The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to education, cuts to health care will negatively impact OK economy

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 put budget cuts to education in context in his Journal Record column – Oklahoma now leads the nation in cuts to K-12 education and higher education – pointing out that these cuts do not bode well for Oklahoma’s future.  Perry also argued that cuts to health care may be negatively impacting our future as well, because health care is increasingly central to Oklahoma’s economy.

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam shared the story of Joshua Proffitt, a college student with cerebal palsy who depends on Medicaid for his daily in-home care.  Without this care (which would likely disappear under the Republican’s health care bill), Joshua would not be able to attend college or pursue his goal of working in radio broadcasting. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update discusses the other types of coverage that could be lost if the Republican health care plan is adopted.

OK Policy in the News

Putnam spoke with the Oklahoman about what the proposed replacement for Obamacare would mean for Oklahomans – higher premiums and worse coverage for many of us would be be the likley result. Donald Cohen of Capital & Main visited with OK Policy staff during a recent trip to Oklahoma to discover more of the political culture of “red states”.

Weekly What’s That

Block Grant

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

“It is the job of state government, in my opinion, to roll out the welcome mat. And I’m concerned that today we’ve put (out) a going-out-of-business sign.”

-Steve Turner, president of Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, on the effects of repeated cuts to higher education funding (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Oklahoman

Will this be the summer when too many inmates in tight quarters combine with too few correctional officers and too many 100-degree days to spark a serious uprising in an Oklahoma prison? Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh hopes not, of course, but … Without meaningful criminal justice reform, or new prisons, “we will have a serious event,” Allbaugh told his board last week. “It’s going to happen one way or the other. You can’t keep packing people into facilities that are decrepit and expect everybody to behave.” Allbaugh’s regular use of such vivid imagery may lead some to believe he’s being dramatic in order to procure additional funding for the agency. But inmates really are being packed into decrepit buildings, and have been for years.

Numbers of the Day

  • 15% – Percentage of non-institutionalized Oklahomans who report having one or more disabilities in 2015. This is the 8th-highest percentage in the US.
  • 8% – Tax collections as a share of personal income in Oklahoma in 2014, tied with eight other states as the lowest share in the US
  • 74,000 – Non-elderly Oklahomans with disabilities participating in SNAP in an average month, 2015
  • $7,363 – Total state and local spending per capita in Oklahoma in 2014, 12th least in the U.S.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • To Be Sick Without Obamacare [The Atlantic]
  • How much do the poor actually pay in taxes? Probably more than you think [PBS NewsHour]
  • Escaping Poverty Requires Almost 20 Years With Nearly Nothing Going Wrong [The Atlantic]
  • You’re Probably Going to Need Medicaid [The New York Times]


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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