In The Know: Serving life without parole for drugs; new school enrollment stats; virtual school enrollment soars…

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.

In The News

Oklahoma still has 24 people serving life without parole for drug trafficking: A new state law that took effect in November allows for people serving life without parole for nonviolent offense to ask a judge to review their sentence after 10 years, but only two people in prison for drug trafficking have applied so far. [The FrontierThese are the remaining men serving life without parole for drug trafficking in Oklahoma. The state eliminated the mandatory life without parole sentence for drug trafficking after two or more prior convictions in 2015, but the new law was not retroactive. [The Frontier]

State releases public school enrollment stats: The number of students in public schools in Oklahoma continues to rise steadily, as indicated by the newest enrollment numbers released by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Collected Oct. 1, the annual student count shows that 698,586 students were enrolled in Pre-K through 12th grade for the 2018-19 school year, a half-percent increase over the previous school year. This year’s enrollment shows an 8 percent increase over the last 11 years. [Public Radio Tulsa] State Superintendent calls for more funding to support growing PK-12 enrollment [KTUL]

A study in contrasts: Most Tulsa County districts lose students while virtual school student numbers soar: Most Tulsa County school districts posted enrollment declines — some for the first time in more than a decade — as Epic Charter Schools flourished with online school offerings, newly released student enrollment data from the state reveal. [Tulsa World]

Spencer community reacts to closure plans: Not surprisingly, supporters of schools in this city of about 4,000 are taking pending school closures and consolidations personally. A meeting hosted by Oklahoma City Public Schools on Monday night to explain the district’s proposed realignment project produced hard feelings similar to those expressed at a community meeting in November. [NewsOK]

Designing Oklahoma City’s new school for homeless kids: How do you incorporate the specific needs of homeless children into the design of a school? That’s the question the Oklahoma City-based nonprofit organization Positive Tomorrows asked itself when it was daydreaming about a new building that could meet the many needs of its students. [CityLab]

Jenks schools, others to sue state Tax Commission over loss of vehicle fee revenues: A years-long dispute about miscalculated motor-vehicle revenues from the Oklahoma Tax Commission will have a new chapter as more districts plan to sue the agency. Jenks Public Schools at a special meeting Monday night unanimously approved a contract with Spencer Fane LLP to challenge the commission’s decision to withhold future revenues from districts who were initially overpaid. [Tulsa World]

Broken Arrow senator proposes bill to make panic buttons available in every school: This session lawmakers will consider Senate Bill 267, which would create a system for schools to implement a button by geocoordinates, text message or application to immediately reach first responders. [KJRH]

Tobacco Purchasing Age Increase Proposed In Oklahoma: Oklahoma State Rep. Ben Loring, D-7, will once again try to convince his legislative colleagues to raise the minimum age to purchase and possess tobacco products and alternatives to 21-years-old, as he has pre-filed H.B. 1432 ahead of the upcoming session. [Halfwheel]

Bill would expand campus-carry in Oklahoma: A new proposal on Oklahoma gun laws is making its way to the state Senate. It would permit anyone to carry guns on university or college campuses without restrictions. Senate Bill 12, sponsored by state Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-District 33) would change current legislation, which lets the president of a school decide on a case-by-case basis who can carry a weapon. [KTEN]

Stitt order may be first step in reducing classified state jobs: When Gov. Kevin Stitt filed one of his first executive orders, he touched on changing a policy that has long been considered outdated. One of them, at first glance, appears to be a simple amendment to the state’s hiring freeze. However, the order differentiates between different kinds of employees, ones with different designations under the state’s merit protection system. [Journal Record]

Oklahoma Gov. Stitt’s cabinet members to help state be ‘customer-focused’: Gov. Kevin Stitt has turned to the hospitality sector for two positions critical to fulfilling his campaign pledge to bring business principles to state agencies. John Budd, 51, a former executive at Sonic Corp. and a Boston-based consulting firm, is Stitt’s chief operating officer. David Ostrowe, 50, the president of O&M Restaurant Group, is Stitt’s nominee for secretary of digital transformation and administration. [NewsOK ????] Just one week before the start of the legislative session, Governor Kevin Stitt has all but four members of his cabinet in place. [News9] Michael Rogers thought he was done with politics until Gov. Kevin Stitt called. [Tulsa World] Tulsa banker Sean Kouplen volunteers for big job in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration. [Tulsa World]

The #okleg phone app Capitol insiders use every day: For legislative junkies, the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives (OAEC) features a phone application that serves as an excellent reference for all things #okleg. Named Oklahoma Legislative Guide, the app is available for free in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. [NonDoc]

Former legislator agrees to pay $31,000 to settle Ethics Commission lawsuit: A former top lawmaker has agreed to pay $25,000 to the state to settle a lawsuit that accused him of misusing campaign funds. Former Rep. Gus Blackwell agreed to pay another $6,000 to the state watchdog agency that sued him. [NewsOK]

Why is adolescent suicide on the rise in Oklahoma? Suicides among ages 10-24 in the state have increased 41 percent since 2006, compared to a 33 percent increase in the youth suicide rate nationally for the same time period, Oklahoma’s 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates. [Tulsa People]

The Invisibles: Aging out of foster care, confronting the unknown: Months after his 18th birthday, Joshua Hoaks uses his experience in foster care to face the future. He represents the many young people in Oklahoma whose families tumbled into crisis and lost custody of their children, not to regain them before they reached 18 and aged out of the foster system. According to the Chronicle of Social Change, Oklahoma is one of only three states that doesn’t offer extended care for foster kids who become young adult. [Oklahoma Watch]

A man uses library system’s free access create dyslexia app: Pierre Liebenberg of Norman knew his son was having trouble reading. He started switching letters and words around, dreaded having to get up in front of the class to read aloud and lost his confidence. [AP News]

Investing in education, investing in the future: In the Cherokee Nation, education is the foundation of our success. That has been true for generations. Even prior to our removal to Indian Territory, education was critical. Renowned statesman Sequoyah invented a written syllabary, which enabled better communication and expanded knowledge opportunities. [

Lifting Pell Grant ban for prisoners should be pursued: Oklahoma is among the many states that have approved criminal justice reform legislation in recent years, and continue to pursue it. Congress has an opportunity to help advance these efforts by reinstating federal Pell Grants for prisoners. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

OKC to take over ownership of Northwest Expressway: Most of Northwest Expressway doesn’t really operate like a highway anymore, so perhaps Oklahoma City should take over its upkeep from the state Department of Transportation. At least that’s the reasoning behind a City Council agenda item scheduled for consideration Tuesday, Public Works spokeswoman Shannon Cox said. [Journal Record]

International students join calls for OU action on race: The amount of perspectives that filled the Headington College dining hall on Saturday was, naturally, plentiful. Students from across the globe came to talk about the issue of racism on campus at Time To Talk!, billed as “an open discussion in response to racist events at the University of Oklahoma.” [Norman Transcript] University of Oklahoma officials say they’re taking action after two blackface incidents near campus in less than a week. But it’s unclear whether they will be able to meet some students’ demands. [KGOU]

Quote of the Day

“Making Pell grants available again to prisoners makes sense in another way — about nine out of 10 inmates will eventually be released. Why not provide them the opportunity to improve their chances once they re-enter society?”

-The Oklahoman editorial board, calling on Congress to end a ban on Pell Grants so that incarcerated people could afford to take college classes while in prison [Source: NewsOK]

Number of the Day


Average annual salary of cooks and food preparers in Oklahoma public schools.

[Source: Oklahoma State Department of Education]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Conservative health care experiment leads to thousands losing coverage: Arkansas is throwing thousands of people off its Medicaid rolls each month for not complying with work requirements, blindsiding vulnerable residents panicked about losing their health coverage. Views differ on the fairness of the unprecedented social experiment, but there’s unanimity here that it’s causing confusion. And that’s feeding a philosophical debate about whether low-income adults are ducking the work rules or just can’t navigate the tech-heavy reporting system that goes offline every night at 9 p.m. [Politico]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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