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PM NewsBrief: Feb. 17, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Friday, Feb. 17, 2023.

Public School Funding Increase

The Oklahoma House of Representatives is looking to give public schools a $500 million funding increase.

The $500 million increase is divided up like this: $150 million would go to across-the-board $2,500 teacher raises. These raises would be added to what teachers are currently being paid, rather than other proposals that adjust the minimum salary schedule.

$50 million would go to districts with below-average funding from local tax revenue; and $300 million would be distributed to schools based on their attendance size, with a cap at $2 million per district.

And that money could be used for a host of district expenses, like upping support staff salaries or adding more to that teacher raise, new curriculum, facility expansions, and student support services, to name a few.

Like all proposals, bills have to pass through the legislative process before they can become law.

Private School Tax Credit

Last year, vouchers for families to pay private school tuition were the talk of the legislative session. But House Speaker Charles McCall opposed the measure and it never passed.

Now, McCall is proposing a tax credit system instead that would allow families to receive up to $5,000 in tax deductions for paying for educational services like private school tuition.

The idea met some resistance from Democrats like Tulsa’s Melissa Provenzano as it was heard in the House Appropriations and Budget Committee Thursday.

"With this bill, we’re creating two systems and tracks for kids: the public schools who take everyone and the private schools who pick and choose. If we do this to our state, we will deepen the divide between our kids in poverty and the kids who can use this bill as a coupon for a discount on tuition," said Provenzano

The GOP supermajority in the committee passed the measure despite the Democratic resistance. It can now be heard on the House Floor.

More Jail Medical Releases

The Oklahoma County jail is seeking more medical releases for seriously ill inmates in an effort to reduce inmate deaths.

After 16 inmates died in the Oklahoma County jail last year, the jail has increased the number of medical own-recognizance bonds it requests for inmates who need medical attention beyond what the jail can provide.

Interim CEO Maj. Brandi Garner says medical OR bonds are an important part of jail population management.

"You can’t just take what you get from the arrest on the street. You really need to look at the individual and see if jail is really the appropriate place for them," said Garner.

In January, the jail requested 30 medical OR bonds and was granted 19 compared to the five requested and two granted in October and November of last year combined.

AG takes over drug trafficking prosecution of former Stitt adviser

Oklahoma’s Attorney General is taking over the drug trafficking prosecution of a former Governor Kevin Stitt adviser.

Attorney Matt Stacy is charged with 13 felonies for helping out-of-state investors set up cannabis grow operations in Garvin County.

Before that, he worked as an adviser for the Stitt administration’s COVID-19 hospital surge plan and was appointed to a science and innovation council by the governor.

State narcotics officials allege Stacy set up fraudulent schemes with international drug trafficking organizations and engaged in “industrial-scale black-market marijuana manufacturing and trafficking.”

This is another high profile case Attorney General Gentner Drummond has taken on since assuming office. And not the first of someone who has connections to Stitt.

NBA All-Star Game

NBA All-Star Weekend kicks off tonight in Salt Lake City.

It’s the first All-Star Game appearance for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who becomes the first Thunder player to earn that honor since Chris Paul three seasons ag

The young Thunder star has had a career season thus far, averaging more than 30 points per game and leading the league in total free throws made.

Joining him this weekend are Thunder teammates Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams, who will both compete in tonight’s Jordan Rising Stars showcase.

OKC heads into the weekend holding onto the last playoff play-in spot in the Western Conference.

Raises for Elected Officials

Oklahoma lawmakers have advanced a bill to give statewide elected officials a raise.

The pay increase wouldn't go into effect during the current term of any of Oklahoma's 11 statewide elected offices, but would begin after the next election. For many that's in 2026.

The measure passed through the House Appropriations and Budget Committee and now moves to the House floor.

If it passes in the senate and Gov. Kevin Stitt signs it, he wouldn't benefit. He's term-limited. But his successor would be paid $190,000 annually, up from the current governor's salary of $147,000.

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