In The Know: Voucher program launch delayed | Oklahoma prison population rising | Teaching history under HB1775 | State school board increases focus on Tulsa

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

Not so fast! The start of Oklahoma’s new tax credit program for private school tuition will be delayed: An unexpected glitch has spoiled the launch of Oklahoma’s new tax credit program to help parents with private school costs. Just hours before the scheduled opening of the program’s application period, the Oklahoma Tax Commission issued a statement saying the opening bell would not ring until Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. [The Oklahoman]

Report Shows Uptick in Oklahoma’s Prison Population: Oklahoma’s prison population is growing after years of steady decline, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report released Thursday. On Dec. 31, 2022, Oklahoma incarcerated 22,745 people, a 2.3% increase from 22,235 in December 2021. Oklahoma had the nation’s fourth-highest incarceration rate at the end of last year, trailing Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

This Week in Oklahoma Politics: Minimum wage measure, AG on women and abortions, Governor Stitt on cockfighting and more (audio): The panel discusses a challenge to an initiative petition to raise the state’s minimum wage, the attorney general’s formal opinion saying women could not be prosecuted for having abortions, and the head of the State Republican Party opposing the nomination of former Cherokee Attorney General Sara Hill for a federal judgeship. [KOSU]

Tribal Nations News

‘This is their story’: Why a teacher in Osage County wants to teach ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’: The new Killers of the Flower Moon film is sparking conversations about Oklahoma’s difficult history. But that is complicated by a state law limiting school lessons that make students feel uncomfortable about their race or sex. [KOSU]

Study: Oklahoma tribal nations may feel the brunt of climate change: Tribal nations across Oklahoma are likely to feel the most severe effects of a changing climate, a new study suggests. That case study, published by the University of Oklahoma, focuses on the risk posed by heavy rains and increased flooding. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Cherokee chief questions Stitt’s message with Native American Family Day: After Gov. Kevin Stitt celebrated his proclaimed Native American Family Day at his Oklahoma City mansion Tuesday, the Cherokee Nation chief called the event “an afterthought” and a missed opportunity to mend tribal relations. [Tulsa World]

Health News

OU researches PTSD drug to treat connected conditions like anxiety, alcohol use disorder: University of Oklahoma researchers are taking part in trials for a drug that could help treat PTSD symptoms, and they say current findings are promising. [KOSU]

Opinion: Tulsa has no World AIDS Day events, but HIV has not gone away: This year Tulsa doesn’t have any public events planned for World AIDS Day. It may be a lingering post-pandemic concern about big gatherings putting immune-compromised people at risk. More likely, the sense of urgency has lessened over time. That’s worrying, because HIV is still very much with us, and its spread is preventable. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma carries out final execution of 2023: Oklahoma executed Phillip Dean Hancock on Thursday morning for the 2001 double-murder of Robert Jett, 37, and James Lynch, 57, in southwest Oklahoma City. [The Frontier]

  • Philip Hancock claimed self defense. Oklahoma still executed him. [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Phillip Hancock executed for 2001 double murder in Oklahoma City [The Oklahoman]
  • Executions are on the rise in the U.S., even as public support wanes [NPR]

America’s Black attorneys general discuss race, politics and the justice system: In a moment of increased representation, the U.S. is gripped by intense debates regarding justice, race and democracy. Black prosecutors have emerged as central figures litigating those issues, highlighting the achievements and limits of Black communal efforts to reform the justice system. [AP via Tulsa World]

Housing & Economic Opportunity

Tulsa councilors, state delegation push for tenant protections: Tulsa’s state representatives and city councilors want to pass a law to protect tenants from landlord retaliation. Oklahoma is one of only six states that does not protect tenants from landlord retaliation. House Bill 2109 — which would have added tenant protections in the 2023 Legislative Session — made it past the House of Representatives but didn’t see the Senate floor. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma ranks 11th among states with most financial distress: Oklahoma just missed making the top 10 in a new study of states with the most people in financial distress. A WalletHub report released this week defines financial distress as having a credit account that is in forbearance or has its payments deferred, meaning the account holder is temporarily allowed to skip payments due to financial difficulty. Eight of the 10 states with residents suffering the most financial distress are in the South, with Louisiana topping the list. [Journal Record]

Economy & Business News

Citizen Potawatomi Nation buys OKC’s Union Plaza with aims to reflect cultural integrity: Citizen Potawatomi Nation has purchased 18-story Union Plaza, a 250,000-square-foot office building at 3030 Northwest Expressway, home to CPN-owned Sovereign Bank’s retail branch and Oklahoma City operations center. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Relaxing child labor laws not the solution to getting more people back into the workforce: We know that relaxed child labor laws harm youths working too many hours on a job and not being able to devote the necessary time, energy and attention to education — on top of time for a kid to just be a kid. [Joe Dorman / Tulsa World]

Education News

State Board of Education sets new Tulsa Public Schools goals, hires new lawyers: Tulsa Public Schools has new improvement goals and a new finance deadline following a meeting of the Oklahoma State Board of Education today, which also featured presentation of proposed changes to the state’s accreditation review process for school district that would add emphasis to student performance. [NonDoc]

  • State Monitoring of Tulsa Schools Ratcheted Up With New Expectations [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Tulsa district weighing school closures at urging of Oklahoma education officials [Oklahoma Voice]
  • State board sets deadline for finance meeting with Tulsa school district [Tulsa World]
  • What to know about new guidelines proposed for Oklahoma school accreditation [The Oklahoman]
  • Education Watch: New Limits Placed on Public Comment at Board of Education Meeting [Oklahoma Watch]
  • Oklahoma school district halts daily prayer broadcasts; group calls for Ryan Walters to resign [KFOR]

Ryan Walters announces proposal tying test scores to accreditation: The Oklahoma State Department of Education is considering an administrative rule change that would add students’ performance on standardized tests as a factor in school accreditation. [Tulsa World]

  • Potential accreditation downgrade for OK school districts with less than 50% of students passing at ‘basic’ level [KFOR]

Ryan Walters again looking to intervene in legal fight over religious charter school: The Oklahoma Board of Education approved state schools Superintendent Walters’ request Wednesday to retain out-of-state lawyers for an attempt to reverse an Oklahoma Supreme Court denial of his initial request to intervene in the lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Gentner Drummond to stop formation of the school. [The Oklahoman]

  • Oklahoma Board of Education approves hiring of outside counsel in St. Isidore lawsuit [KFOR]
  • Ryan Walters continues efforts to join fight against AG’s lawsuit over Catholic charter school approval [Fox 25]

TPS in ‘earliest stages’ of considering school closures at state’s urging: Leaders at Tulsa Public Schools are in the “earliest stages” of considering school closures through a broader consolidation effort, it was revealed Thursday at an Oklahoma State Board of Education meeting. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: To improve student outcomes, Oklahoma lawmakers should consider tackling hunger: Hunger Free Oklahoma reports that food insecure children are “more likely to have lower reading and math scores, more significant behavior and social problems and low high school graduation rates.” In other words, if Oklahoma children are hungry, they’re not learning. In that context, the recent state report card results released by the state Department of Education aren’t particularly surprising. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice]

General News

New study poses reparations as an investment, not an indictment: H.R. 40 is a House Resolution that, if passed by Congress and signed by President Biden, would form a committee to study reparations proposals. It’s been collecting dust every year since first introduced by the late Rep. John Conyers in 1989. A new study pushes back against the idea that reparations is too tall a task to undertake. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Opinion: Strengthening democracy starts in the classroom. Get kids involved in student government: Strengthening our democracy starts with teaching children about our values and electoral process from their earliest years. One of the best ways American schools have done this for generations is through student government. [Margot Habiby / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Local News

  • ‘It is a regressive sales tax’: OCDP hosts panel on Thunder arena deal [Fox 25]
  • Wait times at Saint Francis swell; Hillcrest takes emergency services off divert [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OKC launching public transportation line to reduce downtown traffic, streamline bus routes [The Oklahoman]
  • Enid recall election gains enough signatures to proceed [KFOR]

Quote of the Day

“If you don’t learn history, you’re doomed to repeat it. And so for me as a parent, it is so important for my kids to learn all history that has happened, and that’s sometimes really ugly. As an Osage mother, it’s even more important that my kids learn this history.”

-Whitney Red Corn, an Osage Nation congresswoman, speaking about why she introduced a Tribal resolution calling on the state legislature to repeal House Bill 1775 that has had a chilling effect on fully teaching our nation’s history. [KOSU]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s prison population grew 2.3% during 2022 after years of steady decline. On Dec. 31, 2022, Oklahoma incarcerated 22,745 people, up from 22,235 in December 2021. Oklahoma had the nation’s fourth-highest incarceration rate at the end of last year, trailing Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. [Bureau of Justice Statistics via Oklahoma Watch]

Policy Note

One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration: Following a massive, four-decade-long buildup of incarceration disproportionately impacting people of color, a growing reform movement has made important inroads. The 21st century has witnessed progress both in reducing the U.S. prison population and its racial and ethnic disparities. The total prison population has declined by 25% after reaching its peak level in 2009. While all major racial and ethnic groups experienced decarceration, the Black prison population has downsized the most. The number of imprisoned Black Americans decreased 39% since its peak in 2002. Despite this progress, imprisonment levels remain too high nationwide, particularly for Black Americans. [The Sentencing Project]

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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.