The Weekly Wonk: Honoring veterans, examining Medicaid expansion 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

This week we observed Veterans Day and honored the men and women who have served to preserve our freedom by advocating for policies that help them and their families get ahead. Economic Opportunity Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison noted that Oklahoma is home to more than 260,000 veterans, and good policy choices like restoring the Oklahoma Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) would help them and their communities be economically stable. 

In his weekly Capitol Update column, Steve Lewis warned Oklahoma officials that a Medicaid block grant would likely fail to gain legal muster and will almost surely never be implemented.

In her inaugural Journal Record column, Executive Director Ahniwake Rose shared why she left Washington D.C. and decided to return home to Oklahoma

OK Policy in the News

The Oklahoman cited OK Policy data in an article about Oklahoma’s historic criminal justice reform week. Tulsa World mentioned OK Policy as one of the organizations working on an eviction-prevention initiative in Tulsa, and Wayne Greene’s column about Medicaid expansion referenced a recent OK Policy analysis about Tennessee’s consideration of Medicaid block grants.  

Upcoming Opportunities

Metropolitan Library: Native American Heritage Month Events: Join the Metropolitan Libraries in Oklahoma City during Native American Heritage Month to honor the history and culture of American Indian and Alaskan Native people in the community. Click here to view a list of events.

Weekly What’s That

Block grant, what’s that?

A block grant is a type of grant program transferring federal funding to states to be used for a broadly defined function. Unlike entitlements, which use a combination of state and federal dollars to administer a range of safety net programs to anyone who qualifies, block grants are capped amounts of federal money. By comparison, entitlement spending allows federal programs to expand or contract in response to need. ​Because block grants​ don’t respond to need and commonly do not increase at all year to year or do not increase as quickly as costs, they are ​in effect deep budget cuts​ that​ leav​e states on the hook for a​n increasing share of ​the funding for basic safety net programs. Click here to find more on block grants.

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

Quote of the Week

“A lot of the safety nets that we need in place in conjunction with core funding to our social services and punitive policies around criminal justice all kind of go together in this bucket that creates an environment that is not as conducive for child and family well-being as we would like.”

– Julie Miller-Cribbs, director of OU-Tulsa’s Anne & Henry Zarrow School of Social Work [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Wayne Greene: Why Oklahoma keeps turning down $1 billion or why King Louis’ horse never talked

Only one state — Texas — has a higher uninsured rate than Oklahoma. As a result, our work force is sick and poor and our rural hospitals teeter on insolvency. Our economy plods along, unaided by a $1 billion stimulus that could be had for a 10% state match, quite literally pennies on the dollar. [Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 527 – The number of Oklahoma inmates commuted on the largest single commutation docket in American history which occurred on November 1, 2019.
  • 9.3% – Share of Oklahomans who are American Indian or Alaskan Native — the 3rd highest behind Alaska (15.4 percent) and New Mexico (10.9 percent) #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth
  • 92,443 – Total number of American Indian and Alaskan Native children in Oklahoma in 2018 — 10 percent of total Oklahoma child population
  • 27,450 – Total number of American Indian and Alaskan Native-owned businesses in Oklahoma in 2012.
  • 1,471 – Total number of K-12 students enrolled in a language program provided by a tribal nation  in an Oklahoma public school

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • How housing wealth transferred from families to corporations [City Lab]
  • The 2020 census is coming. Will Native Americans be counted? [LA Times]
  • First Kids 1st Data Resource Book: Helping Native youth thrive through research and data [National Congress of American Indians]
  • Tribes shut out of ‘Opportunity Zone’ deals [Oklahoma Watch]
  • The U.S. has spent more money erasing Native languages than saving them. [High Country News]

Note: November is Native American Heritage Month. We recognize and celebrate the history, cultures, and contributions of American Indian and Alaska Native people in the state and across the country.


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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