Senate continue to disagree on what is best for the state when it comes to improving educational outcomes in Oklahoma. The fight over education policy at the state Capitol drags on. On Thursday, senators will vote on their modified version of the House Education Plan. This is in defiance of the House Speaker, who continues to call for a vote on the House plan without any of the Senate’s changes. [KOCO Oklahoma City]

State pauses child nutrition benefits program after error in distributing cards: The state has halted a program that’s supposed to feed the poorest school children after the State Department of Education gave access to an unknown number of families that don’t qualify. [The Ada News]

State Government News

Legislative committee invites Ryan Walters to answer questions, awaits response: To “support the claims that have been described” about public education, Oklahoma Rep. Mark McBride has formally requested that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters appear at Thursday’s scheduled meeting of the House Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee. [NonDoc]

  • ‘Creating an issue that doesn’t exist’: OSDE claims several school districts recently had pornography on shelves [KFOR]
  • ‘I wanna see it’: State Rep. wanting evidence in Walters’ pornography in schools claim [KOKH Fox 25]

Shellem v. Grunewald: Court rules for parents in EPS COVID-19 quarantine lawsuit: The Oklahoma Supreme Court granted a declaratory judgement Tuesday in favor of a group of Edmond parents who argued Edmond Public Schools’ COVID-19 policy violated state law by requiring quarantines for unvaccinated students exposed to the virus. [NonDoc]

  • Oklahoma Supreme Court says Edmond school quarantine policy violated state law [The Oklahoman]

Paid maternity leave discussion at Oklahoma Senate gets heated: Senate Bill 193, which looks at paid maternity leave for state employees was passed on the floor Thursday, but not before some interesting comments. Senator Jessica Garvin (R) Duncan introduced the bill which looks to provide six weeks paid maternity leave for state employees who have been employed by the state for at least two years. [KOKI Fox 23 Tulsa]

Federal Government News

Senator Mullin Concerned Defense Dept. Is Ignoring New Medical Malpractice Law: Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin declared Wednesday he plans to hold the Department of Defense accountable for what he calls an ‘egregious’ failure to follow the spirit of a law he helped pass in 2019 to better protect soldiers from poor medical care. [News 9]

Proposed federal rules would put first limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in Oklahoma’s drinking water: The state now has no enforceable limits on many common man-made chemicals, which have been linked to several types of cancers, developmental problems in children and other negative health effects. [The Frontier]

Muskogee metalworks site proposed for high priority Superfund action: A long-shuttered Muskogee metalworks that processed radioactive ore has been proposed for addition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund National Priorities List, the EPA said Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

Public hearings on Missing, Murdered Indigenous Peoples in Tulsa on April 11: Indigenous women are three times more likely to be victims of violent crime than non-native women. The Department of the Interior and the Justice Department are leading efforts to implement The Not Invisible Act. The 2020 law was authored by then New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland and it created the Not Invisible Commission. [KOSU]

Voting and Election News

Candidates raise big money in contested Tulsa school board race: The two Tulsa school board District 1 candidates combined to raise $103,400 in cash and in-kind contributions through March 20 in their quest for the seat, according to campaign finance reports filed Monday afternoon with Tulsa Public Schools. [Tulsa World]

  • Tuesday school board elections: Tulsa District 1 candidates state their positions [Tulsa World]

Health News

Oklahoma State to launch four-year nursing degree program: A new four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing program set to launch at Oklahoma State University should help address a critical shortage of nurses in the state, the university said Wednesday. [Journal Record]

Doctor-to-be: Oklahoma is my home that I love, but lawmakers’ actions are driving me away: The simple fact is lawmakers in Oklahoma have made it impossible for physicians to do their jobs here. The laws they have passed intrude dramatically into the doctor-patient relationship. [Christen Jarshaw Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Investment funds to benefit rural businesses, state communities: The Oklahoma Department of Commerce announced this week that five certified investment funds selected to participate in the program have provided documentation that they’ve allocated capital to be awarded to eligible state businesses. Each participating fund will deploy $20 million to qualifying businesses, bringing $100 million of increased capital to Oklahoma rural communities, department officials said in a release. [Journal Record]

Education News

Virtual Charter School Board has two new members in legal limbo until November: The state governing board that is to determine whether Oklahoma sponsors the nation’s first religious online charter school has two newly appointed members in legal limbo. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Despite ‘barriers,’ Tulsa finds a way to help Afghan women [Tulsa World]
  • Recent bond vote shapes Norman school board runoff [NonDoc]
  • Edmond City Council Ward 2: Barry Moore, Judy Rau disagree on housing, development, city projects [NonDoc]
  • Councilors to examine possible pay increases for city elected officials, municipal judges [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Let’s talk about vision. Forget the campaign rhetoric thing. Let’s talk about vision. How can we work together? Because that’s what we’re supposed to do to better our public schools.”

– Rep. Ronny Johns (R-Ada), member of the House Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee, speaking on how he wants to work with the OSDE and State Supt. Ryan Walters to improve public education. [NonDoc]

Number of the Day

$271 Million

The projected annual cost (state revenue loss) for the private school tax credits program outlined in the House version of HB 1935. [Oklahoma House of Representatives]

Policy Note

Pawns in the Voucher Scheme: What started in Arizona in 2011 as a $2.5 million state voucher program for students with special needs has now ballooned to a universal voucher program for all of the state’s students, public or private. Critics say Arizona used vouchers for special needs students as a trojan horse for school privateers to divest, divert, and dismantle the state’s public education system, which now ranks in the bottom three among all U.S. states for per-pupil spending, teacher retention, and teacher pay. [Texas Observer]

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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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