The Weekly Wonk: State not ready for schools to reopen in person | Pardon & Parole Board turmoil

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

Policy Matters: Oklahoma is not ready: To be blunt, Oklahoma is not ready for public schools to open for in-person classes this fall. Schools nationwide are being pressured by politicians and pundits to move forward with in-person reopening plans that lack protections for children and school employees, which also endangers families throughout the state. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Pardon and Parole Board turmoil is a reaction to progress in criminal justice reform (Capitol Update): The turmoil occurring among members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board is an extension of the larger conflict among many of those who administer the criminal justice system in Oklahoma and those who are trying to change it. Despite Oklahoma’s being at or near the top among the states in incarcerating people, those opposing seem to think that, for the most part, the system is working just fine. But the system is not working just fine, and those who suffer the consequences are victims, offenders, families, and taxpayers. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Upcoming Opportunities

Deadline Extended to Friday, July 31: Fall 2020 Internships with OK Policy: Oklahoma Policy Institute is now accepting student applicants for internships in public policy, Open Justice Oklahoma, and communications. These are paid, part-time internships during the Fall 2020 semester. All fall internships are open for applicants to work remotely (telework). Deadline to apply is 5 p.m., Friday, July 31. [Read More or Apply]

Weekly What’s That

1017 Fund

The 1017 Fund, or Education Reform Revolving Fund, is a dedicated revenue fund that is appropriated to the State Department of Education. The fund initially consisted of personal and corporate income tax, sales tax, and use tax revenues attributable to the revenue provisions of HB 1017. In addition, a portion of cigarette and tobacco tax revenues and of tribal gaming and horse track gaming revenues are also now allocated to the 1017 Fund.

In FY 2020, $854.3 million was appropriated from the 1017 Fund, representing 27.8 percent of total state appropriations to the Department of Education and about 10.5 percent of total state appropriations to all agencies.

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

Quote of the Week

Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. #goodtrouble

-U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia. The legendary civil rights leader and longtime Congressman passed away Friday night. [U.S. Rep. John Lewis / @RepJohnLewis |Twitter]

Editorial of the Week

Gov. Stitt shortchanging schools by bolstering private tuition with emergency pandemic aid

Gov. Kevin Stitt let down Oklahoma public education by using much of remaining discretionary federal emergency funds for private school scholarships that will benefit a small fraction of Oklahoma’s school-age students…

The state’s private schools serve less than 39,000 children, compared to about 704,000 in public schools.

By Stitt’s estimation, about 1,500 private school students will benefit from his allocation, representing less than 3.8% of private school students and about 0.2% of all school-age students.

This is a poor use of taxpayer money meant to shore up everyone’s problems from the pandemic.

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 24% – Percentage of America’s teachers, or about 1.5 million, who are at greatest risk of serious illness if they become infected with COVID-19.
  • 36% – Percentage of Oklahoma children — about 324,000 — who live in single-parent families.
  • 39% – Percent of Oklahoma teachers surveyed whose school has a full-time nurse for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • 84% – Percentage of Oklahoma school superintendents and school board members concerned their district will face a COVID-related teacher shortage during the upcoming school year. Three out of four (75 percent) expected a shortage for support staff, while concern for securing substitutes rose to 91 percent. 
  • 28% – Percentage of Oklahoma children whose parents lack secure employment. 

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


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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