The Weekly Wonk: The intersection of hunger and health, education outlaws, and more

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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. Because there was no Weekly Wonk last week, this edition contains information from the last two weeks. 

This Week from OK Policy

A guest post from Effie Craven, State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, examined the intersection of hunger and health. The latest post in Camille Landry’s Neglected Oklahoma series told the story of Oklahomans looking for a better education in public schools outside their home districts. Executive Director David Blatt noted that public supports are doing exactly what they’re supposed to in his Journal Record column. In his Capitol Updates, Steve Lewis highlighted the Oklahoma House races to watch in November

We released our guide to this year’s Oklahoma state questions. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler previewed the next round of criminal justice reforms. Blatt wrote in his Journal Record column that Tulsa Public Schools’ decision to adopt a program allowing free breakfast and lunch for all elementary students is a clear win for schools and students. Policy Director Gene Perry examined new Census data showing that Oklahoma has improved on poverty and uninsured rates but still lags behind the nation

Upcoming Opportunities

  • In October, we’ll be hosting two Fall Policy Boot Camps (FallPol), one-day policy trainings on the state budget, criminal justice reform, poverty, and other critical policy issues affecting our state, as well as breakout sessions on the legislative process, diversity and inclusion, advocacy, and research techniques. FallPol Tulsa will be held at OSU-Tulsa on Friday, October 14, and FallPol Edmond will be held at Oklahoma Christian University on Saturday, October 15. Further details, including agendas, can be found here.
  • We’re pleased to welcome author Tamara Draut to discuss her recent bookSleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America, in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. On Wednesday, October 5, at7pm, Draut will discuss the book at the Woody Guthrie Center with BookSmart Tulsa. Click here to learn more and RSVP. On Thursday, October 6th, Draut will be the featured speaker at the Central Oklahoma Community Forum’s 2016 Labor-Religion luncheon at 11:30am at Fairview Baptist Church (1700 Northeast 7th Street, Oklahoma City). Lunch will be served free of charge, but space is limited. You must register in advance no later than Thursday, September 29th, by calling Linda Smith at (405) 634-4030 or by emailing Learn more about both events here.
  • Together Oklahoma will host “Policy Talk at the Shop: Election Edition” at Ice Tre’s Barber Shop (2104 W. Gore) in Lawton on September 24th at 4pm. The event will give Lawton residents an opportunity to gain information about voting in the 2016 election season, understand state questions and engage with elected officials and candidates. To learn more and RSVP, visit Together OK’s Facebook page.

OK Policy in the News

The Oklahoman quoted Blatt in an article on the numerous bills that passed this year to raise fines and fees. In a guest column in the Journal Record, Jim Roth cited an OK Policy blog post about school funding cuts. The Lawton Constitution announced Together Oklahoma’s Policy Talk at the Shop

Weekly What’s That


Federally-qualified health centers (FQHCs) are community health centers that meet certain qualifications and are thus eligible for certain grants. FQHCs must serve an underserved area or population, offer a sliding fee scale, provide comprehensive services, have an ongoing quality assurance program, and have a governing board of directors. FQHCs provide services regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. In Oklahoma, 18 FQHCs in 60 locations served about 150,000 patients in 2012.

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

Quote of the Week

“All funding has been decreased for substance abuse services in the state, mental health services in the state, all of our diversion courts have been hit, so yeah, it has an impact. We’ve been telling them you can’t continue to not fund core services in your state and act like it’s not going to have an impact.”

-Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who said state funding cuts to mental health services and public safety have likely contributed to the county sending 33 percent more women and 5 percent more men to prison in fiscal year 2016 (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Robert Henry, President of Oklahoma City University

State Questions 780 and 781 are thoughtful reforms designed to save money by reclassifying certain low-level offenses, like simple drug possession, as misdemeanors instead of felonies, thereby reducing Oklahoma’s prison population, and then redistributing taxpayer dollars locally in community-based job training, employment, and rehabilitation and treatment programs that address addiction and mental illness. Instead of spending money on an inefficient system of imprisoning people for low-level offenses, we can invest in programs designed to address the root causes of crime and help Oklahomans lead productive lives.

Numbers of the Day

  • 7,438 – Number of families receiving TANF cash assistance in Oklahoma in 2014, out of 101,956 families living in poverty
  • 3rd – Oklahoma ranking for wind power production, 2015
  • 170,000  Estimated number of Oklahoma children lifted above the poverty line by government safety net programs each year, reducing Oklahoma’s child poverty rate from 28.5 percent to 10.2 percent
  • 10th – Oklahoma’s ranking out of the states and Washington D.C. for carbon dioxide emissions per capita, 2013
  • 215,786  Number of traffic cases considered by Oklahoma courts in FY 2015
  • 60.9  Oklahoma’s average temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, 2015
  • 55.4%  Percentage of Oklahomans aged 12–17 with a major depressive episode who did not receive treatment for depression (2010-2014)
  • 2,925,352 – Total voting age population in Oklahoma (2014)
  • 53.5 inches – Total precipitation in Oklahoma in 2015, 11th highest in the U.S.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Even violent crime victims say our prisons are making crime worse [Wonkblog]
  • On Social Security’s 81st anniversary, a reminder that it’s also a lifeline for children [LA Times]
  • Why American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought [New York Times]
  • In South Dakota, Voters Get Rare Chance to Transform Politics [Governing]
  • After Texas Slashed Its Family Planning Budget, Maternal Deaths Almost Doubled [Slate]
  • The teacher pay gap is wider than ever [Economic Policy Institute]
  • How Bad Prosecutors Cause Bad Policing [Slate]
  • Affluent and Black, and Still Trapped by Segregation [New York Times]
  • How free preschool may help poor kids when they become parents [Washington Post]


Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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