In The Know: State’s contract tracing yielded few results | Ed. board approves local tax dollars for charter schools | 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

Contact tracing investment yielded no COVID-19 insights, report finds: Oklahoma’s boost to its COVID-19 contact tracing efforts led to no insights and was marred by technology problems and a failure to collect the proper data, a new legislative report finds. Lawmakers discussed the report by the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency at a hearing Thursday at the Capitol. [Oklahoma Watch] The Oklahoma State Department of Health lacked sufficient contact tracing data to measure the spread of COVID-19 in the state and help communities make data-driven policy decisions, according to a draft report released Thursday by a legislative watchdog. [AP News] The report criticized the agency’s “outdated and overburdened technology platform” as a hindrance to the state’s contact tracing efforts and overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman] The report also cited a failure to update the Public Health Investigation and Disease Oklahoma system, which provides communicable disease reporting and is used by all health departments in the state. [Tulsa World] Unlike neighboring states, Oklahoma’s state health officials did not make outbreak data publicly available or identify high-risk COVID-19 settings despite apparent plans to do so. [CNHI via Woodward News]

  • Two tribes offer no-registration vaccine clinics Saturday at Tulsa-area casinos [Tulsa World]
  • In a pandemic, retirement had to wait [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma charter schools granted local tax revenue in ‘seismic’ settlement: A groundbreaking settlement will fundamentally change the way charter schools are funded in Oklahoma, despite vehement opposition from the state’s top education official. The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-3 on Thursday in favor of an agreement with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association to settle a 2017 lawsuit. [The Oklahoman] The resolution, introduced by recent Gov. Kevin Stitt appointee Trent Smith, will open up funding streams for charter schools that had previously been off limits. [KOSU]

  • No action on Epic Charter Schools by State Board of Education [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma hospitals receive ‘exorbitant’ gas bills after winter storm: A month after a historic winter storm caused natural gas prices to spike, several Oklahoma hospitals have received “exorbitant” gas bills from their utility providers, with the bills of metro hospital systems ranging from $1.2 million to $11 million for a single month of service. [NonDoc]

Health News

OU Physicians and BlueCross and BlueShield OK’s rate dispute could force thousands to find a new doctor: Oklahoma’s largest health insurer and one of its largest physicians groups are on the outs. The two spent about a year in negotiations, but missed the deadline to settle on rates last month. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Editorial: Vaccination progress is an Oklahoma success story. Finishing the story will depend on a united effort: Starting Monday, any Oklahoman who wants a COVID-19 vaccination will be eligible to get one. On Tuesday, Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed announced the state’s move into Phase 4 of vaccine eligibility. After starting with the elderly, chronically ill, teaching and essential worker populations, Oklahoma is ready to open the doors to any state resident willing to be vaccinated. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Fall special session will be needed for redrawing congressional boundaries: Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat on Thursday said lawmakers will have to return this fall in special session to complete redistricting. Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said lawmakers will have to address the redrawing of legislative and congressional boundaries at different times because officials are waiting on data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Lawmakers will not have the data necessary to redraw congressional boundaries until this fall, Treat said. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma House Transportation Committee clears the passing lane for ‘Donald Trump Highway’: Republican lawmakers who are determined to name something in the state for the former president apparently slipped a provision first suggested last year into the Senate’s omnibus bridge and highway naming bill more than two weeks ago, but it came to light only Thursday, when the measure landed in the House Transportation Committee. [Tulsa World]

First-time jobless claims continue to decline in Oklahoma: First-time jobless claims in Oklahoma declined 14% last week compared to revised figures for the prior week, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor, in its weekly report, said 7,210 Oklahoma workers filed initial jobless claims the week ending Saturday with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, a decline of 1,212 claims from the prior week. [Tulsa World]

GRDA chief says it has no interest in acquiring another energy entity: The head of the Grand River Dam Authority said Thursday that the state-owned electric utility is not interested in acquiring another power company, despite rumors fueled by its request to double its debt limit to $2.8 billion. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt fundraises for reelection at ‘Campaign Kickoff’ events: Gov. Kevin Stitt has begun seriously fundraising for his reelection campaign. This week, Stitt was the guest of honor at two major campaign fundraisers — in Oklahoma City and Tulsa — that included a veritable who’s who of leading Oklahoma Republicans. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Lankford co-sponsors bill to overturn anti-native federal laws still on books: Sen. James Lankford on Wednesday co-sponsored — and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs unanimously advanced — a bill to repeal federal statutes that discriminate against Native Americans. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Stitt staffers’ tweets criticizing Tulsa Public Schools get chilly online reception: Although Tulsa Public Schools is back in session, that has not stopped members of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s communications staff from continuing their criticism of the district on social media. [Tulsa World]

  • TPS recognized by U.S. Department Of Education at ‘Safe School Reopening Summit’ [Public Radio Tulsa]

State board examining accreditation of Western Heights Schools: Following a nearly four-hour executive session to discuss multiple agenda items during a special meeting of the State Board of Education today, members unanimously approved a motion to require Western Heights Public Schools administration to appear at a special meeting April 9 to discuss the district’s accreditation. [NonDoc]

General News

Greenwood Chamber calls for more security, lighting in preparation for Tulsa Race Massacre centennial commemoration: The president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce on Thursday called on the city to do more to ensure public safety during the centennial commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Local Asian, city, state leaders join for ‘Stop AAPI Hate’ vigil in OKC [OKC Free Press]
  • Tulsa City Council agrees to waive fees on outdoor dining space permits through March 2022 [Public Radio Tulsa]

Quote of the Day

“Today’s board action circumvents the will of the people of Oklahoma and the state legislature by unilaterally determining how public education is to be funded. I fear this action knowingly violated Oklahoma statute and the Oklahoma Constitution.”

-State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister about Thursday’s Board of Education approval of an agreement with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association to settle a 2017 lawsuit. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Uninsured rate for children living in non-expansion states, compared to 4.2 in expansion states (2019)

[Source: Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families]

Policy Note

Effects of the ACA Medicaid Expansion on Racial Disparities in Health and Health Care: The disparate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color have exposed and compounded underlying racial/ethnic disparities in health and health care. These disparities include longstanding higher uninsured rates among people of color that contribute to barriers to care and, ultimately, worse health outcomes. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage expansions, including the Medicaid expansion to low-income adults, provide an opportunity to reduce disparities in coverage, which research suggests may contribute to reductions in disparities access to care and health outcomes. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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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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