In The Know: Oversight panel tell judge to order children’s shelter closed by June 30

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.

[GOOD NEWS: We’ve extended the deadline to apply for the Summer Policy Institute to Tuesday, May 29th! The Institute is open to any undergraduate or graduate student at an Oklahoma college or university, or graduate from an Oklahoma high school, who has completed a minimum of 24 hours of college credit or has graduated in December 2017 or later. Click here for full details.]

In The News

Oversight Panel to Judge: Order the Laura Dester Children’s Shelter Closed by June 30: An oversight panel unanimously asked a federal judge Thursday to essentially close the Laura Dester Children Center with an order for the shelter’s 13 remaining kids be relocated by June 30. The three contract monitors cite a “substantially” increased number of confirmed reports of special needs foster children being victims of abuse or neglect [Tulsa World].

State Board of Education Says Oklahoma Schools Must Be Better Prepared for Shootings, Other Threats: The Oklahoma State Board of Education is dissatisfied with school security. With the high school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, top of mind, the board heard a presentation at its meeting Thursday about school security plans. Board member Leo Baxter pointed out there are no requirements for security equipment at Oklahoma schools and no guidance for the security drills they must run [Public Radio Tulsa]. Oklahoma City police were working late Thursday to piece together what happened when a man shot people at a popular Lake Hefner restaurant, hitting at least two people and ending with the shooter dead by the hand of a passer-by [NewsOK].

Galvanized by Walkout, Oklahoma Teachers Enter Crowded Election Year with Promises to Prioritize Schools: Deborah Gist cried as she stepped across the small stage in front the Oklahoma State Capitol. The Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools and a group of educators had just finished a 110-mile walk from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to highlight their fight for more school funding. It was the seventh day of Oklahoma’s teacher walkout, and thousands of supporters rallied to greet the group as it finished the final mile [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Teacher’s win in Kentucky points to November potential [Education Week].

Investments in Justice Reform Are a Good Start, but Savings Are a Long Ways Away: Criminal justice reform advocates should be encouraged – though not overjoyed – at the progress made on justice reform in Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session. Even in their amended forms, new laws that open up our broken parole process, reduce sentences for many nonviolent crimes, and recalibrate our supervision practices will significantly slow growth in our prison population [OKPolicy].

Everything You Need to Know About Voter Registration: If you wish to vote in the June 26 primary election, then June 2 is the last day for the Oklahoma State Election Board to receive your voter registration application. The June 26 primary election will feature Democratic and Republican primaries as well as State Question 788, the medical marijuana petition. Voters registered as Independents will be allowed to vote in the Democratic primary [NonDoc].

Oklahoma Gubernatorial Candidates Share Thoughts on Marijuana, School Shootings and More Issues: Oklahoma candidates for governor share their opinions with The Oklahoman’s Chris Casteel and on the Pat Campbell podcast leading up to the June 26 primary races [Tulsa World]. In an election year in which voters will replace the governor and possibly reshape the state Legislature, the race for lieutenant governor has been nearly invisible [NewsOK]. What we know about Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative elections [OKPolicy].

Experts Dissect SQ 788: About one month before Oklahoma’s medical marijuana vote, attorneys, industry representatives and a doctor shared their takes on whether residents should approve the measure and what effects it might have on the state. The Journal Record hosted a roundtable on Thursday afternoon to discuss common concerns about the policy in the state question [Journal Record]. Read our fact sheet on State Question 788: Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative [OKPolicy].

News 9 Polls Show Medical Marijuana Still Has Strong Support: Sooner Poll’s Bill Shappard said his numbers show the message against SQ 788 has not been that effective so far. In January, support for state question 788 was at 61.8 percent. It’s now at 57.5 percent [News 9]. A campaign organization has released new documentary videos pushing for the passage of legalizing medical marijuana. The “Yes On 788” campaign said they wanted to showcase Oklahomans who moved to Colorado in order to legally seek treatment from medical marijuana [KFOR]. 

Vision Care at Walmart? Voters Could Soon Decide Whether to Expand Where Optometrists Can Practice: Oklahoma voters could soon be asked to expand where eye care services can be offered. Supporters of a constitutional amendment on Thursday turned in more than double the necessary signatures to get the measure on the November ballot. Current Oklahoma law prohibits optometrists from opening practices in commercial settings. It also bars retailers from offering prescription eyewear unless it represents a majority of their sales [Tulsa World].

Hamilton: The Legislative Session That Will Not Go Away: The most contentious Oklahoma Legislature in recent memory simply will not go gentle into that good night. It tried, of course – wrapping up this year’s conclave three weeks early, undoubtedly hoping 16 dysfunctional months of sessions and special sessions would be distant memories by the time voters cast ballots in November. Instead, the 56th Legislature is threatening to become the Legislature that would not die [Arnold Hamilton/Journal Record].

Supreme Court Case Could Remake Notion of Tribal Sovereignty: Oklahoma state attorneys warned of an ominous legal decision that could upend the jurisprudence around Native sovereignty in the United States. “Oklahoma stands on the brink of the most radical jurisdictional shift since statehood,” state attorneys wrote in a Supreme Court brief filed last month. This week, the highest court agreed to hear the case in question, “Royal v. Murphy” [KOSU].

Anti-Tax Group’s Ads Praise Lawmakers Who Voted for Massive Tax Package: A group formed earlier this year to fight tax proposals in the Oklahoma Legislature has sponsored ads on Facebook that have angered and confused lawmakers who say their voting records are being distorted. One ad by the group, No New Oklahoma Taxes, praises Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, for voting against “business-killing legislation” and features a photo of her with a green banner that reads “No to New Taxes. Good for business” [NewsOK].

Dodd Frank Rollback Gets Positive Reaction from Oklahoma Community Banks: On Thursday President Trump signed legislation loosening the Dodd Frank banking regulations enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The bill raises the threshold for banks considered “too big to fail,” exempting them from regulations like higher cash-on-hand requirements and increased mortgage loan scrutiny [KGOU].

Qualified Foster Homes Needed in State: Foster Care Awareness Month is recognized each May. According to Oklahoma United Methodist Circle of Care, there are about 10,000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system, and, on any given day, there are 150 children in need of a foster home. The Cherokee Nation claims that there are more than 1,550 Cherokee youth in need of qualified foster families [Tahlequah Daily Press].

As U.S. Student Debt Soars, Oklahoma Schools Stress Financial Literacy: “Student debt in the U.S. hit $1.5 trillion for the first time this year, according to the Federal Reserve. Graduates who earn a four-year degree leave college with an average debt of more than $30,000, the Project on Student Debt reports. It is lower in Oklahoma at $25,856 overall and $23,903 for graduates of public institutions [NewsOK].

Four Recommendations Each Made to Rename Chouteau, Columbus Elementaries: Two Tulsa elementary schools in search of new names are surveying their school communities this week and presenting them with a array of diverse candidates to consider. The myriad of options and surveys reflect a concerted effort to gather community feedback on potential school names, a process that has been, at times, divisive in recent months. The school board will likely vote on the new names at its June 4 meeting [Tulsa World]. Renaming Tulsa Public Schools: Whom is the district considering for new namesakes at Chouteau, Columbus Elementaries? [Tulsa World]. 

Quote of the Day

“The state of Oklahoma has exacerbated this situation by placing only children with the greatest problems at the shelter, and then failing to move them into appropriate placements with staff who are specially trained to care for these children. This reflects the state’s continuing failure to plan for the placement of special needs children.”

-Marcia Lowry, the plaintiff’s attorney in a federal class-action lawsuit challenging abuse of Oklahoma foster care children. Monitors put in place following the lawsuit are now calling for the state to close the Laura Dester Children Center and relocate kids by June 30 [Tulsa World].

Number of the Day


Maximum annual income for a single parent with two dependent children to be covered by SoonerCare (46% of the federal poverty level).

[Oklahoma Health Care Authority]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid Minus Stigma: In Indian Country, It’s Part of the Fabric of Life: New Mexico leads all other states in Medicaid enrollment, with 43 percent of its residents on the program. That’s partly because the state has a large Native American population, living in communities historically riven with poverty. The numbers offer an eye-popping snapshot of the promotion of Medicaid expansion since 2013: Nearly a third of the 900,000 New Mexico beneficiaries joined as part of the Affordable Care Act’s option to expand Medicaid [Kaiser Health News].

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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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