The Weekly Wonk: Tackling the teacher shortage, school district consolidation, and more…

the_weekly_wonkWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly W onk 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 The Know and The Weekly Wonk are taking a break for the holiday! In The Know will resume on January 4, 2016. The Weekly Wonk will follow on January 10, 2016. 

This Week from OK Policy

This week on the OK Policy Blog, a three-part series examined the origins of Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and what we can do about it. The first post, from Research Fellow John Lepine, wrote about the importance of factors besides salaries to retaining teachers. Executive Director David Blatt discussed research from University of Tulsa professor Matthew Hendricks showing that a pay raise could ease the teacher shortage and boost student outcomes. In a guest post, Jennifer Jobs of OSU explained why recent legislation aimed at recruiting teachers isn’t enough. 

Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update responded to reprised calls for school district consolidation. In his Journal Record column, Blatt discussed a new report placing Oklahoma’s overall health second-worst in the nation, in front of only Mississippi. OK Policy released a statement in response to official projections that Oklahoma will enact midyear budget cuts this year and is expecting a $900.8 million budget hole next year.

Opportunities Ahoy!

  • OK Policy is deciding our policy priorities for the coming year, and we want your input! Our staff has identified 25 issues in the six policy areas we focus on – budget and taxes, education, health care, criminal justice, economic opportunity, and voting and elections. Take the survey and tell us what you think here.
  • Tickets for the 2016 State Budget Summit are on sale now! As Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session approaches, the state’s budget crisis is uppermost on the mind of policymakers and the public. OK Policy’s 3rd Annual State Budget Summit will bring together experts and those affected by the budget crisis for a day of thoughtful discussion and exchange of ideas. Find out more and buy tickets here.
  • We are now accepting student applicants for paid, part-time internships focusing on research or advocacy during the spring of 2016. Our interns are treated as full members of the OK Policy team. Tasks may include collecting data, conducting research, writing blog posts or reports on state policy issues, strategizing policy goals, coordinating volunteers, and helping to organize events on a wide range of topics. Applications will be accepted through December 22, 2015. Learn more here.

OK Policy in the News

The Tulsa World and KWGS quoted Blatt in articles on the state’s budget woes. KGOU quoted OK Policy’s statement on the topic. Arnold Hamilton, editor of The Oklahoma Observer, cited OK Policy in his Journal Record column

Weekly What’s That

Revenue failure

A revenue failure occurs when collections going to the General Revenue Fund fall below 95 percent of the certified estimate (see revenue estimates). The Director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services declares a revenue failure and reduces funds going to agencies by however much is necessary to bring spending into balance with revenue collections. Read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“We have, I believe, a moral obligation to make sure we do what we can to spend our money wisely from a government standpoint, and so when we’re doing all this retraction of dollars, it does make it difficult because you don’t want to lose sight of the person at the end of the number. There is an individual there who is desperately needing help … and we want to help them.”

– Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez, who said his agency has had to make cuts that could put health care providers out of business and threaten access for Soonercare patients just to stay at a flat budget request for next year (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Tulsa World

“The most frightening element of the education statistics is that the period since 2008 included a national recession and an Oklahoma boom, driven by record high petroleum prices. Rather than turning that gusher to education or saving it for the future, the Legislature cut taxes, ensuring fewer resources for critical state services, especially public schools. With Tuesday’s announcement that crashing oil prices have brought a state budget failure, there’s no reason for optimism that the state’s education funding failure will soon improve.”

Numbers of the Day

  • 64% – The salary of mid-career teachers (age 45) in Oklahoma compared to similarly situated non-teachers.
  • $12.95 – The median hourly earning of wage and salary workers in Oklahoma in 2014; nationally, the median was $13.14.
  • $900.8 million – Oklahoma projected budget hole next year, due to proliferating tax cuts and tax breaks and a weakening oil and gas industry.
  • $737 – Median gross rent for occupied rental housing units in Oklahoma in 2014
  • $118.47 – Average monthly SNAP (food stamp) benefits per person in Oklahoma in FY 2014

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • At least a few localities in nearly every state in the country authorize “pay-to-stay” fees on prisoners for everything from medical costs, to food, to clothes [Brennan Center for Justice].
  • Walmart could pay its workers $15 an hour by redirecting some of the billions it spends on buying back shares of its own stock into wages [The American Prospect].
  • Tyson Foods was the driving force behind a nearly twenty-year campaign to overhaul Oklahoma’s worker’s compensation laws [Pacific Standard].
  • How a national network of food banks figured out how to get the right food to the right place at the right time [Planet Money]. A transcript of this episode is available here.
  • The number of military veterans in the country’s jails and prisons continues to drop, defying stereotypes that returning war veterans are prone to crime [NPR].


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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