Tres Savage, Non-Doc
via the Oklahoma Media Center*
Oklahoma City, August 7, 2020—In preparation for an unprecedented school year likely to feature more distance learning than ever before, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister are allocating millions of dollars from the CARES Act to improve access to online curriculum and to the internet itself.
But because Congress sent the discretionary portions of Oklahoma’s federal funding to Stitt and Hofmeister’s offices, their decisions on which private companies are receiving lucrative contracts have been made largely behind the scenes, without a competitive bidding process and in an effort to race the school bell that will start the academic year.
Complicating transparency issues further are the continued limitations of CARES Act reporting on the Oklahoma Checkbook website, which is supposed to track the entire $1.26 billion of CARES Act funding designated for Oklahoma state government. While the Legislature passed SB 1944 in May to require the publication of “daily reports of all expenditures” of CARES Act funds, the website features no description about a handful of Oklahoma State Department of Education entries totaling about $13.2 million. The site also does not distinguish between money sent to agencies for programmatic spending, money repaid to agencies as reimbursement or money designated through Stitt’s discretion.
*The Luther Register is a member of The Oklahoma Media Center, launched by Local Media Foundation with financial support from Inasmuch Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. OMC is a collaborative of 18 Oklahoma newsrooms that includes print, broadcast and digital partners. The OMC’s first project is Changing Course: Education & COVID. This story is part of that effort. Participating newsrooms are Big If True, the Center for Independent Journalism, CNHI Oklahoma, Curbside Chronicle, Griffin Communications, KFOR, KGOU, KOSU, The Luther Register, NonDoc, Oklahoma City Free Press, Oklahoma Eagle, OU Student Media, Oklahoma Watch, The Oklahoman, StateImpact Oklahoma, Telemundo Oklahoma, the Tulsa World and VNN.