Weekly Wonk: Increasing access to expungement | A call for civility | Fixing the child care system

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

Interim study examines how to increase access to expungement (Capitol Update): Recently Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, hosted an interim study in the House Judiciary-Criminal Committee on potential criminal record expungement reform. The purpose of criminal justice is to separate offenders from society where necessary for protection, to deter future criminal misconduct, and to rehabilitate those who have offended. In a few cases, the behavior is so abhorrent that justice demands punishment for the sake of punishment. But in most nonviolent cases, the creation of a permanent public record to follow offenders for the rest of their lives contributes little to those goals, and instead adds barriers to their achievement. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: A Call for Civility: Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech often gets cited by those seeking elected office. It celebrates those who are “actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” Unfortunately, too many public meetings these days feel like they’re devolving into the kind of chaos where bloody confrontation is possible. Like earlier this month when a fight broke out at a Lindsay city council meeting, or the many city council and school board meetings statewide that have turned into shouting matches where unruly participants had to be forcefully removed. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Block Grants

A block grant is a type of grant program transferring federal funding to states to be used for a broadly defined function. Unlike entitlements, which use a combination of state and federal dollars to administer a range of safety net programs to anyone who qualifies, block grants are capped amounts of federal money. By comparison, entitlement spending allows federal programs to expand or contract in response to need. ​Because block grants​ don’t respond to need and commonly do not increase at all year to year or do not increase as quickly as costs, they are ​in effect deep budget cuts​ that​ leav​e states on the hook for a​n increasing share of ​the funding for basic safety net programs.

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

Quote of the Week

“Whether your goal is as deep as helping the human spirit or as simple as saving money on incarceration, the assistance we give Oklahomans as they leave a state correctional facility can make all the difference in their transition back into society.”

-Rep. Ajay Pittman, speaking during an interim study about resources made available to Oklahomans when leaving a correctional facility [The Oklahoman

Editorial of the Week

Government must play a role in fixing child care system

Oklahoma lawmakers met recently for an interim study to try to understand the state’s worker shortage and how the lack of reliable day care is playing into the crisis.

Oklahoma’s Child Care Resource and Referral Agency has said even before the pandemic that about half of Oklahomans live in a child care desert and that hundreds of day care centers closed during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

This has exacerbated an already difficult time for businesses trying to hire workers. The state Chamber of Commerce also recognizes that access to child care is essential for the state’s economic recovery.

Interim studies and discussions on this issue aren’t new; however, what hasn’t really happened is a concerted effort among the federal government, state government and the private sector to truly address the issue and find solutions. Reliable and affordable day care has been an economic issue for a long time, but the pandemic laid bare the faultiness of our child care system.

No one likes the term “universal-anything” when it comes to government spending; however it is time to recognize that government can play a greater role in providing quality child care for working families and that child care is an essential service. So it’s time to really get to work addressing the issue.

Some of the solutions that have been proposed on the federal and state levels include:

• Capping the costs of child care to low-income families.

• Creating an aggressive federal match for state-improved childcare access in underserved areas as well as increase the federal match for infant care.

• Extending the Child Tax Credit expansions from the American Rescue Plan through 2025 and permanently making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable.

• Providing child care subsidies to low-income workers.

• Providing a living wage with benefits to full-time child care workers.

Prioritizing fixing a broken child care system is critical to our economic future. Post-pandemic, a major turning point in our economy hinges on making child care more accessible and affordable for families.

[Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • >100,000 – More than 100,000 Oklahomans would be eligible to seal criminal records and lead more productive lives if Oklahoma implemented an automatic expungement system. [OK Policy]
  • 19 – Number of states that are streamlining criminal record expungement through some form of automation. This topic was part of a recent interim study about increasing access to expungement in Oklahoma. [Clean Slate Initiative
  • $10 billion – An automatic expungement system is estimated to help reduce unemployment for justice-involved Oklahomans. This increase in employment could increase Oklahoma’s GDP by up to $10 billion annually [OK Policy]
  • 6.5% – Only about 6.5 percent of the people eligible for expungement actually access relief without an automatic system. [University of Michigan Law School]
  • 18% – Percent of children in Oklahoma who are Hispanic of any race (2019) [KIDS COUNT]

What We’re Reading

  • During the pandemic, employers in the hospitality sector turned to the formerly incarcerated to fill jobs [The Counter]
  • To Boost Hiring, New York Makes Case for a ‘Clean Slate’ [Bloomberg]
  • Dozens of new expungement laws already enacted in 2021 [OK Policy]
  • More States Consider Automatic Criminal Record Expungement [Pew Trusts]
  • Key facts about U.S. Latinos for National Hispanic Heritage Month [Pew Research]

NOTE: National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. Each week, OK Policy will share policy notes and numbers to recognize this commemoration.


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.

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