In The Know: Public input for spending federal relief dollars for schools | Court reverses opioid public nuisance ruling | State retiree pension plans studied

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

Interim study examines defined-benefit pension plans for state employees (Capitol Update): Successful passage of House Bill 2486 next session would reverse a bill passed in 2014 when the legislature terminated the defined-benefit pension plan for new state employees and replaced it with a defined-contribution plan. An interim study last week provided solid evidence that a defined-benefit plan is better for both the state and state employees. The committee heard that switching from defined-benefit to defined-contribution did not address pension underfunding as promised. Instead, it increased costs. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

How Schools’ Efforts to Collect Community Input on Spending Federal Dollars Fall Short: Oklahoma received $1.4 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan and 90% of that flowed directly to schools using a formula that prioritizes high-poverty districts so as to steer more resources to students with greater needs. While previous stimulus packages in 2020 provided immediate funding for school reopening and pandemic-related purchases, the American Rescue Plan was intended to confront the effects of the pandemic more broadly, such as addressing students’ mental health needs and helping them catch up in academics. The efforts to tap into public opinion haven’t gone well in every community. Some districts struggled to collect responses, raising questions of whether they tried hard enough. Others tried, but found in-person gatherings complicated by COVID-19 precautions. And many families were simply hard to reach in the summer. [Oklahoma Watch]

Opioid public nuisance ruling reversed by Oklahoma Supreme Court on appeal by drugmakers: The Oklahoma Supreme Court has reversed a trial court decision ruling that opioid drugmakers created a public nuisance in the state. According to the ruling published early Tuesday, the state had counter-appealed when opioid manufacturers filed an appeal after a $465 million verdict from Judge Thad Balkman. “We hold the opioid manufacturer’s actions did not create a public nuisance. The district court erred in extending the public nuisance statute to the manufacturing, marketing, and selling of prescription opioids,” the ruling states. [Tulsa World]

Confused about the McGirt U.S. Supreme Court ruling? We’ve got you covered: To provide a better understanding of the tribal legal systems to the public, The Frontier is launching a new website, McGirt v. Oklahoma, aimed at providing information about tribal victim services, court and legal systems, government and history to the public, researchers and journalists. The project was funded through a grant from the Oklahoma Media Center and in partnership with KOSU and MVSKOKE Media. [The Frontier] | [McGirt v Oklahoma Website]

Health News

Tulsa Health Department receives first 3,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5-11: The Tulsa Health Department received 3,600 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on Monday. The Health Department’s first shipment is being used to supply its four regular vaccination clinic locations and some Tulsa County pandemic providers as needed, with more than 300 that are eligible to order and administer the vaccine. Saint Francis Health System told reporters during a virtual press conference that it received 1,000 doses from the Tulsa Health Department on Monday. [Tulsa World]

A little goes a long way in supporting health care workers. Here’s how you can pitch in: A simple “thank you” goes a long way for Courtney Dooty, a registered nurse who works in Oklahoma City.  On a recent shift, a patient’s family member overheard someone yelling at Dooty and stepped out of the room with a few words for Dooty: “Thank you, and I appreciate you,” she recalled. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Legislature’s Redistricting Proposal Could Hurt Democrats in 2022, Future Races: Democrats will face greater odds of claiming one of the state’s five U.S. House seats if a redistricting plan unveiled last week is approved when lawmakers return for a Nov. 15 special session. Since Oklahoma’s population grew in the last decade by 200,000 — with much of that 5% growth coming around Oklahoma City and Tulsa — lawmakers must redraw the maps so the five districts have roughly the same amount of people. [Oklahoma Watch]

Tribal Nations News

Sandra Golden wants her seat back, Travis Scott calls allegations ‘politically driven’: If the last year of political life for Muscogee National Council Rep. Travis Scott were a dramatic football game, welcome to the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. Removed from the Council, impeached from office and then reinstated to his position by a tribal court, Scott now faces former Councilwoman Sandra Golden in the Nov. 13 general election for the nation’s Okfuskee District B seat. [NonDoc]

Tulsa Public Schools honors tribes with flag ceremonies to kick off Native American Heritage Month: The community is invited to share in the celebration of Native American Heritage Month with activities planned through Tulsa Public Schools’ Indian Education Program. The Indian Education Program at Tulsa Public Schools provides critical resources and services to more than 3,000 students representing 52 Native American nations. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Newest Oklahoma County DA candidate vows to drop manslaughter case against five police officers: Oklahoma County Commissioner Kevin Calvey said Monday he is running for district attorney. Calvey, 55, is the fourth Republican to announce for the 2022 race to become Oklahoma County’s top prosecutor. He vowed, if elected, to drop “bogus” criminal cases against police officers involved in fatal incidents. That promise brought immediate and sharp rebukes. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsans have one more opportunity to give feedback about Tulsa Police Department’s community policing practices: Tulsans who missed Monday night’s community policing forum still have a chance to voice their thoughts on the Tulsa Police Department and its policies. CNA, the policing firm Mayor G.T. Bynum hired to evaluate Tulsa police community engagement practices, is hosting a second community feedback forum Tuesday afternoon at Rudisill Regional Library from noon to 1:30 p.m. to present its initial evaluation findings and gauge community concerns. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Tulsa attorney offers a look at what businesses could expect if virus vaccination mandate holds up: Employers have peppered local labor attorney Keith Wilkes with inquiries since the Biden administration published the proposed mandate on Thursday. His takeaway response — the Tulsa World spoke to him Friday, before the stay was issued — is pretty basic. “Employers have a lot to do in a short amount of time to get in compliance with the new OSHA ETS (emergency temporary standard),” said Wilkes, a labor and employment partner/shareholder in Tulsa at the national law firm Hall Estill. [Tulsa World]

Environmentalists heat up over storm costs recovery plan that could include natural gas exit fee: Customers of Oklahoma Natural Gas could be hit hard as they pay additional monthly costs to retire the $1.37 billion the utility spent to acquire natural gas during February’s winter storm. Monthly costs could be as much as $7.80 per average residential customer, over a 25-year-long period, if the utility is approved to recover those costs through state-sold bonds, according to testimony in a case filed by ONG at Oklahoma’s Corporation Commission. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Luper’s legacy in education, Civil Rights commemorated in Oklahoma City schools building: A procession of family, students and loved ones of Clara Luper filled the Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building, where the walls are covered with the Civil Rights icon’s legacy. The building itself, the Clara Luper Center for Educational Services, bears her name. Luper led an effort to desegregate businesses across Oklahoma City, beginning with Aug. 19, 1958, sit-in at Katz Drug Store where she and 12 students were repeatedly refused service. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa Union chooses ‘Redhawks’ as new mascot: Having gotten the Monday night approval of the Union Public Schools’ Board of Education, Union High School teams and athletes have a new mascot for the first time in more than 80 years. Effective immediately — and effective for a Friday home playoff football game against Yukon — Union’s teams will be known as the Redhawks. The process began a year ago, when Union Public Schools decided to do away with its longtime racist mascot/nickname. [Tulsa World]

Jenks Public Schools suspends mask mandate: Citing declining COVID-19 case numbers, Jenks Public Schools’ Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to suspend the district’s mask requirement effective immediately. [Tulsa World]

Owasso Public Schools Superintendent Amy Fichtner resigns: The Owasso school board on Monday voted to approve the resignation of Superintendent Amy Fichtner. In a letter to district families the board said Fichtner agreed to step down at the request for a change in leadership from board members. [Owasso Reporter via Tulsa World]

General News

As local elections take shape, Kevin Calvey joins OK County DA race: Next November, Oklahomans will head to the polls to conclude the 2022 election cycle. While races for governor, U.S. senator and other statewide elected offices are already beginning to receive most of voters’ attention, local elections with enormous influence will be on 2022 ballots as well. Oklahoma City and Norman voters will participate in mayoral elections Feb. 8, with runoffs set for April 5 if necessary. Elections for county offices will follow the statewide election schedule of a June 28 primary, an Aug. 23 runoff and a Nov. 8 general election. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Opinion: It’s time to redistrict and add wards in the City of Oklahoma City! [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“We cannot teach history without teaching about everybody in this country because everybody’s important. We have a responsibility to teach history the way it was, not the way we want it to be, but the way it was so we can understand from whence we’ve come and where we’re going.”

-Marilyn Luper Hildreth, daughter of OKC civil rights leader and educator Clara Luper, saying her mother would have supported an inclusive approach to education and teaching students about the experiences of all racial groups [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

75.8 years

In Oklahoma, the average life expectancy is 75.8 years, 2.7 years less than the U.S. average life expectancy of 78.5 years. In 75 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, the average life expectancy is below the U.S. average – significantly lower in counties with higher proportions of non-White residents. [U.S. House Committee on Ways & Means]

Policy Note

Advancing Health Equity Requires More and Better Data: One hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic has been its disproportionate impact on people of color. Although recent trends point to a narrowing in racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths, overall, people of color have borne the brunt of the pandemic—from higher rates of infection, illness, and death to negative mental health, social, and economic impacts. The disparate impacts of the pandemic have given rise to wide recognition of and increased calls to address longstanding racial disparities in health and health care. Yet, nearly two years into the pandemic, we still lack comprehensive data to understand disparities in COVID-19 impacts and uptake of the vaccines. Looking ahead to the next phases of the vaccination rollout and pandemic recovery, data gaps will likely continue, limiting our ability to identify and address disparities. [KFF]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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