In The Know: Tribes step up when Gov. rejected summer food aid for children | Judge rules state ag dept. ignored poultry farm impacts | Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail financed, awaiting action from Gov.

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

State Government News

License plate reader technology, privacy concerns focus of legislative study: High-speed license plate readers capable of tracking and recording the movements of tens of thousands of vehicles, and by extension the people driving them, have proliferated across the country in recent years. What hasn’t proliferated are laws intended to govern how license plate readers should be reasonably used and how communities should protect the public against their potential misuse. [Tulsa World]

Judge rules Oklahoma Ag Department ignored poultry farm impacts: A Delaware County District Court Judge ruled that the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry irresponsibly allowed large poultry farms to be built in a sensitive watershed without proper environmental review or advance public notice. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail financed, awaiting action from governor: Oklahoma’s 13 original Black towns will soon be connected on the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail. The trail will link towns that are significant to civil rights history through a grant program with the Oklahoma Historical Society. [Oklahoma Voice]

Plans to fix Oklahoma state parks scaled back: The Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation received 10% of what it asked from the legislature to fix state parks. HB 3972 was introduced during the 2024 legislative session, proposing an eight-year plan where $350 million would be put into state parks to fix and beautify their assets. Instead, the plan was cut in half because of funding limitations. [Oklahoma Voice]

The state of medical marijuana in Oklahoma: ‘Painful’ rightsizing of industry, official says: Oklahoma’s once high-flying medical marijuana industry has gone from boom to near bust in the past three years, and a “painful” rightsizing reflected by declines in business numbers and sales tax revenues seems far from over. [Tulsa World]

Oklahomans to have access to financing for hail-resistant roofs: In May, the Strengthen Oklahoma Homes Act was signed into law. It allows Oklahomans to apply to a grant program that would provide severe hail-resistant roofs, impact-resistant shingles and rain-resistant attic vents. [Oklahoma Voice]

Documentary film showcases restoration of Oklahoma’s Capitol building: An Oklahoma Historical Society documentary film released to the public June 28 showcases Oklahoma’s Capitol and the nearly decade-long restorations of the building. [Oklahoma Voice]

Political notebook: Lawmakers’ homework assignments include cellphones in schools: Teachers and administrators warn that cell phones have become a major distraction that interferes with learning and discipline as early as the lower elementary grades. Some schools have banned or tried to ban electronics from the classroom with varying degrees of success, but now lawmakers are getting involved. [Tulsa World]

Capitol Insider: New laws to watch as recently-passed legislation goes into effect: As of July 1st, almost a hundred new laws are now on the books in Oklahoma. [KGOU]

Opinion: Steps for Oklahoma lawmakers to take to become a no income tax state: The key is how to become more competitive in this 21st century economy and pay our bills for core services. The answer is not to cut the income tax and hope we have enough revenue to pay our bills. [Mike Mazzei / Tulsa World]

Opinion: Ryan Walters’ personal vanity campaign needs to end, but Oklahoma Republicans couldn’t stop it: Most PR campaigns are aimed at building a positive image. But from the looks of Oklahoma education Superintendent Ryan Walters’ national publicity push, he’s only breaking down his relationships here at home. And embarrassingly, our other elected officials are allowing it to happen. [Janelle Stecklein / Oklahoma Voice

Tribal Nations News

Oklahoma governor rejected food aid for children. Now tribes are offering it instead: A new summer food program helped feed at least one in six Oklahoma children in its first month, after several tribal nations stepped in to distribute federal aid rejected by the governor. [The Oklahoman]

Investigation into Indian boarding schools a step closer as bill progresses in D.C.: he Truth and Healing Indian boarding school bill has gotten further in the legislative process this year than previous years, passing through two major committees in each chamber of Congress. [Tulsa World]

Tribal roundup: Ponca election delayed again, Cherokee voters reject con-con, Chickasaw incumbents unopposed: During an eventful June, several tribal nations held elections, with their respective citizens selecting some new government officials and reelecting several others. [NonDoc]

‘Cherokee purist’ explains effort to revitalize stickball, history of sport: A Cherokee Nation language teacher and athlete says he wants stickball to be the gateway for young Native people to get immersed in their culture. [Tulsa World]

Editorial: Oklahoma must narrow 17-year lifespan gap between Natives and non-Natives: American Indians living in Oklahoma die on average 17 years earlier than non-Indigenous residents. That is a shockingly high mortality gap. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

As lawsuit expands, lawyers request youth be removed from Juvenile Center: Lawyers for youth detained in the Tulsa County Family Center for Juvenile Justice are asking a Muskogee federal judge to remove their clients from the facility while a suit accusing detention officers of sexual assault remains in litigation. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Death row inmate Emmanuel Littlejohn set for execution Sept. 26: As the end grows closer, death row inmate Emmanuel Littlejohn hasn’t been resting well. He maintains he is just a robber, not a murderer, and shouldn’t be executed for a 1992 fatal shooting at an Oklahoma City convenience store. [The Oklahoman]

Family of OK County jail inmate who died in 2022 files lawsuit against trust, commissioners: The father of an Oklahoma County jail inmate who died during the COVID-19 pandemic is suing the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority and the county Board of Commissioners. In the lawsuit, James McMichael claims his son was a pretrial detainee who complained of vertigo and headaches as his health deteriorated. [The Oklahoman]

Voting & Election News

Tulsa mayoral candidates tangle over conditions at county juvenile detention facility: As a Tulsa County commissioner seeking to become Tulsa’s next mayor, Karen Keith finds herself in the middle of the upheaval over conditions at the Family Center for Juvenile Justice — a facility she was instrumental in getting built. [Tulsa World]

  • Tulsa mayor forum and City Council candidate event set at TU [Tulsa World]

Opinion: OKC Mayor Holt has excluded himself from national politics due to his decency: We are in a strange era of political sentiments where people describe their politics not only in opposition to others but with broad and meaningless tribal identifiers. What is a “Conservative,” a “Liberal,” a “Progressive,” a “Republican” or a “Democrat?” [Joe Palange / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Why are we suffocating American leadership when new leaders are ready?: We, the American people, want to see the next generation of leadership not suffocated by party power but empowered to breathe life back into the vision of greatness and hope in the American Dream. [Madison Horn / The Oklahoman]

Housing & Economic Opportunity News

Tulsa neighborhood residents push back on city’s proposed site for homeless facility: The city has spent the last two years working to establish Tulsa’s first non-congregate low-barrier shelter and case management program for the homeless. In announcing the location of the facility last month, city officials renamed the facility a residential care center. [Tulsa World]

OKC Housing Authority in ‘imminent’ danger of halting housing vouchers: The Oklahoma City Housing Authority is in “imminent” danger of halting housing vouchers to thousands on a waiting list just as state laws are about to ban public camping under highway bridges and on public land, including sidewalks. [The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Due to restrictive laws on criminal records, 233,000 Oklahomans are ineligible for housing: At the state and federal level, there are more than 1,300 legal barriers to housing and residency related to a criminal record, including Oklahoma’s lack of affordable housing and restrictions on public housing vouchers. [Marilyn Davidson / The Oklahoman]

Editorial: Just because we can arrest people in homeless camps doesn’t mean we should: A common solution to the growing number of homeless people living on the streets is to arrest them. Decades of research shows that is not effective. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Education News

Oklahoma’s new charter school board will meet on nation’s first private charter school: Oklahoma’s new school board charged with overseeing the future contract of the nation’s first private charter school meets July 8. The Statewide Charter School Board will oversee almost half of Oklahoma’s charter schools. It was created as a way to consolidate and take oversight duties away from the State Department of Education and Oklahoma’s Statewide Virtual Charter Board. [KGOU]

  • A consequential decision looms for the first meeting of the Statewide Charter School Board [The Oklahoman]

St. Isidore asks state Supreme Court to stay an order to cancel its contract: Attorneys for St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Friday to issue a stay of its order that a state board rescind its contract with the charter school, while acknowledging that such a stay wouldn’t allow the school to open for the 2024-25 academic year. [The Oklahoman]

Artificial intelligence degree programs to be available at Oklahoma universities: Students at some of Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities will soon be able to pursue undergraduate degrees in artificial intelligence. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved artificial intelligence degree programs at Rose State College, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma on June 4. [Oklahoma Voice]

Judge to grant protective order requested by student against Ryan Walters, state board: A Cleveland County judge said Wednesday he will grant a protective order requested by a Moore Public Schools student against the state’s top education official, state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters, and members of the Oklahoma State Board of Education. The decision involves a lawsuit over the state’s power to order local school districts not to alter sex or gender designations in past school records — a dispute often called the “pronoun case.” [The Oklahoman]

Trial dates set in 2 federal lawsuits filed against state Superintendent Ryan Walters: Trial dates have been set in two federal lawsuits filed against state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters, one by a former Norman High School teacher and another by a former Oklahoma State Department of Education employee. [The Oklahoman]

How did almost half the state’s colleges and universities avoid raising tuition and fees?: The presidents or chief financial officers of 14 Oklahoma public colleges and universities had to go before the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to present their rationale for requesting increases in tuition and fees for the 2024-25 academic year. [The Oklahoman]

Tulsa-area school districts struggling to find bus drivers: With the fall 2024 semester starting in a little over a month, many area school districts are struggling to find enough bus drivers to ensure that students will have a way to get to class. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Walters, staff’s explanations in meeting revealed even more concerns: In an effort to explain the discrepancy of $101 million between what is shown on the state’s ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) fund dashboard and the information from the U.S. Department of Education, the “blame game” the state Education Department was playing backfired. [Janis Blevins / The Oklahoman]

Opinion, Rep. John Waldron: Forcing Bible study in school won’t improve academics or Christianity: When I was a student in Catholic school, I took a Scripture class. But even then non-Catholics at the school were not subject to this requirement. Those Benedictines knew the futility of trying to ram a particular religious view down the throats of the unwilling. So why should our public school system try? [Rep. John Waldron / Tulsa World]

Opinion: How might classroom instruction from the Bible be construed?: As a person who does his best to be a good practicing Christian, I am concerned regarding state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters’ latest edict requiring the teaching of the Bible in fifth through 12th grades in all Oklahoma public schools. [Mike Mize / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: Never use the Bible as a political tool: I also had many teachers whom I deeply respected and from whom I learned much in their field of training and expertise, but to whom I could never imagine handing a Bible and asking them to teach from it. [Hess Hester / Tulsa World]

Opinion: Ryan Walters betrays Christianity’s message of love: Following in the wake of the Louisiana decision to require the Ten Commandments to be posted in every classroom in public schools, Ryan Walters’ decision to require teaching the Bible has been seen as part of a broader mandate on the part of some Christians to extend their brand of Christian ideology to public schools. The ideology in question is called “Christian nationalism,” and has been the subject of books and articles. [Nancy Snow / The Oklahoman]

Opinion: There is a right way to teach religion in schools. It’s about embracing diversity: I have interacted with tens of thousands of Oklahomans eager to learn about religion from a point of objectivity, sharing my expertise and ensuring a high standard of education. I also have been witness to the countless attempts of policymakers in our state that attempt to violate our constitutionally protected religious freedoms. What I have gained from all of this is that I firmly believe there is a right way and a wrong way to teach about religion in public schools. [Adam Soltani / The Oklahoman]

Community News

Tulsa Race Massacre survivors challenge court decision: Attorneys for the last two remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday to reconsider the case they dismissed last month and called on the Biden administration to help the two women seek justice. [AP]

  • Survivors of Race Massacre Urge President Biden, DOJ to Act [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Who Died in the Tulsa Race Massacre? After more than a century, researchers hope to finally identify the victims of one of the worst racial attacks in American history [New York Times]

Shooting deaths are down in NE OKC this year. A violence intervention program might be why: Nearly a year after its launch, a community violence intervention program based in northeast Oklahoma City updated the public on the progress of its goals recently and announced plans for a “summer of peace.” [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City ranked as one of the worst cities in the US for air pollution: The American Lung Association’s 2024 State of the Air report ranked Oklahoma City as the 25th most polluted by annual particle pollution. Though the metro area was less affected by wildfire smoke in this year’s report, OKC is still grappling with pollution from local industrial and mobile sources, the report states, as well as high ozone days. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma sees ‘brain gain’ with migration mostly from California: According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Oklahoma has ranked 12th among states in recent years in terms of new residents who have moved from other states. And the state’s domestic population gain since about 2019 has been driven almost entirely by migration from other states in the Midwest or West. [Tulsa World]

South Asian dance is a connecting force in Oklahoma City: Dancing in the Gardens is a summer series hosted by the Myriad Gardens in Oklahoma City. Onlookers can learn free dance lessons from experienced performers from a variety of cultures. In partnership with the India Association of Oklahoma, Dancing in the Garden: Bollywood featured several South Asian dance schools and dancers who taught demos. [KOSU]

Opinion: Thomas Jefferson’s Danbury Baptist letter remains powerful in this time of a Christian nationalism push: The phrase “wall of separation of church and state” permeates the American psyche in ways passages from other founding documents don’t. It’s a pithy, visual description of a specific view of religious liberty. Yet, the words don’t appear in the U.S. Constitution, a point those who want to get more religion in government often cite (as if the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses aren’t enough). But that shouldn’t underplay the guidance the phrase plays. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Local Headlines

  • Sand Springs Early Childhood Education Center seeking students [Tulsa World]
  • How can northeast OKC grow while preserving its legacy? Lessons learned from Black Wall Street [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“I have people in my community say, ‘We don’t want to lose our identity,’ that’s one of the things that we’ve been talking about.” 

-Leon Anderson, mayor of the historically All-Black Town of Grayson, population 127, said regarding the financing of the Oklahoma Civil Rights Trail that will connect Oklahoma’s 13 original Black towns. He said he hopes the trail will help Black towns develop economically, preserve historical sites and retain their younger population. [Oklahoma Voice]

Number of the Day


Estimated number of Oklahoma children being fed by Tribal nations this summer after Oklahoma’s governor rejected federal funds for summer food programs for school-age children. Children living in the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee and Seminole reservations and who receive free and reduced lunch are eligible, regardless of whether or not they are tribal citizens. [The Oklahoman

Policy Note

When children don’t have stable housing, it can affect their health later: Not having secure housing is a huge stress for anyone. But when children experience this, especially in early childhood, it can affect their health years down the line. That’s the finding of a new study in the journal Pediatrics, which says that teens who experienced housing insecurity earlier in life were more likely to report worse health. [NPR]

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Kandis West is a communications professional with more than 15 years of experience. Most recently, she served as the Communications Director for the Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus. She spent nine years in the Olympia/Tacoma area of Washington organizing compensation campaigns for teachers for the Washington Education Association. Kandis has a proven track record of increasing community engagement, public awareness and media exposure around the most pressing issues that impact citizens. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism.