15 for ’15: Our most popular blog posts of the year

2015It’s been another busy and productive year for OK Policy. We organized a series of major events, including our 3rd Summer Policy Institute, 2nd State Budget Summit, and 1st Fall Pol workshop; added two new staffers, Tyler Parette and DeVon Douglas; hosted seven interns and mentored two sets of Research Fellows; updated our CountyStats, Legislative Primer and Poverty Profile; wrote some 60 columns and op-eds, gave over 80 public presentations, compiled over 225 issues of In the Know, and traveled through every county in Oklahoma on a unicycle (not really – that was Todd Lamb).

We also posted on our blog almost every weekday throughout the year. Here we look back at some of the highlights with a countdown of our most popular blog posts in 2015. 


Please don’t feed the stereotypes: In July, the Oklahoma Republican Party ignited a firestorm with a Facebook post pointing out a so-called irony of signs in national parks warning that feeding animals can create dependence on handouts at a time when a growing number of Americans are receiving federal food stamp benefits. We took the time to explain who’s served by the food safety net and to argue that we’d be better off creating more opportunities for workers to earn a decent living.


Fact Check: Would school consolidation boost Oklahoma teacher salaries?: Another response to a misleading statement from an elected official.  Here we showed that there’s simply not enough money to be found in cutting administrative costs to significantly improve Oklahoma’s low rankings for spending on instruction.


Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals: We’ve been writing for three years about the economic folly and moral heartlessness of refusing federal dollars to provide health insurance to low-income Oklahomans. After Carly Putnam’s blog post in January on this decision’s impact on rural hospitals, Gov. Fallin immediately admitted the error of her ways and acted to take the federal funds. Or not… Sigh…


Tax cut trigger shoots Oklahoma deeper into hole: Back in January, we could barely contain our frustration at the fact that Oklahoma was facing a $310 million budget shortfall and yet was still moving ahead with a $150 million cut to the top income tax cut rate. Now, as the budget shortfall passes $900 million and the tax cut is still scheduled for January 1st, those seem like the good old days.


New Report: Oklahoma’s education funding per student drops even more: This blog post sharing the latest annual numbers from the Center on Budget  and Policy Priorities on state support for public education has, unfortunately, become our equivalent of Groundhog Day.


Oklahoma has a tragic history when it comes to Indian education. Here’s how we’re turning it around: Good news for a change! Our summer intern Sooner Davenport cracked the top 10 with this piece showing the progress that’s been made in recent years in Indian education. Sooner concluded, “American Indian students have the best opportunity to succeed academically in Oklahoma compared to anywhere else in the country, but we must keep building on this achievement through strong collaborations with tribal governments and individuals.”


Ten Commandments fight could be a back door to private school vouchers: Here’s a commandment we should respect: “Thou shalt not use public dollars for religious purposes.”


Oklahoma lottery’s contribution to public education reaches new low: No, the lottery didn’t solve Oklahoma’s education funding issues. Here we show why.


Until the state proves it can live within its means, it really should stop reducing them: In a post that originally ran in his newsletter, State Treasurer Ken Miller takes aim at budget and tax policy ideas that are “nonsense” and “devastatingly irresponsible.” Unfortunately, for him and all of us, these ideas continue to drive policy decisions at the State Capitol.


Cost of living doesn’t make up for Oklahoma’s low teacher pay: Education posts dominated our top blog posts in 2015 like disco music dominated the pop charts in 1978 (don’t just take my word for it). Here Gene Perry shot down one of the common excuses for why we really don’t have to pay teachers a decent salary.


The state’s budget deficit is not just oil prices: Remember back a couple of years ago when oil was $100 a barrel and Oklahoma had that big surplus it used to give teachers a raise, move everyone with developmental disabilities off waiting lists for services, and invest properly in mental health and substance abuse treatment. Us neither, because as this post shows, in good times as well as bad, we’re not collecting enough revenue to keep up with the cost of services.


Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is not just about salaries: This post by John Lepine, an OK Policy research fellow who is also a reading specialist and English department chair at Tulsa’s McLain Magnet High School for Science & Technology, argued that teacher salaries, administrative support for teachers, student discipline problems, and levels of faculty influence on decision-making and autonomy are all contributing to Oklahoma’s teacher shortage.


Four-day school week is a consequence of Oklahoma’s unwillingness to fund public schools: Each week, former House Speaker Steve Lewis writes a Capitol Update covering an important state policy issue – and he’s kind enough to allow us to share his consistently thoughtful and well-informed pieces on our blog. This piece looked at another worrisome aspect of school underfunding: the move by a growing number of school districts to a four-day school week.


What this Panhandle county tells us about the future of Oklahoma: This post by intern Chan Aaron about the changing demographics of Texas County got over 5,000 hits – which equals almost one quarter of Texas County’s total population. We still feel bad, though, that we never made it out to Guymon for the presentation we were scheduled to give.


Oklahoma Legislature has a funny way of supporting education: The title of our #1 blog post of 2015 could have referred to any number of policies, but it happened to tackle this year’s controversial bill aimed at eliminating automatic payroll deduction of membership dues for teachers unions. Although it really wasn’t funny, the laughs for now are on the Legislature: school districts were advised that the poorly-written law was unenforceable, and for now at least, payroll deduction remains in effect.

Thank you for being our readers and supporters in 2015! We resolve to keep working hard in 2016 to spread quality information, promote good ideas for our state (and fight off bad ones), and join with all of you in creating a fairer, more prosperous Oklahoma. Please click here to help us do our work in the coming year.



Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

One thought on “15 for ’15: Our most popular blog posts of the year

  1. I am so grateful for the work you all do! And so very appreciative that you sum up the issues in laymen terms so us “average” folks can understand what is going on in our state. Bless you for your work, commitment, thoroughness, and humor. Wishing you all a blessed 2016.

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