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Capital City: Governor and superintendent working together

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Good Thursday morning. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt won't have a cabinet secretary devoted exclusively to education, an indication that the new governor plans to rely heavily on the state's elected superintendent when it comes to setting a course for Oklahoma's public school system.

Stitt said Wednesday that his secretary of state would also serve as education secretary, rather than having a standalone secretary of education like former Gov. Mary Fallin did. Stitt has nominated former state Rep. Michael Rogers as secretary of state.

What does this mean? It indicates Stitt plans to work closely with state superintendent Joy Hofmeister. Staffers within the state Department of Education said the move was an indication of a good relationship between the governor and superintendent. 

Stitt and Hofmeister were both in Broken Arrow yesterday to meet with the state's teacher of the year, Donna Gradel, who was named a finalist for 2019 National Teacher of the Year.

State Board of Education: The state Department of Education is led by Hofmeister, a statewide elected official who sits on the seven-member state Board of Education.

The governor appoints the six other board members, whose terms end in April, giving Stitt a chance to shape the body that oversees education policy and other public school-related issues.

City candidates and coffee ... I'm working on a profile of the Ward 2 OKC council race to fill the seat being left by Ed Shadid. In meeting with each candidate I asked them to pick a coffee shop in the ward. I'm not sure what it means about the candidates, but here were their selections: James Cooper (Holey Rollers); Mike Dover: (Ingrid's); Suzanne Broadbent (Vintage); and Marilyn Davidson (Stella Nova). 

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN DAY 34 ... More than 700 federal workers in Oklahoma have filed for unemployment benefits, the state's Employment Security Commission said Wednesday.

Fifty-seven Internal Revenue Service employees in Oklahoma have been ordered back to work without pay. 

The Federal Aviation Administration says it has sent thousands of furloughed employees back to work, but has not said whether that includes any of its 1,146 furloughed workers at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in southwest Oklahoma City. Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, a union representing hundreds of furloughed workers there, says its members have not been called back.

Court declines to review allegations of bias ... The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to consider the appeals of two convicted Oklahoma County killers who say a study showing racial bias in Oklahoma's use of the death penalty warranted reconsideration of their death sentences.

Without comment Monday, the nation's high court rejected the appeals of Julius Jones and Tremane Wood, who had made similar arguments about racial bias. Both cited a 2017 study that examined Oklahoma homicide cases from 1990 to 2012 and found cases with white victims were more likely to end in execution than cases with non-white victims.

Senator wants to expand number of commissioners ... An Oklahoma senator who chairs the body's energy committee has introduced a resolution that proposes a statewide election to ask voters to expand the number of commissioners who oversee the Oklahoma Corporation Commission's activities.

The resolution, authored by state Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, seeks to create a state question that would ask voters to approve expanding the body overseeing the agency from three commissioners to five.

It proposes keeping three corporation commissioners as elected representatives, serving six-year, staggered terms as they currently do. Under that system, one seat on the commission comes up for an election every two years. As for the additional two members, the language proposes voters authorize Oklahoma's governor to fill those positions with Senate-confirmed nominees.

Bill seeks to end four-day school weeks ... Four-day school weeks could be out of session permanently if a legislative measure that seeks to overhaul school attendance rules gains traction, reports CNHI. State Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, said he met with constituents on the campaign trail who told him it’s time to remove the hourly attendance requirement and instead require students attend class for at least 180 days.

“I just think that there’s evidence that that system was manipulated in the period of time that it’s been in force,” he said. “I’m sure it was well-intentioned initially.”

Residents seek input on OKC wellness center ... Northeast Oklahoma City residents said Wednesday they expect a greater voice in decision-making for the third MAPS 3 senior health and wellness center. About 40 northeast Oklahoma City residents attended the subcommittee's monthly meeting.

"You need to listen to the people on the east side about what it is that we want and what we will support," Sanestelle Lewis told members of the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board's senior centers subcommittee.

Thanks for reading. Got questions, suggestions or complaints? Email me at bfelder@oklahoman.com. 

Ben Felder

Ben Felder is an investigative reporter for The Oklahoman. A native of Kansas City, Ben has lived in Oklahoma City since 2010 and covered politics, education and local government for the Oklahoma Gazette before joining The Oklahoman in 2016.... Read more ›

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