Weekly Wonk: Modernizing state’s drug laws | Public education is Oklahoma’s north star to Top 10 | 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

It is time for lawmakers to revisit Oklahoma’s possession with intent to distribute law: Many drug-related charges still remain a felony, notably possession with intent to distribute — commonly referred to as PWID. While current state law sets quantity guidelines for other drug-related charges, Oklahoma’s statute does not clearly define when to charge someone with PWID. This can result in unequal enforcement of the law, with individuals carrying identical amounts of the same illegal substance given very different charges. During the 2023 legislative session, Oklahoma lawmakers should change the state’s PWID law to include objective statutory guidelines that provide clarity and consistency in charging decisions, regardless of where someone is arrested. Having clear guidelines for when to charge someone with PWID is necessary as it serves to safeguard against the discretion of law enforcement and the power of government. It also prevents arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the law. [David Gateley / OK Policy]

Capitol Update: A look at the education plans proposed in the House and Senate: There are two legislative plans now for funding Oklahoma common education. It’s likely all these proposals will end up serving as conversation starters. The bills may look quite different when or if they hit the governor’s desk. But it is good that the topic is money and support for public education. And notably, there is no mention of “merit” pay in either legislative plan. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Public education is Oklahoma’s north star for Top 10As Oklahomans celebrated Public Schools Week at the state Capitol on Monday, I was reminded that our public schools should be centerpieces of our communities. Schools should be where students, educators, and families come together to build stronger communities and prepare tomorrow’s leaders. [Shiloh Kantz / OK Policy]

Upcoming Opportunities

Upcoming Together Oklahoma Meetings

  • Monday, Feb. 27 at 6:30 p.m.: Community Meeting for Murray County (In Person and Online). Join us for a town hall to discuss housing, minimum wage, paid family leave, and more! We’ll hear from Together Oklahoma Organizer Austin Webb, as well as guests from the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 6:30 p.m.: Community Meeting for Tulsa County (In Person and Online). The meeting is a town hall to allow citizens the chance to discuss major community issues, meet other advocates, share resources, and learn how we can all make a difference. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Wednesday, March 1 at 6 p.m.: Protecting Democracy Affinity Group Meeting (Online). Focusing on policies related to government transparency and participation in the democratic process. [Join the Meeting Online]
  • Thursday, March 2 at 6:30 p.m.: Community Meeting – Tri County: Stephens, Grady, and Jefferson (In Person and Online). This meeting will help community members learn more about the ABC’s: advocacy, bills, and communication. [Join the Meeting Online]

Special Election Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet, SQ 820: Recreational Marijuana Legalization Initiative: State Question 820 would legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in Oklahoma. Adults over the age of 21 years old would be able to purchase marijuana products for recreational use from licensed sellers. It also requires “resentencing, reversing, modifying and expunging” past marijuana-related criminal records and convictions. The statewide special election is March 7, 2023. [OK Policy] | [PDF]

Weekly What’s That

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a federal law that governs K-12 public education. ESSA reauthorized and amended the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. It was signed into law in December 2015, and went into full effect in the 2017-18 school year.

ESSA largely rolls back the authority of the federal government in education policy. It prohibits the federal government from requiring any specific academic standards or intervention methods. The Act also removes the “highly qualified teacher” provision, and prohibits the federal government from requiring states to have a teacher evaluation system.

Students are required to be tested on math and reading in grades 3-8 and once in high school, as well as on science at least once between grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. States choose their long term goals, but have to measure short term progress by tests, English language proficiency, graduation rates, and at least one indicator of school quality or student success.

The United States Department of Education approved Oklahoma’s comprehensive education plan, Oklahoma Edge, in July 2018.

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

Quote of the Week

“We really don’t know what the full impact of the pandemic had on food insecurity because we were flooded with a lot of resources. And we needed that. We needed to support people. With the emergency allotments going away and inflation continuing to go up, I think in the next three to four months, we’ll really start to see a better picture of what that impact looks like.”

-Chris Bernard, CEO of Hunger Free Oklahoma, speaking about the federal government ending COVID-19 emergency allotments for Oklahoma’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) after this month. [The Oklahoman]   

Op-Ed of the Week

No blank check for taxpayer dollars

Every year, Oklahomans invest billions of dollars in our public schools to educate our next generation of citizens and train our next generation of workers. Common education is far and away the largest slice of the state budget; school districts will receive close to $4 billion this year in legislative appropriations and dedicated state funds.

In return for this vast investment of taxpayer dollars, Oklahomans demand a lot from our schools.

Over many decades, the Legislature has passed a wide array of laws and regulations to ensure that schools are spending taxpayer dollars efficiently and delivering the results we expect of them and that all children are being treated fairly and in accordance with the core values of our society.

There may be a perennial debate about the proper goals for our schools and how best to achieve them — and calls for reform whenever schools seem to fall short — but the core principle that the acceptance of public dollars is tied to public governance and oversight has been held sacred.

This social contract is now being contested in Oklahoma by the well-organized and generously funded movement for school vouchers….

[Read the full guest column by former OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt at TulsaWorld.com]

Numbers of the Day

  • $611 Million – The Oklahoma Board of Equalization certified about $611 million less in available revenue for the upcoming fiscal year that starts July 1. The decrease in available revenue is driven in part by lowered oil and gas price estimates. [State Board of Equalization] | [NonDoc]
  • 1 in 6 – About 16% of Oklahomans, or about 1 in 6, receive food security benefits via the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Of those recipients, almost 71% are families with children. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • 701,258 – Number of children enrolled in Oklahoma’s public schools for the 2022-23 school year, up .37% from the previous year. [Oklahoma State Department of Education]
  • 57% – Percentage of Black small business owners who indicated that they were denied a bank loan at least once when they started their businesses—compared to 37% of non-Black business owners. [Intuit] | [More coverage from Forbes]

What We’re Reading

  • Conservatives: “School Choice” Will Punish Public Schools for Wokeness: This year’s National School Choice Week comes with a twist: Amid conservatives’ outcry over history lessons on race and LGBTQ rights and awareness in schools, some proponents of the “educational freedom” movement are pitching it as an antidote to the supposed indoctrination of students by teachers and administrators. [The New Republic]
  • What if Americans sour on public education?: This has been quite a time for U.S. public schools, from pandemic-induced shutdowns to clashes across the country over one issue after the next. In this context, it’s fair to wonder—and maybe worry about—how Americans’ attitudes toward public education might be changing. [Brookings]
  • School Vouchers: There Is No Upside: Despite an ever-growing volume of data showing that direct and sustained dollar investments in public schools yields large and inter-generational opportunity, the alternative scheme to divert those dollars into individual accounts for private tuition and side-item educational expenses is alive and well. [Albert Shanker Institute]
  • Black History is Oklahoma History: By providing resources that give context for the Black experience in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Historical Society hopes to spark civil discourse and open dialogue about the role of race in the history of our state. While these conversations about our past may not be comfortable, they are necessary to understand where we have been and how we can best move forward together. [Oklahoma Historical Society]


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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