Health, education and environment: StateImpact Oklahoma’s reporters look ahead to 2022


StateImpact Oklahoma celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2021, and heading into 2022, managing editor Logan Layden sat down with the reporters to talk about what listeners can anticipate going into the brand new yr.


LAYDEN: Another yr of StateImpact is within the books, and we’ve got our reporters right here: Catherine Sweeney, Robby Korth, and Beth Wallis. Hello to you all. Well specializing in the pandemic and Medicaid enlargement, the impacts of all of it, Catherine Sweeney our well being reporter, thanks for becoming a member of me. When you bought to StateImpact, did you suppose you’d nonetheless be protecting COVID two years later?

SWEENEY: I positively didn’t. I got here in final summer time [2020] proper because the hospitalizations have been simply beginning to surge. As quickly because the vaccines got here out within the spring, we form of felt like we have been taking our foot off the fuel and issues have been getting slightly higher. But then delta got here. The spike occurred. And then it went again down. It was form of all proper, we’re protected once more till there’s one other variant. And then omicron got here.

LAYDEN: There are different points associated to well being that Oklahoma goes to be going through within the new yr. Tell me slightly about what you’ll be over the subsequent few months.

SWEENEY: So one of many greatest tales is that Oklahoma expanded Medicaid. I’m wanting to look at how a lot that has helped well being entry. It’s additionally fascinating as a result of an enormous precedence of Governor Kevin Stitt is partially privatizing Medicaid. Obviously, I’ll be protecting the legislative session when that kicks off in February. I do know there’s lots of controversy over federal vaccine mandates. The legislature actually thought-about a particular session to deal with these, however they form of went again on that. They actually simply relied on this 10-million-dollars they gave to the legal professional common to file a bunch of authorized battles towards all of the totally different vaccine mandates coming down from the Biden Administration. I’m positive I’ll be seeing lots of that in the course of the common legislative session.

LAYDEN: And Robby Korth, our education reporter, what a yr it’s been on the education entrance: masking mandates, mother and father versus college boards, not simply in regards to the virus however Critical Race Theory and such, Epic and different constitution faculties, and funding.

KORTH: Yeah, Logan. I believe we’re going to have to regulate those self same developments you simply introduced up. School funding goes to be an enormous deal. Oklahoma faculties have gotten greater than one-point-five billion {dollars} from the assorted federal reduction plans for COVID-19. That cash — most of it has but to be spent, so we’re going to have to regulate that. If you look at payments which have been pre-filed within the legislature, there are various associated to how we train social research and how we speak about race and gender and class, and kind of dictating what’s taught within the classroom.

LAYDEN: We have a gubernatorial election arising in 2022. Governor Kevin Stitt, and it seems like he’ll be going through Joy Hofmeister, the superintendent of faculties, who you’ve had some…

KORTH: …facetime with. If I used to be a gambler, I’d guess every part that education will likely be one of many primary — in all probability the principle focus of this race.

LAYDEN: Yeah, and Catherine as nicely…

SWEENEY: Another apparent wedge subject when it comes to well being is abortion. Oklahoma has a ton of payments that might set off bans if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. We don’t know a lot about Joy Hofmeister’s place.

LAYDEN: What form of Democrat is she going to be?


LAYDEN: But we’re additionally getting again to StateImpact’s roots within the new yr. And that’s pure assets, the atmosphere, science. That brings me to Beth Wallis, our new StateImpact reporter. First, welcome Beth.

WALLIS: Thank you.

LAYDEN: You’ll by no means run out of tales about Oklahoma and the atmosphere, local weather change and pure assets, water, air pollution. What are a few of the issues which have caught your consideration to this point that our listeners can anticipate to hear within the subsequent few months?

WALLIS: So one thing that we’re actually going to regulate is simply how far the McGirt ruling extends. With these tribal boundaries being reaffirmed, it’s introduced up some questions on mineral rights. Who has the rights to coal? Who has the rights to pure fuel that’s sitting on these tribal lands? And then water compacts. Water compacts could possibly be affected by the McGirt ruling as nicely.

LAYDEN: So, an thrilling yr to come. That’s science and atmosphere reporter Beth Wallis, well being reporter Catherine Sweeney, and education reporter Robby Korth. I’m managing editor Logan Layden wishing you a cheerful new yr, and asking you to keep tuned as StateImpact tackles 2022.