The Weekly Wonk: Gov.’s education funding doesn’t serve most Oklahoma children | Legislative discussion about Medicaid expansion

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

Gov. Stitt’s GEER plan widens the gap in access to technology and online learning for low-income students and students of color: Rather than optimize federal relief dollars to reach as many school aged children as possible, the Governor’s plan directs almost half of all GEER funding ($18 million) to less than 1 percent of all students in the state. This includes one quarter of the total funding package dedicated to just 1,500 students — 0.2% of all school children in Oklahoma — who attend private schools. This means that public GEER funding disproportionately serves the state’s approximately 65,000 private school students rather than Oklahoma’s 700,000 children who attend public schools. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Celebrating Medicaid’s 55th anniversary: Today, the nation’s Medicaid program celebrates its 55th anniversary. For those who have never needed it, Medicaid exists mostly as a vague concept. For those who rely on it, however, Medicaid is an essential program that can mean the difference between life and death. Operating as SoonerCare in Oklahoma, Medicaid serves as a crucial lifeline for more than 860,000 Oklahomans every month, including low-income parents and children, people with severe disabilities and pregnant women. As a result, it is a key component to our state’s public safety net, which is needed now more than ever. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record

House, Senate announce slate of approved interim studies (Capitol Update): Interim studies approved by House and Senate leaders were announced last week. The House had previously announced the request of 92 interim studies, and 74 were approved. The Senate did not reveal study requests but announced approval of 39 of 64 interim studies. Studies will likely begin in August with dates and agendas to be announced by Committee Chairs. It is always interesting to see the breadth of interests reflected in interim study requests. [Capitol Update / Steve Lewis]

Using the Census to amplify the voice of the people: Every 10 years, the United States conducts a census of all citizens and noncitizens living in the country. America’s founders included Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution to ensure each state’s representation would be based on population rather than wealth or land ownership. [Roxanne Logan / The Ardmoreite]

Weekly What’s That

Medicaid / SoonerCare

Medicaid is a public insurance program that provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals, including children, parents, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. The program, which was created by Congress in 1965 as Title XIX of the Social Security Act, is operated by the states and funded jointly by the federal government and the states.

In Oklahoma, the Medicaid program is known as SoonerCare and is operated primarily by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. In FY 2018, the Medicaid program served more than 1 million individuals at some point over the course of the year. As of October 2019, SoonerCare’s total monthly enrollment was 787,235 people. Of these, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) were low-income children under the age of 21. The next largest category (20 percent) were Aged, Blind and Disabled individuals, followed by low-income working-age adults (9 percent).

Oklahoma’s total Medicaid spending was $5.25 billion in FY 2018, with the federal government accounting for $3.05 billion of that amount. The federal matching rate (FMAP) for most expenses was 59.9 percent.

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

Quote of the Week

“Our justice system is intended to provide restoration and that’s not what’s happening. We’re keeping people in and we’re not restoring lives.”

–Susan Esco, who serves on the board for Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform and volunteers in prison ministries, speaking at a virtual town hall meeting led by the Yes on 805 campaign. [The Ardmoreite]

Editorial of the Week

State Board of Education refuses opportunity to protect children against COVID-19

On Thursday, the State Board of Education refused to give public schools stricter guidelines on how to reopen classrooms this fall, including what would have amounted to a mask mandate for most districts.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister had proposed a multitiered set of rules with tighter restrictions depending on how prevalent the COVID-19 virus is within the district’s county…

Some members said they wanted to leave the final decision in local hands and that the rules came too close to school opening dates.

We wish the rules had come sooner, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t needed now. We, too, favor local control, but in the current political environment that’s not good enough. Frankly, it’s a plan for mass infection in some schools.

Most administrators and boards would do the right thing in an ideal world, but they are under enormous pressure from loud fringe forces insisting on open schools, no masks and “business as usual.”

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 865,851 – Number of Oklahomans enrolled in SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care access for low-income residents. 
  • 24% – Percentage of nonelderly Oklahoma adults who currently are uninsured.
  • 46th – Oklahoma’s overall rank among the nation’s healthiest states. 
  • 228.5 – Heart disease death rate for Oklahomans, which leads the nation for heart disease mortality rate. (Death rate represents the number of deaths per 100,000 total population.)
  • 44th – Oklahoma’s rank for premature deaths in the United States. On average, Oklahomans lose about 9.9 years of potential life lost before age 75. The state’s premature death rates are highest among Oklahomans of color, especially Blacks and American Indians.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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