The Weekly Wonk: Criminal justice reform, paid family and medical leave, and 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’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Open Justice Oklahoma Intern Thomas Gao.

This Week from OK Policy

In her weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director Ahniwake Rose highlighted the need for paid family and medical leave for working Oklahomans. Most Oklahomans do not have access to paid family and medical leave. In circumstances where they need to care for themselves or others, most workers face the impossible choice of sacrificing income or foregoing the care.

OK Policy in the News

The Oklahoman published an article looking at what it means for Oklahoma to be considered a Top 10 state and featured an interview with OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose. She expressed hope that the governor’s upcoming State of the State speech will include more details about what it means to be Top 10 and the state metrics guiding his decision making. The Oklahoma Gazette this week published an article discussing opportunities for criminal justice reform and featured extensive comments from OK Policy Criminal Justice Analyst Damion Shade. A Daily Ardmoreite article about the 2020 Census included an interview with Jasha Lyons Echo-Hawk, who is serving as a census community builder for Together Oklahoma, OK Policy’s advocacy program.  The Black Wall Street Times published an article in advance of the Jan. 25 event sponsored by Block Builderz and Together Oklahoma raising awareness about harms created by Oklahoma’s cash bail system. 

Upcoming Opportunities

Stillwater, Together Oklahoma Chapter Meeting: Join advocates in Stillwater today as they re-launch their local Together Oklahoma chapter. The event will take place at 3:30 p.m., Sunday, January 26, at the Stillwater Public Library. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

McAlester, Building Power: Advocates from the Together Oklahoma McAlester chapter will discuss ways in which communities can build power. The event will be held 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8, at All Saints Episcopal Church. Click here to learn more and RSVP.

Support Working Oklahomans: A Community Conversation. Together Oklahoma and OK Policy will host two community discussions about state policies that can benefit working Oklahomans. 

Weekly What’s That

Shell bill, what’s that?

A shell bill is a bill that is introduced at the beginning of the legislative session with little or no substantive language. Shell bills are intended to serve as a placeholder for legislative proposals to be filled in later. Shell bills will typically include nothing more than a title that describes the section of law being changed or some meaningless wording changes. Click here to read more about shell bills.

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

Quote of the Week

“What you’re seeing in Oklahoma, and what you’ve seen for the past 10 years now, is that we’re cutting services. We’re never going to get to the Top 10 if we don’t start having a conversation about how we can invest more in our people.”

– Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman [The Oklahoman].

Editorial of the Week

Oklahoma needs a ‘big bang’ in education to make real progress: Ginnie Graham

If Oklahoma education is to reach a top 10 of any good measure, it’s going to have to take a big leap. The cuts were big, so improvements need to be big.

Forget baby steps, go for the big bang.

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 502 – Number of emergency certified teachers in Oklahoma elementary education (grades 1-8). This is the highest concentration of emergency certified teachers throughout the state.
  • 42% – Percent of African American children under 18 in Oklahoma who experience poverty, compared to Oklahoma’s overall 22 percent child poverty rate.
  • 15 – The number of states including Oklahoma who provide the SAT and ACT to all high school juniors at no cost to families or districts.
  • 56% – Percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in Oklahoma not enrolled in school, nursery school, pre-K, or kindergarten.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • We have a solution for the opioid epidemic. It’s dramatically underused. [Vox]
  • Nearly 7 million workers will start the new year with higher wages [Economic Policy Institute]
  • In nearly every U.S. metro area, new data show opportunity lags for kids of color [NPR]
  • Long Island divided [Newsday]


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.