The Weekly Wonk: Funding high-poverty schools; no good, very bad runoffs; & more

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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 on the OK Policy Blog, summer intern Kylie Thomas examined how a new federal education law could change how we fund high-poverty schools. Executive Director David Blatt argued against Oklahoma’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad runoffs. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam pointed out that Oklahoma is missing a big opportunity to improve mental illness and addiction treatment by refusing to expand Medicaid coverage.

In his Journal Record column, Blatt warned that four-day school weeks will leave more kids hungry. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update flagged nine Senate races to watch this November. In a guest post, Georgetown professors Deborah Phillips and William Gormley reported on their new research that found that the Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains

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OK Policy in the News

The Oklahoman quoted Blatt’s reaction to Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez’s resignation. NewsOn6 interviewed Policy Director Gene Perry for a story on school vouchers. Policy Analyst DeVon Douglass spoke about new federal regulations on payday loans in NewsOK’s article about a coalition of faith leaders and advocacy groups speaking out against predatory lending.

Weekly What’s That

Oklahoma Health Care Authority

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is a state government agency responsible for administering the state’s Medicaid program. OHCA’s mission is to “responsibly purchase state and federally-funded health care in the most efficient and comprehensive manner possible; to analyze and recommend strategies for optimizing the accessibility and quality of health care; and, to cultivate relationships to improve the health outcomes of Oklahomans.”

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

Quote of the Week

“My frustration is the lack of engagement of the citizens in issues around local and state government. I just think the Legislature represents the voters who happen to be engaged in the process. My concern is with the lack of voter participation. Are people really paying attention?”

– Outgoing Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez (Source)

Editorial of the Week

New York Times Editorial Board

But in states with the biggest school-budget cuts, much of the pain is self-inflicted, because they have cut income taxes in recent years, creating budget shortfalls that make it impossible to adequately finance their schools. Kansas is the most notorious for such counterproductive tax cuts; other offenders include Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. Oklahoma, in particular, is vying with its neighbor Kansas for the title of most fiscally reckless. Repeated cuts to Oklahoma’s income tax have resulted in deep and chronic budget shortfalls, and yet the top tax rate went down again in January, from 5.25 percent to 5 percent. The lost revenue has been offset in part by a reduction in the amount of assistance the poorest Oklahomans can derive from the state’s earned-income tax credit.

Numbers of the Day

  • -1% – Change in the cost of premiums across all plans on Oklahoma’s Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace, 2014-2015.
  • 1,086 – Total number of girls in Oklahoma public schools who reported being bullied or harassed based on their gender in 2011-2012. There were 845 boys reporting for the same reason.
  • 10th – Oklahoma’s ranking for energy consumed per capita in 2014 (433 million Btu)
  • 4,057 – Number of students who came from out-of-state to attend an Oklahoma public college in 2014, compared to 1,177 who left Oklahoma for other states.
  • 27.36 – Black homicide victims per 100,000 black residents in Oklahoma (2013), the 5th highest rate in the country.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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