In The Know: State seeking to recoup unemployment overpayments | Poll: McGirt not state’s most pressing issue | 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

State Seeks To Recoup Unemployment Overpayments But Doesn’t Know How Much: State unemployment commissions overpaid more than $12.9 billion in benefits between April 2020 and March 2021, according to the Government Accountability Office’s July report. The billions in overpayments are a result of commissions prioritizing the clearing of claims backlogs and ensuring people in need received benefits. Oklahoma Employment Security Commission officials said they have no way of knowing how many Oklahomans were overpaid for unemployment benefits or how much they owe. [Oklahoma Watch]

McGirt decision not most pressing issue in Oklahoma, voters say: Most Oklahoma voters disagree with Gov. Kevin Stitt that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the Muscogee (Creek) reservation is the most pressing issue in the state, according to a new poll that also measures sentiment about refugees from Afghanistan resettling in Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Column: Tell me if you haven’t heard this one before: Cases of COVID-19 are easing, and maybe this time we’ll return to normalcy. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the waning of the delta variant is the fourth time we’ve been through this. Hospitals are still under siege from serious COVID-19 patients, and funeral homes can barely keep up. But the raw numbers tell us this latest outbreak is subsiding. With that in mind, what have we learned? [Bob Doucette Column / Tulsa World]

State Government News

State grants manager: $37M in American Rescue Plan funds distributed to small Oklahoma cities so far: American Rescue Plan Act funding for communities of 50,000 or fewer people has made it to about 10% of eligible places in Oklahoma. So far, 65 of the state’s 579 eligible cities have received a total of $37 million through a new, online state distribution system, which is still being brought to scale. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Editorial: Gov. Stitt needs to address Oklahoma issues here, not national issues in Texas: For Oklahomans, there are far bigger problems than what is happening in Kabul or at the Rio Grande valley. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Tribal Nations News

After Denying Care to Black Natives, Indian Health Service Reverses Policy: The shift in policy comes as the Biden administration and members of Congress are pressuring the Seminole and other Native tribes in Oklahoma to desegregate their constitutions and include the Freedmen, many of whom are descendants of Black people who had been held as slaves by the tribes, as full and equal citizens of their tribes under post-Civil War treaty obligations. [New York Times]

Cherokee Chief Chuck Hoskins Jr.: Inter-Tribal Council provides platform for united, stronger future in Oklahoma: This time of dramatic progress and change for Indian Country has tested our strength and even our ability to find common ground. From the state gaming compact to the pandemic response and recovery to the opportunities to seize under the historic McGirt decision reaffirming our reservations, we remain strong and unified. [Op-Ed / Tahlequah Daily Press]

Criminal Justice News

Crime reclassification plan authors call it compromise, but reform advocates want more: A Tulsa state lawmaker’s interim study dug into sentencing reform recommendations from a 22-member council that the authors defended as a needed compromise and reform advocates said didn’t go far enough. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Multi-million dollar Oklahoma County jail options presented, citizens call for community investment: Architectural consultants hired by the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council shared two multimillion-dollar options for the future of the Oklahoma County Jail in a meeting Thursday evening as citizens called for investments in social services instead. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

A hundred years later, Family & Children Services still fighting same problems in Tulsa: On a Sunday morning in mid-February 1921, the Tulsa World published a sobering report that described “ragged spots of wretched housing” around the city where impoverished families slept in overcrowded shacks and tents with no running water. [Tulsa World]

Op-Ed: What combating homelessness in Oklahoma County looks like: World Homeless Day, on Oct. 10 this year, reminds us that homelessness is a global issue, faced by wealthy and poor countries alike. This special day is meaningful to those of us in Oklahoma County who are on the frontlines of the homelessness battle. We are well aware the issue can’t be solved by just providing every homeless person with a home, although having a safe and secure place to live is definitely important. Why is having a home not the only answer to homelessness? [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Why is beef so expensive in Oklahoma? Shoppers grapple with increasing costs: The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service says meat costs are a major driver behind food cost increases this year. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

‘A moment of great impact’: Kayse Shrum reflects on eventful first 100 days as OSU president: Dr. Kayse Shrum celebrated on Friday her 100th day in office, an early stretch normally reserved for introductions to the wider community and for casting a vision of future years. But, certain events forced Shrum to focus squarely on the present, including a major shakeup in athletics and a COVID-19 surge. [The Oklahoman]

The Source Podcast: Epic Charter Schools founders still under scrutiny: The Source co-host Nuria Martinez-Keel this week talks about her coverage of the issues surrounding Epic’s leadership and money management. The school system’s founders have long been under investigation for how they ran Epic and how taxpayer money was being spent. [The Oklahoman]

  • Editorial: Time for a reckoning for Epic management problems and for people who protect them [Tulsa World]

Broken Arrow Public Schools accused of violating U.S. Constitution with baptisms on school grounds: Broken Arrow Public Schools violated the United States Constitution by allowing a local church to perform baptisms on student athletes and coaches following a football practice, a national advocacy group alleges. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

For the first time, less than half Tulsa’s population identifies as non-Hispanic white: The 2020 Census documented what most Tulsans have known for some time — their town is changing. For the first time, less than half the city’s population — 48.5% — identifies as non-Hispanic white. That compares to 57.9% a decade ago, and while some of the shift may be the result of a change in the way the Census asks about race and ethnicity, it’s still a remarkable shift. [Tulsa World]

  • Op-Ed: Hispanic Heritage Month is great time to showcase growing OKC community, but it shouldn’t stop there [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]
  • Norman Hispanic population outpaces growth of city [Norman Transcript]
  • Enid celebrates Hispanic, Pacific Islander cultures as census shows a more diverse county than ever [Enid News & Eagle]

New audit shows thousands in misused funds, lack of oversight in rural Oklahoma town: Officials in the rural town of Lone Wolf in southwestern Oklahoma have been stealing public money from its residents, according to a new investigation released by the Oklahoma State Auditor’s office on Oct. 5. [KOSU]

‘We’re a team’: OSU partners with Catholic Charities of Eastern OK to aid Afghan refugees: Oklahoma State University has been inundated with offers of help as word has spread about a plan to house Afghan refugees on the college campus. [The Oklahoman]

‘Breaking Bread’ with members of the Oklahoma City metro area Latino community: Members of Oklahoma City’s Latino community recently shared their stories and experiences with residents of other cultures on Thursday during a morning meal designed for such dialogue. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Enid community leaders continuing to encourage Medicaid enrollment [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Proposed franchise fee agreement with PSO could raise $4.5 million a year to improve Tulsa’s lighting [Tulsa World]
  • City of Tulsa holds 5th Annual Tulsa Native American Day with virtual events [City of Tulsa / Facebook]
  • 4th Annual Lawton Indigenous People’s Day celebration schedule [Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“I think probably everybody in this room agrees that we need to overhaul — we need to reclassify, we need to restructure our criminal code — but starting from … a place that would hold our prison population constant, that is not a neutral position. It is a position that is in favor of very punitive and excessive sentencing.”

-Ryan Gentzler, Research Director for OK Policy [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Percent increase of Oklahomans who reported being American Indian alone or in combination with another race from 2020 Census compared with the 2010 Census [U.S. Census]

Policy Note

Rethinking How We Celebrate American History—Indigenous Peoples’ Day: On Monday, more states, cities, and communities than ever will observe Indigenous Peoples’ Day in place of or in addition to Columbus Day. They’re part of a larger movement to see a more complete and accurate history of the United States taught in our schools and public spaces. Given research showing that the majority of state and local curriculum standards end their study of Native American history before 1900, the importance of celebrating the survival and contemporary experience of Native peoples has never been clearer. [Smithsonian]

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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.

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