Archive for 2014

Nearly half of Oklahoma households are one misstep away from financial insecurity

by | January 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security, Poverty | Comments (0)

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

CFED’s 2014 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard defines these financially insecure residents as “liquid asset poor,” which means they lack adequate savings to cover basic expenses at the federal poverty level for even three months in the event of an emergency such as a job loss or health crisis.

continue reading Nearly half of Oklahoma households are one misstep away from financial insecurity

[Closing The Gap, Part 2] Foundations of the wealth gap

by | February 11th, 2013 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Some core assets are best described as foundational:  health, education, and transportation are critical to our ability to achieve and maintain financial security throughout our lifetime.  Health, education, and transportation position us to obtain employment, generate enough income to make ends meet, and save for emergencies or long-term goals.  This post is the second in a running series based on our recent report, Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma, which assesses the racial wealth gap and proposes solutions for closing that gap through asset-building.  Our first post focused on historical roots of the wealth gap in Oklahoma.  Now we’ll consider wealth and assets in terms of their earliest and most foundational effect on Oklahomans’ lives and ability to build wealth.  

Health

Health is a person’s most fundamental asset. Poor health decreases quality of life, inhibits employment, and drains income.  Significant disparities exist in the health status and outcomes of low-income and minority Oklahomans. Inequities largely arise from differences in population health and socioeconomic conditions that are systemic and avoidable.  

RWGBPThere is mounting evidence that health in early childhood provides the physical, cognitive, and social foundation for lifelong health and well-being. Racial and ethnic disparities in prenatal, early childhood, and youth health are evident across several key indicators, summarized in our brief.  African Americans are especially vulnerable to poor health outcomes early in life, with the highest rates of preterm births, low birthweights, and children with special health care needs. They are also least likely to have accessed prenatal care and basic vaccinations.

Education

There is a strong correlation between educational attainment and income.  Countless studies also correlate educational achievement with a host of social goods, like political and civic engagement, lower crime and incarceration rates, and higher intergenerational educational attainment. The racial wealth gap is partially rooted in early gaps in educational attainment, which spill over to create income disparities and eventually wealth disparities.

Transportation

TransportTransportation is a foundational asset because lack of reliable transportation can inhibit access to stable employment. Without a vehicle, finding and keeping a job is more challenging. There is a wealth of empirical evidence suggesting that car ownership boosts employment and earnings.

Cars expand employment opportunities by enabling workers to consider employment far from bus stops and with flexible scheduling (late night, holiday or overtime shifts). Oklahoma’s metropolitan centers lack comprehensive public transportation and navigating rural areas without a car is a significant obstacle to employment.  People living in communities of color in Oklahomans are almost four times more likely to report having no access to a vehicle [see chart].

Without the foundational assets listed above, securing a job that pays a living wage is all but impossible.  An individual must be healthy, qualified, and able to get to work before they can maintain stable employment and earn income to support their families and save for the future.  The next post in this series will explore disparities by race and ethnicity that spill over from foundational assets into generative assets, which represent Oklahomans’ capacity to earn.

Upcoming Event: Public Education in Oklahoma – Return on Investment

by | September 6th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

[Update: This event has postponed to a future date, to be determined .]

The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma is sponsoring a public education forum on Saturday, September 15th in Tulsa.  The event will begin a citizen’s dialogue regarding Oklahoma’s public education system and its economic impact on the state’s future.  Attendees will hear and discuss information and opinions from informed speakers and develop advocacy goals for public education.

Speakers include Arnold Hamilton (Editor, Oklahoma Observer), David Blatt (Director, Oklahoma Policy Institute), Leigh Goodson (Tulsa School Board), Nancy McDonald (Retired Educator/Administrator), Dana Weber (President and CEO of Webco).  Presenters will address the state of public education in Oklahoma, the importance of quality education to the state’s economy, and issues of poverty and diversity.

Click here to register or get more information about the event.

Watch This: What is a 'Community School'?

by | February 2nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Education, Watch This | Comments (0)

At a time when seemingly endless budget cuts are squeezing our public schools to the breaking point, the Coalition for Community Schools continues to advance a rich and comprehensive approach to education.  Their vision is one in which schools are not just places for kids to learn during the school-week, but also community centers open to everyone – all day, every day – making the school the hub of the community.  If you’re having a hard time envisioning how a ‘community school’ differs from the norm, watch this short video about Tulsa’s Area Community Schools Initiative (TACSI).  The transformational potential of this approach is hard to miss.

 

View other clips from OKPolicy’s “Watch This’ video series:

What is an IDA?

Elderly parole

Long term unemployment, 1967-2011

Packed Oklahoma prisons, rising costs

Up a Creek: Scorecard shows over a quarter of Oklahomans unprepared to weather financial crisis

by | January 31st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Financial Security | Comments (1)

In Oklahoma, more than one in four households are “asset poor,” meaning they have little or no financial cushion to rely on if unemployment or another emergency leads to a loss of income, according to a report released today by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).  Asset poverty is distinct from and broader than income poverty, which measures the amount of money a household receives during the year.  According to the U.S. Census, about one in six Oklahomans were income poor in 2010.  Andrea Levere, president of CFED, highlights asset poverty as a significant barrier to long-term financial stability:

Growing numbers of Americans have almost no savings or other assets to fall back on if they lose their jobs or face a medical crisis.  Without those savings, few will be able to invest in a more economically secure future, including buying a home, saving for their children’s college educations or building a retirement nest egg.

The 2012 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard offers a comprehensive look at Oklahomans’ ability to build wealth, fend off poverty, and create a more prosperous future. The Scorecard compares states along 52 different measures of how residents fare in five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education.

continue reading Up a Creek: Scorecard shows over a quarter of Oklahomans unprepared to weather financial crisis

Watch This: Creativity and Learning

by | November 3rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (1)

This enlightening hour-long film explores creativity in education by highlighting four Oklahoma schools: Educare Preschool in Tulsa, Flower Mound Elementary School in Lawton, Odyssey of the Mind at Piedmont Middle School, and Santa Fe South Charter High School in Oklahoma City.  The film interviews teachers, parents and national experts about the role of creativity in children’s’ development and the most effective ways to promote creativity while maintaining a rigorous academic focus.

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Visualizing where the money goes

by | July 7th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (4)

Every year during state budget discussions, state leaders speak about prioritizing spending to protect core services. That’s especially true when times are bad and the overall budget pie is shrinking. However, the distribution of that pie among agencies over the past decade has remained relatively unchanged (with a couple notable exceptions).

A series of visualizations created with the online tool Many Eyes illustrates this fact well. The graphs are derived from data compiled by OK Policy on the percentage of total state appropriations received by the ten largest agencies, plus another category for all other agencies, from FY ’00 to FY’12.

Click on any of the images below to see a larger, interactive version.

FY '12 Appropriations Percentages

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Encouraging kids to be fit, eat right, and have fun!

by | June 20th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (2)

Public schools have long been clearinghouses for fitness and nutrition initiatives in the United States.  Since the 1960s, the President’s Challenge program has inspired kids to meet physical fitness benchmarks.  Schoolchildren began to learn about the basic building blocks of a nutritious diet with the introduction of the food pyramid in the 1980s.  First Lady Michelle Obama tours the nation promoting the ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative to fight childhood obesity.  State and local governments continue to incentivize a variety of public health programs aimed at school-aged children through grants for innovative projects, i.e. planting community gardens.  I interviewed Anna Eller, a fourth grade teacher at Tulsa’s Lee Elementary School, to learn about simple techniques teachers can employ at the classroom level to encourage kids to lead an active lifestyle and embrace healthy eating habits.

What made you interested in integrating fitness and nutrition education into your curriculum?

I just finished a Masters degree at OSU in Health and Human Performance, with an emphasis on Applied Exercise Science, so I’ve been exposed to the research on the childhood obesity epidemic.  Also, my school, Lee Elementary, received grants as a Healthy Lifestyles School and our principal encouraged us to come up with ways to introduce the kids to health education.  I had already observed the impact of unhealthy habits in my classroom – many of my kids were sluggish and unmotivated throughout the day.

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What's at stake: the toll of budget cuts

by | March 22nd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (8)

Another budget year, the same sad story: The combination of tax cuts and the recession results in severe cuts to public services.

Over the past two years, most agencies have lost 15 percent or more of their funding. Even though state appropriations as a share of the economy is at a 30 year low, next year’s shortfall is projected at $500 million. The Governor’s proposed budget for next year would eliminate some agencies and take another 3 to 5 percent from the rest.

Last year we surveyed some of what’s been lost. Here’s an update:

Why education reform is not like musical chairs

by | February 3rd, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (11)

High on this year’s agenda for Governor Fallin and education reform groups is to put more money into Oklahoma classrooms by reducing administrative costs. Two bills filed for the upcoming session seek to accomplish this by mandate — HB 1493 by Rep. Brumbaugh and HB 1746 by Rep. Nelson would respectively require 70 percent and 65 percent of education funds to go towards direct instruction by 2014.

Critics often point to the large number of Oklahoma school districts. Oklahoma has nearly half as many school districts as Texas with only about 15 percent of the population. District consolidation is a perennial controversy in Oklahoma, especially for rural areas that depend on their local school as a community center.  While the drawbacks are clear, consolidation could still be worthwhile if it freed up resources for the classroom.

But would it?  While sending more money to classrooms is a laudable goal, it’s unlikely that this can be accomplished solely by taking from administrative costs. To understand why, we can compare how education spending is divided up in Oklahoma, the region, and nationally:

continue reading Why education reform is not like musical chairs