In The Know: Redistricting updates | Stitt still weighing Julius Jones clemency | Seeworth Academy audit

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

Redistricting bills advance from committees in special session: Democrats who are unhappy with the way the Republican-controlled Legislature is reconfiguring the Oklahoma City-based 5th Congressional District were mostly quiet Tuesday as redistricting legislation advanced from committees on the second day of a special session limited to that purpose. That doesn’t mean they will remain so. “I expect there will be some things (Wednesday) on the floor,” said Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman. Virgin acknowledged that Democrats’ complaints are unlikely to impede the formalization of the new boundaries, but she said they hope to make a point. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma Senate panel rejects Democratic-backed congressional redistricting map [The Oklahoman] | [Public Radio Tulsa] | [OKC Free Press]
  • Commissioners to decide Oklahoma County redistricting maps [NonDoc] | [OKC Free Press]
  • Norman City Council holds public hearing on reapportionment proposal, votes to adopt the resolution 5-4 [OU Daily]
  • Public comments to be heard at Lawton redistricting meeting [KSWO]

Stitt still mulling fate of Julius Jones two days before execution date: Supporters of death-row inmate Julius Jones continued a vigil outside Gov. Kevin Stitt’s second-floor Capitol office on Tuesday as the clock moved closer to Jones’ Thursday execution date. Barring Stitt’s intervention, Jones is set to die by lethal injection at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. He was convicted of the 1999 shooting death of Paul Howell of Edmond in front of Howell’s two young daughters and sister. Howell’s vehicle was stolen, and he was run over by it after being shot. [Tulsa World] On Monday, Madeline Davis-Jones delivered a letter to the Office of the Governor with the support of Oklahoma’s Legislative Black Caucus. [The Black Wall Street Times]

  • As Stitt Weighs Julius Jones Decision, Here’s How Previous Governors Approached Executive Clemency [Oklahoma Watch] | [The Oklahoman]
  • As Julius Jones’ execution draws near, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt stays silent on clemency [KOSU]
  • Preachers, Julius Jones’ sister denied meeting with Gov. Kevin Stitt as execution looms [The Oklahoman]
  • ‘An emotional rollercoaster’: Julius Jones’ spiritual advisor discusses their latest meeting [The Oklahoman]
  • Gov. Kevin Stitt challenger Joy Hofmeister says she would grant Julius Jones clemency [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Oklahoma AG sues Biden administration over health care worker vaccine mandate: Oklahoma’s attorney general joined 11 other states’ attorneys general to sue the Biden administration over what they called an overreaching vaccine mandate for health care facilities that receive federal funding through Medicaid and Medicare. [The Oklahoman] O’Connor has also sued Ascension Healthcare over its vaccine mandate for employees in the Tulsa area and said Ascension was violating a state judge’s Friday order restraining the mandate. [AP News]

  • ‘It’s really for their benefit.’ Pentagon says Oklahoma Guard members must get vaccinated [The Oklahoman]
  • Vaccination controversy boils over in state [The Journal Record]

Education News

Seeworth audit finds ‘fraud’ by superintendent, inaction by powerful board members: Two years after it began, a state audit of the shuttered Seeworth Academy charter school has revealed more than $250,000 in “misappropriated” expenditures by the school’s longtime superintendent, Janet Grigg, and has raised further questions about why board members, including Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals Judge Barbara Swinton and Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, “failed to recognize and/or act on instances of suggested financial improprieties brought to their attention during the past decade.” [NonDoc] The Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector’s Office released a searing report Tuesday from its investigation of Justice Alma Wilson Seeworth Academy, a charter school serving students with academic and behavioral struggles that closed June 30, 2019. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma state auditor and inspector Cindy Byrd’s office says former SeeWorth superintendent Janet Grigg gave herself and upper level staff more than $210,000 in unapproved bonuses. [KOSU]

The debate over what schools teach about race could sway Oklahoma elections: Ryan Walters, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education and a Republican candidate for state superintendent, opened a recent stump speech in Edmond with praise for a bill Oklahoma enacted this year that bans teaching that one race is superior to another. [The Frontier]

Epic to cut staff after losing 60% of new students driven there during pandemic, Oklahoma’s largest online school says: Epic Charter Schools is implementing a reduction in force because “three out of five kids who came to EPIC due to the pandemic have chosen to return to their home districts,” it announced Tuesday. [Tulsa World]

As tax dollars dry up, university ag schools turn to agribusiness dollars and industry projects: As lawmakers across the country began to cut deeply into tax subsidies for higher education, ag schools have turned increasingly to places where they could get private money — particularly wealthy alumni and companies eager to promote research, training and facilities likely to benefit their industries. [KOSU]

State Government News

Oklahoma lawmaker files measure to remove roadblock for released inmates: An Oklahoma lawmaker has filed a measure that he says would help recently released inmates get back on their feet. Sen. Micheal Bergstrom filed Senate Bill 1107 to remove one of the roadblocks recently released inmates face as they try to enter the workforce. The measure says if an inmate had a valid, unexpired driver’s license when they were incarcerated, that license would still be valid for up to 180 days after they are released from prison, even if that license expired while in custody. [KFOR]

Tribal Nations News

Tribal treaties database accessible through OSU library: An expanding digital collection of tribal treaties, some dating back more than two and a half centuries, is to be administered by the Edmon Low Library at Oklahoma State University. Plans for a readily accessible Tribal Treaties Database were announced Tuesday as part of a White House Tribal Nations Summit being held this week in Washington. [The Journal Record]

Cherokee Nation looks to raise minimum wage: The Cherokee Nation has set a goal of establishing $15 an hour as the minimum wage to be paid to tribal government workers by 2025. The tribe also envisions the new minimum wage for workers at Cherokee Nation businesses. [The Journal Record]

Economic Opportunity

Perry, Okla. grocery store latest to double SNAP benefits for fruits and vegetables through pilot program: Grocery shoppers in the small town of Perry, Oklahoma that use the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will receive twice as much money to spend on fruits and vegetables. The Homeland grocery store in Perry is the latest to get involved with Hunger Free Oklahoma’s Double Up Oklahoma program, which adds matching money to buy fruits and vegetables for shoppers who use the USDA’s SNAP program. [KOSU]

General News

Long Story Short: The Legacy of Some Award-Winning Journalism (podcast): In Episode 11 of Long Story Short (listen below), Oklahoma Watch journalists share findings and insights from their recent award-winning stories with executive director Ted Streuli. [Oklahoma Watch]

Quote of the Day

“I’m disappointed for the people of Oklahoma. This confirms that we have the power to choose our voters, rather than the other way around.”

-Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City, speaking about a proposed legislative referendum calling for a vote of the people on an independent redistricting commission. That legislation will not be heard during this week’s redistricting special session. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of American Indian/Alaskan Native women who are considered financially fragile compared to 37 percent of men [First Nations Development Institute]

Policy Note

The monthly jobs report ignores Native Americans. How are they faring economically?: Due to issues around sample size, the BLS does not report monthly jobs numbers for American Indians and Alaska Natives (referred to collectively in this piece as Native Americans). As a result, Native Americans are largely left out of the important discussion when it comes to economic well-being in the United States—another form of erasure for a group that must continually contend with marginalization and exclusion in U.S. society. [Brookings]

Note: November is Native American Heritage Month, or as it is commonly referred to, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. 

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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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