The Weekly Wonk: Report shows Oklahoma children far from Top 10 | Meaningful change still needed to address mounting problems in the child welfare and youth justice systems | Court ruling on cabinet secretaries provides lesson in unintended consequences

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Too Far from Top Ten: Oklahoma Ranks 46th in 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book as OK Policy Urges Legislators to Invest in ChildrenOklahoma ranks 46th overall for child well-being in the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The data show Oklahoma leaders must do more to position Oklahoma children and families for success. [OK Policy]

Meaningful change still needed to address mounting problems in the child welfare and youth justice systems (2024 Legislative Wrap-up): Oklahoma, for the second year in a row, ranks 46th nationally in overall child well-being, with only Nevada, Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Mexico ranking lower. Lawmakers this session had recommendations to act upon from the Child Welfare Task Force, most of which took a backseat this session. Oklahoma youth and families will go another year without meaningful changes to the systems that are supposed to serve them. [Jill Mencke / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Report shows Oklahoma children far from Top 10: Elected officials often claim Oklahoma children are their top priority. However, a new report shows our children have among the nation’s worst outcomes. These results signal the growing disconnect between rhetoric and the policy choices that create such dismal results. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Court ruling on cabinet secretaries provides lesson in unintended consequences (Capitol Update) :The ruling of Oklahoma County District Judge Richard Ogden in a case filed by Gov. Kevin Stitt against Attorney General Gentner Drummond provides an interesting lesson in unintended consequences. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Weekly What’s That

Voter ID Requirements

In 2010, Oklahoma voters approved State Question 746, which established new voter identification requirements. The state question requires voters to present a valid government-issued document that includes their name and picture or a voter identification card issued by their county election board. A person who cannot or does not provide one of those forms of identification may sign a sworn statement and cast a provisional ballot.

SQ 746 was approved with 74.3 percent of the vote and took effect in July 2011. After a lengthy legal challenge, the Oklahoma Supreme Court unanimously upheld Oklahoma’s voter ID law in 2018.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“These numbers confirm what has long been obvious – Oklahoma is not making the investment it should in the health and well-being of our children. For two decades, lawmakers have chosen revenue cuts over meaningful, sustained investments in the shared services that are proven to help our children thrive.” 

-OK Policy Executive Director Shiloh Kantz speaking about the latest results of the KIDS COUNT report that ranks Oklahoma the 46th worst state for child well-being in the nation. OK Policy is Oklahoma’s member of the KIDS COUNT network. [OK Policy]

Op-Ed of the Week

Opinion: Homeless people in Oklahoma City want jobs. It’s easier said than done

Scott, one of the regulars at Joe’s Addiction coffee shop, comes to me and asks if I can help him with his online job application. Like many of our guests, he is unemployed and homeless, but he wants to find work.

He says the lady told him he has the job if he will just fill out the application. He was trying to do it on his government phone and was having trouble.

Imagine what it’s like, trying to fill out an application on a phone.

We go to the website. Look for “careers.” Put in the ZIP code of the location where he wants to work. It brings up available positions. Manager. Stocker. Maintenance. Cashier.

He says, “The guy who unloads trucks.” We choose “Stocker.” We have to create an account.

“Do you have an email address?” I ask him. “Can you access that email address?”

Our guests have countless email addresses, because they lose their phone or their phone gets stolen. (Phones are a currency on the street.) When they get a new phone, they can’t remember what their email and password were, so they create a new one.

We eventually figure out what email address to use. Then we have to create a password. Will he remember this password to be able to get back into this account? Will he know how to do it?

We finally get to the application, and he starts entering his personal info. I tell him he can use Joe’s Addiction’s address. He hands the phone to me to type because his fingers are too big and he keeps making mistakes. He is frustrated.

When it comes to the questions about personal work history, he just makes up the dates because he doesn’t remember what years he worked where.

Next comes an assessment test.

Here are examples of questions on the test:

1. You are serving a customer at the store when your colleague interrupts and says that a customer is on the phone asking to speak with you specifically. What would be the least effective response to this situation?

  • Ask your colleague to help the customer on the phone and continue serving the customer in the store.
  • Ask your colleague to help the customer in the store and go answer the phone.
  • Excuse yourself, answer the phone and ask the customer if you can call them back.
  • Excuse yourself and ask your customer to wait; answer the phone and help the customer who called, and only then return to the customer in the store.

2. You observe a coworker stealing a package of toilet paper and putting it in their own bag. Do you …?

  • Confront your coworker and tell them it’s not okay to steal.
  • Tell your manager what you saw.
  • Do nothing. It is not your business.
  • Buy a package of toilet paper and give it to your coworker, hoping they get the message.

Would you know the correct answers to these questions?

Imagine living in street culture where everyone fends for themselves and live in fight-or-flight survival mode 24/7. As they say, “Snitches get stitches.”

The test has 65 questions, and many of them are worded like the first example, in the negative ― “What should you not do?” Or, “Which of these would be the most unhelpful?”

Once, I was helping a man to take this kind of test for a job at The Home Depot. I read the questions and answers aloud to him, hoping that hearing them would help him recognize the reverse aspect of some of the questions. After pausing a long while, he said, “I think they’re trying to trick me.”

Yes. Yes, they are.

Recently, one of our younger guests announced very excitedly that she had gotten a job at Walmart. I was thrilled for her. She said, “I took that damn test four times and couldn’t pass it, but this time I found a website with the answers to the test.” She grinned from ear to ear.

People have to cheat to make it through the application process for a job at Walmart.

Perhaps you’ve seen a person holding a sign on a street corner and wondered, “Why don’t they just get a job?”

Scott’s story is also Harold’s story, and Fred’s story, and Mary’s story. It’s not for lack of trying.

[Jamie West Zumwalt / The Oklahoman]

Numbers of the Day

  • 46th – Oklahoma ranked 46th for overall child well-being in the 2024 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 1 in 5 – Ratio of Oklahoma children who live in poverty, which is about 185,000 children. Oklahoma was ranked 43rd among all states for this metric. The federal poverty level for a family of two adults and two children was below $29,678 in 2022.[KIDS COUNT]
  • 27% – Percentage of Oklahoma children (about 257,000 children) living in households with a high housing cost burden where more than 30% of the monthly income was spent on rent, mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, and/or related expenses. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 45th – Oklahoma’s ranking among all states for the health of children living in the state. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 39th – Oklahoma’s ranking among all states for economic well-being for children living in the state. [KIDS COUNT]

What We’re Reading

  • The social safety net looks different in every state: The U.S. social safety net is a collection of programs designed to support families experiencing financial hardship. The design of some of the programs is largely determined by the states, while others have structures and benefits largely determined at the federal level. State and federal policies interact to determine benefit levels—for example, state-directed cash transfers reduce eligibility for federally-directed food assistance. As a result, similar families are eligible for substantially different benefit packages depending on where they live. [Brookings]
  • Citizenship and Native America: 100th Anniversary Seems a Very Short Time: Citizenship has rights that Native Americans were denied for the first 150 years. So this year on June 2, 2024, a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of that decision to make Native Americans citizens has mixed messages. [Native News Online]
  • Breaking down the South’s economic underperformance: Rooted in Racism and Economic Exploitation: Part Two: Far from delivering on their promises of shared abundance and economic prosperity, “business-friendly” policies have impoverished the South. Instead of funneling resources to wealthy Southerners and corporations, policymakers should strengthen the social safety net, adequately fund schools, provide affordable access to childcare and transportation, and enforce labor laws or safety standards for workers. [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Report spotlights imbalances among child well-being for Oklahoma’s children of color: A national report out in January 2024 shows that child well-being outcomes for Oklahoma’s children of color are generally worse than their national peers with index scores below the national average. However, those results are in the context of a nationwide failure to equip all children to succeed, with policy choices and lack of support for families resulting in particularly dire outcomes for Black, Latino, and American Indian or Alaska Native. These policy choices have been especially acute in Oklahoma due to state lawmakers disinvesting in the services that help our children thrive. [OK Policy Archive]


Annie Taylor joined OK Policy as a Digital Communications Associate/Storybanker in April 2022. She studied journalism and mass communication at the University of Oklahoma, and was a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Central Oklahoma. While pursuing her degree, she worked in restaurant and retail management, as well as freelance copywriting and digital content production. Annie is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and holds a deep reverence for storytelling in the digital age. She was born and raised in southeast Oklahoma, and now lives in Oklahoma City with her dog, Melvin.