In The Know: State board rescinds charter school funding resolution | Gov. signs budget bills | Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial coverage

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

After passage of SB 229, state board rescinds charter school funding resolution: During a special meeting Monday night, the State Board of Education unanimously approved a motion to rescind its March 25 resolution equalizing funding between public charter schools and traditional public schools. The action came hours after the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill viewed as a compromise on the issue because it will provide additional dollars for brick-and-mortar charter schools, as well as school districts with lower local revenues. [NonDoc] The original agreement, approved March 25, resolved a lawsuit the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association filed in 2017. The charter school group sued for access to local tax dollars, a revenue source that supports school facilities. [The Oklahoman] Senate Bill 229, which wound up being largely written by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, earmarks up to $38.5 million in medical marijuana taxes for a building fund to benefit brick-and-mortar charter schools and traditional districts with below-average property tax bases. [Tulsa World] SB229 does not offer building fund dollars to virtual charter schools and sets limits on blended options that can qualify. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signs key bills for $9B budget: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed key legislation Monday to implement a $9 billion spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The general appropriations bill Stitt signed outlines state funding for various agencies. Stitt and Republican legislative leaders announced an agreement two weeks ago on an $8.3 billion spending plan. Still, Stitt spokeswoman Carly Atchison says the final budget bills approved by the Legislature authorize a total of $9.06 billion in spending for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. [AP News] The general appropriations bill signed Monday is House Bill 2900. The governor signed measures last week to reduce the corporate income tax to 4% from 6% and the personal income tax by 0.25%. The state’s top rate, which most people pay, is 5% and now drops to 4.75%. The budget agreement also restores the refundability of the earned income tax credit, which benefits low-wage earners. [Tulsa World]

Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial News

How to watch Economic Empowerment Day at the Tulsa Race Massacre commemoration event: A day-long event as part of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commemoration will focus on economic empowerment and closing the wealth gap between Black and other Americans. Taking place June 1 at Tulsa’s Cox Convention Center and online for those who can’t make it in person, Economic Empowerment Day was designed to create a collective focal point for the national conversation on the racial wealth gap and inequality in access to capital. [The Oklahoman]

100 years after the Tulsa Massacre, what does justice look like? In 1921, a white mob attacked the Greenwood district of Tulsa, killing hundreds of Black people and destroying the neighborhood. Justice has never been served. Can it still be today? [New York Times]

  • A century after the Race Massacre, Tulsa confronts its bloody past [NPR]

Human Rights Watch calls out City of Tulsa and Centennial Commission for failing survivors: The failure by city and state authorities in Tulsa, to provide comprehensive reparations has compounded the harms of the May 31, 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre on its upcoming centennial, Human Rights Watch said today in a briefing paper and accompanying video. [The Black Wall Street Times]

City unveils details, video on resumption of Tulsa Race Massacre mass graves investigation: As the search for unmarked graves from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre gets set to resume, the city this week is making interactive signs and a video with details of the investigation available online and at Oaklawn Cemetery. [Tulsa World] With dignitaries, massacre survivors, international media and others converging on Tulsa for the May 31 centennial anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, researchers and city officials are preparing for more than just remembrances. [Public Radio Tulsa]

App aims to immerse users in Historic Greenwood using extended reality: A new smartphone app is helping bring to life the Greenwood that existed before the Tulsa Race Massacre. The Greenwood Rising XR app leads users on a 10-stop, 45-minute tour of Greenwood Avenue between Archer Street and I-244. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health News

Tulsa Health Department starts COVID-19 text messaging campaign: The Tulsa Health Department is introducing a text messaging campaign to reach Oklahoma residents who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine to raise awareness about it. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma’s driver’s license system in disarray, still: Oklahoma’s driver’s license and testing system is in disarray, and there’s not a single reason for why. It’s the learning curve and outages of a new system to verify and process the long-delayed rollout of Real ID in Oklahoma. It’s the snowball effect of a year of temporary pandemic-related closures or diminished services at Department of Public Safety offices or privately run tag agencies across the state. It’s confusion for customers as they navigate delays and different websites for appointments, renewals or other online services. [Oklahoma Watch]

Are Oklahomans taking unemployment instead of working? It isn’t as simple as it sounds: There are nearly 90,000 Oklahomans collecting these supplemental unemployment payments, and not all of them are dodging work for extended periods of time. Many are actively searching for work. Some are changing career paths after losing work during the pandemic. Others have gone back to school. No two circumstances are alike. Maria Eaves is one of 90,000 collecting the supplemental payments after losing a job last year, but she isn’t lazy. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Stopping pandemic unemployment benefits is short-sighted.

Charter school reforms related to Epic investigation sail through Oklahoma House on Monday: The Oklahoma House voted 81-17 on Monday on new safeguards and greater transparency requirements for charter schools managed by outside vendors. The fate of last-minute legislation House Bill 2966 now rests in the hands of the Oklahoma Senate, and it is unclear whether the bill will be heard in that chamber before the Legislature adjourns later this week. [Tulsa World]  House Bill 2966 would implement accountability measures like requiring all state funds to remain public, clarifying that charter school boards are subject to state open meeting and records laws, and mandating regular audits. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Tribal Nations News

Cherokee Nation providing $2,000 to every citizen from American Rescue Plan funds: The Cherokee Nation is receiving $1.8 billion in COVID-19 recovery funds as part of investment in Indian Country through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act. Under the American Rescue Plan, $20 billion was set aside for tribal governments, as well as $12 billion dollars through Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Justice. [KGOU]

Economy & Business News

Ag Labor shortages in Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a back-to-work initiative on May 17, 2021, that gives 20,000 Oklahomans a $1,200 bonus for getting and keeping a job. The incentive comes at a good time for Oklahoma’s Ag industry. State farmers hope the incentive will aid them in getting help for their operations. [KGOU]

Education News

Oklahoma virtual charter school board could reinstate member blocked from Epic votes: A state official who lost his vote over Epic Charter Schools because of a perceived conflict of interest is on the brink of having his recusal overturned. Mathew Hamrick sued the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and the board’s executive director on April 13 to regain voting power on Epic-related matters. [The Oklahoman]

Amid frustrations, OKCPS adjusting e3 Online Learning option for next year: Oklahoma City Public Schools administrators admit their first year using the remote e3 Online Learning platform felt rushed and rocky to many families, but the district is making adjustments in response to parent complaints and will continue using e3 next school year. [NonDoc]

General News

News literacy: Quick tips to get reliable information: In the digital age, we get our news from more outlets than ever before. This also means it can be harder to know what news sources to trust. We know most people do not have the time to do a deep dive into news literacy, so NonDoc asked their journalists for their best tips on consuming news responsibly. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Despite ‘royal mess,’ Edmond council puts Hafer Park sales tax on ballot [NonDoc]
  • Public hearing on budget, recycling discussion top agenda [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“I got on Medicare easier than I have done this. It was an absolute piece of cake compared to this. You shouldn’t have to take off work to get your driver’s license renewed.”

-Oklahoma City resident Frank Merrick talking about his efforts to renew his driver’s license [Oklahoma Watch]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s overall ranking in prevalence of mental illness and access to care. An overall ranking of 39-51 indicates higher prevalence of mental illness and lower rates of access to care. The overall ranking includes both adult and youth measures. #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth

[Source: Mental Health America, 2021]

Policy Note

An Era of Peril for Black Mental Health: 1 year ago today, George Perry Floyd Jr. died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned him to the ground. The nation had to grapple with the news of yet another egregious act of racism in the United States, impacting the mental health of millions. But it’s clear that long before the discontent and anxiety of 2020, mental health among African Americans was a significant but often overlooked public health issue. According to a 2018 survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, 16% of African American adults reported having a mental illness in the past year, and 22.4% of that group reported a serious mental illness. Of the nearly 5 million African Americans with a mental illness, close to 70% hadn’t received treatment, according to SAMHSA. [U.S. News]

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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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