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Capitol Report for January 13: State Chamber boosts trio of school choice ideas … and new concerns about the Julius Jones death sentence

News9 Alex Cameron (left0 and Patrick B. McGuigan, CapitolBeatOK editor, give the Capitol Report. Photo provided.
News9 Alex Cameron (left0 and Patrick B. McGuigan, CapitolBeatOK editor, give the Capitol Report. Photo provided.

The State Chamber of Oklahoma has included three important school choice reforms in the “OK2030” vision document, journalist Patrick B. McGuigan reported on this week’s Capitol Report segment for News9. The CapitolBeatOK editor reviewed the ideas in his weekly discussion with Alex Cameron, a veteran reporter for the CBS News affiliate in Oklahoma City. In an interview with McGuigan, Dr. Jennifer Lepard of the Chamber’s foundation arm, touted proposals to allow more robust open transfer provisions in traditional public schools and to create a state-level charter school authorizer.

The third proposal could be the most significant, creating Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) that allow qualifying families to access the value of their education tax resources to use at schools, public or private, that best fit the needs of their children. McGuigan expressed support for the trio of ideas, and said they would likely pass the Legislature if floor votes are allowed. In dialogue with Cameron, McGuigan turned to the case of death row inmate Julius Jones. Although convicted of a 1999 Edmond murder, Jones’ case has long been marked with uncertainty.

A few weeks ago, McGuigan took note of a request for relief sent to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the January 13 segment, he focused on a brief submitted last month to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. In it, a juror on the case (whose identify is being protected) was cited relating that another juror expressed racial animus toward Jones, saying he should be shot behind the county jail.

McGuigan pointed out recent cases where the U.S. Supreme Court ordered review of fresh evidence in cases where defendants were referred to with what McGuigan called “the N-word,” as reportedly occurred in this case. McGuigan noted that courts have long since ruled that constitutional provisions protect defendants from race-centered impact. He expressed renewed hope the state appeals court will take a fresh look at the issue.

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