The Weekly Wonk: Higher ed funding cuts worsen inequality; celebrating Yes on 802 signature gatherers; 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 from OK Policy

On Thursday, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released a report finding that cuts to higher education funding have contributed to rapid, significant tuition increases and pushed more of the costs of college to students, leading to worsened racial and class inequality. Oklahoma has not been immune from these issues, but the last legislative session saw state lawmakers provide an additional $25.3 million increase, or about 3.3 percent, in funding for higher education.

In his weekly Journal Record column, former director David Blatt highlighted one of the volunteers with the Yes on 802 Medicaid expansion campaign, which turned in a record-breaking 313,000 signatures on Thursday. Click here for complete information and resources on SQ 802. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update praised the state legislature for maintaining Board oversight after recent state agency reforms.

We are now accepting applications for paid, part-time internships in our Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices during the Spring 2020 semester! For the first time, we are offering a state budget and tax public policy internship in Oklahoma City in addition to a communications internship in Tulsa and a legislative advocacy internship in Oklahoma City. The deadline to apply is 5:00 pm on Monday, November 11th.

In this week’s edition of Meet OK Policy, we are featuring D’Marria Monday, who we recently hired as our Northeast Oklahoma Field Organizer. You can meet more members of our staff here.

OK Policy in the News

Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine spoke with the Tulsa World about CBPP’s recent report on the impact of cuts to funding for higher education. Policy Director Carly Putnam spoke to The Oklahoman and Fox 25 about the Yes on 802 campaign and the need for increased access to health care in Oklahoma. The Journal Record published our release about the events we are hosting in celebration of former director David Blatt.

Upcoming Opportunities

This Week: David Blatt Farewell Events and Legacy Fund: Please join us in saying farewell to our longtime executive director David Blatt in Oklahoma City on Monday, October 28th from 5-7 pm and in Tulsa on Tuesday, October 29th from 4:30 – 6:30 pm. Both events are free and open to everyone. For more information and to let us know you’re coming, visit To honor David’s work at OK Policy and ensure it will continue in the years ahead, we invite you to contribute to the David Blatt Legacy Fund.

Weekly What’s That

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), what’s that?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is the nation’s largest public food assistance program. Its primary purpose is to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households in order to improve their nutrition and alleviate hunger.

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

Quote of the Week

“We must focus on reducing all barriers to individuals seeking health care, such as poverty, stigma, and lack of health insurance.”

– Lori Tremmel, National Association of County and City Health Officials CEO, speaking about a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Editorial of the Week

Stillwater News Press: Scare tactics lacking data

The tough-on-crime folks can crow all they want, we’re already awake. Recent reports that showed an uptick in violent crime in Oklahoma have been feeding a narrative that is grounded more in fear-mongering that actual data.  [Stillwater News Press]

Numbers of the Day

  • 22 months – Median length of prison stay for property-related crimes in Oklahoma, compared to the national average of 13 months
  • $435 million – The accumulated state budget savings since 2001 due to a 64 percent decline in youth detention costs
  • 9311 – Number of children in foster care in Oklahoma (2017)
  • 98.6% – Funded ratio of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System as of June 30, 2019, indicating the plan had virtually all the funding it needed to pay all future retirement payments earned as of that day
  • 13.2% – National percentage of households with an elderly member who would lose Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food assistance under proposed administration rules to restrict eligibility

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • State border splits neighbors into Medicaid haves and have-nots [NPR]
  • The opioid epidemic and Medicaid’s role in facilitating access to treatment [Kaiser Family Foundation]
  • As rural groceries fade away, lawmakers wonder whether to act [Pew Trusts]
  • Why are Pennsylvania judges sentencing people on probation for debts they won’t ever be able to pay? [Inquirer]
  • Kids in poor schools show same academic growth as others, Ohio State study finds [The Columbus Dispatch]


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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