The Weekly Wonk: Proposed change to pre-k cutoff date, the importance of an accurate Census count, and 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

OK Policy Education Analyst Rebecca Fine wrote about a proposed change to the pre-K cut off date, which would be a step backward for children. The measure would remove parental control over when to send their children to school and give parents less access to early childhood education. In her weekly Journal Record column, Executive Director Ahniwake Rose examined why an accurate Census count is vitally important for Oklahoma. An inaccurate count means that our communities do not receive their equitable share of federal funding, while companies would get incomplete demographic information used to make important business decisions. In his Capitol Update column, Steve Lewis wrote about the recent leadership change at the Office of Juvenile Affairs

Upcoming Opportunities

Power Building for Success & Together Oklahoma Chapter Meetings

Learn about how to build power in your community and also discuss policy priorities for this Legislative session:    

Weekly What’s That

Balanced Budget, what’s that?

Oklahoma’s Constitution requires that the state’s annual budget be balanced. The balanced budget requirement is accomplished by limiting appropriations for seven funds, of which the General Revenue Fund is by far the largest, to no more than 95 percent of certified revenue estimates for the upcoming year. This allows for a 5 percent cushion in case of a revenue shortfall. If General Revenue collections exceeds 100 percent of the certified amount, the surplus flows into the Constitutional Reserve Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund.

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

Quote of the Week

“The 22 healthiest states in the 2018 rankings were all states that expanded Medicaid.”

– Lynne White, vice president of government relations and political action with Oklahoma Hospital Association [Enid News & Eagle]

Editorial of the Week

Time for Gov. Kevin Stitt to set an election date for Medicaid expansion

What we’re witnessing in Oklahoma City is the same old political playbook. If you can’t win with voters, delay and distract from the issue at hand.

Rather than setting an election date and simply respecting the outcome of our citizens’ vote, Stitt has been floating a diversionary plan that is based on an approach that even the conservative American Enterprise Institute has declared illegal. It’s an approach that would certainly be tied up in the courts for years, leading to even more delays — and that’s only if lawmakers decide to do what they have refused to do for nearly a decade.

[Donna Fessler / Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • $3.5 billion – The economic impact of Oklahoma state retirement system benefits. 
  • 73% – The percentage of state and local government employees nationally who say they would be more likely to leave their jobs if retirement benefits were cut.
  • 4.40% – The percentage of total spending that Oklahoma state and local governments spend on employee retirement benefits. The national average is 4.71 percent.
  • 1908 – The year Oklahoma elected its first Black legislator, A.C. Hamlin of Logan County — just one year after becoming a state. Following his election, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment that effectively limited black voters through voter registration requirements. The amendment was finally declared unconstitutional in a 1915 court case. #BlackHistoryMonth
  • 81.3% – Average funded percentage of Oklahoma’s public employee retirement systems in 2019, up from 56 percent in 2010. Retirees have not received a cost of living adjustment in that time.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

Note: Throughout the week, we highlighted the need for a cost of living adjustment for Oklahoma’s civil service retirees, which was identified as one of OK Policy’s Legislative focus areas during this session. Learn more about other OK Policy 2020 Legislative focus areas


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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