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PM NewsBrief: March 24, 2023

This is the KGOU PM NewsBrief for Friday, March 24, 2023.

Oklahoma’s Schools Superintendent Takes on Teachers’ Unions.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters is looking to crack down on teachers’ unions.

Walters says teachers should not have automatic union deductions from their paychecks year-to-year, and they should have to opt-in every year.

“I'm not going to mince words on this. Teachers' unions have done all that they can to destroy public education,” Walters said.

“They target our kids. They target schools by forcing them into shutdowns, by pushing woke ideology on our kids. And it is time that the public and all of our public school teachers, all of our great teachers across the state, know what their rights are and know about the motives of these teachers' unions.”

Walters says he’ll be emailing every teacher in the state to explain the law, and he’s calling upon Attorney General Gentner Drummond to provide legal guidance ensuring the law is enforced.

Broken Arrow Lawmaker Arrested

Police arrested one of Broken Arrow’s lawmakers early Thursday morning before session began later that day. Max Bryan with the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange reports.

The Oklahoman Newspaper reported state representative Dean Davis was arrested on suspicion of being drunk in public and booked into the Oklahoma County Jail at 3:46 a.m. Thursday. He was released less than two hours later without having to post bail, the newspaper reported.

On the House floor Thursday, Davis spoke to his colleagues.

“I dispute any wrongdoing. However, I do want to take this opportunity to apologize to this body for creating this unnecessary distraction from the important work of the House,” Davis said.

Davis previously pleaded no contest last September to misdemeanor driving while impaired from a 2019 traffic stop in Broken Arrow and was put on six months' probation from the offense. It was after he was elected to the House in 2018.

Davis is the second state representative to be arrested on suspicion of an alcohol-related offense in a year's time. In December, Representative Ryan Martinez was charged with felony actual physical control of vehicle while intoxicated in connection with an October arrest.

Oklahoma Sitting on COVID Relief Money

State lawmakers have expressed frustration over the slow pace of distributing almost 2 billion dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds. The money was allocated in a special legislative session six months ago, and currently, the state has until next year to distribute the funds.

Only about 2.5 percent of the funds have been disbursed to relief projects, according to a report from Oklahoma Watch. Lawmakers are worried the delays along with rising inflation and supply-chain issues will translate to higher-than-expected costs for many of the projects.

It’s a concern that Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat echoed in a recent press conference. Almost half of the funds are going to water and sewer projects and broadband expansion, while nearly 64 million is earmarked to expand nursing programs.

Oklahoma has until the end of 2024 to allocate the American Rescue Plan Act funds and until the end of 2026 to spend the money.

Langston University Cancels Debt

Oklahoma’s only Historically Black College is canceling all outstanding charges its students have incurred during the last three semesters.

Langston University will use almost $4.6 million of federal funds to cancel out outstanding balances its students incurred during the pandemic.

The move is similar to one by the university in August 2021 to reduce the cost burden for students at the school.

In a letter to students announcing the move, President Kent Smith says he’s proud of the work students have put in despite the coronavirus and other challenges. He writes using an influx of higher education relief dollars to ease financial burdens, seemed like the right thing to do.


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