In The Know: Hispanic Oklahomans underrepresented in state government

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.

Analysis by Oklahoma Watch notes that despite a large and growing Hispanic population in Oklahoma, Hispanic legislators are underrepresented at all levels of Oklahoma’s government. Community leaders are working to not only convince Hispanic candidates to vote and run for office, and representatives from both political parties are increasingly urging Hispanic Oklahomans to get involved. The Tulsa World described some of the lower-profile statewide races, and The Oklahoman’s Editorial Board urged Oklahomans to vote in  upcoming elections. We’ve written about some of the factors prompting Oklahoma’s chronically low voter turnout before.

State officials reiterated that access to scholarships, such as Oklahoma’s Promise, is a major determining factor in whether Oklahoma students go to college. We’ve written about the mechanics of the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship before. Oklahoma Watch discussed the disparity in college- and career-readiness forecasted by SAT and ACT results in Oklahoma: the SAT is taken by fewer than 5 percent of Oklahoma graduating seniors, but indicates that those who take it are overwhelmingly likely to be ready for college, while results from the more widely-taken ACT suggest that only one in five students are.

On the OK Policy Blog, a Tulsa high school teacher described how he sees the state’s education crisis play out in his classroom. The state Office of Juvenile Affairs is proposing opening a charter school inside its detention facilities, arguing that their students’ needs can’t be adequately handled by the local public school system. A new program from the state Department of Human services can provide intensive, home-based services to parents who are at risk of losing custody of their children. The recent legalization of same-sex marriage in Oklahoma has been somewhat subdued in Oklahoma’s rural counties, with only a few couples applying for marriage licenses outside the state’s metro areas. On Friday’s PolicyCast, we discussed a new report in which Oklahoma scored poorly on a nationwide ranking of the economic status of women. We’ve written about the topic before. 

A column in the Tulsa World explained why upcoming judicial elections are important, and urged voters to inform themselves before going to the polls. On average, Tulsa has the lowest gas prices in the US, according to industry analysts. Due to the current drought, Oklahoma wheat farmers are urging the USDA to implement a new crop insurance policy planned for 2016 ahead of schedule. The Number of the Day is the number of deaths due to stroke in Oklahoma in 2012. Strokes were the fifth leading cause of death in Oklahoma that year. In today’s Policy Note, Vox explains why racial disparities in the criminal justice system mean that African Americans are the people most likely to be affected by death penalty cases and least likely to have a say in those cases.

In The News

At State Capitol, Barely a Murmur of Hispanic Voices

Mary Sosa’s campaign is over. The yard signs have been taken down. The volunteers have gone home. The retired 65-year-old city employee has returned to her work as a community volunteer. But for Sosa and some south Oklahoma City Hispanic leaders, the sting and bitterness over an unexpected defeat in the Democratic primary runoff for a state House seat still lingers. Sosa’s defeat surprised her and supporters partly because House District 89 has the highest share of Hispanics in the state, at 61 percent in 2010.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

GOP, Democrats Reach Out to Hispanics

Despite election losses for years, Hispanic leaders say the continued growth of their community will eventually lead to more Hispanics in the Oklahoma Legislature. Republican and Democratic officials are anticipating the changes, trying to recruit more candidates and voters. State Rep. Mike Sanders, a Republican from Kingfisher, said he has ramped up his efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community in north central Oklahoma and to encourage them to engage politically.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

State to vote on lieutenant governor, labor commissioner

The campaign for Oklahoma’s second-highest office tops an undercard of statewide offices in the Nov. 4 general election that also includes a low-key race for commissioner of labor but no contests for other statewide seats in which incumbents were unopposed or the race was decided in a primary election.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Not much buzz related to this year’s midterm elections

What if they held an election and too few people cared? Call it the midterm blues or voter apathy or disgust with Washington gridlock. Whatever it’s called, the 2014 elections are turning off many voters. We often encourage citizens to vote. We will do so again ahead of the Nov. 4 elections. But it’s a tough sell, particularly in Oklahoma.

Read more from The Oklahoman.

See also: Broken Democracy, Part II: What’s getting in the way of voting? from the OK Policy Blog.

Scholarships are key to college access for many in Oklahoma

 As the cost of going to college continues to rise, scholarships are the key to access for students from low- and middle-income families, education officials say. Oklahoma’s Promise is the largest scholarship administered by the Oklahoma State System for Higher Education — with $61 million going to 18,300 students this fiscal year — but it’s not the only one. Money is available for students with the highest academics, the greatest financial need, a combination of academics and need, and various special circumstances, said Bryce Fair, associate vice chancellor for state grants and scholarships.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: The ABCs of Oklahoma’s Promise from the OK Policy Blog.

Are Oklahoma Students College Ready?

Test scores released for the SAT test this week would appear to show a majority of high school seniors are ready for college, but the test is an incomplete measure. According to the 2014 SAT scores, 69 percent of students met the college-ready benchmark. The problem is that only 4.5 percent of graduating seniors, or 1,725 students, took the exam. The ACT remains the test of choice in Oklahoma, with 28,682 students, or three-fourths of graduating seniors, taking the exam this year.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

The public education crunch goes from bad to worse

There is a crisis in Oklahoma education. Here’s the view from the ground. I teach at one of the finest high schools in Oklahoma – Booker T. Washington in Tulsa – and I have long been concerned about the effects of budget cuts on our programs. Since 2008 we have cut our staff approximately 20 percent, while adding 6-7 percent to the student population. For me, this has meant larger class sizes. Prior to 2008, class loads were capped at 140 students per teacher.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Oklahoma’s Office of Juvenile Affairs proposes charter school for incarcerated youth

The state agency that handles juvenile corrections wants to open a charter school in its secure facilities in Tecumseh and Manitou. Local school districts currently contract with the Office of Juvenile Affairs to provide the educational programming at the facilities. But the agency wants to take the reins on educating the youth itself and sever ties with the Tecumseh and Tipton school districts. Charter schools housed in juvenile facilities aren’t uncommon, but they are typically run by nonprofits or less often, private companies. It’s unusual and perhaps unheard of to have an agency running the charter itself, experts say.

Read more from NewsOK.

Reductions in Oklahoma foster care placements expected with fed approval

Parents struggling to keep their children out of foster care because of neglect will have a chance at some extra help. The Children’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has approved a plan for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to provide intense, home-based services to parents who are at risk of losing custody of their children. DHS will have more flexibility in how it spends its child welfare federal dollars.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Same-sex marriage ruling has subdued effect in Oklahoma’s rural counties

While there was a relative land run in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties on marriage licenses for same-sex couples, Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear court cases involving same-sex marriages appears to have had less of an impact on the landscape in rural areas of the state. In the Grand Lake area that surrounds Delaware, Craig and Mayes counties in rural northeast Oklahoma, no marriage licenses for same-sex couples had been applied for during the first week of legalized same-sex marriage, county officials confirmed. In contrast, there were 19 applications for marriage licenses by same-sex couples in Oklahoma County on Monday alone.

Read more from NewsOK.

OK PolicyCast: Episode 11

The OK PolicyCast discusses the most important news in Oklahoma and what it means. This week, we’ll speak with Carly Putnam about economic opportunities for women in Oklahoma, and what we can do to make it easier for women to get ahead. Also this week’s headlines, numbers of the day, and more!

Hear more from the OK PolicyCast.

See also: Oklahoma women have few economic opportunities. Here’s how we can fix that. from the OK Policy Blog.

‘Judge-ment Day’: The vexations of picking our trial bench

For the most part, gambling isn’t allowed in Oklahoma except on Indian land. Yet, every four years a lot of voters gamble wildly in judicial elections off Indian land. They do it in the voting booth, and I use the word “gamble” because picking a candidate can turn into a crapshoot. Voters could later regret that uninformed choice.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Survey: Tulsa has lowest gasoline prices in U.S.

A national survey of gas prices reports that Americans are paying 12 cents on average less than they were three weeks ago. Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said Sunday that the average for regular grade gas is $3.26 per gallon, while midgrade averages $3.48 and premium $3.64. Retail diesel averages $3.74. Lundberg said the price has decreased for 16 weeks, crediting lower crude oil prices. She forecast further cuts of a dime or more, thanks to decreases in the price of crude oil and ethanol.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma Wheat Farmers Want New Policy To Start Now

Oklahoma wheat farmers want the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement now a policy that’s scheduled to start in 2016 that farmers say would help ease the financial pain of ongoing drought. The policy is part of the 2014 Farm Bill. The amount of crop insurance a farmer is eligible for depends on actual production history. Farmers who lose crops to drought several years in a row have to report lower yields, meaning their insurance coverage decreases each year.

Read more from KGOU.

Quote of the Day

“A lot of times, the local school district simply doesn’t want to see them return. But they are entitled to return and we will work with them to see that gets done.”

– Keith Wilson, executive director of the state Office of Juvenile Affairs, on why he believes the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center should cut ties with the local school districts currently responsible for educating detained youth and create its own charter school. (Source:

Number of the Day


Deaths due to stroke in Oklahoma in 2012. Strokes were the fifth leading cause of death in Oklahoma that year.

Source: State of the State’s Health 2014.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The death penalty’s 5 big race problems

The death penalty in the United States has a race problem. African Americans are vastly overrepresented on death row: 42 percent of death row inmates are African American, which is more than three times higher than their share of the US population. But it’s not the racial disparities in the outcome that are most illustrative of the death penalty’s race problem. It’s the racial disparities throughout the entire process: African Americans are simultaneously the people most affected by death-penalty cases, and the people least likely to have a say in them.

Read more from Vox.

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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