In The Know: Some parents feeling forgotten as new school year approaches | State Supreme Court to review unemployment order | 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.

New from OK Policy

Will Oklahoma’s managed care proposals return? (Capitol Update): Medicaid expansion, making low-income Oklahomans ages of 19 to 64 newly eligible for coverage, seems to be going well…  It’s a different story with Medicaid managed care, which would have transferred management of Medicaid from OHCA to four private insurance companies. The OHCA managed care plan was halted when the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck it down because OHCA did not have legislative approval for implementing it, and the agency had failed to promulgate rules for its request for proposals (RFP). The court ruling invalidated the $2 billion in contracts already signed with the companies. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

With no mask mandates in Oklahoma schools, some parents feel forgotten: Emily Snook has long worried about what might happen if her 7-year-old son Bennett gets COVID-19. A hereditary blood disorder makes it harder for his spleen to fight infections. But with the safety precautions Bennett’s school put in place last year, including mandatory face masks, Snook felt comfortable sending him back to in-person class. This year, a mask mandate is not an option because state lawmakers and the governor stripped that authority from schools. [The Frontier]

  • ‘It’s just too important.’ OKC schools hope more students return after first day [The Oklahoman]
  • Shortages in teachers, substitutes will hamstring TPS’ ability to operate normally if current COVID-19 spread isn’t halted [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OKCPS launches first in-person school start since 2019 [OKC Free Press]
  • Despite COVID surge, area schools not seeing increased virtual enrollment [Tulsa World]
  • More districts set return-to-learn plans [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma universities issue COVID-19 mask guidelines. Here’s what you need to know. [The Oklahoman]

Order reinstating unemployment will be heard at Oklahoma Supreme Court: Oklahoma’s Supreme Court said Monday it will combine two cases challenging the termination of federal pandemic unemployment benefits after a lower court judge ruled against the state. On Friday, an Oklahoma County District Judge notified attorneys that he would order benefits to be reinstated to thousands of Oklahomans who are out of work due to the pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole Op-Ed: Get vaccinated: In recent weeks, our country has experienced an alarming uptick in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant, which is more contagious than initial strains that spread widely and first caused the coronavirus pandemic last year. Indeed, this variant seems to be rearing its ugly head across America, largely among those who are unvaccinated, with most cases of hospitalizations and deaths among those who have not yet received a coronavirus vaccination. Considering how easily accessible vaccines are to Americans, this is not how it should be in our communities. [U.S. Rep. Tom Cole / The Norman Transcript]

Health News

Despite ‘pandemic center’, Oklahoma still last in nation for COVID sample sequencing: Despite touting the ability to genomically sequence COVID-19 samples as a driving force behind investment into the state’s Oklahoma Pandemic Center for Innovation and Excellence, which opened in January, Oklahoma continues to rank last in the nation for percentage of positive COVID samples sequenced, according to federal data. Just 0.24% of positive COVID-19 samples have been sequenced, according to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dated Aug. 3. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Number of Oklahomans hospitalized with coronavirus at highest levels since February [The Frontier]
  • COVID-19 information Oklahomans need to know [Tulsa World]

Help us investigate why Oklahoma moms and babies are dying at high rates: Why are so many Oklahoma moms dying or nearly dying after delivering a baby? Why are babies in the state dying at some of the highest rates in the nation? It’s a topic The Frontier has been exploring since 2019. A state committee released its first-ever report last year showing the vast majority of maternal deaths in the state might have been preventable. From 2009 to 2019, at least 110 women have died in the year year after their pregnancies ended. [The Frontier]

Federal money to be used to improve vaccine uptake in Oklahoma’s minority communities, rural areas: The state Department of Health plans to use $43 million in federal funding to combat racial disparities in vaccine uptake. Floritta Pope, director of the Department’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, said the state recently received the grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It will be used to address disparities across Oklahoma by focusing primarily on underserved racial, ethnic and rural populations. [CNHI via Muskogee Phoenix]

State Government News

Oklahoma’s chief operating officer speaks on cybersecurity: Oklahoma fends off millions of cyberattacks each day, the state’s chief operating officer said Monday during a visit to Enid. Steve Harpe, chief operating officer of Oklahoma and executive director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), spoke Monday to Enid Rotary Club. [Enid News & Eagle]

Oklahoma offers tax credits for blood donations: Oklahoma became the first state in the nation to pass legislation encouraging blood donation through business tax policy, legislation that was memorialized in a ceremonial bill signing Wednesday. [The Lawton Constitution]

Oklahoma is the new “Wild West of weed” — and Colorado marijuana entrepreneurs are helping fuel the green rush: But it’s here in rural Oklahoma, down a dusty dirt road along the banks of the North Canadian River, where true cannabis cowboys — including droves of Colorado entrepreneurs like Baker — are buying mammoth properties to grow mammoth numbers of plants, all in a quest for mammoth stacks of kush-derived cash. [The Denver Post]

Commission approves renumbering several Oklahoma highways: Some segments of Oklahoma highways are getting renumbered. The state transportation commission approved a slate of them last week, including a new State Highway 375 designation that includes the Indian Nations Turnpike and creation of I-240, a loop around the Oklahoma City metro that spans I-40 and the Kickapoo and Kilpatrick Turnpikes. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Federal Government News

Federal money to be used to improve vaccine uptake in Oklahoma’s minority communities, rural areas: The state Department of Health plans to use $43 million in federal funding to combat racial disparities in vaccine uptake. Floritta Pope, director of the Department’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, said the state recently received the grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It will be used to address disparities across Oklahoma by focusing primarily on underserved racial, ethnic and rural populations. [CNHI via McAlester News-Capital]

Tribal Nations News

US Senate Committee advances Native language bill named for Cherokee linguist Durbin Feeling: A U.S. Senate committee advanced a pair of bills last week to help preserve Native languages, including one named for a renowned Cherokee linguist. Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz is a co-author of S.1402, the Durbin Feeling Native American Languages Act. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Cherokee Nation election concludes with disqualified candidate, failed legal challenge: After the disqualification of one candidate for depositing an improper check and the rejection of another candidate’s legal challenge by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, the outcome of the 2021 Cherokee Nation election is scheduled to be certified at 4 p.m. Tuesday. [NonDoc]

Joey Tom wins Choctaw Nation District 7 council seat: On Saturday, Joey Tom won the runoff election for the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council District 7 seat with 660 votes (52.3 percent) over Adrian Johnico with 603 votes (47.7 percent), according to unofficial results. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Pardon and Parole Board can’t act on its own to reconsider majority of cases that ended in tie votes: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday learned what it can do in dozens of cases from December through March that ended in denials because of tie votes. The typically five-member board was down to four after former Chair Robert Gilliland resigned in mid-December, and around 300 cases ended in ties. Those are considered denials under current policies. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Reporters barred from courtroom as Muskogee six-count murder case hearing begins: A judge began hearing testimony Monday in the murder case against a man accused of killing five children, all under the age of 10, and his brother in February. But the judge ordered the hearing closed to the public and instructed journalists to leave the courtroom, meaning no independent observers were in the room as various law enforcement personnel testified about the homicides. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Demystifying ‘affordable’ housing in OKC – Who benefits and how?: It would take all of a few seconds to find some politician, developer, or commentator online declaring that there has never been a more important time to invest in affordable housing. This seems like an easily positive statement, but do we really understand what constitutes “affordable” in those cases, who enforces that definition, or who is actually benefiting more from the building and management of these low-income housing developments across OKC? [OKC Free Press]

Education News

Concerns about start of school expressed at Western Heights Board meeting: Western Heights Public Schools parent Amy Boone expressed concern about the start of the school year during the public comment portion of a meeting of the district’s Board of Education on Monday evening. [NonDoc]

State using federal relief funds to ensure student success with well-prepared teachers: The Oklahoma State Department of Education is working to make sure students have well-prepared teachers by using $12.75 million in federal relief funding to pay eligible student teachers for their work. This would be the first time student teachers are paid for their work. [FOX 25] State officials plan to use the federal funds to compensate student teachers in a bid to strengthen Oklahoma’s struggling teacher pipeline. [CNHI via The Ada News]

General News

Greenwood Rising Black Wall Street History Center now open to the general public: Greenwood Rising, a world-class history center located near the heart of the Greenwood District in Downtown Tulsa celebrated its grand opening on Wednesday, Aug. 4. The center honors the icons of Black Wall Street, memorializes the victims of the massacre and examines the lessons of the past to inspire meaningful, sustainable action in the present. [The Oklahoma Eagle]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City ambulance service looks for help with staffing shortage [The Oklahoman]
  • With challenges challenged, sales tax to expand Edmond park alone on Oct. 12 ballot [NonDoc]
  • OKCPS Board of Ed completes contract negotiations, cleans up policies [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“I’ve been a Republican my entire life, I am unequivocally pro-life and believe in local control. So it’s illogical what our governor and our state Legislature is doing because it’s contradictory to their own stated values because we have turned this into such a political culture war. To me, a consistent pro-life philosophy would be to do everything we can to protect the wellness of kids, especially vulnerable kids.”

-Emily Snook, a Norman parent speaking about SB 658 that bars local schools from implementing mask requirements. She is concerned because her 7-year-old son has a hereditary blood disorder that makes it harder for his spleen to fight infections. [The Frontier

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma counties that the CDC has designated high or substantial community COVID-19 transmission areas. Seventy counties are considered high transmission and five are considered substantial transmission areas. The remaining counties are Alfalfa (moderate transmission) and Beaver (low transmission) counties. Level of community transmission is based on the number of cases in the last seven days per 100,000 population and the number of tests in the last seven days that have a positive result. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Policy Note

‘Here We Are Again:’ Weary Teachers Brace for Another COVID School Year: Most teachers are now vaccinated against COVID-19, a major distinction from the last school year. But children younger than 12 are still ineligible for the vaccine, and among the students who are eligible, uptake has been slow. (Only 30 percent of children ages 12 to 15 have been fully vaccinated, along with 40 percent of the 16 to 17 age group.) Mask wearing has become politicized and hotly controversial, with at least eight states, including Oklahoma, forbidding schools from requiring face coverings. [Education Week]

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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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