In The Know: Inmates take 2 guards hostage in Oklahoma prison riot

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

Inmates take 2 guards hostage in Oklahoma prison riot: Hundreds of inmates — some armed with baseball bats and iron pipes — rioted at an Oklahoma federal prison for about eight hours, taking two guards hostage and refusing to return to their cells before they were finally corralled by law enforcement officers, authorities said Monday. The riot started late Sunday at the Great Plains Correctional Facility in Hinton after a fight broke out in the prison yard, and rapidly escalated from there, said Caddo County Sheriff Lennis Miller. Miller said the inmates refused to return to their cells and at one point occupied one building in the complex located about 55 miles (90 kilometers) west of Oklahoma City [Associated Press]. The effects of budget cuts on Oklahoma prisons are hidden but dangerous [OK Policy].

Voters to decide south OKC Senate seat Tuesday: In Tuesday’s special election in Senate District 44, two political newcomers are vying to fill the seat left vacant by Sen. Ralph Shortey, who resigned this year amid charges of soliciting a minor for prostitution. Democrat Michael Brooks and Republican Joe Griffin have both run unsuccessful campaigns for the state Legislature in recent years, but one will be elected to represent this C-shaped district in southwest Oklahoma City that hugs portions of Interstate 240 and Interstate 40 [NewsOK]. It’s the first of many special elections to replace state legislators this year [Journal Record].

Schools Use Loophole to Exceed Limit for Pre-K Class Sizes: Small classes are a cornerstone of pre-K, but some districts are now raising a long-held cap on the number of students, a move that could dilute Oklahoma’s most admired and arguably successful educational initiative. Like many other states, Oklahoma limits pre-K classes to 20 students. When there are more than 10 students, the classroom teacher is supposed to have a full-time assistant. But a 2016 change in state law has inadvertently opened the door to larger pre-K classes [Oklahoma Watch].

Treasurer sees Oklahoma’s economy continuing recovery: State Treasurer Ken Miller said Oklahoma’s economy continues to be in recovery during an end-of-fiscal-year report on state revenue. Total state revenue over the past 12 months is still lower than the previous year, he said, but the rate of decline has slowed considerably. Oklahoma brought in $1 billion during June, the highest total for that month since 2014 [NewsOK].

Here’s What The Oil Industry Is Teaching Oklahoma’s Students: It’s a Saturday at Choctaw High School, but for hundreds of Oklahoma teachers, there’s a training class in session. Carrie Miller-DeBoer perches atop a stool monitoring a pair of soda bottles linked with a small length of thin plastic tubing created to mimic enhanced oil recovery, while teaching chemistry fundamentals. “I love it and my students will be so excited,” she says. DeBoer is among 14,000 teachers in Oklahoma being trained to instruct a K through 12 education curriculum funded by the oil and gas industry [NPR].

Tulsa Public Schools avoids ‘lunch shaming’ with policy, community support to clear unpaid meal charges: Tulsa Public Schools officials say the district will continue to zero out students’ unpaid meal charges at the end of each school year, despite a recent change in state policy that allows school districts to carry those negative balances into the next year. However, TPS students’ unpaid meal balances were already cleared by the end of the 2016-17 school year thanks to community support and the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision, which made all TPS elementary students eligible to receive free breakfast and lunch this year [Tulsa World]. Community eligibility helps hungry kids and saves administrative costs, but participation lags in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Oklahoma gets ‘F’ in workplace safety; labor commissioner shocked: The state of Oklahoma is getting a failing grade on the safety of workplaces across the state. The finding is not sitting well with state leaders. The labor commissioner sent a letter to the authors of that report, demanding that they change the state’s score. “When I saw the media reports that the state had received an F rating in the workplace safety, I was shocked,” Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston said [KOCO].

Gov. Fallin addresses state budget at Oklahoma Press Association: It’s not exactly breaking news that Oklahoma’s state budget has been problematic, both in planning and execution. Gov. Mary Fallin confirmed that when she addressed the Oklahoma Press Association at its annual convention in Oklahoma City Saturday. Fallin once again said the state must find ways to reform its budget structure. Using one-time funds and borrowing from the Rainy Day Fund and the Unclaimed Property Fund to fill budget holes have only delayed the inevitable and created a cascade of recurring budget shortfalls for the past several years. She said only 47 percent of the funding used to fill the gap for fiscal year 2018 comes from recurring funds [Stillwater News Press].

CDC report shows some marginal gains made on opioid front: Like many states, Oklahoma has a long way to go to curb its opioid problem. However, a report last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a small dose of good news. In the report issued Thursday, the CDC found that 32 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties, including Oklahoma County, saw decreases in the number of opioids prescribed from 2010-2015. In 12 other counties, prescriptions were stable [Editorial Board / NewsOK].

Oklahoma City sales tax posts third consecutive monthly increase: Sales tax is up in Oklahoma City for the third consecutive month. Collections for the July reporting period increased 1.5 percent from July 2016. That marks the third consecutive increase in year-over-year monthly sales tax collections, after a lengthy slide that saw reductions in city spending and, most recently, layoffs. Sales tax is Oklahoma City’s single-largest revenue source [NewsOK].

Oklahoma County outpaces nation on most STDs: Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise across Oklahoma County, with the highest number of cases reported in five ZIP codes on the east side of Oklahoma City, according to data recently released by the Oklahoma City-County Health Department. Infection rates for chlamydia in Oklahoma County are 70 percent higher than the national average, and many health officials think cases are underreported [NewsOK].

Quote of the Day

“Good luck if you think they’re going to fix some of these hard issues.”

-Gov. Mary Fallin, expressing her skepticism that the legislature will make progress on fixing structural budget problems next year in the run-up to the 2018 elections (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma workers earning at or below the minimum wage in 2016, 3.1 percent of all hourly workers.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The Rich Live Longer Everywhere. For the Poor, Geography Matters: For poor Americans, the place they call home can be a matter of life or death. The poor in some cities — big ones like New York and Los Angeles, and also quite a few smaller ones like Birmingham, Ala. — live nearly as long as their middle-class neighbors or have seen rising life expectancy in the 21st century. But in some other parts of the country, adults with the lowest incomes die on average as young as people in much poorer nations like Rwanda, and their life spans are getting shorter [New York Times].

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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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