Weekly Wonk: Education proposals | Envisioning an Oklahoma without poverty | 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

Recent education proposals could be most comprehensive education reform in decades (Capitol Update)Among the bill deadline’s better reveals last week was a set of serious proposals by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, to improve Oklahoma education. This may be one of those rare moments in Oklahoma’s brief history where a giant step forward for education could be taken without having to ask for a tax increase. The money is there. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity. [Steve Lewis / Journal Record]

Policy Matters: Envisioning an Oklahoma without poverty: I believe in an Oklahoma where every resident — regardless of where they’re from or what they look like — can live in dignity without fear of how they would pay their bills or put a roof over their head. However, far too many Oklahomans (nearly 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 5 children) live in poverty. The disparities are even larger when comparing categories for race, gender and disability. [Shiloh Kantz / OK Policy]

Upcoming Opportunities

Together Oklahoma Meetings

  • Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 p.m.: Thriving Families Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on advancing policies that provide equitable opportunity for all Oklahoma families to thrive. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 6 p.m.: Logan, Lincoln, and Payne Counties Community Meeting. Stillwater Community Center, 315 W. Eighth Ave in Stillwater. Online option available. [More Info
  • Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 6:00 p.m.: Protecting Democracy Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on ensuring that Oklahoma laws and policies provide for governmental transparency and greater participation in the democratic process. [Join the Meeting Online]

Weekly What’s That

Straight-Ticket Voting (Straight-Party Voting)

Oklahoma allows straight-party voting, also known as straight-ticket voting, in general elections. Straight-party voting enables a voter to select one political party’s complete slate of candidates for every office by making a single mark on his or her ballot. Oklahoma is one of only 6 states still allowing straight-party voting as of 2022, along with Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and South Carolina, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Fifteen states have abolished straight-party voting since 1994; in some instances, repeal efforts have led to extensive legal battles.

The trend in Oklahoma is for an increasing number of voters to cast straight-party ballots, with a growing majority of straight-party voters supporting the Republican Party. In 2020, over 710,000 Oklahomans selected the straight-party option, out of a total of some 1,560,000 votes cast, or 46 percent of all voters, up from 36 percent in 2016. Of straight-party voters in 2020, 71 percent voted for the Republican ticket, 28 percent voted straight-party Democrats, and 1 percent Libertarian, according to the Oklahoma Election Board. In the 2018 mid-term election, 40 percent of ballots were straight party votes, with Republicans receiving about 308,000 straight party votes (66 percent) to the Democrats’ 162,000 (34 percent), the Norman Transcript reported.

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

Quote of the Week

“It’s uncanny. If you look at historical redlining maps, and then you look at the difference between the green areas and the red areas, in the modern day those values are still the same. If we stopped redlining, then why didn’t they appreciate at the same rate?”

– Anya Mashaney, a real estate broker and owner of Spaces Real Estate, speaking on the disparities in the real estate industry and how values in Black neighborhoods have failed to appreciate at the same rate of similar properties in different, mostly white parts of the city. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Enid News & Eagle Editorial: Large number of bills filed, but most will not be heard

A couple thousand bills were filed last week as the Oklahoma Legislature gets ready for its upcoming legislative session, which starts Feb. 6.

You’ve probably been hearing bits and pieces in the media about a few of the items — including some that probably will never really see the light of day but have been filed just to get some attention.

Many of these bills are called “shell bills,” in which they have a title, but if you try to look them up, there really is no language to go along with them. Lawmakers will begin their work to narrow the list of new laws when they officially enter the new session.

Many of the proposed bills reach across all areas of state law. Some will be controversial and idealogical. Some will seek to set new limits or rules on existing laws.

Some hot topics include Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, which has come under controversy regarding its plan to build new turnpikes in the Oklahoma City metro area.

Many bills address more policies regarding gender issues, including a bill to raise the age to 26 for a person to be able to have gender transition surgery. This type of legislation most likely will be ignored since that is well over the age of majority. Other bills seek to limit these surgeries to people under age 18.

A bill by state Sen. Shane Jett of Shawnee would call for a Save Men’s Sports Act, which he says is along the same lines as the Save Women’s Sports Act, which prohibits biological males (transgender) from participating in women’s sports.

This is a bill that should end up in File 13 since there has been no issue of transgender men trying to participate in men’s sports. It would make it illegal for girls to participate in male sports, such as they have done in the past, and quite frankly, have helped save some schools that didn’t have enough players from forfeiting games. These girls are typically competing as girls, not as transgender.

Some bills of substance and of more importance also were filed, particularly in the areas of education. Bills dealing with teacher raises, teacher reform and vouchers will likely get a lot of attention this year.

Other bills that seek to clarify the abortion restrictions in Oklahoma will get attention by the media, if not by the Legislature. We’ll just have to see.

So, buckle up and get ready for some fireworks this legislative session. And, remember that most of these bills will likely never be heard.

[Enid News & Eagle / Editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 40th – Oklahoma ranks 40th in overall child well-being based on data in four domains: economic well-being, health, family and community, and education. [KIDS COUNT] | [See County by County Metrics]
  • >400 – More than 400 of the 1,901 House bills filed for the upcoming Legislative session are “shell” bills with little or no substantive language. Shell bills are intended to serve as placeholders for legislative proposals to be filled in later.
    [Tulsa World] | [More about shell bills from OK Policy’s “What’s That?”]
  • Up to 13% – Medicaid expansion reduced recidivism by up to 13% as seen in decreased probability of rearrest and the number of arrests. In the Midwest and Southwest, the estimated effects at two years after expansion were consistent with estimates from other studies on the relationship between access to health-care services and recidivism. [National Library of Medicine]
  • 43rd – Oklahoma’s national rank for poverty. Oklahoma’s poverty rate is 15.6%, or nearly 1 in 6 residents live at or below the federal poverty line. [U.S. Census Bureau via Center for American Progress]
  • 95% – About 95 percent of Oklahoma children (~700,000) learn in public schools that span 1,800 locations throughout all 77 counties statewide. In 2019-2020, Oklahoma had 177 private schools serving about 32,650 students. [Oklahoma State Department of Education] | [National Center for Education Statistics]

What We’re Reading


Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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