In The Know: School districts report unusual delay in receiving federal funds | Making Black Wall Street a national monument | Ending single-family zoning can help close housing gap

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

Ending single-family zoning would help close Oklahoma’s housing gap: Community leaders, especially in urban areas, have expressed concern that high housing costs are making their communities unaffordable for vital workers like home health workers, teaching staff, and service industry staff. Addressing a gap this large will require a multifaceted solution, but one policy is key to increasing our housing stock and building more equitable cities: ending exclusionary single-family zoning. [Sabine Brown / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma school districts report unusual delay in receiving federal money: Millions in federal funds are yet to be paid to Oklahoma school districts, who complained the state Department of Education has had significant delays in processing their claims. A survey of 184 Oklahoma districts found 72% had not received any of their claims for federal funds by mid-November. That means districts had either spent money and not been reimbursed or their plans to use federal funds were on hold. [Oklahoma Voice]

  • Ryan Walters dept. delays millions in federal grants, Oklahoma schools report [The Oklahoman]

Outside Groups Spent $2.3 Million on Oklahoma Elections in 2023: Politically involved nonprofits and committees without contribution limits spent $2.3 million to influence Oklahoma voters in 2023, rivaling the $2.95 million candidates put toward campaign expenses. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Stitt’s anti-DEI order will hurt marginalized students most, experts say: In issuing an executive order that he hopes will eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs on Oklahoma college campuses, Gov. Kevin Stitt said the move amounts to “taking politics out of education.” OU sophomore Liam Thompson said what Stitt did will have exactly the opposite effect. “They talk about how DEI shouldn’t be a political thing. But signing this order really makes it a political issue.” [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma lawmaker asks AG’s Office to look into District Attorneys’ probation fee collection: An Oklahoma lawmaker is claiming the District Attorneys Council is running illegal schemes and he wants the state’s top attorney to investigate. Rep. Justin Humphrey is calling on Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond to look into how State District Attorneys are using their probation fees. He is accusing them of misusing the funds. [KFOR]

House Democrats call for new probe into possible impeachment of Superintendent Ryan Walters: On Friday, the House Democratic Caucus renewed their call for the Speaker of the House to create a special bipartisan committee to investigate the possible impeachment of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters. [Fox 25]

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: New Thunder arena vote, Ryan Walters, Stitt’s DEI ban and more (audio): The panel discusses Oklahoma City voters overwhelmingly supporting a measure to use a penny sales tax to build a new downtown arena for the Thunder, State Rep. Mark McBride fighting with Superintendent Ryan Walters’ aide over what McBride calls immaturity and a lack of transparency and Walters criticizing the Tulsa School Board for hiring Ebony Johnson as the full time leader of the district. [KOSU]

Opinion: Why Oklahoma doesn’t need DEI: So what if Gov. Stitt’s executive order denies our population racial empathy, critical thinking skills or good-paying jobs. Oklahoma is where DEI goes to die. [Deon Osborne / The Black Wall Street Times]

Federal Government News

Bipartisan bill aims to make Black Wall Street a National Monument: U.S. Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) introduced legislation Thursday to designate Historic Greenwood District, home to the original Black Wall Street, as a national monument. Members of the House of Representatives are expected to introduce a companion bill when Congress reconvenes in 2024. [The Black Wall Street Times]

  • Oklahoma’s James Lankford seeks national designation for site of Tulsa Race Massacre [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Lankford introduces Greenwood national monument legislation [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma military institutions to benefit from federal defense bill: The U.S. House passed a defense bill on Thursday that includes the biggest pay raise for troops in more than two decades and would secure millions of dollars to support Oklahoma military installations. [Journal Record]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma voter registration guide: How to check voter registration status, options to vote, what to know: News stories are appearing daily about the 2024 presidential election, so it’s not too soon to be thinking about making sure you’re registered to vote. Oklahoma has a primary election coming up on March 5, 2024 and a general election on November 5, 2024. [The Oklahoman]

OKC arena vote receives strong support compared to past sales tax propositions: Nearly 58,000 people cast ballots in Oklahoma City’s local election this week, and 71% of them voted for a penny sales tax to fund a new Thunder arena. That’s the second-largest margin of any other sales tax proposition in the past five decades — only MAPS 4 topped it with 72% in 2019. [KOSU]

Health News

How to save on property taxes in Oklahoma County, plus a new option for senior homeowners: More Oklahoma County senior homeowners will see more jingle in their pockets after a raise in the income limit for those qualified for a Senior Assessment Freeze, County Assessor Larry Stein said. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Strict Oklahoma abortion laws could have unintended consequences for nonviable pregnancies: It’s appalling that judges in Texas have been empowered to determine a woman’s reproductive rights. But the sad reality is that it’s probably only a matter of time before we face a similar predicament here in Oklahoma. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Criminal Justice News

An Oklahoma mom’s court challenge seeks to end charges for pregnant women who use medical marijuana: Prosecutors have filled a flurry of criminal child neglect cases involving women who used marijuana during their pregnancies since the state legalized medical use. [The Frontier]

  • Advocacy group says pregnant women shouldn’t be prosecuted for medical marijuana in Oklahoma [KOSU]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Eviction help program expands to third Oklahoma City zip code: A program that provides free legal assistance and representation to tenants facing eviction has expanded to a third zip code in the metro. Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma launched Right to Counsel in the Oklahoma City area in May to support those affected by housing instability in 73111, 73119 zip codes. Director Michael Figgins was joined by former and current city officials Thursday for an announcement of the program’s expansion into the 73120 zip code. [Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma awards $32M in funding to support industry growth, job creation: Three companies and two towns in Oklahoma were named Wednesday to receive millions of dollars in grant funding from the state to support economic development and job creation. In a press release, state agencies said five grants are expected to result in the creation of 365 new jobs. [Journal Record]

Education News

Oklahoma regents ask for $322 million more for higher education in FY 25: The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education needs an extra $322,207,871 next year, Higher Ed Chancellor Allison Garrett told a Senate budget committee Thursday. She said a big portion of it — $200 million — was a one-time boost for deferred maintenance and capital needs. She said the state’s colleges and universities have more than $1.4 billion in deferred maintenance needs. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma NAACP backs Bacone after auction of college in Muskogee canceled: While the sheriff’s auction of Bacone College was canceled Thursday morning, the state’s NAACP chapter is hoping to develop a plan that could end threats of selling the campus permanently. The Oklahoma NAACP argues it’s a matter of racial justice. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: We need to work in new ways if we want to see different outcomes for students: Standardized test scores show that students growing up in poverty are not learning at the same pace as other students, further marginalizing them and limiting their future possibilities. This is not acceptable. We’re in a defining moment for our education system, and we must, alongside students, innovate new strategies and double-down on what we know works to pave a fundamentally different path forward. [Sarah Park / Tulsa World]

Opinion: Suggestions on how to influence arguments for Tulsa Public Schools to keep local control: For Tulsans feeling paralyzed by State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ threats against Tulsa Public Schools, routes of influence go through Gov. Kevin Stitt and the business community. And don’t forget the vote in school board elections. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Editorial: Ebony Johnson is the right leader to fight a hostile state takeover attempt: The Tulsa school board did the right thing in hiring Dr. Ebony Johnson as superintendent to start quickly on reforms. Johnson is the best person in this moment to lead Tulsa Public Schools. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

General News

As Tulsa County asks Oasis nonprofit to return ARPA funds, former employee calls out ‘lie’: Citing “material breaches” and questionable expenses, Tulsa County officials are asking Oasis Fresh Foundation to return more than 30 percent of the $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding provided to the nonprofit organization to improve “food distribution resources, transportation and workforce training” in high-poverty areas. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • New arena schedule, design, site selection questions from readers answered by OKC mayor [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsans of the Year: Attorney General Drummond makes good on campaign vows to Oklahomans’ benefit [Tulsa World]
  • New north Tulsa community center to hold grand opening this weekend [Tulsa World]
  • QuikTrip gives $7.8 million gift to address homelessness, related challenges [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“With these political actions, elected leaders, including Gov. Stitt, are making a calculated attempt at the state level to discredit and diminish effective, proven mechanisms that have opened doors of opportunity and helped historically marginalized students earn their degrees. These actions rebuild barriers for groups that were historically marginalized and pushed aside. They do nothing to support students.”

-Paulette Granberry Russell, the president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, speaking about the governor’s executive order to ban using state funds for diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of residential land in Oklahoma City that is zoned only for detached single-family homes by right. [OK Policy analysis of Oklahoma City Data Portal]

Policy Note

Cities Start to Question an American Ideal: A House With a Yard on Every Lot: Single-family zoning is practically gospel in America, embraced by homeowners and local governments to protect neighborhoods of tidy houses from denser development nearby. A reckoning with single-family zoning is necessary, proponents say, amid mounting crises over housing affordability, racial inequality and climate change. Today the effect of single-family zoning is far-reaching: It is illegal on 75 percent of the residential land in many American cities to build anything other than a detached single-family home. [New York Times]

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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.