The Weekly Wonk: How Oklahoma ranks for child well-being; progress on child care; crumbling OKDHS oversight; & 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

This week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2019 KIDS COUNT® Data Book which ranked Oklahoma in the bottom 10 states for child well-being. With an overall ranking of 42nd out of all 50 states, Oklahoma ranked especially low for education (45th) and health (43rd).

Access to affordable child care is one of the toughest obstacles that gets in the way of Oklahoma families finding economic opportunity and financial security. A new report from Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine finds that new federal grant funding is making affordable child care a reality for more Oklahomans.

In his weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt expressed his concern with crumbling oversight of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update noted that although Joe Allbaugh resigned as Director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, his critique of Oklahoma’s justice system remains true

In this week’s edition of Meet OK Policy, we’re featuring our Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst, Paul Shinn

OK Policy in the News

The 2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book release was covered by The Oklahoman, Tulsa World, Public Radio Tulsa, The News & Observer, FOX25, KOCO, & KJRH. The Muskogee Daily Phoenix Editorial Board wrote an editorial on the Data Book that appeared in the Miami News-Record, Shawnee News-Star, and Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise.

Weekly What’s That

Federal Poverty Level, what’s that?

The federal poverty level (FPL) is a measure of income issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services that is used to determine eligibility for various public programs and benefits, including Medicaid and the free- and reduced- school lunch program.

The federal poverty level, which takes into account family size, is $12,490 for a single individual and $25,750 for a family of four in 2019.

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

Quote of the Week

“For almost a decade, I have watched with frustration as Oklahoma has missed out and other states across the country have ensured access to care for hard-working families, improved their health outcomes and grew their economies by expanding Medicaid. Nearly 10 years of debate in the Legislature is enough.”

-Jake Henry Jr., CEO of Saint Francis Health System, on why he is endorsing an initiative petition to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Muskogee Phoenix Editorial Board: 

Oklahoma was ranked 42nd overall — earning its best ranking for being “close to the national average for the percentage of children living in families with at least one full-time employed parent.” But because the poverty rate for children in Oklahoma remains significantly higher then the nation as a whole, Oklahoma ranked 35th in this category. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • 3,615 – Days since Oklahomans received a minimum wage increase, the longest period without an increase since the minimum wage was created in 1938.
  • 100.2% – Increase in the number of Oklahomans admitted to state funded drug treatment for meth substance abuse issues, from 4,276 in FY 2012 to 8,561 in FY 2018.
  • 42nd – Oklahoma’s rank out of all 50 states for child well-being, based on metrics related to the economy, education, health, and family and community.
  • 36% – Percentage reduction in Oklahoma state higher education spending per full-time-equivalent student after inflation, fiscal year 2008-2018. Only Alabama, Louisiana, and Arizona have cut spending more than Oklahoma.
  • 77% – Decline since 2008 in the number of specialized foster homes for children in Oklahoma DHS custody who need therapeutic care.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


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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