In The Know: Private school voucher program underway, Gov. reverses course on applying | Tribe launches mobile gaming | State gun laws and domestic violence | School board filings

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: Giving with intention and purpose: Now that it’s December and the clock is ticking down to the holidays, it’s important to remember how vital this season is for many of Oklahoma’s nonprofits. In Oklahoma and nationally, the majority of charitable giving comes during December. In fact, end-of-year giving represents about $1 in every $5 that nonprofits receive throughout the year. So, this holiday season, let’s take a moment to remember the profound impact our generosity can have on causes and community needs that are close to our hearts. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record

State Government News

Stitt reverses course on his family applying for private school tax credits: Gov. Kevin Stitt reversed course on plans for his family to apply for new tax credits for households that have children attending private schools. A Stitt spokesperson said Wednesday that the governor decided not to apply for the tax credits after he told Oklahoma Watch last week his wife intended to submit an application for some of their children. [Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: What would it take to upgrade state-owned buildings that are in need of maintenance?: I’ve been visiting state colleges and universities and other state-owned buildings across Oklahoma recently to look at some of their deferred maintenance needs. It’s an issue I believe we can and should address in the upcoming legislative session. [Rep. Mark McBride / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Cockfighting is not animal agriculture; it’s organized crime: The Tulsa World reported on Nov. 20 that YouTube pulled a video of Gov. Kevin Stitt because it promoted animal cruelty, specifically cockfighting. Though our governor did not explicitly mention the word cockfighting in his 1-minute message to a rally of cockfighters in mid-November in McAlester was clear he was delivering a political wet kiss to the so-called “gamefowl community.” [Col. Tom Pool / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Sixteen file for Oklahoma’s presidential primary: Oklahoma voters will have plenty of names to consider, regardless of party affiliation, in the state’s March 5 presidential primary. Eight Republicans, six Democrats and two Libertarians signed up during the three-day filing period that ended at 5 p.m. Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

  • 16 candidates file to appear on Oklahoma’s presidential primary ballot [Oklahoma Voice]

Tribal Nations News

Mobile gaming in Oklahoma? Chickasaw Nation launches app at Winstar: As the debate over sports betting heats up in Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation is rolling the dice on a different type of gambling. The southern Oklahoma tribe is launching a mobile gaming app that will take and pay out real money, a change from phone games where no cash changes hands. [The Oklahoman]

1839 Cherokee Meat Co. receives $10M in federal grants, touts food provision: Recently wrapping up its first year of operations, 1839 Cherokee Meat Co. has obtained federal grants worth more than $10 million, officials said. The facility surpassed initial goals and “continues to play a vital role in the tribe’s efforts to promote food sovereignty within the Cherokee Nation Reservation,” officials said. [Tulsa World]

Voting and Election News

2024 local elections: OKCPS, Western Heights seats up, candidates crowd Midwest City Council: Oklahoma City Public Schools, Deer Creek Public Schools and Western Heights Public Schools will have school board races early next year, while a slate of school board incumbents across Oklahoma County will be reelected by default, as no other candidates filed to run against them. Additionally, 12 candidates have filed candidacy for four different seats on the Midwest City Council. [NonDoc]

2024 Tulsa County area school board races draw mixed interest: Tulsa County is home to some of the fastest-growing school districts in the state, but that doesn’t seem to translate into a hunger to create policy on school boards. Several board seats are up for grabs across Tulsa and its suburbs, but in many cases the races featured just one candidate running unopposed. [NonDoc]

  • Only one Tulsa school board seat to see primary [Tulsa World]

Election 2024: Norman council seats up, Moore seeks new mayor: Cleveland County’s 2024 municipal election cycle will be busy, with 11 candidates filing this week for four seats on the Norman City Council. Meanwhile, a pair of candidates filed for Office 4 on the Norman Public Schools Board of Education. [NonDoc]

Early voting begins for Oklahoma City’s NBA arena special proposition: What to know: Oklahoma City residents will head to the polls beginning this week to decide whether the city will use at least $850 million in taxpayer funds to build a new downtown arena. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma City voters set to decide fate of new NBA arena [KOSU]
  • OKC is closing in on the arena vote — and groups are ramping up their arguments for and against it [The Oklahoman]
  • How the arena vote next week will also indirectly determine funding for police, fire fleets [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Opinion: Did you know Oklahoma has a public list to keep track of illegal disposable vape products?: Flavored, disposable vapes are one of the leading threats to the health of our young people who are being inundated with access to illegal products coming out of China. In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2023 National Youth Tobacco Survey — released Nov. 2 — disposable vape usage among middle and high school students increased. [Rep. Jon Echols / The Oklahoman ]

Opinion: Here’s why you can’t die peacefully in Oklahoma: In the state of Oklahoma to be accepted to hospice, traditionally you need to have traditional Medicare. Medicare is federally funded, and Medicare Advantage is private insurance. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, it will automatically revert to traditional Medicare when you are ready for hospice. However, roughly 81% of the people in the state of Oklahoma who qualify do not have Medicare. [Abby Remming / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

A criminal record and protective orders didn’t stop her attacker from having a gun: Domestic violence advocates say Oklahoma’s permissive gun laws give abusers easy access to weapons. Guns accounted for 70% of domestic violence-related fatalities in Oklahoma in 2021, according to the most recent state numbers. The Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit organization that advocates for gun control has ranked Oklahoma in its top 10 states for women murdered by men in 15 out of the past 25 years. Oklahoma is now ranked number two in the nation for women murdered by men. [The Frontier]

Bonuses coming for most at Oklahoma Department of Corrections before Christmas: A majority of Oklahoma Department of Corrections employees will get a one-time bonus of $1,500-$2,000 around Dec. 15. Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Steven Harpe said about 87% of the agency’s staff, those scoring a three to a five on performance evaluations, will get the bonuses. [Tulsa World]

Jimcy McGirt pleads guilty ahead of his second retrial: The man at the center of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that reshaped tribal sovereignty in Oklahoma has pleaded guilty to the crimes he was challenging and will soon be free. Jimcy McGirt, 75, pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual abuse in Indian Country. As part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, he agreed to a 30-year sentence with five years probation. [KOSU]

Oklahoma DHS reveals new information on investigation into abuse allegations at Enid facility: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services held a press conference regarding the ongoing investigation into the Greer Center, a treatment facility for people with intellectual disabilities. The details include patients allegedly being abused, left covered in bruises and, in some cases, waterboarded. Police said all at the hands of former employees. [KFOR]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Plan Set to Engage More Latinos in Oklahoma Politics: Latino legislators, business owners and community members are playing politics in Oklahoma with the long game in mind. The strategy is to establish greater Latino political influence by educating the voter base and generate a pipeline of young Latinos who will one day run for office at local and state levels. The hope is to engage more Latinos in the electoral process overall. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tulsa looks to combat homelessness with priority housing program: The city of Tulsa wants to get a priority housing program for unhoused people up and running. The program would initially have 25 rooms in hotels and motels throughout Tulsa that would house people in need of temporary shelter. City housing policy director Travis Hulse said the program would initially house more than 100 people per year. [KOSU]

Opinion: Raising Oklahoma’s minimum wage is the wrong way to boost economic opportunities: Expanding the earned income tax credit, reducing the number of jobs requiring occupational licensing, and reducing regulatory burdens to employment and entrepreneurship would do a better job of ensuring that those at the lowest end of the income ladder have genuine opportunity and assistance. [James Davenport / Oklahoma Voice]

Opinion: Women want financial literacy education to bridge the knowledge gap: Every day, families across the U.S. have to make difficult decisions about budgeting, spending, insurance, investments, savings, retirement and on and on. When faced with these choices, financial literacy – that is, knowing how to make informed decisions about money – is key. Recent research suggests women are less financially literate than men, regardless of their schooling, income or marital status. [Lila Rabinovich / Tulsa World]

Education News

Kingfisher residents may see 12% tax hike to settle hazing lawsuit: Kingfisher Public Schools’ board of education voted Monday to accept a settlement in a lawsuit over student hazing allegations, leaving residents facing up to 12% more in property taxes to foot the bill. That means around 5,000 property owners are looking at a $3.75 million bill, plus interest. [KOSU

Oklahoma’s HB1775 inspires another complaint against Union Public Schools: Union Public Schools is dealing with a second complaint this semester about materials made available to its secondary students. During last week’s Oklahoma State Department of Education meeting, attorney Bryan Cleveland announced his office is investigating the House Bill 1775 complaint. [Tulsa World]

Ryan Walters proposes changes to what he calls Oklahoma’s ‘woke’ information literacy standards: State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters proposed Wednesday new “Information Literacy Standards” that he said would “more closely reflect Oklahoma Values” and get rid of the current guidelines that were developed using concepts from the American Library Association (ALA). Walters said following the association’s guidelines constituted “taxpayer-funded, woke indoctrination of our children in Oklahoma.” [The Oklahoman]

Closures, consolidations possible at Tulsa Public Schools under Ryan Walters’ plan: Nine elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools and three alternative sites in Tulsa Public Schools are being asked to improve under new demands by State Superintendent Ryan Walters. A parents group believes the “unrealistic goals” is a set up by Walters to launch a state takeover of Oklahoma’s largest school district. [Tulsa World]

Opinion, Rep. John Waldron: Shell game being played on Tulsa Public Schools by state education department: State Superintendent Ryan Walters is playing us. At the most recent State Board of Education meeting, Tulsa Public Schools officials were given new demands for improvement of schools without prior notice. Now Walters wants 12 schools on a federal list for Most Rigorous Intervention (MRI) to show improvement or be closed down. This is a shell game. [Rep. John Waldron / Tulsa World]

Opinion: TPS parents anxious, uncertain over upheaval caused by State Superintendent Ryan Walters: State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ toxic and unpredictable leadership makes being a Tulsa Public Schools parent feel stressful and unsafe. TPS parents — and all of Tulsa — need to know that after the Nov. 30 State School Board meeting, the district is back to the uncertainty of this past July and August. [Ashley Heider Daly / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa County seeking repayment of $157,000 in ARPA funding from The Oasis Projects  [Tulsa World]
  • Sonic HQ fading away? Which MAPS project shaped OKC the most? [The Oklahoman]
  • Curbside Chronicle’s holiday wrapping paper sales benefit its mission to employ and empower people transitioning out of homelessness [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“(C)losing schools only masks the problems kids bring to the schoolhouse door, by hiding them inside larger public schools.”

– Tulsa Rep. John Waldron, D-Tulsa, speaking about the latest threat from the state superintendent to deny accreditation and takeover Tulsa Public Schools. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who are over 65. The national rate is 17.3%. [U.S. Census]

Policy Note

Housing and care costs leave aging Americans with limited options: Over the last decade, the number of older adults increased 34% and now makes up 17% of the overall population. By 2040, the number of households headed by someone 80 or older will more than double. The data on aging adults’ finances paints an ominous picture. Nearly 11.2 million adults over 65 spent more than 30% of their income on housing in 2021, a record high up from 9.7 million in 2016. Of that group, more than half are spending at least 50% of their income on housing. So it’s little surprise that so many older adults cannot afford the extra expense of in-home care or assisted living. [Route Fifty]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.