In The Know: US Native boarding school investigation released | Call for Education Secretary resignation | Investing in Oklahoma’s healthy future

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

Policy Matters: Investing in Oklahoma’s healthy future: As the federal government begins winding down its COVID-19 public health emergency declaration later this year, Oklahoma can make smart investments that help qualifying state residents keep access to their health care through the state’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

US boarding school investigative report released: The U.S. Department of Interior released its investigative report Wednesday on the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative. It’s being called the first volume of the report and comes nearly a year after the department announced a “comprehensive” review. The findings show the federal Indian boarding school system consisted of at least 408 federal schools across 37 states and roughly 53 different schools had been identified with marked or unmarked burial sites. [Indian Country Today

  • Department of the Interior releases investigative report, outlines next steps in Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative [Indian Country Today]
  • Review of Native boarding schools in Oklahoma, US expected to reveal thousands of deaths [The Oklahoman
  • Interior Department releases first report on Indian boarding school impact [Tulsa World
  • Study finds 500 Native American boarding school deaths so far [The Journal Record
  • (Audio) Headlines: Indian Boarding Schools, Swadley’s investigation begins & Special Olympics returns [KOSU

Democrats call for Education Secretary Walters to resign over handling of relief program: House Democrats on Wednesday called on the governor to ask for Secretary of Education Ryan Walters’ resignation after an investigation by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier found misspent federal relief funds intended to help students during the coronavirus pandemic. [Oklahoma Watch] The grants were supposed to be used to purchase school supplies and laptops, but hundreds bought TVs, gaming consoles, home appliances and other items, Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier found. [The Frontier

State general revenue continues far ahead of expectations: Payments into Oklahoma state government’s primary operating fund continued to run far ahead of expectations in April, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported Tuesday. General revenue totaled almost $1.2 billion for the month, which was 32% above the estimate and 58% more than for the same month in 2021. [The Oklahoman

Recently from OK Policy: Through public investments and targeted tax relief for low-income Oklahomans, state leaders can use this year’s larger-than-usual state budget to make long-lasting, positive change. Premature tax cuts will set the state up to fail; investments will allow us to thrive.

State Government News

Months before seeking bids, a state tourism official spoke of a deal for Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen to ‘make money from day one’: Emails show Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation officials discussed fees and other contract terms with Swadley’s management beginning in the fall of 2019, before publicly soliciting proposals for a new restaurant operator at five state parks in January 2020. State law bars public officials from discussing financial terms with potential bidders before seeking competitive bids for government contracts. [The Frontier

  • What you need to know before the House inquiry into Swadley’s-Tourism deal starts Thursday [The Oklahoman]
  • (Audio) Long Story Short: How Leaked Documents Benefit The Public  [Oklahoma Watch

The ‘weird political misadventure’ of two tag agent bills: The year before indicted Rep. Terry O’Donnell (R-Catoosa) passed his 2019 bill allowing lawmakers and their families to be appointed Motor License Agents, Sen. Greg Treat stripped the same language from a 2018 bill by Rep. Chris Kannady, temporarily maintaining the prohibition on legislators having financial stakes in state-designated tag agencies. [NonDoc

(Audio) ‘That home is sacred to me’: Norman woman joins fight against turnpike: On February 22, Governor Kevin Stitt announced plans for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to embark on a $5 billion, 15-year project to expand Oklahoma’s turnpike network. The effort to expand the turnpike loop around Oklahoma City south and west, through the Moore and Norman areas is raising concerns about water quality, the preservation of wildlife, property rights and even the rare rose rock. But for some, it’s personal.  [State Impact Oklahoma

Bill updating audit process for cities sent to governor: Legislation reforming the financial audit process for Oklahoma municipalities has received its final stamp of approval from the Oklahoma House of Representatives and has been sent to the governor’s desk. [The Lawton Constitution]

Review of Oklahoma’s ‘Back to Work’ incentive shows program fraught with attempted fraud: A year ago, as tens of thousands of Oklahomans received expanded weekly unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state announced it would offer a one-time payment to people who left the benefits program and started a new job. But like both traditional unemployment insurance and pandemic-related financial assistance provided by the federal government, the program was flooded with fraudulent claims. [The Oklahoman

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoman whose case led to McGirt ruling gets life sentence: A former Oklahoma death row inmate and tribal citizen whose case led to a landmark ruling on tribal sovereignty was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison by a federal judge. Patrick Murphy, 53, a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, was originally sentenced to die in McIntosh County for the 1999 killing of George Jacobs. [AP

Census undercount threatens federal food, health programs on reservations: The 2020 census missed nearly 1 of every 17 Native Americans who live on reservations, an undercount that could very well lead to insufficient federal funding for essential health, nutrition, and social programs in remote communities with high poverty rates and scarce access to services. [High Country News]

Chief Hoskin, Deputy Chief Warner announce $500 monthly transition stipend for Cherokee youth ‘aging out’ of foster system: Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner are creating a $500 monthly transition stipend for Cherokee youth who are “aging out” of the foster system. Cherokee Nation is also providing a one-time COVID-19 impact payment of $1,000 to the tribe’s more than 80 current foster families. [Indian Country Today]

Voting and Election News

Oklahoma GOP attorney general candidates spar at local appearance: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor and his challenger in next month’s Republican primary, Gentner Drummond, disagreed sharply on two things at the Rotary Club of Tulsa on Wednesday. One was the proper course for the state in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt decision. The other was O’Connor’s job performance. [Tulsa World

Dahm, Holland and Pruitt attend U.S. Senate forum: During a Republican U.S. Senate candidate forum hosted today by the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, former Attorney General Scott Pruitt, State Sen. Nathan Dahm and Luke Holland — the chief of staff for retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe — called for U.S. energy independence, criticized regulatory bureaucrats and expressed concern about the civil law implications of the McGirt v. Oklahoma decision. [NonDoc]

Black Senate candidate T.W. Shannon accuses Planned Parenthood of racism: With abortion rights curtailed in Oklahoma and potentially in jeopardy nationwide, Republican Senate candidate T.W. Shannon has launched an attack on Planned Parenthood, calling it “the true face of white supremacy.” [The Oklahoman

Health News

US overdose deaths hit record last year, with 923 in Oklahoma alone, CDC says: More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year, setting another tragic record in the nation’s escalating overdose epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Wednesday. In Oklahoma, the CDC’s estimates show the state saw an even greater rise in overdose deaths — about a 22% increase compared to the previous year. [The Oklahoman] Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, called the latest numbers “truly staggering.” [The Journal Record

Oklahoma parents searching for baby formula due to current national shortage: Across the U.S., parents are searching the shelves for baby formula, and some are being forced to travel to multiple stores to find the formula they need. One Oklahoma mother said she had to travel to eight different stores on Tuesday to find a formula and was only able to find two boxes of formula. [KTUL]

Ginnie Graham: Complicated landscape for tribal nations wanting to offer abortion safe haven: With the U.S. Supreme Court poised to reverse the Roe v. Wade decision, choice advocates are finding ways for women to obtain abortion services in states like Oklahoma, which will ban the procedure except to save the life of the woman. One possibility is for abortions to be provided on tribal lands. [Column / Tulsa World

Criminal Justice News

Julius Jones is still behind bars, but he and his supporters haven’t given up: He was four hours from death by lethal injection when Gov. Kevin Stitt granted him last-minute mercy. Months later, Julius Jones said he’s still angry, but hopes to walk out of prison one day. “The fight ain’t finished,” Jones says. [The Frontier

Jail Advisory Board debates subcommittee make-up, Jail Trust seat rec: On Wednesday morning the new Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) held its third meeting. They heard a report from Jail CEO Greg Williams, before moving on to hold a robust discussion about the potential make-up of several subcommittees planned for the CAB. [OKC Free Press]

  • Town hall meetings to discuss vote for new Oklahoma County Jail [KFOR]

Economic Opportunity

When landlords won’t deal with mold, renters have few options: In May 2021, Sheri Kennedy moved into a gated apartment built less than 10 years ago in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. A website for the property boasts features like keyless entry, a dog park and a fishing pond. At the end of February, she discovered what she and two doctors believe are the cause of her health issues. She found dark rings of mold in her pantry, and behind that was the water heater with the unrepaired leak. [Big If True

Education News

New Epic Charter Schools internal audit reflects old issues: During Wednesday night’s nearly four-hour meeting, Epic Charter Schools Board members approved their Fiscal Year 2020-2021 financial audit from Arledge & Associates, which identified four material weaknesses that auditors said stemmed from actions under the schools’ prior leadership, which remains under criminal investigation. [NonDoc

General News

This mom started her own church to support her trans son: Instead of leaving, Holloway decided to stay in Oklahoma and build a safe space for trans youth like her son who may be struggling under the weight of anti-LGBTQ legislation. Last month, she started her own religion to uplift and trans kids: the Church of Prismatic Light. The upstart denomination, which is not based in Christianity, holds the right to transition and the right to gender-affirming care among its core beliefs. [Vice]

Oklahoma Local News

Proposed local law would allow police to remove homeless people from sidewalks, other public rights of way: Proposed changes to a city ordinance would make it easier for police officers to remove homeless people from the streets or other public rights of way and would subject them to fines and possible jail time or both. [Tulsa World

Heartland Flyer to expand, Council nods approval for more passenger rail: The Norman City Council approved a resolution in favor of Amtrak’s announcement that it will open a new line for passenger rail in Oklahoma. [The Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“This has left lasting scars for all Indigenous people. There is not a single American Indian, Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian in this country whose life hasn’t been affected by (boarding) schools.”

– Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland, speaking about a new federal report on how U.S. government policy compelled generations of Native American children to attend boarding schools where they experienced violence and trauma to achieve its broader goal of acquiring tribal land [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


A personal income tax cut like the one proposed in HB 3350 would send only about one-third (35%) of the benefit to the bottom 80 percent of earners. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the benefit will go to the top 20 percent of earners.

[Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Recently from OK Policy: Personal income tax cuts won’t deliver relief to low- and middle-class Oklahomans

Policy Note

States Should Create and Expand Child Tax Credits: Unfortunately, a number of states are considering income tax cuts that would mostly benefit wealthy households and profitable corporations. That won’t help those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Enacting costly and permanent tax cuts based on temporary budget surpluses would erode revenue for crucial community assets such as quality K-12 schools, affordable health care, and functional infrastructure while further widening racial and economic inequities. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


Kristin Wells served as the Communications and Operations Fellow for OK Policy from October 2021 to July 2022. She previously worked as a digital content producer for News On 6. A native Kansas Citian, Kristin graduated with a B.A. in Media Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Tulsa in 2020. While there, she was accepted into the Global Scholars program, spurring her interests in policy, social movements, global identities, and the importance of education and advocacy. She hopes to use her skills to continue to learn and create a more equitable future for Oklahomans. An avid sports fan, Kristin lives in Tulsa with her rescue dog and is passionate about college basketball, documentaries, and coffee.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.