The Weekly Wonk: Shrinking school support staff; how Gov. Stitt can fix the parole process; bills to watch; & 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, Education Policy Analyst Rebecca Fine found that while school enrollment in Oklahoma has been increasing steadily over the last decade, there are now 391 fewer support professionals in our schools. Criminal Justice Policy Analyst Damion Shade outlined how Governor Stitt can use his executive powers to begin fixing Oklahoma’s broken parole process. Policy Director Carly Putnam explained why Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency should withdraw a rule to terminate health care coverage over returned mail

With the legislative session underway, our weekly Bill Watch series is back to give you insight on the bills and issues we’re watching closely in the legislature. To start us off, Executive Director David Blatt gave us an overview of what we can expect this year on the taxes and budget front. Likewise, Putnam discussed the optimism and caution surrounding health care. Both Blatt and Putnam were guests on this week’s episode of the OKPolicyCast discussing the forecast for their respective issues

In his weekly Journal Record column, Blatt detailed how economic and racial disparities in our criminal justice system mean that the burden of court fees strikes hardest at people and communities with the least ability to ever pay them off.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy education data was cited by the Washington Post in a story on the magnitude of teacher protests in 2018. In her Tulsa World column, Ginnie Graham cited OK Policy data on the cuts in fine arts education in Oklahoma due to shrinking budgets. Fine’s analysis on the drawbacks of delaying pre-K for Oklahoma children was published in the Enid News & Eagle. Southwest Oklahoma Field Organizer Jacobi Crowley spoke with KSWO about attending Governor Stitt’s State of the State address.

Upcoming Opportunities

State of the State Forum in Ardmore: Executive Director David Blatt will join the Ardmore chapter of Together Oklahoma for a State of the State Forum on Tuesday, February 19 at 6 PM. Blatt will discuss opportunities and challenges for the state budget. Visit the Facebook event for full details. 

Legislative Kick-off in Tulsa: Join the Tulsa chapter of Together Oklahoma for a legislative meet and greet with Tulsa area legislators. The event will take place Saturday, February 23 at 3 PM in the Central Library. In addition to the opportunity to connect with your senators and representatives, you can meet fellow constituents and learn about best practices to keep in touch with your legislators. Visit the Facebook event for full details.

Weekly What’s That

Ad Valorem Tax, What’s That?

Property tax, also known as ad valorem tax, is an annual tax paid by property owners to local government. Property tax collections in Oklahoma totaled $2.3 billion in 2013 and are the single largest source of local government revenue. Oklahoma’s per person property taxes are among the lowest in the nation and less than half the national average. Click here to read more about Ad Valorem Taxes

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

Quote of the Week

“Again, no one wants to pay taxes, and especially more taxes, but the evidence has shown that the passage of the state question has hamstrung and stifled the legislative process, and in turn, affected Oklahoma’s citizens and their way of life. Since the approving of SQ 640, funding for services we want and need such as education, roads and bridges, health, mental health, and public safety have all been negatively impacted by this state question.”

-OSU-Tulsa President Howard Barnett and BanfFirst CEO Darryl Schmidt, writing that it’s time to repeal or modify SQ 640 [Source: Countywide & Sun]

Editorial of the Week

Hamilton: Public school privatizers aren’t going away

As the Senate Education Committee neared action this week on a proposal to create a voucher program for bullied students, President Pro Tem Greg Treat slipped into the fifth-floor conference room and waited. Within minutes, he was called upon to vote, giving thumbs up to Senate Bill 570. It didn’t help – the measure was defeated, 10-6. He turned and departed as quietly as he arrived. What some might view as a routine snapshot of session life actually was anything but ordinary. [Arnold Hamilton / The Journal Record]

Numbers of the Day

  • 26 – The number of years Oklahoma has had the highest female incarceration rate
  • 10,777 – Number of inmates the Oklahoma Department of Corrections received in Fiscal Year 2018
  • 34.3 – Fatalities per 10,000 people who bike to work in Oklahoma City, 2012-2016, the highest fatality rate among all large U.S. cities.
  • 12th – Oklahoma’s rank for the percentage of workers making at or below the federal minimum wage, tied with Pennsylvania and Texas at 3.1 percent.
  • $6.34 – Average cost of a 15-minute phone call from jail in Oklahoma.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • The startling toll on children who witness domestic violence is just now being understood. [USA Today]
  • Untangling the evidence on preschool effectiveness: Insights for policymakers. [Learning Policy Institute]
  • Tech is splitting the U.S. work force in two. [New York Times]
  • In rush to revamp Medicaid, Trump officials bend rules that protect patients. [LA Times]
  • Shrinking Medicaid rolls in Missouri and Tennessee raise flag on vetting process. [Kaiser Health News]


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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