State Budget Summit to feature ‘genius grant’ recipient, state leader panels on budget and child issues

For Immediate Release: January 14, 2019

As the 2019 Oklahoma legislative session nears, a new governor and many newly elected lawmakers are preparing to take on the challenge of funding Oklahoma’s core services. On January 24th in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Policy Institute’s 6th Annual State Budget Summit will bring together hundreds of Oklahomans looking to gain a clearer sense of the budget issues at stake.

“Oklahoma’s state budget outlook is healthier than it’s been in a long time,” said OK Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt. “Yet we still face many funding challenges to ensure that Oklahomans can be healthy, safe, and prosperous. Policymakers must also be careful to avoid repeating mistakes of the past. This year’s Budget Summit should be a fascinating exploration of where we are on the budget and what we can expect from this year’s Legislature.”

The keynote speaker for the event is Dr. William Julius Wilson, a professor at Harvard University and one of the nation’s most distinguished social scientists. Among his numerous academic contributions and achievements, Dr. Wilson was selected in 1996 by Time magazine as one of America’s 25 Most Influential People. He was a MacArthur Fellows Program “Genius Grant” recipient and is a recipient of the 1998 National Medal of Science, the highest scientific honor in the United States. Dr. Wilson has authored numerous books, including More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City, which will be available for sale at the event. 

The State Budget Summit will also include a budget overview presentation by David Blatt, followed by a panel of state leaders who will address the state’s budget outlook. The budget panel includes Sen. Roger Thompson, Rep. Emily Virgin, Choctaw Nation Chief Gary Batton, Mental Health Commissioner Terri White, and Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist.

In the afternoon, a panel will analyze how current budget priorities align with the needs of Oklahoma’s children, with panelists Joe Dorman, CEO, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy; Gail Lapidus, CEO, Family and Children’s Services; Gloria Torres, Vice Chair, Oklahoma City School Board, District 6; Dr. Scott Melson, Physician and Board Vice President of Let’s Fix This; and Steve Buck, Executive Director, Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs.

“The teacher walkout and years of advocacy by parents and educators have focused the Legislature on doing a better job of funding our schools,” said Gene Perry, the KIDS COUNT Coordinator for OK Policy. “Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s cuts in support for kids have not been limited to education. Our panel will discuss what it might look like for Oklahoma to fund the needs of the whole child.”

The Budget Summit will be held at the Downtown/Medical Center Embassy Suites, 741 N. Phillips Ave., Oklahoma City. Tickets can be purchased at for $95, which includes a full lunch and breakfast. The deadline to purchase tickets is January 23rd. Members of the media, legislators, and other elected officials may attend the State Budget Summit free of charge by contacting the OK Policy office (918-794-3944;

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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.

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