School choice: Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall, R-Atoka, who refused to bring a controversial school voucher bill to the floor last year, may have signaled continued opposition this week by talking up the effects of the state’s new open transfer laws.
“Oklahoma’s open transfer law is what parental choice done right looks like,” McCall said. “We are now one of the best states in the country for parental choice that works, thanks to open transfer.”
According to a press release, nearly 11,000 transfer requests have been made since the law changed last year. More than 8,400 of those were approved.
The law requires interdistrict transfers be accepted as long as the receiving district has room and the transferring student’s behavioral and attendance records meet certain standards.
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A separate law modified the state funding mechanism to more accurately reflect enrollment changes.
“In less than a year, Oklahoma is already seeing big success with open transfer,” said McCall. “Open transfer is equitably benefiting families in all parts of the state, regardless of geography or income level, without harming public school budgets.”
Another push for vouchers, or scholarships as proponents prefer, is expected next session, particularly if Gov. Kevin Stitt and his candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, Ryan Walters, win their Nov. 8 general elections.
Campaigns and elections: The Tulsa Press Club is holding a watch party for Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. televised debate between Stitt and Democrat Joy Hofmeister.
The debate is presented by Oklahoma City’s KWTV and NonDoc, and is being held at the Will Rogers Theater in Oklahoma City. It is expected to be the only live public debate between Stitt and Hofmeister before the Nov. 8 general election.
Watch party reservations are recommended, and reserved tables with beverage packages are available. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Democratic state superintendent candidate Jena Nelson will speak at the Press Club at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
The Oklahoma Medical Association, which has often been at odds with Stitt, endorsed Hofmeister through its political action committee.
Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma endorsed Republican state House of Representatives candidates Brad Banks (HD 70) and Paul Hassink (HD 79).
While some polling indicates the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is tightening, it also shows Republican nominee Markwayne Mullin leading by 8-10 percentage points entering the last few weeks of the campaign.
Mullin has not only avoided appearing with Democrat Kendra Horn and the other two candidates in the race, Libertarian Robert Murphy and independent Ray Woods, but he’s avoided most state media as well. He did spend some time in the Tulsa County Republican Party booth at the Tulsa State Fair and made an appearance on former South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy’s Fox News Radio program.
Mullin’s advertising campaign seems to mostly feature him and his family.
Horn, meanwhile, is trying to convince voters that Mullin is a self-dealing multi-millionaire with little interest in everyday Oklahomans.
The other U.S. Senate race is even more low-key. Incumbent James Lankford has a huge financial and name recognition advantage over Democrat Madison Horn, not to mention over Libertarian Kenneth Blevins and independent Michael L. Delaney, and seems to have a comfortable lead in the polls, too.
Former Kansas U.S. Sen. and Gov. Sam Brownback endorsed Lankford.
Dark times: The dark money machine is cranking again.
Unidentified sources of all stripes have already spent millions of dollars on Oklahoma primary and runoff elections, and now they are back at it as the general election approaches.
Stitt, who has been in the dark money crosshairs for more than a year, is the target of at least two mail pieces and one TV ad launched in the past weeks.
The TV ad is attributed to the Oklahoma Project, an apparently home-grown dark money organization that has been zinging Stitt since early 2021.
The mail pieces, which focus on Stitt’s education agenda, and particularly his support of using taxpayers’ money for private school tuition, say they are paid for by Leadership Action Fund Inc. at the Wilmington, Delaware, address of the Corporation Trust Center. The Corporation Trust Center is reportedly a one-story building that serves as the mailing address for more than 285,000 businesses worldwide.
On the other side of the dark money fight over school vouchers, mail pieces attacking state Rep. Melissa Provenzano and other opponents of such proposals have begun hitting mailboxes.
Who is behind the dark money campaigns won’t be known for more than a week at least, or quite possibly ever.
Independent and electioneering expenditures for the general election don’t have to be reported until the 14 days prior to an election, and those made prior to the 14 days don’t have to be reported until Oct. 31 — a confusing arrangement, to say the least.
Even then, the true source of the funds is often hidden behind private corporations and non-profit entities; in some cases, the expenditures aren’t reported at all.
We, too: Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor added Oklahoma to a couple more lawsuits filed by Republican attorneys general, including the long-running case of an Oregon bakery fined $135,000 because it refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
That 2013 case, Klein v. Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, where it is being argued on First Amendment grounds.
“The government should protect religious freedom, not threaten it,” O’Connor said in announcing Oklahoma would be joining 16 other attorneys general in an amicus brief. “Every Oklahoman and American has the right to express their First Amendment rights without fear.”
O’Connor also announced he has added Oklahoma to a list of states objecting to a Transportation Department program to track and regulate greenhouse gas.
“We will not stand for this, which is why I am leading a coalition urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to decline to adopt Biden’s unlawful proposed mandate,” O’Connor said in a press release.
Meetings and events: The Republican Women’s Club South Tulsa United will meet at 9:30 a.m. Monday at Jenks City Hall, 211 N. Elm St., Jenks.
The Tulsa Area Republican Assembly will meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Golden Corral, 9711 E. 71st St.
Oklahoma Observer publisher Arnold Hamilton and Corporation Commission nominee Warigia Bowman will be featured at the Creek County Democratic Party meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at La Margarita, 1215 New Sapulpa Road, Sapulpa.
Union School Board member Joey Reyes will speak to the Tulsa County Democratic Party meeting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27, at Baxter’s Interurban, 717 S. Houston Ave.
Bottom lines: Besides shifting Office of Management and Enterprises Services director Steven Harpe to Corrections director last week, Stitt appointed Oklahoma City energy executives John Laws as secretary of budget, the statewide chief financial officer, and John Suter as chief operating officer and interim OMES director. … Five Oklahoma communities have been awarded almost $1.2 million in Emergency Rural Health Care Grants by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. …Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole and 5th District Congresswoman Stephanie Bice are among those scheduled to speak Thursday at the Oklahoma Aerospace and Defense Innovation Institute Symposium in Norman. … State Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, who lost his June primary amid a deluge of dark money ads, ripped Stitt for vetoing American Rescue Plan funds for emergency management and improvements to the OETA system, which acts as the state’s emergency broadcast network.
— Randy Krehbiel, Tulsa World