The Weekly Wonk: School funding; Rainy Day Fund; We’re hiring; & more

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

This week, we reported on a new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that found that despite gains from last year’s teacher walkout, Oklahoma school funding is still significantly below pre-recession levels. You can read the full report here. Currently, Oklahoma schools desperately need more counselors, and Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine explained why it is in our children’s best interest for the legislature to grant the State Department of Education’s request to fund the School Counselor Corps.

One of the factors driving Oklahoma’s high trauma rate among children is financial insecurity. Growing up in poverty is an Adverse Childhood Experience that negatively impacts the development and well-being of children, and Mental Health Policy Analyst Lauren Turner recommends investing in working families to improve outcomes for children in our state.

The Rainy Day Fund is on track to hit a record balance, but Executive Director David Blatt warned that exceeding the Rainy Day Fund cap could leave critical needs underfunded. Speaking of the state budget , this week we launched applications for a Budget and Tax Policy Analyst!

The deadline by which bills must pass out of their chamber of origin is this week, and our latest Bill Watch post has an update on key bills we are tracking closely in the areas of criminal justice, education, economic security, and taxes.

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update noted that although House and Senate leadership bills show similar priorities, their approaches differ. In his weekly Journal Record column, Blatt proposed a middle ground on the Governor’s appointment authority. In the Tulsa Voice, Policy Analyst Damion Shade wrote about the executive action the Governor could take to reduce the state’s prison population.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt was quoted by the Tulsa World, Public Radio Tulsa, The 74, Education Dive, and U.S. New & World Report regarding the Center on Budget’s report showing education funding in Oklahoma is still lagging (see above). Blatt also spoke with U.S. News & World Report  on Oklahoma’s reliance on philanthropy to fund basic services. Blatt spoke with CHNI on the potential for Medicaid expansion to end up on the ballot in 2020.

Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade spoke to Oklahoma Watch about opportunities and challenges with Oklahoma’s new pardon and parole board. Mental Health Policy Analyst Lauren Turner was among those who discussed solutions for ending homelessness in the Tulsa Voice.

Upcoming Opportunities

Generation Citizen: The Power of Youth in Politics: Local action is key to creating lasting change. Thanks to our friends at Generation Citizen, thousands of students have the tools to serve as changemakers in their community. Want to learn more? Check out their founder and CEO, Scott Warren‘s new book, Generation Citizen: The Power of Youth in Our Politics, where he dives into the importance of youth voice in politics, and how we all have the power to take charge wherever we are, no matter our age. Warren will be speaking and signing books in Tulsa on Thursday, March 14 and in Oklahoma City on Saturday, March 16. Visit the Facebook event pages for Tulsa and Oklahoma City for full details. 

Building Stronger Advocates Workshop in McAlester Oklahoma: Join Together Oklahoma advocates for a workshop on advocacy at the state legislature. Whether you’re new to advocacy or a long-time veteran, this event will give you the tools for successful advocacy. The workshop will take place on Saturday, March 23 at 3 PM in the McAlester Public Library. Visit the Facebook event page for full details

We’re hiring! OK Policy is seeking an experienced and effective policy analyst to lead our work advancing equitable and fiscally responsible budget and tax policies that will expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research and analysis. The application deadline for this position is Thursday, April 11, 2019. Click here to view the full job description and to apply.

Weekly What’s That

Committee Substitute, What’s That?

A committee substitute is a revised version of legislation proposed for consideration or adoption by a committee. The committee substitute replaces, in whole, the original bill that was referred to a committee, including conference committees

It is quite common for the language of a committee substitute to be entirely different from previous versions of a bill, especially in the House of Representatives when a bill is introduced as a shell bill.

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

Chart of the Week


Quote of the Week

“We are the ones who are directly affected by the decisions of our legislators and we are not fooled by vague promises. Oklahoma continues to have budget problems because of ill-advised tax cuts and a lack of high expectations for public education. Hoping the economy continues to do well is not the leadership our representatives should demonstrate. It’s defeatism. It’s treading water. We deserve better.” 

– Bartlesville High School senior Liza Williams [Source: Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World Editorial Board: Make State Question 780 retroactive

The proposal [to make State Question 780 retroactive] isn’t just a matter of reducing the number of people in prison, although it would do that. It is also a matter of justice. The intent of SQ 780 was a new way of thinking about nonviolent crime. It only makes sense to extend the same justice to people convicted prior to the vote. Oklahoma has too many people in prison, a higher portion of its population than any state. It’s frustrating that we continue to incarcerate people who have no place behind bars years after SQ 780 made clear the intent of the people. The Legislature should approve HB 1269. [Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 22% – Percentage of Oklahoma households that reported their income varied somewhat or a lot over the past 12 months.
  • 329,000 – Estimated number of days in jail spent by nonviolent defendants awaiting their court case in Oklahoma in FY 2018. People accused of nonviolent misdemeanors can spend 2 to 6 weeks in jail before their case is resolved if they cannot afford their bond.
  • 50 hours – Average response time from a report of child maltreatment in Oklahoma to an investigation, below the national average of 65 hours.
  • 33.4% – Percentage of Hispanic U.S. citizens in Oklahoma who voted in the November 2016 election, compared to 56.6 percent voting in the state as a whole.
  • 183 days – The median estimated jail stay for people in Rogers County accused of nonviolent offenses who did not post bond, FY 2018

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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