The Weekly Wonk: Lack of progress on criminal justice reform this legislative session may cost Oklahoma

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

Policy Director Gene Perry’s Journal Record column laments the lack of progress on criminal justice reform this legislative session – smart-on-crime policies would be more effective than our current approach of incarceration. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam warns us that care for seniors and people with disabilities could be at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall – the agency needed $733 million this year to maintain these services, but received only $700 million.Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the difficult decisions facing state health care and social service agencies as they try to deal with budget shortfalls – in addition to the cuts at DHS discussed by Putnam, the State Department of Health is considering cuts to Child Abuse Prevention Programs.

OK Policy in the News

Putnam spoke with The Oklahoman about the potential effects of the DHS budget shortfall – adult daycare facilities will be especially at risk – and about the American Health Care Act currently being considered by the U.S. Senate.  Senator Lankford is undecided about the bill, and Putnam recommends they vote no. The bill could have dire consequences for Medicaid recipients in Oklahoma.

Executive Director David Blatt was interviewed by KOSU for a story about State Question 640. The recent years of revenue shortfalls and budget cuts have caused many people to rethink their support of SQ 640. OK Policy data was used by Adam Kupetsky in his editorial encouraging Oklahoma to get serious about adequately funding public education.

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.

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

Quote of the Week

“There are costs and there are trade-offs when we face such a budgetary situation. My concern is that we are risking the future of our state when we underinvest in the education of the next generation, underinvest to the point that we are the very bottom state in both common education and higher education.”

– OU President David Boren, announcing a 5 percent tuition increase as the university deals with further budget cuts (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Writers, Tulsa World

State funding to public schools — which wasn’t adequate to begin with — came up $54 million short last year. And, in the crazy world of Oklahoma education circles, that’s almost good news. If you’re wondering why more and more districts are closed on Fridays, west Tulsa schools are being consolidated and class sizes are going up, the answer is clear. Perennially, the Oklahoma Legislature has failed to fund public schools adequately. When lawmakers undercut the state’s tax base based on unrealistic expectations that it would produce economic growth, that problem got markedly worse, such that the state budget has been in a long-term downward spiral with a series of gaping budget holes and revenue failures.

Numbers of the Day

  • $1.26 billion – How much Oklahoma’s FY 2018 appropriated budget is below the FY 2009 budget, adjusted for inflation.
  • 3,178 – Adoption cases filed in Oklahoma courts, FY 2016
  • 345.6 – Number of Oklahomans per 100,000 residents who were in jail while awaiting a trial in 2014. The national average is 222.2.
  • 32% – Projected increase in number of Oklahomans age 85+, 2015 to 2030
  • 45 – Number of counties in Oklahoma (out of 77) where 50 percent of the population or greater does not have a grocery store nearby.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • America’s prisons are failing. Here’s how to make them work [The Economist]
  • The Americans With Disabilities Act Is Under Attack in Congress [Rewire]
  • Steady Jobs, With Pay and Hours That Are Anything But [NY Times]
  • Wisconsin Family Stays Together With Help From Medicaid [NPR]
  • Not just for the poor: The crucial role of Medicaid in America’s health care system [The Conversation]


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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