Weekly Wonk: Attracting a new generation of teachers | Help Oklahoma get covered, stay covered | The value of shopping local | 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

Attracting a new generation of teachers (Capitol Update): If a blue ribbon study were conducted today, it’s likely the most urgent threats to America’s schools would be (1) not enough people want to be a teacher, and (2) too many students are chronically absent from school. Solutions would be difficult both to agree upon and to implement. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Help Oklahomans get covered, stay covered: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has been working to ensure that all Oklahomans who have received health insurance through SoonerCare (the state’s Medicaid program) can stay insured as coverage rules changed following the pandemic. But for many individuals, action is needed to ensure eligible folks can keep their health care. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

Safe Communities (Criminal Justice Reform) Affinity Group 
December 12, 6:00 p.m. | [JOIN MEETING ONLINE]

The Safe Communities/Justice Reform Affinity Group is for advocates with an affinity to help make our communities safer. This statewide group meets online regularly in the winter and spring to discuss legislation, share resources, and plan community outreach related to criminal justice reform in Oklahoma. Learn more about affinity groups here, or contact Southeast Regional Organizer Roxanne Logan for more information.

Weekly What’s That

State Question 640

State Question 640 was a citizen-initiated ballot measure that was approved by Oklahoma voters in a special election in March 1992 with 56.2 percent of the vote. The measure amended Article 5, Section 33 of the Oklahoma Constitution to add restrictions on how revenue bills can become law. Under SQ 640, a revenue bill can only become law if: (1) it is approved by a 3/4th vote of both legislative chambers and is signed by the Governor; or (2) it is referred by the legislature to a vote of the people at the next general election and receives majority approval. State Question 640 also prohibited a revenue bill from containing an emergency clause; instead, revenue bills can only take effect 90 days after being signed by the Governor.

Since passage of SQ 640 in 1992, Oklahoma voters have approved only one state question to raise taxes: SQ 713, which increased the tobacco tax in 2004.  Until passage of HB 1010xx in 2018, no revenue bill succeeded in gaining approval from three-quarters of legislators in both chambers.

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

Quote of the Week

“Criminalization (of homelessness) doesn’t work. If it did, there would be no homeless people.”

-Eric Tars, Senior Policy Director for the National Homeless Law Center, speaking about cities and lawmakers introducing policies aimed at regulating encampments and other support for unhoused residents. [Oklahoma Voice]

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World Editorial: Save local shopping destinations by spending money in those stores this holiday season

… About 50% of all U.S. small businesses get more than 25% of their annual sales during the holiday season, according to a report out last month by the digital marketing platform Constant Contact.

Among retail merchants, 75% percent of small businesses rely heavily on holiday customers, and 73% attribute more than one quarter of their annual sales to the holiday season. About 58% say that holiday customers are “extremely important” to the overall success of their business.

Many local retailers also offer online purchasing options for consumers who like the ease of virtual shopping.

Benefits aren’t just that storefronts stay occupied and shopping corridors.

For every $1 spent locally, about two-thirds (68 cents) stays in the community, according to an American Express Small Business Economic Impact Study. When spent at a national retailer, it drops to between 30 cents and 40 cents per $1.

Also, for each $1 spent locally, it creates an additional 48 cents in other business activity as employees and merchants turn around to purchase other local goods and services.

As local merchants succeed, it affects other areas. Think of the sponsors for high school athletic teams and clubs or fundraisers to benefit the many nonprofits. If businesses are prosperous, so will other areas in the community.

Simply, if residents stop shopping in brick-and-mortar stores and from local online options, those retailers go away.

This holiday season, go into local stores and explore new shopping choices. Consumers will find unique items or services perfect for holiday gifts and will be growing the local economy.

[Read the full editorial on the Tulsa World website]

Numbers of the Day

  • $211.82 – Average first-day of incarceration cost for the Oklahoma County jail; the daily per-bed cost is $66.49. Initial intake consist of additional expenses, such as a pat down, an inventorying (and subsequent storage) of personal belongings, fingerprinting, a classification evaluation, a body scan, and a medical exam. [The Oklahoman]
  • 2x – American Indian/ Alaska Native children ages 0–18 are more than twice as likely to lack health insurance than other children (11% vs. 5% in 2022), although the rate of uninsured AI/AN kids improved by three percentage points compared with 2019. [Annie E. Casey Foundation]
  • 16% – Percentage of Oklahomans age 18 to 24 who are not presently enrolled in school, not currently working, and have no degree beyond a high school diploma or GED. Oklahoma is ranked 40th for this metric, and the national average is 13%. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 2.3% – Oklahoma’s prison population grew 2.3% during 2022 after years of steady decline. On Dec. 31, 2022, Oklahoma incarcerated 22,745 people, up from 22,235 in December 2021. Oklahoma had the nation’s fourth-highest incarceration rate at the end of last year, trailing Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. [Bureau of Justice Statistics via Oklahoma Watch]
  • $1.87 billion – Oklahoma’s 2021 tax cuts are projected to cost the state $1.87 billion in lost revenue during the next five years (2024-2028). Because of Oklahoma State Question 640’s supermajority requirements for raising new revenue, these revenue cuts are unlikely to return when the state faces future economic downturns. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

What We’re Reading

  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Race and Tax Policy in 2023 State Legislative Sessions: Tax policy is an important tool to mitigate injustices confronting marginalized communities and to advance genuine racial equity. Done well, tax reform can create a dream scenario of equitable taxation and well-funded public services for everyone. It can also create a nightmare of regressive taxation and weak public investment. More than one-third of states made strides this year to improve their tax systems. This mostly happened through strengthening refundable credits, which offer a proven means of bolstering economic security. In a few states, lawmakers also opted to raise new tax revenue in equitable ways to fund public priorities. Other states, however, prioritized top-heavy tax cuts that will leave fewer resources to respond to the challenges that lie ahead. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]
  • Invisible Children, Invisible Families: The first few months and years of life are a sensitive period for child development​,​ and a potentially vulnerable time for families. Reaching American Indian and Alaska Native families with young children with culturally responsive early care and education can have substantial benefits for AI/AN families and communities. [Bipartisan Policy Center]
  • Policies that reduce intergenerational poverty: Roughly one-third of children who grow up poor in the United States will also experience poverty as adults. Intergenerational poverty is a weight on the backs of millions of Americans, keeping many from achieving their full potential, for their own benefit and that of society.  Understanding the causes of intergenerational poverty, and implementing programs and policies to reduce it, would have important benefits for children and for the entire nation. [Brookings]
  • One in Five: Ending Racial Inequity in Incarceration: Following a massive, four-decade-long buildup of incarceration disproportionately impacting people of color, a growing reform movement has made important inroads. The 21st century has witnessed progress both in reducing the U.S. prison population and its racial and ethnic disparities. The total prison population has declined by 25% after reaching its peak level in 2009. While all major racial and ethnic groups experienced decarceration, the Black prison population has downsized the most. The number of imprisoned Black Americans decreased 39% since its peak in 2002. Despite this progress, imprisonment levels remain too high nationwide, particularly for Black Americans. [The Sentencing Project]
  • States’ Recent Tax-Cut Spree Creates Big Risks for Families and Communities: State policymakers nationwide have embarked on a tax-cutting spree over the past three years, using the cover of temporary budget surpluses stemming from robust federal aid in response to COVID-19 and the economic recovery that followed. The tax cuts — most of which are both permanent and tilted toward wealthy households and corporations — will weaken state revenues by large and growing amounts over time, limiting these states’ ability to maintain support for schools and other vital public services or make new investments that can strengthen the economy and promote opportunity. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]


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.