In The Know: The ‘Teachers Caucus’: Game Changer or Quixotic Quest?

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

The ‘Teachers Caucus’: Game Changer or Quixotic Quest? As the election approaches, one of the big questions is whether many of the educators running for the Oklahoma Legislature for the first time will win or lose. These candidates, part of the so-called “teachers’ caucus,” jumped into the race saying they were fed up with low teacher salaries and wanted more funding for schools. In this Oklahoma Watch radio report, Brad Gibson spotlights the campaigns of three of these political rookies [Oklahoma Watch].

Vote yes on all judicial retention nominees: Two judges on the Oklahoma Supreme Court, two on the Court of Criminal Appeals and three on the Court of Civil Appeals appear on November’s retention ballot. While we haven’t been pleased with every decision that has come out of the state’s court system in recent years, we support retaining all the judges. We were disappointed when the Supreme Court ordered a privately funded Ten Commandments monument off the state Capitol grounds [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Here’s what you need to know about judges on the ballot in Oklahoma [OK Policy].

Penny Sales Tax For Education Spurs Debate: Voters on Nov. 8 may feel like they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to State Question 779, the proposed 1 percent sales tax increase for education. If enough votes are yes, Oklahoma’s public education will get a critically needed infusion of funds, said David Boren, one of the main crafters of the initiative, who said he was speaking to The Lawton Constitution as a private citizen, not as University of Oklahoma president. Enough yes votes will also add 1 percent to every municipality’s sales taxes, raising Lawton’s total sales tax rate to 10 percent, which can seriously affect the city and its citizens, said Fred Fitch, who said he was speaking as a private citizen rather than Lawton’s mayor [Lawton Constitution]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet about SQ 779 here.

Claims that SQ 777 will boost food security are hard to swallow: Vote Yes on State Question 777 or else more Oklahoma children and seniors will go hungry? That’s the highly misleading message that supporters of the so-called Right to Farm amendment are asking Oklahoma voters to swallow. The campaign for this amendment is being sponsored primarily by the Farm Bureau and other major agribusiness associations. If approved in November, SQ 777 would entrench in the state Constitution the right to engage in far-ranging agricultural practices [OK Policy]. See OK Policy’s fact sheet on SQ 777 here.

OU students struggling financially strive to succeed in school on empty stomachs: It’s 11 a.m., and she can already feel her stomach grumbling. Joelle Glimp, a social work and professional writing junior, has skipped breakfast. Again. As usual, her food for the day consists of either a small peanut butter sandwich or some pasta she made herself. Maybe she’ll have dinner, but maybe she won’t. It’s gotten to the point where she can no longer finish a full meal. Glimp fits in easily with other OU students — she is an inactive member in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma — but what separates her is an invisible affliction she faces daily: hunger [OU Daily].

County commission accepts recommendation for jail medical contract: Tulsa County commissioners agreed Monday to a five-member committee’s recommendation to change medical providers at the county jail. The 3-0 vote at Monday’s weekly commission meeting authorized final negotiations with Turn Key Medical of Oklahoma City, which qualified for the contract after Sheriff Vic Regalado asked for a change in the bid qualifications. The change lowered the requirement that bidders have previously managed at least a 1,000-bed facility to 500. Regalado said only the current provider, Armor Correctional Medical, would have bid without the change [Tulsa World].

Lawmaker tries again with dignified death bill: As Steve Kouplen watched the televised drama of Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old terminally ill woman who moved to Oregon so she could end her life, he was reminded of his own mother who had recently died. Death with dignity: It’s the phrase used to describe self-initiated euthanasia, or physician-aided suicide. But what stuck with Kouplen was the word “dignity.” For the past two years, he’s introduced Oklahoma’s version of the Death with Dignity Act. For two years, he hasn’t been able to muster enough support for even a committee hearing, and his bills expired without public debate [Journal Record].

State employee health costs rising: The state’s annual cost of providing health insurance benefits to public workers and their dependents is more than a half-billion dollars a year and rising. While there is general agreement on that number, there is no agreement on whether something should be done to limit this huge expense. Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, has been studying the issue, and doesn’t see any immediate changes on the horizon to a system under which many government employees, unlike most private sector employees, don’t pay anything for their health coverage [NewsOK].

House candidate’s mailer draws rebuke from Hispanic community: Republican state House candidate Jay Means has drawn criticism from some in the Hispanic community over a campaign flyer he sent to voters this week using a photo of minors that some believe implied they were undocumented residents. Means is running for an open seat in House District 93, a mostly working-class south Oklahoma City community that has seen a steady rise in Hispanic residents over the last several years [NewsOK].

Oil and Gas Activity Likely Caused Widely Felt Western Oklahoma Earthquake, Study Suggests: Wastewater injection into clusters of high-rate disposal wells likely triggered a 5.1-magnitude earthquake that struck western Oklahoma in February 2016, new research suggests. The earthquake near Fairview produced a large blast of seismic energy that spawned a series of widely felt aftershocks. The quake is now considered one of the largest ever linked to the oil industry practice of pumping toxic water produced during drilling into underground disposal wells, U.S. Geological Survey research geophysicist William Leck and a team of federal and university scientists write in a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters [StateImpact Oklahoma]. 

Alternatives for produced water studied at Capitol: Brian Kalt has a potential solution to get rid of oil-field wastewater without deep disposal wells, but he said he doesn’t expect demand from Oklahoma drillers. Lack of financial incentives and state and federal laws stand in the way of alternatives to wastewater disposal, he said. There are additional logistical hurdles that block large-scale oil-field wastewater recycling, said Bud Ground, Environmental Federation of Oklahoma president [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“Hunger is very real and very raw. It’s down the South Oval, and hunger is in the Union sitting on a couch. Hunger is in our classrooms. You can’t ever look at someone and assume you know what they’re going through because hunger is in the whole entire college campus-climbing social ladder. Every single tier we’ve created, hunger is on it; people just don’t really like to talk about it.”

-University of Oklahoma student Joelle Glimp, one of many college students who struggle with hunger in the state. Oklahoma consistently ranks in the top five for the number of people who do not get enough to eat (Source)

Number of the Day


Percent of LGBT adults who indicated they did not have enough money for food, compared to 21% of non-LGBT adults in Oklahoma

Source: Williams Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Applying the Science of Child Development in Child Welfare Systems: How can we use insights from cutting-edge science to improve the well-being and long-term life prospects of the most vulnerable children in our society? This is both a critical challenge and a powerful opportunity to affect the trajectories of millions of children in the United States and around the world. It is a question of particular importance to those who make or affect public policy. This paper shows how the science of child development can be leveraged to strengthen and improve the public child welfare system so that it can better support the children, families, and communities it serves [Center on the Developing Child].

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.