The Weekly Wonk: Budget cuts are putting higher ed out of reach for many Oklahoma students

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  reminded us that, after the recent events in Charlottesville, that addressing racial inequality requires more than simply denouncing overt white supremacy. Blatt also pointed out that recent tuition hikes as a result of budget cuts to higher education are making college unaffordable for many Oklahoma students.

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam introduced us to reinsurance – part of Oklahoma’s plan to lower health insurance premiums and attract more insurers to offer policies on the healthcare exchange in Oklahoma. Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler brought to light that pattern of court debt in Oklahoma – residents of poor areas are much more likely to be facing high levels of court debt than other Oklahomans. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update talked us through the multiple ways that a special legislative session could play out this year.

OK Policy in the News

Blatt spoke twice this week with the Oklahoma News Report on OETA – about severe cuts in state support for higher education and about the $215 budget hole now facing the state since the court finding that the cigarette fee was an unconstitutional tax. Blatt also talked with the Tulsa World and with The Oklahoman about how we ended up with the budget shortfall and our options for dealing with it.

OK Policy data was used by the U.S. News & World Report for a piece about the connection between Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry and school science curriculum in the state. Gentlzer was interviewed by the Journal Record for their coverage of Kris Steele’s appointment to the Pardon & Parole Board – there is a bottleneck in the parole process in Oklahoma that needs to be addressed. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison’s presentation to the Oklahoma Occupational Licensing Reform Task Force was covered by the Journal Record – this is an issue where there is bipartisan consensus.

Weekly What’s That

Rainy Day Fund

The Rainy Day Fund was created in 1985 in response to a dramatic revenue downturn. It is designed to collect extra funds when times are good and to spend those funds when revenues cannot support ongoing state operations. Money flows in to the Rainy Day Fund when revenue is more than estimated. The Constitution (Article X, Section 23) allows the Fund to be spent in four instances. Read more here.

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

Quote of the Week

“We’re robbing our children of the very people who can help ensure they enter adulthood well prepared for college and the workplace. We can’t continue to let students bear the burden of adult inaction. Putting a great teacher in every classroom is the very least we can do for children, but we’re falling spectacularly short of fulfilling even that most basic obligation.”

– OSSBA Executive Director Shawn Hime, commenting on his organization’s survey that showed 536 teaching vacancies to start the school year despite the addition of 1,430 emergency-certified teachers districts and 480 eliminated teaching positions since last year (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Jeannie McDaniel, Tulsa World

Oklahoma must decide how we face poverty in this century. Poverty is the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support. People in poverty lose identity, confidence and so much more in the trickle-down effect on generations. Much like scars that don’t tell the whole story of disease or accident, living in poverty has many hidden hurts and many causes.

Numbers of the Day

  • 74.04% – Voter registration rate in Oklahoma in 2014, 44th in the US
  • 46,414 – Number of Oklahoma veterans who served post-September 2001
  • 536 – Teaching vacancies reported by Oklahoma school districts to start the 2017-18 school year, despite the addition of 1,430 emergency-certified teachers and 480 eliminated teaching positions since last year
  • 52.7% – Oklahoma households that set aside money for unexpected expenses and emergencies in the last 12 months, 2015
  • 56.04% – Percentage of Oklahoma business filing transactions processed online in 2016, up from 33% in 2014

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • States Start to See More Cost Than Benefit to Tax-Free Holidays [Governing]
  • The human cost of college debt that becomes “purgatory” [Hechinger Report]
  • How Mental-Health Training for Police Can Save Lives—and Taxpayer Dollars [Route Fifty]
  • The Afterlife of Big Ideas in Education Reform [Pacific Standard]
  • A Foundation, Not a Net [Jacobin]


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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