The Weekly Wonk: Medicaid expansion signature-gathering to begin; Northeast Oklahoma field organizer, & 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, advocates will begin collecting signatures to place the Oklahoma Medicaid expansion ballot initiative, State Question 802, on the ballot. Organizers will have until 5 pm on October 28, 2019 to collect 178,000 signatures (15 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election). To answer questions about the ballot initiative process and next steps, we published a page of information and resources on SQ 802.

On Monday, we launched the search for a part-time field organizer in northeast Oklahoma to support the work of our grassroots advocacy citizen coalition, Together Oklahoma (TOK). Field organizers will bring awareness of TOK priority issues to their dedicated region with a focus on tax and budget issues, health care, economic security, and criminal justice. The deadline to apply is Friday, August 16.

In his weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt warned about a recently proposed plan that would worsen the accuracy of the U.S. poverty measure and cause hundreds of thousands of people to lose access to critical health and nutrition programs. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update shared highlights from the nearly 100 House interim studies approved by House Speaker Charles McCall.

In this week’s edition of Meet OK Policy, we’re featuring Justice Data Analyst Ashley Harvey. Meet more members of our staff here.

Upcoming Opportunities

We’re hiring a field organizer in northeast Oklahoma: Organizers will work to expand our membership base, support our volunteer leaders, and equip and train individuals for effective advocacy. Organizers will develop local outreach strategies and convey our policy proposals throughout their region in an engaging and empowering way. The deadline to apply is Friday, August 16th.

Weekly What’s That

Emergency certification, what’s that?

Emergency certification is a process for school districts to fill a position when there is no candidate available who meets the state’s certification requirements. To be approved for emergency certification, a district must go through an application process proving that exhaustive efforts to fill the position with a certified teacher have been unsuccessful.

The State Department of Education issued 32 emergency certifications in 2011-21; by 2018-19, that number had soared to over 3,000 as the state continued to struggle to recruit and retain qualified teachers. Click here to read more about emergency certifications.

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

Quote of the Week

“There are times when people say, ‘Not everyone needs to go to college,’ and there are times when people say, ‘It’s just not worth the cost.’ And I will agree that maybe not everyone needs a bachelor’s degree. But everyone actually does need to have some sort of post-high school learning — unless any of us are OK with someone being able to earn only $9,000 a year.”

– Danette Howard, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for the Lumina Foundation, speaking at the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s State of Education event this week [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Our View: Number of Emergency Certifications Rise (Muskogee Phoenix)

Oklahoma’s increased reliance on emergency certification to fill its classrooms with teachers is a troubling trend that must be reversed sooner rather than later.

A record 3,038 teachers were admitted during this past school year through that credentialing process, according to reporting from CNHI’s Capitol Bureau. That represents a 9,400 percent increase from just nine years ago, when the 32 emergency teaching certificates that were issued were relatively rare. .

Numbers of the Day

  • 96,177 – The number of jobs that Oklahoma tribes supported in the state in 2017, representing $4.6 billion in wages and benefits to Oklahoma workers.
  • 66% – Percent of Oklahoma certified teachers no longer in the classroom in 2017 who said they would need more than higher pay to go back to the classroom.
  • $12.9 billion – The total economic impact that tribes made in Oklahoma in 2017. In addition to direct contributions, tribes generate billions in production by companies that support tribes’ business operations.
  • 9% – Percent the mean hourly wage for all workers in the OKC metro was below the national average in May 2019.
  • 66.8% – Percent of adults served by Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS) that were employed in jobs in their communities – one of the highest rates in the nation

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Probation and parole violations are filling up prisons and costing states billions [Governing]
  • Minimum wage workers can’t afford housing [US News]
  • How legal marijuana is helping the black market [Politico]
  • Among Philly kids, trauma and poverty are linked to mental illness, learning problems and more [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • Major study suggests Medicaid work requirements are hurting people without really helping anybody [Vox]


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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