The Weekly Wonk: Inequalities in arts education; promising local justice reform; OK’s broken parole system; & 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.

The Weekly Wonk depends on supporters like you

This is the last Weekly Wonk of the year since we’ll be off next week for the holidays. Each week this year, we’ve sent you in-depth analysis and information to understand the big issues affecting Oklahoma. As an independent non-profit, we couldn’t do this work without the contributions of readers like you. Can you donate before the end of the year to power this work in 2019? Every contribution helps!

This Week from OK Policy

This week, Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine showed us how shrinking budgets have deepened inequalities in arts education, especially for schools in low-income and rural areas. Open Justice Oklahoma Director Ryan Gentzler demonstrated the promise of local justice reform by spotlighting the work of the Oklahoma City Police Department to arrest fewer people for minor offenses like having unpaid court costs and marijuana possession. Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade presented an evidence-based solution to Oklahoma’s broken parole system that focuses on equipping individuals with the resources they need to succeed in their communities.

In his weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt stressed that with solid revenue growth in the forecast, lawmakers should prioritize adding more teachers and support staff, while also ensuring that teacher pay doesn’t again fall behind. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update noted that the legislative leadership for next session is coming into focus with the appointment of House and Senate leadership.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with the Tulsa World and CHNI about using expected revenue growth to invest in reversing a decade of cuts to state services. Policy Director Carly Putnam spoke with the Journal Record about how Oklahomans will likely lose coverage under the proposed Medicaid reporting requirements. Putnam also spoke with the Tulsa World about the importance of the Soon-to-be-Sooners program and the quality health care it provides to pregnant women. Fine’s piece on the impact of shrinking budgets on fine arts programs in schools was reported on by KFOR. The Enid News & Eagle ran an article by Data Intern Anna Rouw on the benefits of funding educational opportunities for incarcerated Oklahomans.

Upcoming Opportunities

Early-bird registration for the 6th Annual State Budget Summit available until January 7th!  The 2019 State Budget Summit will be on Thursday, January 24th, 2019 in Oklahoma City. In addition to panels with state leaders, the event will feature keynote speaker William Julius Wilson, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University. To purchase tickets or view the full schedule, visit our event page. Thanks to our generous supporters, we are able to offer a limited number of scholarships for this event. Please follow this link if you are in need of a scholarship. All scholarship applications are due by January 7th.

Weekly What’s That

Board of Equalization, What’s That?

The State Board of Equalization was established in 1907 by the Oklahoma Constitution. The Board is responsible for providing an official estimate of how much revenue will be available for the Oklahoma Legislature to budget for the coming year. The seven-member Board is composed of six statewide elected officials – the Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Superintendent of Instruction, and State Auditor – plus the Secretary of Agriculture.

Three times a year, in December, February and June, the Board meets to certify estimates for the upcoming budget year. Estimates are prepared by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and other agencies (see Revenue Estimates). The Board is also responsible for assessing taxable property values for entities such as public service companies, railroads, and airlines. Each Oklahoma county has its own Board of Equalization that settles disagreements between county assessors and property owners about the taxable value of property.

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

Quote of the Week

“This is squarely directed at the poorest families in Oklahoma. They rarely say the word ‘parents,’ but that’s who we’re talking about here. We’re talking about families who are homeless, who are near homeless, who are in a great deal of turmoil already.”

-Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, speaking about the Oklahomans who are threatened with losing their health care under Oklahoma’s proposed Medicaid work reporting rules [Source: Journal Record]

Editorial of the Week

Charting a new path on education reform in Oklahoma

Education continues to be at the top of the state’s priorities, but as we head into the next legislative session, you might notice a disconnect with the realities of our classrooms. There seems to be a disagreement among legislators over the meaning of education reform. Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to funding education, an embarrassing distinction. Even with last session’s historic increase in education dollars, we are woefully behind the region and have not kept pace with our increased student population. [Sen. Carri Hicks / NewsOK]

Numbers of the Day

  • 7.1% – Share of insured Oklahomans enrolled in an HMO in 2016, the 6th-lowest rate nationwide. The US average was 31.6 percent.
  • 74% -Percentage of Oklahoma Correctional Officers with less than 5 years experience.
  • 13.8% – 12-month growth in jobs in Oklahoma’s mining and logging sector (which includes the oil and gas industry) as of October 2018.
  • 11% – The percentage increase in Oklahoma prison admissions in FY 2018.
  • 1.5% – Growth rate for state personal income in Oklahoma since the fourth quarter of 2007, adjusted for inflation.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • This city’s overdose deaths have plunged. Can others learn from it? [New York Times]
  • How incarcerated parents are losing their children forever.  [The Marshall Project]
  • The benefits of this ‘strong economy’ have not reached all Americans. [Washington Post]
  • Poll: Young people more likely to defer health care because of cost. [NPR]
  • What labor market changes have generated inequality and wage suppression? [Economic Policy Institute]


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.

One thought on “The Weekly Wonk: Inequalities in arts education; promising local justice reform; OK’s broken parole system; & more…

  1. Thank you for another year of insight and information. Enjoy the holidays and looking forward to more in the new year.

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