The Weekly Wonk: Oklahoma’s poverty rate still higher than the nation

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

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This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy released the 2016 Oklahoma Poverty Profile this week – our poverty rate is higher than the national average again this year. Executive Director David Blatt explained why a second special session is really necessary in his Journal Record column and on the OK Policy blog.

Policy Director Gene Perry argued that SQ 640 has made it nearly impossible to effectively govern the state – lawmakers have not been able to increase taxes once since the passage of 640, but they’ve been able to cut them multiple times. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update doubted that creating new recurring revenue will be possible in a second special session either.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy data made an appearance in The Oklahoman’s story about food insecurity during the holiday season – one out of four Oklahoma children lived in a food-insecure household last year. Policy Analyst Carly Putnam was interviewed by Tulsa Public Radio for a piece about Affordable Care Act enrollment for 2018 – the window to enroll was shortened this year and fewer resources were available to promote the program.

Upcoming Opportunities

Join us for our 2018 State Budget Summit! On Thursday, January 25th, we’ll bring together all those with an interest in state policy issues for a day of thoughtful discussion and exchange of ideas aimed at understanding the challenges we now face and charting a course for a more prosperous future. The special early-bird registration price of just $75 is available through January 12th. Click here to register. The cost as of January 13th is $90.

Weekly What’s That

Food Insecurity

Food security is defined as “ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods.” The measure was introduced by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1996 to assess households’ ability to consistently obtain three nutritionally adequate meals a day. Households can be rated as being food secure, low food secure, or very low food secure. Read more here.

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

Quote of the Week

“I’m going to continue to beat the dead horse: State Question 640 is the reason we’re in special session and the reason we haven’t been able to pass the cigarette tax. We could have passed that easily if it was a 51-vote (measure). We wouldn’t be in special session if it weren’t for State Question 640 because we would have been able to pass a cigarette tax under the House and the Senate, but the 75 percent threshold has forced us to put revenue in there that we as Republicans may not be typically in favor of.”

– Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat (R-Oklahoma City) (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Writers, Tulsa World

This year’s two special sessions have put the spotlight on the Legislature’s inability to do much of anything. And 640 has a lot to do with that. We think the voters of Oklahoma are knowledgeable enough to understand the implications of SQ 640 and will support a repeal. When the Legislature returns in February, we urge it to put not just altering but getting rid of SQ 640 near the top of its agenda.

Numbers of the Day

  • 2.2% – Percentage of households in Oklahoma with limited English-speaking ability.
  • 2,134 – Forcible and attempted rapes reported in Oklahoma in 2016, up more than 9.5 percent from 2015
  • 3.8 years – Growth in average test scores for students after 5 years of education in Tulsa Public Schools (3rd to 8th grade). This growth rate was 7th worst out of the 200 largest school districts in the U.S.
  • 19.5% – Percentage of Oklahoma families with children that had income below the poverty threshold in 2016.
  • 694,816 – Number of students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools in 2017, up by more than 1,000 from the previous year

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Groundbreaking empirical research shows where innovation really comes from [Vox]
  • Our cash bail system isn’t working. We can fix it [Washington Post]
  • Expensive specialty drugs are forcing seniors to make hard choices [Washington Post]
  • GAO report sounds alarm about vouchers and students with disabilities [Washington Post]
  • Protecting Students and Taxpayers: Why the Trump Administration Should Heed History of Bipartisan Efforts [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]


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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