Our 10 most popular posts in 2017


When it comes to Oklahoma politics, 2017 was one of the most tumultuous and unpredictable in history. The year was consumed by a long, still unresolved showdown over the state budget and need for new revenues, with shifting coalitions, unusual alliances, and numerous high stakes votes. Throughout the year we did our best to keep you informed and provide the information you need to advocate for constructive solutions. Of all the articles we published on our blog this year, these were the 10 most popular:


Proposed budget leaves Oklahoma services massively underfunded: After months of wrangling and stalled negotiations in regular legislative session, lawmakers passed a budget that made more cuts to state services and left many reasonable revenue options on the table — and that was before the state Supreme Court rejected a cigarette fee as unconstitutional and left the budget with a $215 million hole. Our tenth most popular post this year discussed what challenges agencies were facing to implement this budget amid a sixth straight year of cuts.


DHS Director: Oklahoma budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable”: Back in March, Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake sent a letter to all employees of the agency warning that further budget cuts would threaten the elimination of entire programs serving very vulnerable adults and children. That worst case scenario was avoided – but later in the year, seniors and individuals with disabilities again needed last-minute funding from the Legislature to avert devastating cuts.


Oklahoma already led the nation in cuts to K-12 education. Now we lead in cuts to higher ed too.: For years Oklahoma has made the news for making the worst cuts to K-12 education in the U.S. Less attention has gone to higher education, because even though higher education funding also saw deep cuts, those cuts weren’t leading the nation. That changed this year, after lawmakers reduced FY 2017 funds for higher education by $153 million, a nearly 16 percent drop. Despite the clear evidence that investing in education strengthens the economy, Oklahoma has become the nation’s biggest outlier, taking our state in the wrong direction, and fast.


Budget cuts would hit Oklahoma’s small towns hard: While we often associate state government with the State Capitol and Oklahoma City, in reality, the money spent by the state flows out across Oklahoma’s 77 counties and nearly 600 towns and cities. Our seventh-most visited post this year examined how budget cuts are having some of their worst impacts on Oklahoma’s small towns. For this analysis we used the examples of Altus and Atoka — which also happen to be the hometowns of Oklahoma’s two most powerful legislators, Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz and House Speaker Charles McCall.


SB 81 would break Oklahoma’s obligation to educate all kids: Our sixth most-visited post concerned a bill that would have extended a law requiring long-term, out-of-school suspensions to kids as young as 8 or 9 years old if they are found to have “assaulted” a school employee or volunteer, whether or not actual harm occurred. We wrote that Oklahoma has better solutions to keep classrooms safe, and we warned that suspensions do not curb violent or disruptive behavior — they send a message that we reject kids who show troubling behaviors instead of caring enough to repair those behaviors. SB 81 passed the Senate but fortunately did not make it to a final vote in the House.


Two big myths that distort Oklahoma’s education funding debate: For years now, how we fund our schools has been the number one controversy in Oklahoma politics. Despite this, some lawmakers continue to resist admitting that Oklahoma needs to increase revenues for education — especially if it means raising taxes. Lawmakers and anti-tax interest groups have put a lot of energy into coming up with excuses for why more revenues are not the answer. Our fifth most popular post this year corrected the record on two big myths that have distorted Oklahoma’s education funding debate.


Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session: Our fourth most popular post is our attempt to stay on top of the latest developments and keep a record of what’s happened in Oklahoma’s two special legislative sessions this year. It includes a comprehensive rundown of the reasons for the special sessions, week by week summaries of what’s happened, analysis of the possible outcomes, and explanation of how various budget developments are impacting services and the lives of Oklahomans.


In dispute between Republican leaders over DHS funding, here are the facts: After the regular session but before Oklahoma’s first special session began this year, House Speaker Charles McCall ousted Rep. Leslie Osborn from her position as chair of the Appropriations and Budget committee. This action came soon after Osborn disputed McCall’s criticism of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for making cuts to services for seniors, foster families, and in-home support for people with developmental disabilities. Our analysis of the facts in this dispute found that truth was on the side of Rep. Osborn, and most of the blame for unpopular cuts should fall on the Legislature, not a state agency trying to do its best with insufficient funding.


Oklahoma DHS is about to run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities: Our second most read post of the year also touched on this issue. We explained how years of cuts have compromised the Oklahoma Department of Human Service’s ability to fulfill its basic responsibilities, and thousands of Oklahomans who are elderly or have disabilities are at risk of losing vital care as a result. As mentioned above, Oklahoma has managed to keep key programs in operation to this point, but we are not out of the woods yet.


For the first time, lawmakers were found guilty of supplanting lottery funds for schools: Finally, our most popular post this year covers an issue that we are often asked about — the lottery and education funding. In this post, we examined a finding that lawmakers were found guilty of “supplanting” lottery funding for schools for the first time since the lottery went into effect. Because of this funding, they were required to return about $10 million to the Lottery Trust Fund before they could pass any other budget measures in FY 2018. A few years ago we explained why, even though the Legislature was not technically supplanting lottery money before this year, they made choices that have effectively undone the overall benefits that lottery money provides for schools.

We’ll be back in the new year, hopefully with happier tidings!


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

One thought on “Our 10 most popular posts in 2017

  1. THANK YOU ! for doing so , its important to me . their was alot of scandal as well as dysfunction in our state, when it comes to getting things done I hope after the elections , we as a state, will find out where the flaws are and make improvements . It was a sad year for the most part . I so cant wait for Nov . Look for other jobs boys !

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