In The Know: Virus spread in prisons continues | OKC schools plan in-person return | AG asked if CARES funds can be used for private schools

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

Nearly half of men at Vinita prison test positive for COVID-19: Nearly half of the prisoners at Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center, a men’s prison in Vinita, have tested positive for COVID-19. As of Monday, there were 202 confirmed cases at the prison. The prison housed about 410 inmates as of Monday. [The Frontier]

  • Number of Oklahoma prison inmates dead likely from COVID-19 rises to 4, DOC says [Tulsa World] | [The Oklahoman]
  • Groups seek action to minimize COVID-19 spread in Oklahoma prisons [Tulsa World]
  • DOC: 2 inmates positive for COVID-19 at JBCC, 372 quarantined [McAlester News-Capital]
  • COVID-19: 869 new cases bring Oklahoma’s total over 70,000 [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma City reports city manager has tested positive for COVID-19 [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa councilors to mull lowering age requirement for masks [Tulsa World]

OKC schools planning dates for in-person return to classes: Oklahoma City Public Schools is charting a path back to the classroom. Superintendent Sean McDaniel presented a Return to Campus Plan to the district school board during a virtual meeting Monday night. The plan proposed bringing back pre-K and kindergarten students in a blended A/B schedule as soon as Sept. 21. [The Oklahoman]

  • Education leaders ask for statewide mandate on COVID reporting in schools [KTUL]
  • Several northeast OKC churches open as virtual hubs for students [The Oklahoman]
  • Deer Creek School Board moves forward with blended schedule after parents protest [News9]
  • Norman Public Schools releases report breaking down COVID-19 case, quarantine numbers at school sites [Norman Transcript]
  • Adams begins quarantine; other Enid cases largely unchanged [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Stillwater parents and student-athletes protest sports cancellation [Stillwater News Press]
  • Duncan superintendent updates community on COVID-19 in schools [Duncan Banner]

Oklahoma Democrats ask AG for determination on Stitt’s COVID-19 spending for private school students: A group of Democratic House members asked Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday to determine whether Gov. Kevin Stitt appropriately spent COVID-19 relief funds when he designated $10 million for private school students. Seven members of the House Democratic Education Policy Team asked Hunter to examine how Stitt’s office distributed funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, called GEER. The members want Hunter to determine whether Stitt was within his authority when he chose to send a portion of the funds to private schools. [Tulsa World] Stitt faced criticism in July when he announced his plan to spend $10 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to allow Oklahoma families to access $6,500 in funds for private-school tuition. [AP News]

Bureau says Oklahoma is lagging in filling out 2020 Census: There’s an effort underway by the U.S. Census Bureau to make sure Oklahoma gets up to speed before time runs out. Although Sept. 30 is a month earlier than originally planned and still contentious, it remains the current deadline to total the national population. [KTUL]

  • “Census Sprint to the Finish” event hosted by OICA slated for Friday [Oklahoma Welcome]
  • With 2 weeks to deadline, Oklahoma lagging on Census response rate [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Commitment 2020: Local officials push to get Oklahomans registered to vote, counted in 2020 census [KOCO]

State Government News

Pardon and Parole Board hires new executive director: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board on Monday voted unanimously to hire Tom Bates as its executive director, effective immediately. Pardon and Parole Board Chairman Robert Gilliland said Bates is the “perfect person to serve as our executive director,” citing his decades of public service. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority to revise proposed rule on consumption at businesses: The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority is considering dozens of permanent rule changes for next year, but at least one is going back to the drawing board. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Ambulance district credit card paid for jewelry, baseball items, according to state audit: The Greer County Special Ambulance District made questionable credit card and cellphone purchases and engaged in illegal deficit spending, a state audit has revealed. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Clarity sought post-McGirt, as Seminole Nation asserts its reservation was never disestablished: When the United States Supreme Court made a landmark ruling earlier this year saying Congress never explicitly disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation, many believed the decision would extend to the rest of the Five Tribes. That prediction is now playing out in Seminole County. [KOSU]

U.S. House approves bill to rename OKC post office for civil rights pioneer Clara Luper: The U.S. House approved legislation Monday to rename the downtown post office in Oklahoma City after civil rights pioneer Clara Luper. The measure passed by a voice vote and would rename the post office at 305 NW 5 St. the Clara Luper Post Office Building. It is not clear whether the Senate will take up the bill this year. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Videos released showing fatal shooting of Tulsa police officer, wounding of another: Video showing a Tulsa man shooting two officers, killing one, earlier this summer was released on Monday after weeks of court wrangling that saw the recordings barred from public viewing. [The Frontier] Police Chief Wendell Franklin spent much of a news conference called to release information about the videos disputing claims that the department had misled the public about the events surrounding the shootings of Sgt. Craig Johnson and Officer Aurash Zarkeshan. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

COVID-19 a financial game-changer: It might be said that the pandemic officially arrived in Oklahoma on March 11. On that evening, as more than 18,000 fans gathered at Chesapeake Arena for a matchup of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz, and many more tuned in on television, the game was abruptly called off. [The Journal Record]

Report shows COVID-19 taking a heavy toll on Oklahoma Arts: The Oklahoma Arts Council has issued a dire warning about the state of Oklahoma’s arts industry in the wake of COVID-19. According to the council, a new report released by the Brookings institution paints a grim picture of the state’s arts and cultural industry. [Lawton Constitution]

Lights at the end of COVID-19 tunnel?: Real estate developers and management companies have an extraordinary power to alter the course of the pandemic and future public health threats, according to an Oklahoma City real estate executive who is also part of a nationwide initiative to combat the virus. [The Journal Record]

How planners are reimagining the future of events: On Sunday, factor 110 kicked off the National Weather Service’s national conference, a five-day event that is all-virtual. Fourteen people working 12 hours a day is what it takes to pull off a virtual conference this size, but Brian Ferrell, president of factor 110 in Oklahoma City, is thrilled to have the business. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Feds, faculty and audit cause Title IX changes at OU: OU’s Office of Institutional Equity announced a series of process changes in mid-August intended to put the university in compliance with revisions to federal Title IX law, which directs how sexual misconduct and discrimination allegations are investigated and adjudicated at universities receiving federal money. [NonDoc]

  • OU interim Title IX officer Faustina Layne: ‘We can provide many types of relief’ [NonDoc]

General News

Search for 1921 Race Massacre graves to continue with new excavations, committee agrees: After a first excavation found no human remains, investigators will take a closer look next month at two more areas within Tulsa’s historic Oaklawn Cemetery in the search for victims of the 1921 Race Massacre, a public oversight committee agreed Monday evening. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma tribal gatherings cancellations continue due to COVID-19 pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic continues to stifle public tribal gatherings across Oklahoma, including typically massive tribal events, such as the Seminole Nation Days event in Wewoka, Okla. [Native News Online]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“When we are already starting on first base and many of our neighbors are on third base, we can’t stay home much longer. We just can’t.”

-Dr. Jamie Polk, Oklahoma City Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education speaking about returning to in-person instruction [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year who don’t have home broadband services.

[Source: Pew Research]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Most Americans Point to Circumstances, Not Work Ethic, for Why People Are Rich or Poor: On the fundamental question of why some people are rich and others are poor, more Americans point to the advantages they possess – or the obstacles they face – rather than their work ethic. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (65%) say the main reason some people are rich is because they have had more advantages in life than most other people; far fewer say it is because they have worked harder than others (33%). An even larger majority (71%) says people are poor because they have faced more obstacles in life. Only about a quarter (26%) say they are poor because they have not worked as hard. [Pew Research]

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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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