The Weekly Wonk: There’s still work to be done to fully fund core state services

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

This Week from OK Policy

Executive Director David Blatt explained on our blog and in his Journal Record column that the education funding package passed last week was a significant achievement, but cautioned that even more work will need to be done to fully resolve Oklahoma’s serious fiscal challenges. That funding package, HB 1010xx was passed during a concurrent special session – check out our Special Session FAQ’s for more information about how that works. And for more information about bills we’ll be watching next week, check out the most recent Bill Watch.

Director of Strategy & Communications Gene Perry shared more information about the capital gains deduction – it’s the most expensive tax incentive in the state, and there’s little to no evidence that it works to boost the economy. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison drew our attention to efforts to reform occupational licensing – we’ve seen recent signs of legislative progress on this issue. And Intern Annaly Sullivan cautioned us about SQ 794, also known as Marsy’s Law. This well-intentioned measure will appear on ballots this fall, and may result in some unintended consequences.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke with The Nation about the teacher-led walkout this week. Perry talked with The American Prospect the extent to which Oklahoma schools are underfunded. And OK Policy data on education funding was used by several media outlets this week including Newsweek, National ReviewQuartz, Christian Science Monitor, The GuardianKOCO,  and The New Republic.

Our work on removing the capital gains tax deduction also got a lot of attention this week. Blatt talked with CNHI and the Tulsa World and our statement on the issue appeared in a KFOR piece. Our social media infographics were part of a report by NonDoc.

Upcoming Opportunities

OK Policy is hiring! We’re seeking an experienced and effective operations and development associate to provide support for OK Policy’s day to day operations, donor and grant management, and event coordination. Applications for this full-time position are due on April 23rd – click here for more information. We’re also looking for summer interns. Eligible students should have completed at least four semesters of college coursework or be pursuing a graduate degree. Applications for internships are due by April 15 – click here for more information about how to apply.

Weekly What’s That

Emergency Certification

Emergency certification is a process for school districts to fill a position when there is no candidate available who meets the state’s certification requirements. According to the State Department of Education, “Emergency certification should only be requested when the district has exhausted every option to find an appropriately certified person for the open position.” To be approved for emergency certification, a district must go through an application process proving that exhaustive efforts to fill the position with a certified teacher have been unsuccessful. All applications must be approved by the State Department of Education. The State Department of Education issued 30 emergency certifications in 2011-21; by 2016-17, that number had increased to 1,082 through December as the state struggled to recruit and retain qualified teachers. 

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

Quote of the Week

“Well, actually, Mary, we do want a better car. The one you have us currently driving was given to us in 1980. It’s never had the oil changed, tires rotated, filters changed, or engine checked. We’ve patiently waited for a tune-up, car wash, or even just a little air freshener to dangle from our mirror. Since we got the ‘new car’ 38 years ago, it’s been driven without regular maintenance. We’ve essentially been given the message to drive it ‘til the wheels fall off.”

– Pam Cook, a 5th grade teacher at Verdigris Elementary School, responding to recent comments by Governor Mary Fallin likening teachers to a “teenage kid that want a better car” (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Cynthia Rogers, The Oklahoman

The capital gains tax deduction is among the largest incentive programs in the state, averaging over $100 million in lost tax revenues per year. It allows taxpayers to avoid paying taxes on income from the sale of Oklahoma real estate or stock in an Oklahoma-based firm when assets have been held for a sufficient period. There are no caps on the deduction and no requirements that deductions be re-invested in assets that are in Oklahoma. PFM concluded that the program was ineffective, creating a net cost of $465 million from 2010 to 2014.

Numbers of the Day

  • 32.7% – Share of Oklahoma adults without a high school diploma or equivalency who report not having a personal doctor, versus 14.7% of those with a bachelor’s degree or greater.
  • 68% – Percentage of Oklahoma likely voters who agree that too many Americans are sent to prison instead of using alternatives to incarceration.
  • 2.66% – Population increase in Canadian County from 2016 to 2017, the most of any county in Oklahoma.
  • $53.01 – Oklahoma’s state mental health agency mental health service expenditures per capita, 2013. Oklahoma ranked 46th at the time, and the US average was $119.62.
  • 22% – How much violent crime rates have decreased in Oklahoma City since 1980.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Despite Gains, Households of Color Face Ever-Accelerating Racial Wealth Gap [Prosperity Now]
  • When Professionals Rise Up, More Than Money Is at Stake [New York Times]
  • Denver sold bonds to reduce the human and financial costs of homelessness. The results so far are promising.[Denver Post]
  • Think Income Inequality Is Bad? Retirement Inequality May Be Worse [Governing]
  • As Trump Targets Immigrants, Elderly Brace To Lose Caregivers [Kaiser Health News]


Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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