In The Know: Report: FBI investigating spending of pandemic-related education funds | Broadband providers raise concern over relief funding | Pardon and Parole Board changes | More

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

FBI investigating after Oklahoma education funds misspent: The FBI is investigating the misspending of federal funds meant to help Oklahoma children learn at home during the pandemic, law enforcement sources confirmed Thursday. [The Oklahoman]

Broadband Providers Raise Coverage Concerns Over Millions In Relief Funding: Millions in broadband funding could be further delayed after some companies and board members raised concerns about duplicating efforts in areas of Oklahoma already served by internet service providers. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Chances for clemency could change after two resign from Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board: The latest shakeup at the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board came this week when its chairman and another member left. Both are former district attorneys. [The Oklahoman]

  • Two former prosecutors resign from five-member Pardon and Parole Board [Tulsa World]

Gov. Stitt offers 1-year extension of Cherokee car tag compact: Gov. Kevin Stitt sent a letter to Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. that offered to extend the tribe’s current car tag compact service for another year. [KTUL]

Resistance accuses Turnpike Authority of ‘spying.’ Records indicate agency monitoring social media posts: An opposition group, Pike Off OTA, has accused the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority of spying on its members and published the agency’s reports of dissidents’ comments on social media. [Norman Transcript]

July 2023 Gross Receipts: Lower oil and gas collections for July push Gross Receipts to the state Treasury down. When comparing this July to last July, the totals reveal a drop of $61.1 million or 4.4 percent. [Oklahoma State Treasurer]

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell: New Cabinet position will have a laser-focus on building available workforce: As I visit with business owners, there is one consistent woe they each share with me: available and qualified workforce. In smaller areas, recruiting workforce has become a vicious cycle of poaching workers from other local businesses, leaving their neighbor with the same challenging hole to fill. [Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Column: How Congress can act as increased food costs are hitting Oklahomans particularly hard: While inflation has leveled out, we are all still feeling the sticker shock of increased costs for just about everything, including grocery store staples. If you’re on a fixed income or you struggle to make ends meet, you’re forced to make hard choices. As one of the hungriest states in the nation, these increased costs are hitting Oklahomans particularly hard. This fall, Congress has the opportunity to strengthen federal nutrition programs through the reauthorization of the Farm Bill. [Stacy Dykstra Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Leader of state prisons says agency has big plans for change: The leader of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections says he wants to transform the agency that has been plagued by problems. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Nearly a year in, new director of state prisons says ‘culture change’ under way [The Oklahoman]

Civil, human rights organizations seek federal investigation after OK Co. DA drops charges against police officers in fatal shootings: Several civil and human rights organizations are asking state and federal investigators to review the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s decision to drop charges against seven police officers in three separate fatal shootings. [KFOR]

Former Oklahoma cockfighting PAC district director charged with cockfighting felony: A former district director of a political action committee that calls for reduced cockfighting penalties has been charged with a felony following a cockfight bust in Carter County. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma AG dismisses lawmaker’s inquiry for new DNA testing in capital case, says claim ‘without merit’: Oklahoma’s Attorney General responded this week to a state lawmaker’s inquiry about DNA testing in a death row inmate’s case, while a related billboard campaign made its way to the city where the penitentiary is located. [CNHI]

Ada police release body cam footage of arrest after online video sparks controversy: The police department in Ada released body camera footage last week of an arrest that prompted allegations of excessive force when part of the event was videoed and posted to social media. [CNHI

Economic Opportunity

‘Astronomical rents’ for OKC apartments start heading back to earth; studios plummet: Studio apartment rents — for the newest and best at least — plunged in the second quarter in OKC, and they needed to, multifamily specialists said. [The Oklahoman

Norman residents voice concern over possible temporary homeless housing: The search for temporary homeless housing in Norman continues. The Planning Commission held a meeting to allow residents to voice their concern and ask questions about the proposed project. [KFOR]

Economy & Business News

What is National Black Business Month?: August marks a significant celebration of entrepreneurship, economic empowerment, and resilience within the Black community as the US observes National Black Business Month. This annual observance, which has gained immense prominence and recognition over the years, traces its roots back to a dedicated effort to uplift and support Black-owned businesses. [Black Wall Street Times]

Education News

Walters complains to legislators about Hofmeister, former aide: Complaints about his predecessor Joy Hofmeister’s management of the Oklahoma State Department of Education and her former chief of staff’s referring to him as “LH,” for “Little Hitler,” was the substance of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters’ report to some legislators this week. [Tulsa World]

  • More propaganda’: State Supt. hands out ‘confidential report’ bashing his predecessor to select Republicans [KFOR]

Ryan Walters continues campaign against Tulsa school superintendent with video release: Oklahoma’s statewide elected superintendent of public instruction is continuing his campaign against Tulsa’s top educator. [Tulsa World]

  • TPS responds to critical video posted by state education department [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma schools navigate staffing shortage with creative hiring solutions as new school year begins: The statewide staffing shortage has forced some districts to get creative. [Fox 25]

How state Superintendent Ryan Walters says he’s addressing Oklahoma’s teacher shortage: “As teachers return back to school to get ready for the year ahead, Oklahoma is still facing a teacher shortage that will provide a burden on students, teachers and schools as a whole. We have begun to make important strides to address this crisis, and I wanted to highlight some of those initiatives, and paint a road map for the future, to ensure that future first weeks of school don’t face this issue.” [Ryan Walters Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

OU responds to Wall Street Journal criticism about overspending: The president of the University of Oklahoma responded to criticism following the publication of a Wall Street Journal article accusing the school of going on an “unfettered spending spree” at the expense of its students and the state. [Norman Transcript]

Ginnie Graham: Can’t stop Aunt Flo from coming to schools: In a warped version of “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” comes a doozy of debate at the Tulsa Public Schools board meeting about kids getting their periods. [Ginnie Graham Column / Tulsa World]

Column: Personal prejudices, flawed judgments put Tulsa at risk: The more state Superintendent Ryan Walters excoriates Tulsa Public Schools, the more obvious it is personal and political, not about what’s best for the district’s kids. [Arnold Hamilton Column / Journal Record]

Rep. John Waldron: Beware of the ‘witch finder’ who has come to Tulsa: There’s an old story: A man comes to town preaching to the people. “Witches are among you! I can find them for you! Help me root out evil in this village!” In a few short weeks, chaos breaks out. The weak, vulnerable and easily isolated are burned at the stake. All trust in neighbors is destroyed. It is a war of all against all. Then the witch finder leaves, his pockets jingling with gold. He leaves ruin in his wake. Tulsa, this is happening to us right now. The man uses different words, like “religious liberty” and “indoctrination,” but the intent is the same. [Rep. John Waldron Guest Column / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Losing control of Tulsa schools to state bureaucrats bad for city and students: State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ threat of a hostile state takeover of Tulsa Public Schools is political posturing, but it has the potential to cause great harm to the metro area and more than 33,000 students. Tulsans cannot sit on the sidelines. The danger of losing local control of our schools is real and long-lasting. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

General News

Dumping into sewer manhole raises fears of Northeastern Oklahoma river pollution: The dumping of an unknown substance into a sewer manhole in Tahlequah has residents expressing fear that raw sewage is making its way into a scenic river. [CNHI]

‘If you can fry it, I can eat it’: Linda Edmondson reflects on social work, nonprofits and campaigns: In this Q&A, Linda Edmondson discusses the highlights of her career in social work and offers advice to those interested in nonprofit work or running for a political office. [NonDoc]

Pro-LGBTQ+ Free Mom Hugs Conference will debut in Oklahoma City: In a state where lawmakers recently passed a cluster of anti-transgender legislation, a nonprofit is hosting an event that promotes the support and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. [The Oklahoman]

Column: We deny reparations to three Tulsa Race Massacre survivors but spend billions on wars?: The horrific loss of life, theft of property and destruction of businesses devastated the community for generations. The amount of generational wealth lost is immeasurable. Had this massacre not occurred, the lives of Greenwood’s descendants would be much different today. [Patricia H. Rancier Guest Column / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“The hard work is to communicate to people of faith in Oklahoma and the rest of the country that not everyone believes like the pastors and legislators who are not welcoming. We need to show them that there are people of faith in Oklahoma who are welcoming and affirming to people in the LGBTQ community.”

– The Rev. Mitch Randall of Norman who will lead a pastors’ panel during the inaugural Free Mom Hugs conference in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

$1.1 billion

The Oklahoma Broadband Office is overseeing more than $1.1 billion in federal funding to expand broadband throughout the state. Lawmakers last year gave the office $382 million to upgrade and expand broadband services under that round of federal coronavirus relief funding. Oklahoma this year received another $797 million in federal funds under the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment program. Use of these funds could be delayed after some companies and board members raised concerns about duplicating efforts in areas of Oklahoma already served by internet service providers. [Oklahoma Watch]

Policy Note

State takeovers of ‘failing’ schools are increasing, but with little evidence they help students: Takeovers have had limited success in improving student performance. Opponents say their real purpose is to undermine the power of Black and Hispanic communities. [Hechinger Report]

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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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