In The Know: Fragile peace in Tulsa following Terence Crutcher’s death the work of many

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Fragile peace in Tulsa following Terence Crutcher’s death the work of many: Quick action by authorities and relationships built in the wake of the 2012 Good Friday shootings helped keep the peace this past week, some prominent black Tulsans say. So did the strength of black churches, the influence of neighborhood leadership and maybe a few strands of what one called community DNA. But the peace is combustible. Emotions continue high on all sides, throwing off sparks capable of igniting the sort of explosion that engulfed Charlotte, North Carolina, in recent days [Tulsa World]. Tulsa’s prayers, and past scars, softened reaction to police shooting [New York Times].

Rarity of Tulsa Shooting: Female Officers Are Almost Never Involved: Betty Jo Shelby drew her gun and warned the man to stop walking. But Terence Crutcher continued moving toward his S.U.V., which he had left in the middle of the road, the driver’s side door open and the engine running. He was mumbling to himself, but his hands were raised in the air. Moments later, Officer Shelby fired a single shot, leaving Mr. Crutcher dead in the street. She told investigators she believed he had a weapon [New York Times].

The Risks of Breakneck Growth at State’s Largest Virtual School: Oklahoma’s largest online charter school is on a track of explosive growth, nearly tripling its enrollment over three years, to almost 8,500. That pursuit of lightning growth by Epic Charter Schools – a goal affirmed by its co-founder – shows no signs of letting up. Epic officials predict enrollment will near 10,000 by mid-school year. But the trend is raising concerns from one top online charter-school regulator about whether there is too much turnover of students. And at least one national report warns that rapid expansion at virtual charter schools can compromise academic achievement [Oklahoma Watch].

State Board of Education Reallocates Activity Funds: The Oklahoma State Board of Education (OSBE) Thursday approved the reallocation of $3.4 million in previously mandated cuts to the Support of Public School Activities. The funds were part of the $40.2 million returned to the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) earlier this month as the result of an over-cut in Fiscal Year 2016. The total appropriation to the Support of Public School Activities, also known as the Public School Activities Fund, was reduced by $13.8 million by two state revenue shortfalls in December 2015 and March 2016 [Ponca City News].

Pushmataha Hospital in Antlers files for bankruptcy: The public trust operating Pushmataha Hospital in Antlers filed for bankruptcy Friday, noting the hospital will remain open as its leaders work to find a long-term solution. “We think this process will appear seamless to patients and employees,” hospital CEO Nick Rowland said in a news release. “The emergency room is open, the lab is open, the pharmacy is open. We will continue treating and caring for the citizens of Pushmataha County during the reorganization process just as we have always done.” [NewsOK] Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals [OK Policy].

Oklahoma’s long journey to fix the child welfare system grows longer: Recently, DHS and the advocacy group representing the plaintiffs in a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of children in our Oklahoma foster care system agreed to extend the settlement agreement reached in 2012. The agreement was to have ended in 5 years with the successful implementation of the “Pinnacle Plan”, an ambitious set of reforms to better protect and nurture children in foster care. It had become apparent that the gains made in the past 4 years were not enough to meet the anticipated 5-year deadline [OK Policy].

SQ 792 is a vote for the free market: Voters have a chance in November to show they trust the free market to move our communities, our state and our nation forward. If approved, State Question 792 will modernize beer and wine laws, boost the economy and create jobs. When Oklahomans vote yes on SQ 792, they will eliminate archaic restrictions that hold back entrepreneurs who run corner stores, dream of brewing and selling craft beer, or hope to turn their land into productive vineyards [Sens. Clark Jolley and Stephanie Bice / NewsOK]. Learn more about the 2016 State Questions here.

Two state questions propose criminal sentencing reform: Oklahoma has been warehousing people rather than reforming them because the Department of Corrections doesn’t have the money to address root causes, prison reform advocate Kris Steele said. The former Speaker of the House and Republican representative spoke Friday in Norman about State Questions 780 and 781, which will be on the November ballot. Steele said the two items have bipartisan support because the changes promote financial responsibility, as well as justice reform. SQ 780 proposes to reduce the state’s prison population and save money by reclassifying certain minor offenses, such as simple possession of drugs and property crimes under $1,000, from felonies to misdemeanors [Norman Transcript]. Learn more about the 2016 State Questions here.

Oklahoma businesses should consider “banning the box”: For the many Oklahomans concerned that outdated criminal justice laws are endangering public safety and ruining people’s lives, it’s heartening that Congress has indicated that it hopes to take up the issue during the coming weeks. But it remains unclear whether any legislation will make it to the president’s desk. That’s why the roughly 67,000 employers that call Oklahoma home should consider voluntarily taking action themselves. Businesses have a powerful role to play in giving individuals with criminal records a second chance. The easiest step they can take is to “ban the box.” [Mark Holden / NewsOK]

Sally’s List works to elect women to Legislature: Liz George likes to tell people that she didn’t plan to run for state representative. After all, she had never run for anything in her life — not even student council. And she has plenty to do. George, 33, is mother of two young sons and a commercial litigator. She’s married to a small business owner. George said it was Sally’s List — an Oklahoma City group that aims to get women of all affiliations involved in politics and give them the emotional and physical support to run — that encouraged her to try politics [Norman Transcript].

State Legislature needs to comply with Real ID Law: The “rugged individualist” posture adopted by the Oklahoma Legislature is about to come home to roost on a branch that strips many Oklahomans of privileges they take for granted. The federal government has for some time now been urging states to change their driver’s licenses to comply with its Real ID Act, which tightens restrictions on immigration, voting, travel, and other processes and procedures. But some states, Oklahoma among them, have dragged their feet on addressing the situation. State lawmakers, back in 2005, deemed the change too costly, and they were also suspicious of motives: They didn’t want the feds telling them what to do [Editorial Board / Tahlequah Daily Press].

Mary Fallin stays at No. 9 in least-popular governor rankings: Gov. Mary Fallin remains No. 9 in Morning Consult’s ranking of least-popular governors released last week. Fallin’s disapproval rating increased from 47 percent in May to 53 percent now, according to the polling firm, while her approval fell from 42 to 40 percent. The least-popular governor continues to be Kansas’ Sam Brownback, who has a disapproval rating of 71 percent, compared to 65 percent in May [Tulsa World].

Quote of the Day

“We’ve seen the other side, and it’s not pretty.”

-Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson, citing the legacy of the 1921 Tulsa race riot as a reason for the peaceful response to the police shooting of Terence Crutcher (Source)

Number of the Day


Annual median wage for Oklahoma child care workers, 2014

Source: U.S. Department of Education

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

America’s bail system punishes poor people — even if they’re innocent of any crime: Over the past week, bail — that thing you pay to get out of jail while awaiting trial — has been in the news as the US Department of Justice declared the current bail system is unconstitutional, siding with a man in Georgia who was forced to spend six days in jail over a misdemeanor charge because he couldn’t afford the $160 bail to get out. The idea behind money bail is to provide an incentive for someone to return to court, since he can recoup the cost if he comes back for required court appearances. But in reality, the result is obviously unjust — it is simply much easier for wealthy people to afford bail [Vox].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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