The Weekly Wonk: New reserve fund could siphon new revenue from education

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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.

In last week’s What’s That?, we failed to note that Oklahoma no longer administers End-of-Instruction exams.  We apologize for the outdated information and appreciate those who called the error to our attention.

This Week from OK Policy

The special legislative session has officially concluded – check out our Special Session FAQ’s for a review of what happened. Executive Director David Blatt’s Journal Record column laid out the accomplishments of the recent teacher walkout – though it didn’t yield great gains at the capitol, the walkout did demonstrate the deep public support for teachers and public education. Blatt also cautioned us about a new reserve fund created in 2016 that could siphon some of the new revenue intended for education spending. 

Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler discussed the potential promise of misdemeanor drug courts, and reminded us that a larger investment in substance abuse service will also be necessary. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update gave us a preview of next year’s legislature – it will look quite different due to some members voluntarily stepping down and others being forced out by term limits. And don’t forget to check out our Bill Watch post for a rundown of what we’ll be paying attention to next week.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with the News on 6 about the proposed veto referendum on the funding package for teacher pay raises. Director of Strategy & Communications Gene Perry was quoted by Education Week about the need for those teacher pay raises. And OK Policy data was used by CNHI, the Washington Post, and The Nation in their coverage of the recent education funding package.

Upcoming Opportunities

Just a few days left to apply to join the OK Policy team! We are seeking an experienced and effective operations and development associate to provide support for OK Policy’s day to day operations, donor and grant management, and event coordination. Applications are due on April 23rd – click here for more information or to apply.

Weekly What’s That

DDSD Waivers

Some Oklahomans with developmental disabilities qualify for Medicaid services through the state’s developmental disabilities services division (DDSD) waivers. The waiver is a funding mechanism that allows the state to offer community-based services as an alternative to institutional services. The state offers four DDSD waivers:
  • The Community Waiver, which providers community-based supports to adults with intellectual disabilities.
  • Two In-Home Supports Waivers (one for children, one for adults) to provide supports to people with intellectual disabilities living at home.
  • The Homeward Bound waiver, which provides services and supports to the Plaintiff Class of the Homeward Bound et al vs. The Hissom Memorial Center et al, and meets stipulations set by federal court for serving individuals who lived at Hissom for a specific period of time. 

Click here to read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“We learned several important takeaways throughout this process: (a) we live in a great community that cares deeply for its school children, and we are so thankful for that; (b) our staff is amazing and holds deep convictions for making our kids’ lives better; (c) our state legislature still has much work ahead of them to address funding issues in education.”

– Miami Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Hogan, in a letter announcing schools’ return to classes after the teacher walkout (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Wayne Greene, Tulsa World

In Oklahoma, 7,634 people with IQs below 70 are on a waiting list for Medicaid-funded Department of Human Services assistance. Like Skyler, nearly 1,700 of those people have been waiting more than 10 years. It’s a statewide problem. In Tulsa County, 1,379 people are on the waiting list and 325 of them have been pending for 10 years or more. Samantha Galloway, executive director of Oklahoma Community Based Providers, said that, practically speaking, the only way anyone comes off the list is through attrition, meaning someone who is getting state assistance dies. The waiting list is one of the more desperate outgrowths of the state’s long-term failure to fund Medicaid services properly. The need for the services keeps growing, but the availability of the services does not.

Numbers of the Day

  • 40 – Number of current Oklahoma state representatives who have run unopposed at least once in their political career.
  • 8% – Share of poor families in Oklahoma who received cash welfare assistance (TANF) in 2016. Since 2001, Oklahoma has slashed spending on this basic assistance, even as the number of families below 50 percent of the poverty line grew significantly.
  • 89.2% – Share of Oklahoma children eligible for Medicaid (SoonerCare) who were enrolled in the program in FY 2015
  • 49.5% – Percentage of Oklahoma households who were middle class in 2016 (earning between two-thirds and twice the state’s median income), down from 52.4% in 2000.
  • 101.7 – Opioid prescriptions per 100 people written by Oklahoma providers in 2015. The U.S. average was 70 per 100 people

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Rural health care is expensive, and Washington isn’t helping [Axios]
  • When Bail Feels Less Like Freedom, More Like Extortion [New York Times]
  • New Research Highlights Ways to Increase Impact and Limit Costs of Business Incentives [Pew Trusts]
  • Putting a price tag on childhood hunger [The Hill]
  • Republicans Lead Medicaid Expansion Push in 2 Holdout States [Governing]


Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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