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PM NewsBrief: Nov. 23, 2022

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.

Oklahomans could get the opportunity to vote for abortion access

Organizers filed the paperwork for the initiative late last month. State Question 828, if it ends up on the ballot, would amend the state’s constitution to create new protections for pregnant residents and the people who provide their care. Among other things, it would protect Oklahomans’ right to an abortion up to fetal viability, and afterward if a medical practitioner deems it necessary.

After the paperwork was filed, opponents had a set period of time to challenge the question in court. Usually, if an opponent files a challenge, they accuse organizers of a procedural problem like misleading language.

Rep. Mickey Dollens, a lawmaker who supports the initiative, says no challenges have been filed, so now the Secretary of State will decide when proponents can begin collecting signatures.

Special education teaching grant

The Department of Education is giving $5.3 million to better support Oklahoma teachers who work with students with disabilities. While this is the fourth time Oklahoma has received the grant, this year’s version adds training for early-career special education teachers.

While districts can put a dent in Oklahoma’s teacher crisis by hiring emergency certified teachers, by federal law, special education teachers cannot get emergency certifications.

The U.S. Department of Education is aiming to help schools retain more special ed teachers with grant funding.

For the last grant, Sand Springs and Dickson Public Schools received professional development opportunities and implemented a support framework for educators working with students of different developmental needs. Next year, the state’s department of education will select two more districts.

The money comes from the State Personnel Development Grant, and each one provides five years of support.

Districts scrambling to fill these positions are offering incentives like better training and thousands in signing bonuses, but overcoming the disproportionately high burnout rate of special education teachers is a tall order.

Anti-death penalty activists campaign to save life of Oklahoma man on death row

Ahead of death row inmate Scott Eizember’s December 7 clemency hearing, anti-death penalty organizations Clergy United Against the Death Penalty and Death Penalty Action have released a podcast called “The Scott Eizember Story” explaining why they believe he should not be executed.

Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood, Eizember’s Clergy of Record, says the podcast is not just about one death row inmate.

It’s also about encouraging people to slow down - slow down - and decide and think about that, you know, we’re killing a human being.

Eizember will likely become the fourth death row inmate to be executed in Oklahoma in a block of 25 executions that started last summer and will continue through 2024.

Native voters in Midterms

A D.C. public policy institute is tracking new data about how Native Americans voted during the last election.

The Brookings Institute has found that during the 2022 midterm elections, Native Americans voted for Democrats in both house and senate races across the country-although slightly less than in the 2020 Presidential race.

The institute's report shows that abortion and reproductive rights were one of the motivators for Native women to support Democratic candidates this election cycle. Reproductive rights only slightly trailed the cost of living and the economy as big motivators for voting.

And while Democratic candidates fared well with Indigenous voters, the report showed that BOTH parties don't pay enough attention to Native American issues.

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