In The Know: Test scores dropped during pandemic | Study: Okla. has nation’s highest mortality rate of police violence | 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

Oklahoma school test scores drop after COVID-19 crisis: Oklahoma students scored worse across nearly all grade levels and subject areas this spring in the first round of state testing since COVID-19 threw education into crisis. Fewer students scored at their proper grade level in math, science and English language arts than in 2019, the last time state tests were administered. But, test taking was inconsistent across school districts and student demographics, leading state officials to advise this year’s scores create an incomplete picture that’s difficult to compare to previous years. [The Oklahoman] Though prognosticators warned there would likely be decreases, because of uneven participation rates, it’s hard to suss out exactly what impact the pandemic had on scores. [KOSU] While test participation rates were off overall, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said they are still among the highest participation rates in the nation and offer clear confirmation of the academic toll exacted on students from a multitude of pandemic-related disruptions. [Tulsa World] Hofmeister said she’s particularly troubled by the learning deficits among third graders. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • Tulsa Public Schools releases state test results during pandemic [Tulsa World]

Study: Police kill more people in Oklahoma than any other state. And many deaths go unreported: Oklahoma has the highest mortality rate of police violence of all 50 states and the highest rate of underreporting the killings, according to estimates in a study released Thursday. About 84% of police killings in the state from 1980 to 2018 were unreported or misclassified in official government reports, according to the peer-reviewed study in The Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most renowned medical journals. [USA Today via The Oklahoman]

  • Study: Fatal police violence by race and state in the USA, 1980–2019: a network meta-regression [The Lancet]

Health News

Column: What happened to the money that was supposed to go to local mental health programs? Five years ago, voters sent a clear mandate to the Legislature to give savings from reduced prison populations to county governments for local mental health programs. Legislators have not allocated one penny; a flagrant violation of their duty to uphold state laws. After lawmakers refused for years to pass [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World] OK Policy: Follow through on SQ 781 by funding treatment and rehabilitation services [NonDoc]

As masking in Oklahoma schools went up, COVID cases in children went down: It appears that COVID-19 cases among children are falling, and the timing of the decline coincides with an increase of mask mandates in Oklahoma schools. At the beginning of the month, Oklahoma schools were allowed to implement mask mandates because of an injunction filed against Senate Bill 658. Since then, dozens of public schools have implemented mask requirements containing opt out provisions. At least 34 of the state’s public school districts have implemented masking mandates. [KOSU]

Amid third-dose rollout, infectious disease specialist emphasizes importance of getting more initial COVID-19 vaccinations: Supply isn’t an issue as the COVID-19 booster dose program rolls out. Persuading more people to get their first dose is. Dr. David Chansolme, with Infectious Disease Consultants of Oklahoma City, said Thursday that it’s important to know that vaccination is the safest way through the pandemic, not relying solely on natural immunity from previous infection. [Tulsa World]

New Analyses Support Advocates’ April 2020 Warning Pandemic Would Lead To Mental Health Crisis: New reports support mental health advocates’ warnings last spring that the COVID-19 pandemic would trigger a mental health crisis in Oklahoma. Researchers with Tulsa-based Healthy Minds Policy Initiative found over the past 18 months dramatic increases in anxiety and depression, with the prevalence among adults reaching rates four times higher than in 2019; an 8% to 10% overall increase in suicides in 2020; and a nearly 30% increase in suicides in rural areas. [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘They Don’t Understand That We’re Real People’: A month ago, Texas adopted a divisive law which effectively banned abortions in the state. Despite a number of legal challenges, the law has survived and is having an impact across state lines. Trust Women is an abortion clinic in Oklahoma that is just three hours north of Dallas — one of the closest clinics Texas women can go to. On the day the new law came into effect, “it was like a light had been flipped,” said one of the workers who staffs the clinic’s phone lines. “We had everyone’s line lit up for almost eight hours straight.” [New York Times]

  • Texas trots out 1911 precedent, uptick in Oklahoma abortions in bid to doom DOJ suit [Reuters]
  • Texas attorney general says state’s abortion ban is ‘stimulating’ interstate commerce [CNN]

State & Local Government News

Adria Berry: ‘It’s a new day’ at the OMMA: Appointed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in August, Adria Berry is the new director of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, the state agency responsible for regulating Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program. Berry is the fourth OMMA director since State Question 788 legalized medical marijuana in 2018. Her tenure begins at a difficult time for the OMMA as the agency grapples with a lawsuit from growers and questions about marijuana cultivation operations in rural parts of the state. [NonDoc]

Podcast: Julius Jones Commutation, Redistricting Special Session, Senator Nathan Dahm and More: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses  the governor’s decision to wait until after the clemency hearing of death row inmate Julius Jones to decide on his commutation, lawmakers are heading back to the State Capitol n November 15th to deal with redistricting after a delay in getting the 2020 Census number and the first female Higher Education Chancellor in Oklahoma gets ready to start the job. [KOSU]

Child care subsidy expands to include all job losses: Oklahomans looking for work can receive up to three months of fully subsidized child care, beginning Oct. 1. The announcement marks the latest push to get more Oklahomans back to work in a state that currently enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. [The Journal Record]

As weekly jobless claims continue to decline, new child care subsidy for Oklahoma jobseekers made available: Most employers will see no change in their contribution rates to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund in 2022 as initial jobless claims continue to decline, state officials announced Thursday. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission said in a news release that 73% of state employers will see no change in their contribution rate to the trust fund while 19% will see a decline in their rate. [Tulsa World

  • Fact check: Does Oklahoma City have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation? [The Oklahoman]

‘Silencer’ bill may entice gun accessory makers to state, senator says: A rural state lawmaker hopes to pass legislation that would allow Oklahomans to purchase firearm “silencers” made in Oklahoma without federal government interference. State Sen. Michael Bergstrom, R-Adair, said that, if passed, a bill he plans to file for consideration during the next session of the Legislature might also result in investment in new manufacturing in the state. [The Journal Record]

Petunia #1 will remain at Oklahoma Capitol; empty tanks gone: The rig that marks the spot where Petunia #1 – the oil well drilled 80 years ago in a flower bed in front of the Oklahoma Capitol building – will remain, but the empty tanks that sat next to it have been removed. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government News

An Oklahoma city prepares for an unprecedented influx of refugees: In the basement of the old St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, a small tan brick building near downtown Stillwater, Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma Operation Manager Mike FitzGerald has been working 12-hour days to find clothing, housing and food for the estimated 40 Afghan refugee families that will begin to arrive in Payne County in November. [The Frontier]

  • Tulsans teaming up to feed, ‘show love’ to Afghan refugees [Tulsa World]

Federal programs to get farmers’ help on climate change has more takers than money: The federal government pays farmers to do things that fight global warming. And farmers want in. There’s just not enough money to go around. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants farmers to do more to offset climate change. But more than half of the farmers who want to cash in on the payments that come with two programs have been shut out. [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

Supreme Court asked to declare that McGirt was retroactive: The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year that Oklahoma had no criminal jurisdiction over a Native American on the Muscogee Creek reservation should apply to all prior criminal cases in Oklahoma involving Indians on reservations, lawyers for a Native American inmate told the court this week. [The Oklahoman]

  • Five additional federal judges requested to handle increased post-McGirt caseload in Oklahoma [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Corrections Department Plans Sign-On Bonuses, Temporary Pay Raises As Prison Staffing Problems Persist: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections plans to provide a $2,500 sign-on bonus to newly hired prison officers and temporarily boost pay for employees working in especially understaffed facilities. The agency’s staffing levels have dropped significantly over the past year, resulting in officers working excessive overtime and decreased employee morale, corrections director Scott Crow told the state Board of Corrections on Wednesday afternoon. [Oklahoma Watch]

Judge OKs grand jury probe of parole board, county jail: An Oklahoma County judge has agreed to convene a grand jury to investigate potential wrongdoing by the state’s Pardon and Parole Board and conditions at the Oklahoma County jail. Presiding Judge Ray Elliott agreed Wednesday to the request by District Attorney David Prater, The Oklahoman reported. [AP News]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma ranks no. 2 best state for older adults: Among the 50 states, Oklahoma was ranked as the second best for older adults. Senior Living determined the ranking by comparing the 15 factors considered crucial to living a long and happy life. The study included factors such as taxes, income cost of living, weather and number of nurses. [VeloCity OKC]

Economy & Business News

Chamber fears looming vaccination mandates: Looming workplace vaccination mandates – coming in the middle of the state’s economic recovery – will be another blow to Oklahoma businesses, Chad Warmington said Thursday. Business owners fear employees will quit rather than comply with federal mandates, said Warmington, president and CEO of the State Chamber, which has approximately 4,300 members representing 270,000 employees. [The Journal Record]

Energy state governors prescribe innovation, not regulation for nation’s energy headaches: The governors of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Wyoming believe continued energy innovations and not top-down regulations are what the nation needs to help it transition into an energy future that’s good for both people and the planet. [The Oklahoman]

Crop report: State’s drought worsens: Rainfall totals in Oklahoma averaged 0.07 of an inch for the week of Sept. 20-26, with the northeast district recording the highest total at 0.44 of an inch, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. [Southwest Ledger]

Education News

State Department Of Education Will Ask Oklahoma Lawmakers For Nearly $3.3B For Fiscal Year 2023: The State Board of Education on Thursday signed off on a nearly $3.3 billion dollar fiscal year 2023 budget request for Oklahoma’s public schools. Oct. 1 is the deadline for the spending plan to be submitted to lawmakers and the governor, and the Oklahoma State Department of Education is responsible for submitting a budget it believes will meet the needs of the state’s K–12 students. [Public Radio Tulsa]

‘A systemic lack of advocacy for students’: State board puts Ninnekah district on probation: Oklahoma State Board of Education members voted unanimously today to place the accreditation status of Ninnekah Public Schools under probation following sexual assault allegations against former teacher and girls’ basketball coach Ronald Gene Akins. [NonDoc] The board’s unanimous vote means the district must continue to take corrective actions to ensure the safety of students or face further sanctions. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Democratic Oklahoma City attorney jumps into US Senate race [AP News] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa becomes majority-minority city [KTUL]
  • Grants to encourage business development, tech ‘ecosystem’ in Oklahoma [The Journal Record]

Quote of the Day

“Interruptions to classroom learning are evident in these results, and they underscore the need to provide a safe and stable school environment. We must restore and create opportunities for all students while considering the reality of the continued pandemic.”

-State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, speaking about standardized test results released this week [Tulsa World

Number of the Day


Only about 6.5 percent of the people eligible for expungement actually access relief without an automatic system.

[Source: University of Michigan Law School]

Policy Note

More States Consider Automatic Criminal Record Expungement: About 1 in 3 U.S. adults, some 70 million people, have a criminal record, including those who were arrested but not convicted. These records have long-lasting consequences that can hinder a person’s access to employment, housing or a professional license. As of April, at least 11 states have automatic record expungement laws, but eligibility depends on the number of convictions and the type of crime, according to the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, a nonprofit repository of state and federal restoration laws and policies. [Pew Trusts]

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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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