The Weekly Wonk April 5, 2015

the_weekly_wonkThe Weekly Wonk is a summary of Oklahoma Policy Institute’s events, publications, blog posts, and coverage. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The KnowClick here to subscribe to In The Know.

This week on the OK Policy Blog, Steve Lewis shared what needs to happen after last Monday’s education rally. We called on lawmakers to halt an income tax cut that was never supposed to be implemented in these conditions. We wrote that “rural opportunity zones” some lawmakers want to implement in Oklahoma haven’t worked in Kansas. We’ve previously noted that there’s no way to know what they would cost.

OK Policy staffer and Oklahoma Assets Network coordinator Kate Richey pointed out that popular rhetoric around the state’s low unemployment and economic resiliency have masked underlying structural deficiencies in the labor market. In a guest post, Shannon Guss of OU-Tulsa’s Early Childhood Education Institute (ECEI) and ECEI Research Associate (and OK Policy Research Fellow) Ryan Gentzler argued against banning bilingual education.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt wrote that although earlier attempts to completely do away with the income tax have failed, lawmakers are still trying to chisel out small group exemptions that risk snowballing into large-scale tax breaks. The Tulsa World’s Wayne Green quoted Blatt in his discussion of why eliminating the income tax for teachers isn’t the way to give them a raise.

Upcoming events:

  • A forum hosted by the Scholars Strategy Network will discuss balancing public engagement and an academic career on  April 6 at 6pm in the Associate’s Room in OU’s Oklahoma Memorial Union.
  • The University of Tulsa will host Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Researcher, for his lecture “Inequality in American Society – Should We Blame the Market?” on April 9 at 7pm in the Chapman Lecture Hall.
  • Oklahoma Assets Network will present “Who Pays More? A Town Hall Forum on Predatory Lending in Oklahoma” on April 15th at 6:30pm at the OU Faculty House.

Weekly What’s That:

State Question 640

State Question 640 was a citizen-initiated ballot measure that was approved by Oklahoma voters in a special election in March 1992 with 56.2 percent of the vote. The measure amended Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution to add restrictions on how revenue bills can become law. Read more.

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

Quote of the Week:

“I like to think that we are all seeds planted into the soil of public education, until we get covered with the cement mixtures of EOIs, unfunded classes, and overstressed teachers. And how a few of us, the ones who fight through that adversity, see the light through the cracks of the cement, manage to have some type of growth. And what a glorious sight, right? A few trees going through the concrete. Well, looks can be deceiving because it’s not worth the hundreds, no, thousands that get left behind. For there is strength in numbers. It’s easy to remove a tree, but it takes an army to take on a forest.”

-Mustang High School student Kiante Miles, reading his poem during Monday’s education rally at the state Capitol (Source).

See previous Quotes of the Day here.

Editorial of the Week:

Niraj Chokshi, The Washington Post

So, what’s a non-politico to do during election season? Here’s an idea: Escape to Oklahoma, the best state to get away from the political circus.

Oklahomans consistently rank near the bottom on a variety of measures of political obsession — or engagement, depending on your perspective. Only two states saw a smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2012, and just seven states had a smaller share of residents registered to vote, according to census data.

See also: Repairing Oklahoma’s Broken Democracy from OK Policy and Boost Electoral Participation from Together OK.

Numbers of the Day:

  • $45,690 – The median income in Oklahoma in 2013, down from $46,025 in 2000 (adjusted for inflation).
  • 50.6% – Percentage of Oklahoma’s 77 counties that saw population growth between 2013 and 2014.
  • $27.09 – Maximum monthly pay for inmate laborers at Oklahoma correctional facilities.
  • 57% – Percentage of working Oklahoma families of color living at 200% of the federal poverty level or less (about $39,000/year for a family of three), compared to 31% of white families.
  • 44th – Oklahoma’s rank among all 50 states and Washington DC for voter turnout in 2014 elections, down from 33rd in 2010.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What we’re Reading:



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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