In The Know: Tensions rise after altercation between Okmulgee jailer, Lighthorse police | Walters, Board of Ed sued over gender rules | Lawmakers need proof that vouchers work before expanding

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.

State Government News

What Ryan Walters said about the subpoena he received from the Oklahoma House — Not much: State Superintendent Ryan Walters declined to say much Thursday about a subpoena issued to him Tuesday by the Oklahoma House. The unusual subpoena Walters received was, historians have said, perhaps the first of its kind in generations issued by the House to an elected state official seeking records and information. [The Oklahoman]

  • Superintendent Ryan Walters sits down for an exclusive interview after being subpoenaed [Fox 23]

Opinion: Before boosting the budget for private school tax credits, Oklahomans need proof they work: Just a few weeks after launch, plenty of questions remain about whether the private school tax credit program is doing what GOP lawmakers promised. Does it really help families of modest means afford private school? [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

Federal Government News

A ‘chaotic’ January? Congress faces two shutdown deadlines with no action yet on spending: Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole said using another stopgap spending bill, or a series of them, to fund the government — instead of passing the 12 full-year bills — is “very possible.” [Oklahoma Voice]

Rep. Hern targets Mandarin curriculum used in Ryan Walters’ TPS accusations: Following state-level attacks on Tulsa Public Schools’ recently-terminated Mandarin language curriculum, the city’s congressman has introduced national legislation aimed at the program. Congressman Kevin Hern authored the Protect Our Kids act, which would keep federal dollars from school districts that use the Confucius Classroom program. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt travels to Iowa to campaign for fellow Gov. Ron DeSantis: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt traveled to Coralville, Iowa, this week to campaign for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Stitt’s trip, like those of many other politicians, comes just weeks before the Iowa caucuses, scheduled for Jan. 15. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

‘Sad state of affairs’: After altercation, Muscogee Nation charges Okmulgee County jailer: The Muscogee Nation Attorney General’s Office has charged an Okmulgee County Jail officer for felony battery against a law enforcement official after an altercation with a Lighthorse deputy chief Monday where jailers initially refused to accept a detainee delivered by the tribal police department. [NonDoc]

  • Tribal sovereignty dispute results in scuffle between Okmulgee jailer, Lighthorse police [Tulsa World]
  • Tensions rise as Muscogee Nation accuses county jailer of assaulting officer [The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Rules are set for a new Oklahoma Housing Stability Program. When will Stitt give the go-ahead?: Rules are set now for the $215 million Oklahoma Housing Stability Program created by the Legislature earlier this year to build homes for sale, homes and apartments for rent, and to provide homebuyers with down-payment and closing-cost assistance. Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency trustees approved emergency rules and applications for the program on Wednesday. If approved by Gov. Kevin Stitt, the agency will start accepting applications within 90 days. [The Oklahoman]

Shawnee Passes “No Sit, No Lie” Ordinance: Sitting or lying on public sidewalks and sleeping outdoors in downtown Shawnee, Oklahoma is now prohibited. The ordinance was passed Monday to prevent homeless people from occupying space near local businesses. [The Black Wall Street Times]

  • ACLU of Oklahoma sends letter to City of Shawnee on “No Sit, No Lie” ordinance [KFOR]

Economy & Business News

Socially disadvantaged producers operate at a higher risk, USDA study says: A U.S. Department of Agriculture report found “socially disadvantaged producers,” especially Black farmers, operate at a higher risk level compared to their white counterparts and are less likely to receive government payments. [KOSU]

Judge orders removal of wind farm opposed by Osage Nation: A judge has ordered the removal of a wind farm in Osage County and set a trial for damages in a win for the Osage Nation and its Mineral Council, which, along with the federal government, have been fighting the erection of the turbines for more than 10 years. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Ryan Walters, State Board of Education discuss new rules as lawsuit is filed: In the State Board of Education’s final meeting of the year, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters announced proposals today for new rules regarding religion, diversity programs and drag performances on the same day a lawsuit over a gender-designation rule was filed against him. [NonDoc]

  • Ryan Walters announces plan to ban diversity, inclusion efforts in K-12 schools [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Oklahoma education board defers decision on preferred pronoun policy at center of new lawsuit [The Oklahoman]
  • State board hears Walters vow to eliminate DEI from K-12 schools [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma State Superintendent announces rules banning DEI and drag queen teachers, supporting religion [Fox 25]

Transgender Student Sues to Stop State Dept. of Education Gender-Change Rule: Attorneys for a Moore Public Schools transgender student on Thursday asked a Cleveland County judge to stop the Oklahoma State Department of Education from making a rule prohibiting gender changes in school records permanent. The rule proposal was on Thursday’s board meeting agenda, but board members pushed the item to the January 25 meeting. A ruling on the injunction is also expected in January. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Family sues Superintendent Ryan Walters, state board over administrative rule change [Tulsa World]
  • ‘Decided for the parents what is right and wrong’: Lawsuit filed against Walters, OSBE over student records policy [Fox 25]

Tulsa Public Schools zeroing in on 6,200 students who must improve on state test to help avoid state takeover: Tulsa Public Schools is zeroing in on 6,200 students in grades four to eight who must improve on state tests to help the district avoid a state takeover. [Tulsa World]

New Academy of Okmulgee charter school to proceed with greenlight from state board: A charter school looking to expand to a second small Oklahoma town has received the go-ahead from the state after being summarily shut out by the local school board. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma judge hearing religious charter school suit rejects motion to remove himself from case: The judge assigned to hear a case that could determine the fate of the nation’s first state-approved and taxpayer-funded religious charter school has rejected a motion to bar his participation. [The Oklahoman]

General News

‘Focus: Black Oklahoma’: ethics and dark money, immigration, Tulsa’s tree canopy (audio): This episode of Focus: Black Oklahoma features stories on the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, seeking freedom and safety as an immigrant, and rebuilding Tulsa’s tree canopy after severe weather. [KOSU]

Pioneer Woman to trailer park pythons: Oklahoma’s Top 10 weirdest news moments from 2023: From meth in McMuffins, to murder victims haunting their killers, legislators starting physical fights and $100k in stolen Dr. Pepper, we curated a list of 10 “weird” Oklahoma news stories from 2023. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Prairie Surf site emerges as possibility for OKC arena location [Journal Record]
  • Search for new Oklahoma County jail location continues as airport land offer is rejected [Fox 25]

Quote of the Day

“Private entities can obviously choose to charge what they want, but a state program probably shouldn’t be helping subsidize tuition hikes if the goal of the program is to make private schools more accessible and affordable.”

-Oklahoma Voice Editor Janelle Stecklein writing an opinion piece calling on lawmakers to fully evaluate all outcomes — including some schools raising their tuition — following the recent enactment of a private school voucher program. [Oklahoma Voice]

Number of the Day


States that had a minimum wage greater than $12 per hour experienced a 29.8% increase in average monthly employment in its leisure and hospitality industries during 2021, nearly three times the rate (10.8%) for states like Oklahoma with a minimum wage based on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. [Bureau of Labor Statistics via OK Policy]   

Policy Note

A $15 minimum wage would help millions of struggling households in small and mid-sized cities achieve self-sufficiency: According to the Congressional Budget Office, a $15 federal minimum wage would boost the earnings of low-wage workers and decrease poverty. In its absence, a national policy agenda focused on raising wages is still urgently needed. For now, at least, increasing the minimum wage will remain a bottom-up exercise led by local and state policymakers. In a new report, we argue that raising the wage floor can not only help reduce poverty (a worthy goal unto itself), but it can also support individual and family self-sufficiency—the ability to cover living expenses without relying on public subsidies. [Brookings]

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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.