In The Know: Federal agreement will fund new Tulsa VA clinic

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a new 140,000-square-foot Veterans Administration outpatient clinic for Tulsa is part of a $17 billion spending agreement reached by Congress. Gov. Mary Fallin sent a letter to the White House complaining about a program at Fort Sill that is caring for unaccompanied migrant children from Central America. OK Policy previously debunked several myths that have been spread about these children. On the OK Policy Blog, we share explain the ABCs of Oklahoma’s Promise scholarships and why they are important for low- and middle-income Oklahomans. This year Oklahoma lawmakers attempted to divert funds from Oklahoma’s Promise to fill a budget hole, but they backed off after a public outcry and an Attorney General opinion that the transfer was illegal.

Beginning this semester, all Oklahoma State University students will have to complete an online course aimed at sexual-assault awareness and prevention. The Tulsa World discussed how the state is having trouble getting the process for developing new educational standards started. Oklahoma City Public School is preparing for an influx of more than 3,500 pre-K students — its largest pre-K enrollment ever. Tulsa Public Schools still needs to fill 120 open jobs before the school year begins in August.

The City of Claremore must pay $41,000 to cover attorney costs of plaintiffs who successfully sued to city to make Claremore police dashcam videos treated as open records. Oklahoma Watch discussed the role of low-interest federal loans in helping Oklahomans rebuild after a natural disaster. Voters have until Friday Aug. 1 to register to vote in the Aug. 26 Runoff Primary Election. Voter registration forms and ballot information can be downloaded here.

The Oklahoma City Council has developed new regulations for “transportation network companies” such as Uber and Lyft that use smartphone apps to connect drivers in their personal vehicles to individuals looking for rides. The regulations require drivers to pay for an annual permit and vehicle inspection, similar to rules covering taxis. The latest installment in Tulsa World Photographer Mike Simons’ series shares stories he came across walking all 16 miles of Peoria Ave. Rising heat poses extra dangers for Oklahoma’s homeless population, who have limited access to water and air-conditioned places to rest.

Free rain barrels are being offered to Jackson County residents at the Southwest Technology Center in Altus. The National Park Service has awarded historic preservation grants to four American Indian tribes in Oklahoma. The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans with “minimal fruit consumption.” In today’s Policy Note, CityLab examines a growing program that fast-tracks immigration visas for investors willing to put at least $500,000 into an at-risk area and create at least 10 full-time jobs.

In The News

Funding for new Tulsa VA clinic included in bill

A proposed 140,000-square-foot Veterans Administration outpatient clinic for Tulsa is part of a $17 billion spending agreement reached Monday by House and Senate negotiators. U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, 1st District Rep. Jim Bridenstine and 2nd District Rep. Markwayne Mullin issued a joint statement through Inhofe’s office saying that the bill includes authorization for the leasing of “a new cost-efficient facility up to 140,000 gross square feet, for up to a 30-year lifecycle.” The bill also includes a provision favored by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn that sets aside $10 billion to allow veterans who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical facility to obtain treatment closer to home.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Gov. Mary Fallin complains to White House about children being housed at Fort Sill

Gov. Mary Fallin sent a letter to the White House on Monday complaining about a program at Fort Sill that is caring for unaccompanied migrant children from Central America. Fallin said the program has been shrouded in secrecy and expressed concerns about the status of more than 1,000 young people who have cycled through the temporary shelter at the Army installation before being released to sponsors or relatives, including 212 who have been placed with people in Oklahoma.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Debunking myths about migrant children at Ft. Sill from the OK Policy Blog

The ABCs of Oklahoma’s Promise

Recently, the Oklahoma legislature attempted to divert funds from the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Plan to fill a budget hole. After a public outcry and Attorney General opinion that the transfer was unconstitutional, state leaders backed off the plan. The scholarship program that was threatened is more than just money for college—it’s a commitment to Oklahoma’s future. Through the program, Oklahoma promises tuition funds will be available for hard-working, committed students that want to continue their education after high school. But how does it work—and why is it so important for low- and middle-income Oklahomans?

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

See also: Inappropriate appropriations and a broken promise from the OK Policy Blog.

New OSU mandate requires sexual-violence prevention training for all students

Beginning this semester, all Oklahoma State University students will have to complete an online course aimed at sexual-assault awareness and prevention, and the campus community now has a revamped central location for resources about such crimes. The course requirement, announced via email to students on Monday, is in conjunction with the public launch of 1is2many, a website created by the university that is dedicated to information about sexual-assault reporting and domestic violence and which provides resources for students and others.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

State dithers on rewriting school standards

Repudiated by voters in the Republican primary, state Superintendent Janet Barresi was ignored Wednesday by her own school board. Barresi called in legislative support, slapped the table and lectured the state school board in an attempt to hammer through a complex two-year plan to write new academic standards for the state. But the board voted 5-1 to table Barresi’s plan. She was the one. Board members complained that Barresi’s plan was too complicated and was challenged by the professional organizations representing key constituencies. Board members also pointed out the two of the four key players in the process — Barresi and state Education and Workforce Development Secretary Robert Sommers — are on their way out of office.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma City Public Schools prepare for its largest pre-K enrollment

At Rockwood Elementary, Marlene White spends most of her time on the floor with kids. “I love it down here,” said White, who taught pre-kindergarten classes for 10 years. “I’m just excited for the kids, for the parents and for the students.” Oklahoma City Public School is bracing for the an influx of thousands of pre-kindergarten students. They are expecting more than 3,500 – its largest pre-K enrollment ever. “This is really exciting,” said Pam Hibbs, the early childhood director for OKCPS.

Read more from KOCO.

Tulsa Public Schools Hopes To Fill Positions At Upcoming Job Fair

Before the new school year begins, Tulsa Public Schools needs to fill 120 open jobs, and the clock is ticking. It takes more than teachers to shape young minds. Before the some 40,000 students head back to school in August, Tulsa Public Schools needs to fill 120 open jobs. “All kind of support positions. Everything from bus drivers to janitors, to secretaries, clerks child nutrition. A variety of positions we have 120 open, and we are going to do a job fair a week from today,” said Chris Payne, Tulsa Public Schools. Besides teachers, TPS is hiring bus drivers, secretaries, custodians, grounds crew and more.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Judge: Claremore must pay $41,000 in dash-cam case

A Vinita law firm in a state Open Records Act case relating to dash-cam video is owed more than $41,000 by the City of Claremore, a Rogers County judge has ruled. The city must pay attorneys from Ward & Lee PLC, of Vinita (now Ward, Lee & Coats), a total of $41,324.25 in fees ($39,931.25) and costs ($1,393), Associate District Judge Sheila Condren wrote in an order filed Friday. In October, the Oklahoma Supreme Court declined to hear a City of Claremore appeal to a state appellate court ruling that states dash-cam video made by the Claremore Police Department in 2011 does constitute a public record under the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

Read more from The Claremore World.

Federal Disaster Loans Present Dilemma for Storm Victims

The tornadoes, flooding and hail that struck Oklahoma last year left hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, causing many home and business owners to seek help in the form of low-interest federal loans. The U.S. Small Business Administration approved 929 applications for about $50 million in low-interest disaster loans for people, businesses and nonprofits, according to SBA data through February, acquired for Oklahoma Watch by the nonprofit group, Investigative Reporters and Editors. Most applicants, 599, took out the loans, but often for much less than what was offered, SBA figures show.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Voter Registration Deadline For Runoff Primary Election August 1

Oklahoma State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax says voters have until Friday Aug. 1 to register to vote in the Aug. 26 Runoff Primary Election. Voter registration forms can be downloaded from the Oklahoma State Election Board’s website. They are also available at county election boards, post offices, tag agencies, libraries and some other public locations. Voters must either register in person or mail their registration forms in and have them postmarked by the deadline.

Read more from KGOU.

OKC Council to decide how to apply rules to ridesharing services

Daun Wilkerson’s iPhone sounded an alert about 5 p.m. on May 1. Someone was requesting a ride from the Belle Isle Walmart Supercenter in Oklahoma City. Wilkerson arrived in her silver Ford Edge to find three “very nice” young people – two women and a man – loaded down with groceries and merchandise. Wilkerson remembers pillows sticking out of a bag and the scent of a rotisserie chicken on a warm afternoon. They had the same question most everyone asks of Wilkerson, a 49-year-old divorced mother of two grown children: “How long have you been Ubering?”

Read more from NewsOK.

Street Level: Peoria – Reflecting on Brookside

A tear rolls down Destiny Meadows’ cheek as she clutches a small photo at Brookside Tattoo and Piercing. She squeezes the photo tight. In the picture, she is a baby sitting on her grandfather Gary Meadows’ lap. “I had to have something in memory of him,” she says of the greatest man she has ever known. Tattoo artist Doyle Wright starts on the tattoo, and Meadows writhes in pain. Wright quips, “I’m the one doing all the work.” Then he says sternly, “Quit moving!” She squeezes the photo tighter. When the tattoo is done, across the side of her foot, she reads, “until we meet again” and starts to cry again. She mentions she wants to see the tattoo and think of “Paw Paw” every day.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Homeless people are susceptible to Oklahoma’s extreme heat, advocates say

Donato Patrick calls it “dying season.” Oklahoma’s hot, sweaty summers can make life miserable for anyone who has to be outside. But it can be more than miserable for some, Patrick said. The homeless man, who lives in Oklahoma City, said he’s seen many of his friends get sick or die during the summer’s hottest months. During July and August, when the summer heat is typically most brutal, health officials often remind residents to stay indoors as much as possible and drink plenty of water. Sitting in the Homeless Alliance’s day shelter, Patrick said that isn’t always an option for the city’s homeless people.

Read more from NewsOK.

Rain Barrels to be Offered in Altus to Capture Water

Free rain barrels are to be offered to Jackson County residents at the Southwest Technology Center in Altus. Altus Emergency Management Director Lloyd Colston says 100 barrels will be available starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the technology center near Western Oklahoma State College. The barrels are being offered at no charge, but the number of barrels is limited. Residents are asked to be able to provide proof that they are a county resident. Proof of residency includes a utility bill, driver’s license or a government document showing the person’s address.

Read more from Public Radio Tulsa.

National Park Service Awards Historic Preservation Grants

The National Park Service has awarded historic preservation grants to four American Indian tribes in Oklahoma. NPS director Jonathan Jarvis says the grants will help America’s first people preserve significant tribal places, cultures and tradition. The grants can be used to fund projects including nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, preservation education and historic structure reports. The four Oklahoma-based tribes receiving grants are the Miami Tribe, the Peoria Tribe, the Seminole Nation and the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe. The grants range from $30,000 to nearly $60,000.

Read more from KGOU.

Quote of the Day

“To me, it’s amazing that the district and the state is really involved in the push for early childhood in the beginning. We will be singing and dancing and learning and reading. I can’t wait. I’m so ready for the first day of school.”

-Oklahoma City mother of four LaKesha Oakes, who enrolled her son in pre-K this year. The OKC school district is expecting its largest pre-K enrollment ever (Source:

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans with “minimal fruit consumption”; the national average is 37.7%.

Source: Oklahoma State Department of Health

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

America’s Booming Pay-to-Stay Visa Program Still Has Tons of Room to Grow

Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But remember: We also take plastic. That’s the message that Congress registered when it passed the Immigration Act of 1990, which added a brand new category of employment-based visas for permanent legal residents—specifically, a visa tailor-made for investors. Although applications are on the rise, the program remains somewhat under the radar. Which is a shame. The EB-5 investor visa program works like a sort of global Kickstarter, one whose promise for U.S. cities is both enormous and untapped.

Read more from CityLab.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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