All articles by Kate Richey

Debunking myths about migrant children at Ft. Sill

by and | July 22nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Immigration | Comments (45)

As most Oklahomans have heard and seen on the news, there are currently between 1,000 and 1,500 migrant children being housed in dormitories on Fort Sill, an Army base in southwestern Oklahoma near Lawton (among other places across the country). The vast majority are from three Central American countries: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The response by federal agencies has been swift and represents a coordinated effort between agencies with very different missions and mandates – from the U.S. Border Patrol, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Military to Health and Human Services (HHS). The children are currently being cared for by the Administration for Children and Families (a division of HHS) with the assistance of countless volunteers working on behalf of churches and charities.

These children’s entry into the U.S. and into Oklahoma has sparked a large amount of commentary and speculation about their situation. In the hopes of providing some clarity for Oklahomans interested in these developments, this post responds to some common misconceptions about who they are, why they came, and what’s being done.

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Watch This: Expanding Opportunity in Oklahoma

by | June 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (0)

OK Policy staffer Kate Richey recently participated in a panel discussion in Oklahoma City titled “Expanding Opportunity in Oklahoma: Earned Success and the Paths to Prosperity.”  Kate coordinates Oklahoma Assets Network (OAN), which represents individuals and organizations working to promote proven tools for all Oklahomans to build stronger financial foundations.

Watch the clip below for a discussion on opportunity in Oklahoma which also included Ryan Kiesel (Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma), Jonathan Small (Vice President for Policy, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs), and Dr. Jason Sorens (Lecturer, Department of Government, Dartmouth College).

Most full-time minimum wage workers don’t live with their parents

by | May 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security | Comments (0)

Oklahoma made national news in April when it enacted a new law barring cities from establishing a mandatory minimum wage.  Oklahoma is not the only state with a blanket ban on raising the minimum wage; a handful of other states passed similar measures over a decade ago.  Governor Fallin defended the law with sweeping claims about who worked for the federal minimum of $7.25/hr in Oklahoma:

“Most minimum wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs.  Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families.”

Is this true?  Both local and national news outlets have produced good overview analysis to try and address the claims of Governor Fallin and others (Oklahoma Watch here and Pew Research here).  But since the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only provides demographic details for minimum wage workers at the national level, it’s hard to know exactly who these workers are in Oklahoma from their standard reporting tables.

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Out of work and out of luck in Oklahoma

by | April 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog | Comments (0)

Some Oklahomans who work full-time and lose their job unexpectedly are eligible to apply for unemployment insurance (UI). Created in 1935, the program provides workers with limited replacement income to help them survive while they look for another job.  A bill just passed by the state legislature will likely exclude many newly jobless workers who would otherwise have been eligible for UI benefits.  This post explains how the state’s unemployment program operates now, and how the new law could leave too many workers out in the cold.

Most workers in Oklahoma today are not eligible to file for unemployment benefits, even if they’re laid off or lose their job through no fault of their own.  In fact, even among workers who are eligible for unemployment, most claimants who file for benefits (54.8 percent) are denied.  As a result, fewer than 1 in 5 jobless workers in Oklahoma received weekly compensation between 2010 and 2012.

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Calling all college students! Apply for the 2014 Summer Policy Institute (SPI)

by | April 4th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

Oklahoma Policy Institute is excited to announce our second annual Summer Policy Institute (SPI) from August 3-6, 2014.

The SPI brings together over 50 highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for an exciting and in-depth learning experience. SPI will offer participants a unique opportunity to become better informed about vital Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders in the policy process, and prepare for their future studies and work in public policy-related fields.

The Institute is hosted and led by the staff of OK Policy and involves leading policy experts from government, academia and community organizations throughout Oklahoma. Keynote presentations and panel discussions will provide a chance to hear from Oklahoma’s top practitioners and observers on:

    • Budget and Taxes
    • Campaigns and Elections
    • Reporting on State Government
    • Healthcare
    • Poverty & Opportunity
    • Criminal Justice
    • Race & Gender
    • Energy & Environment
    • Careers in Public Policy
    • Common & Higher Education

For more information about the Summer Policy Institute, go to The application deadline is May 30th, 2014.

Click here to apply for the 2014 Summer Policy Institute (SPI)

Please share this announcement with any students, classmates, or other interested parties.

MyRA: New options for working Oklahomans

by | April 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

retirement-fund-copyDuring the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama announced a new savings initiative, appropriately titled ‘MyRA’.  Created by executive order, the MyRA is a simple retirement savings account that will be available (after an initial pilot period) to many workers through their employers.  This post explains the rationale behind the new initiative, how MyRA accounts work, and how they could help move thousands of working Oklahomans toward a more secure retirement.

We know that not enough Oklahoma workers are saving for retirement.  More than a quarter of the state’s workers (and more than half of part-time hourly employees) don’t have access to a retirement plan through their employer, as shown in the chart below:

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Weekly Wonk March 23, 2014

by | March 23rd, 2014 | Posted in OK Policy | Comments (0)

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week OK Policy released the results of a new poll that shows support for cutting Oklahoma’s personal income tax has dropped significantly among voters, and less than half now support a plan to reduce the state’s top tax rate.  The poll was covered on Public Radio Tulsa and discussed by The Norman Transcript.

The OK Policy Blog shared three trends to watch from Oklahoma’s Annual Report — Oklahoma’s reliance on federal funds has dropped significantly since 2011, the size of state government continues to shrink, and education spending is down $50 million since 2012 and $610 million from 2009.  

Ryan Gentzler wrote a guest post about efforts by lawmakers to stop the development of wind energy in Eastern Oklahoma.  We shared a graph showing that taxation does not deter drilling for oil and natural gas – in fact the biggest growth in horizontal drilling occurred in the state with the highest effective tax rate.  

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discussed how lawmakers’ proposal to move new state employees to a 401(k) style retirement plan could endanger existing pensions and increase the state’s unfunded liabilities.

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Watch This: Study ranks Oklahoma near the bottom for family financial security

by | March 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (0)

Despite an improving national economy and a low statewide average unemployment rate, nearly half (49.1 percent) of Oklahoma households are in a persistent state of financial insecurity, according to a recent report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).  We blogged about the report here, noting that the percentage of households with little or no savings to cover emergencies or to invest in building a better life has jumped markedly from last year’s 43.8 percent level.

In this segment of the Oklahoma News Report, OETA examines the causes and consequences of state residents’ growing financial insecurity. 

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In The Know: Teachers accuse Board of Education of violating Open Meeting Act

by | March 21st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

Today you should know that two educators have filed a complaint alleging the Oklahoma State Board of Education violated the state’s Open Meeting Act.  Oklahoma has among the highest local sales taxes in the nation, even taxing groceries and medicine, because unlike other states our municipal governments depend almost entirely on the sales tax for general revenues.  

Hispanic students now comprise nearly 30 percent of Tulsa Public School enrollment, and they represent the majority at 16 of 75 school sites.  While state lawmakers have proposed several bills to turn Medicaid over to for-profit managed care companies, the state is already successfully practicing managed care through patient-centered medical homes and other innovative methods.  A failed bridge linking the small town of Lexington to Purcell has battered local businesses and brought long commutes for residents.

A 2012 state law to refocus corrections spending on cost-saving strategies is not being used by judges and DAs - and a lack of commitment to implementation is costing the state millions in unrealized savings.  Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris wrote in support of utilizing alternative sentencing in Oklahoma.  Drought, utilities, and an agreement to sell water to Texas are threatening the viability of Lake Texoma and its surrounding communities.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board argued that a recent state Supreme Court ruling should pave the way for additional reforms that remove the competitive advantages given to CompSource, the state-run workers’ compensation insurer.  In today’s Policy Note, the National Priorities project showed how the federal government spent your federal income tax, as a share of one dollar.  The Number of the Day is the percentage of children under 15 months covered by SoonerCare who had at least one well-child visit. 

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Not your father’s farm bill?

by | February 20th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty | Comments (0)

usda-farmer-photo-8723645345The long-awaited 2014 farm bill reauthorization was signed into law in early February.  First passed in 1933 to ease the economic pain of the Great Depression, it now bundles dozens of federal agriculture and food programs into one piece of omnibus legislation.  Since agriculture is a driving economic force in our state and thousands of Oklahomans struggle with food insecurity, this post outlines what you need to know about the new farm bill.

Farm bill reauthorization happens every 5 years or so, typically with strong bipartisan support and little fanfare.  This time negotiations were contentious.  The compromise was dubbed “almost a miracle” by Oklahoma Rep. Frank Lucas, who chairs the House agriculture committee.  The authors of the Agricultural Act of 2014 tout major reforms and cost savings – it’s “not your father’s farm bill” according to Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.  While it does deliver $17 billion in savings over ten years according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, whether it delivers actual reform is up for debate.  

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