In The Know: School restart creating anxiety, uncertainty | More federal support needed for state, local governments

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

Possible paths to fund Medicaid expansion (Capitol Update): It is good news to see that most of the legislative leadership who have spoken have said the legislature is now obligated and will find a way to fund the state match for Medicaid expansion, despite the narrow margin of victory for State Question 802. It is likely that legislators saw the need for Medicaid expansion, but many felt obliged to follow what they knew were the wishes of a clear majority of their constituents. [Capital Update / Steve Lewis]

Oklahoma News

School restart: Educators anxious, concerned, uncertain: Jami Cole jokes that she’ll be the teacher who returns to school in a bubble. Jami Cole, a fifth-grade teacher in Duncan, said she’ll likely be wearing a face mask and shield. Her husband, Drew, who teaches at the high school, is planning to build a plastic shield that will fit around her desk. Cole suffers from an autoimmune disease. Her husband has leukemia. Both are particularly susceptible to complications from COVID-19. [CNHI via The Express Star]

  • Following statewide closure earlier this year, schools now adopting their own plans for navigating COVID-19 [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma lawmakers identify seven needs to restart in-person education [FOX25]
  • Oklahoma considers mask mandate for public schools; districts prep scattered start plans [News9]
  • Union, Jenks school districts offer options for at-school, at-home learning in fall semester [Tulsa World]
  • Norman Public Schools to outline fall 2020 plan at Tuesday board meeting [Norman Transcript]
  • Education options during coronavirus [Luther Register]

CARES Act funding won’t be enough for some cities: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced recently the first disbursements of funds made available to city and county governments in the state through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Some $4.2 million distributed to 18 local governments will no doubt help in their recovery, but there are still concerns in places like McAlester, where Mayor John Browne said fiscal year 2021 is still shaping up to be a very lean year. [Journal Record]

COVID-19: Rolling seven-day averages hit new highs in Tulsa County, across Oklahoma: Tulsa County’s seven-day rolling average for new daily COVID-19 diagnoses has reached a new high of 166, and the state’s seven-day rolling average has reached a new high of 626. [Tulsa World]

  • City of Tulsa’s draft mask ordinance includes multiple exceptions, would impose $100 fine for second-time violators [Tulsa World]
  • In Stillwater, compliance high as mask ordinance takes effect [Stillwater News Press]
  • Family remembers 13-year-old Oklahoma girl who died of COVID-19 as funny, outgoing [KOCO]
  • Coronavirus in Oklahoma: COVID-19 summit to be virtual [The Oklahoman]
  • Daily virus numbers can be found at 

State Government News

State officials moving quickly to clarify criminal, civil rules on Creek reservation: Oklahoma leaders have been moving quickly to help police and prosecutors understand the new rules for law enforcement on land deemed an Indian reservation last week by the U.S. Supreme Court. [The Oklahoman]

Epic founders claim for-profit managers ‘earned’ millions being questioned by State Auditor: Attorneys are still battling in court in the state’s legal effort to compel Epic Charter Schools’ for-profit operator to comply with an investigative audit, newly filed public records reveal. [Tulsa World]

State taxes still due after landmark tribal ruling: A recent landmark ruling from the nation’s highest court clarifying tribal reservation boundaries doesn’t mean Oklahomans should skip filing their tax returns this week, officials said. [CNHI via McAlester News-Capital]

Federal Government News

State receives $51.4 million to help transit agencies cope with COVID-19: The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has been awarded a $51.4 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration to help 20 transit agencies and intercity bus operators weather the COVID-19 crisis. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

US carries out the 1st federal execution in nearly 2 decades: The federal government on Tuesday carried out its first execution in almost two decades, killing by lethal injection an Oklahoma man convicted of murdering an Arkansas family in a 1990s plot to build a whites-only nation in the Pacific Northwest. [AP News]

Disarray at state Pardon and Parole Board surfaces at meeting: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is in disarray. A business meeting on Monday revealed a host of problems, including an embattled executive director who has taken several days off and a chairman who is out because of a medical situation. In addition, various entities, including prosecutors and criminal justice reform advocates, are calling for the recusal and/or resignation of some board members. [Tulsa World]

  • Board begins crafting rules to handle death penalty commutation applications [Public Radio Tulsa]

Homicide in Tulsa ‘first real test’ of Supreme Court decision affecting criminal jurisdiction on Indian land: A Tulsa man was accused in the death of his girlfriend, a Cherokee Nation citizen, the day after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that redefined what federal and state prosecutors have historically known as “Indian Country.” [Tulsa World] US Attorney, Tulsa County DA both cite Supreme Court McGirt Ruling in separate murder cases. [Public Radio Tulsa]

’20/20′ episode focuses on Oklahoma death row inmate Julius Jones: A two-hour “20/20” TV episode will tell the story surrounding the conviction of Julius Jones, an Oklahoma death row inmate who has received national attention recently. [Tulsa World]

Man accused of killing TPD sergeant, critically wounding officer assigned counsel with death penalty experience: David Anthony Ware, 32, is accused of fatally wounding Tulsa Police Sgt. Craig Johnson and critically wounding Tulsa Police Officer Aurash Zarkeshan two weeks ago during an early-morning traffic stop. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

OSU survey showcases public thoughts about economic recovery from pandemic: A recent Oklahoma State University study is providing insights about how public and private agencies can best apply resources to speed up recovery from economic disruptions caused by COVID-19. [OSU via Woodward News]

Local franchise owner meets with Trump, discusses industry’s pain: As businesses throughout the country have taken a hit due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a Tahlequah business owner was recently invited to discuss his industry’s hardships with President Donald Trump. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Education News

OKC board approves $2 million contract for school resource officers: Police officers will return to Oklahoma City schools for another year with a $2 million price tag. The Board of Education for Oklahoma City Public Schools voted 7-1 to renew a contract for 18 school resource officers. [The Oklahoman]

Union Public Schools committee to make recommendation on ‘Redskins’ mascot; area tribal representatives to be included: Seventeen years after previous board members voted unanimously to keep Union Public Schools’ mascot, today’s board members decided unanimously Monday to begin a process that seems likely to lead to the end of the Redskins name and logo. [Tulsa World]

Local school board at Oologah-Talala adding new policy controls for teacher misconduct in response to state reprimands: The local school board of Oologah-Talala Public Schools has begun making moves to reassure a community rattled by punitive actions against the district over its handling of a rash of teacher misconduct. [Tulsa World]

Superintendent resigns after state audit reveals problems within special education program at Union City Schools: An audit of the special education program at Union City Public Schools ignited a massive shake up within the district. [KFOR]

As campuses plan to reopen, TU and ORU reassure international students: With campuses reopening for in-person classes this fall, college students coming to Tulsa from overseas won’t have to worry about gaining permission to stay in the country, school officials said Friday. [Tulsa World] OU community rallies for international students in wake of ICE guidance. [Norman Transcript]

General News

No discoveries during first day of Tulsa’s Oaklawn excavation, but scientists remain optimistic: No human remains were found Monday on the first day of a test excavation in Oaklawn Cemetery, but the archeological team members looking for unmarked burials from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre said they are not discouraged. [Tulsa World]

The massacre that destroyed Tulsa’s ‘Black Wall Street’: In 1921, the city of Tulsa erupted in a spasm of hate and fire that destroyed its prosperous Black district. A century later, excavators are uncovering a “crime scene.” [New York Times]

SPIRIT sit-in decries land runs, monuments, re-enactments: Native Americans and other allies gathered on the south edge of Bricktown in Oklahoma City Saturday for a day-long sit-in that ended with a peaceful protest of the Centennial Land Run Monument. [Free Press OKC]

Quote of the Day

“At the end of the day, we don’t believe we’re out of this. (The CARES Act funding) just gives us a little bit more time as we move through the process.”

-Ponca City City Manager Craig Stephenson speaking about federal coronavirus relief funding noting that lost tax revenues and COVID expenses may not begin to be fully felt until later this year. [Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma state and local income tax collections per person, ranking Oklahoma’s tax level 35th lowest of the 44 states with income taxes.

[Source: Tax Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

For Tax Day 2020, 6 Charts on State Taxes and Spending: Tax Day, which is July 15 this year due to COVID-19, marks an opportunity to look at the pandemic’s impact on state budgets and consider the crucial role that state tax and spending choices play in people’s lives — such as helping keep residents healthy, providing basic shelter and quality schools, and reducing barriers that block some people, particularly people of color and other historically excluded groups, from enjoying the nation’s full promise. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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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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