The Weekly Wonk: Poverty week; no good reason not to expand Medicaid; & 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 focused on poverty in Oklahoma and emphasized policy solutions to help our families get ahead.

On Tuesday, a new KIDS COUNT data snapshot found that Black and Latino children in Oklahoma are more than four times as likely to live in areas of concentrated poverty than white children. Rebecca Fine, Education Policy Analyst and KIDS COUNT Coordinator, reminded us that policymakers have the tools to fix these troubling trends and transform struggling neighborhoods into thriving communities. You can access all KIDS COUNT reports and data here.

On Wednesday, we shared previous work on how experiencing poverty causes trauma, with effects that can continue throughout a person’s life. Lauren Turner, Mental Health Policy Analyst and Fellowship Coordinator, points out that while living in poverty is an Adverse Childhood Experience, small policy interventions with large impacts — like restoring the refundability of Oklahoma’s Earned Income Tax Credit — can help alleviate the effects of poverty and boost economic security.

On Thursday, new data from the Census Bureau showed that poverty in Oklahoma is still well above the national average. Carly Putnam, Policy Director and Health Care Policy Analyst, noted that above all else, we’re leaving our children behind: greater than 1 in 5 Oklahoma children live in poverty and our child uninsured rate remained stubbornly high at 8.2 percent (nearly sixty percent higher than the national average of 5.2 percent). 

On Friday, we wrapped up by offering an opportunity to do something about this important issue: join our Together Oklahoma grassroots teams to advocate for solutions to our state’s toughest problems.

This week we also took a deep-dive into one of the policy solutions that would help our families get ahead: Medicaid expansion. Putnam concluded that there is no good reason not to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma. You can find complete information and resources on State Question 802, the initiative petition effort to expand Medicaid here.

In his weekly Journal Record column, former Executive Director David Blatt thanked one of Oklahoma’s biggest advocates for the poor, Steven Dow. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update praised plans for the Greenwood History Center.

OK Policy in the News

The Tulsa World, The Oklahoman, and Public Radio Tulsa reported on the new KIDS COUNT data snapshot that showed Black and Latino children in Oklahoma are more likely to live in concentrated poverty. The Oklahoman wrote about Open Justice Oklahoma’s recent report on the dramatic decline in juvenile arrests and incarceration. The Journal Record wrote about our report that found felony crime has declined since recent justice reforms were enacted. The Muskogee Phoenix Editorial Board cited OK Policy data in a piece condemning false claims around recent criminal justice reform. Putnam spoke to The Oklahoman about the makeup of the Governor Stitt’s Cabinet. Arnold Hamilton cited OK Policy data in a column about school vouchers.

Upcoming Opportunities

Film Screening in Lawton, Oklahoma with Together OK: Join advocates in Lawton for a film screening and conversation on RACE: The Power of an Illusion. The event will take place Monday, September 30 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm in Lawton. Click here for more details.

David Blatt Farewell Events and Legacy Fund: Please join us in celebrating outgoing director David Blatt in Oklahoma City on Monday, October 28th from 5-7 pm and in Tulsa on Tuesday, October 29th from 4:30 – 6:30 pm. Both events are free and open to the public. For more information and to RSVP, go to

Weekly What’s That

Affordable Care Act, what’s that?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and often referred to as Obamacare – is the landmark health care legislation passed by Congress during  the Obama Administration in 2010. Click here to read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“We know that children who live in concentrated poverty have less access to high-quality schools, and they have less access to fresh fruits and vegetables and to the medical care they need. . . . It doesn’t have to be this way. We know that there are solutions and tools that can address these problems.”

– OK Policy Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine, commenting on a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report and calling for changes that support children in concentrated poverty [Tulsa World].

Editorial of the Week

“[I]t is disappointing to see some naysayers spread misleading and false information in an attempt to undermine the success that has been realized in our attempt to reform the criminal justice system in this state. Oklahoma cannot afford to return to its punitive ways — we urge those who were wise enough to support reforms to ignore false cries in the night.”

– The Muskogee Phoenix Editorial Board, writing to debunk claims about recent justice reforms and citing OK Policy data showing no rise in petty theft following changes that reduced punishments for low-level property crimes [Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • $25,465 – The federal poverty line for a family of four (2 adults, 2 children) in 2018
  • 87,000 – Number of Oklahoma children living in extreme poverty (less than 50% of the federal poverty line) in 2017
  • 17.2% – Percentage of working age women in Oklahoma with income below the poverty line in 2017
  • 17.2% – Percentage of Oklahoma households that reported falling behind on bill payments in the last 12 months
  • 15.6% – Oklahoma’s poverty rate in 2018 – slightly lower than in 2017, but still above the national rate

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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