Weekly Wonk: Rainy Day Fund 101 Update, Oklahoma is not a poor state, prosperity districts would not create prosperity for all, and more

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

Executive Director David Blatt reminded us how the Rainy Day Fund works and what it can be used for in light of recent news that the  fund currently has a balance of $0, and contended in his Journal Record column that Oklahoma is not a poor state and we can afford to invest more in our future. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update wonders if there may be longer term consequences of the recent allocation of money from the Rainy Day Fund.

Policy Analyst Carly Putnam explained that SB 548 would allow the sale in Oklahoma of insurance plans that provide almost no coverage. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison pointed out the potential dangers in the proposal to allow the creation of “Prosperity Districts” in Oklahoma.

OK Policy in the News

Outreach & Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins was interviewed by KFOR for a story about HB 1913, and bill that would allow new high-cost loans to be offered in Oklahoma. Policy Director Gene Perry’s op-ed arguing against allowing the suspension of students as young as third grade was published in the Enid News, and Perry was quoted by Oklahoma Watch arguing against the same bill (SB 81). OK Policy’s work in opposition of HB 2132, a bill that would allow the creation of “Prosperity Districts” in Oklahoma, was acknowledged by former Attorney General Drew Edmondson in his op-ed for the Norman Transcript.

Upcoming Opportunities

We are now accepting applications for our fifth annual Summer Policy Institute (SPI). SPI brings together dozens of undergraduate and graduate students from across the state for a three and a half-day intensive policy training. The application deadline is May 26, 2017. Click here to learn more and apply.

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. 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

“I oppose this bill [HB 1913] because I’ve seen what it has done to a widow at my church. It has kept her strapped for money. She has not been able to get ahead because of these companies that charge her ridiculous fees for a small amount of money. I served nearly 21 years in the U.S. Regular and Reserve Army and I know that the military does not allow its service members to use these lenders. If the Army cares enough to protect its service members from such a practice why doesn’t our state government demonstrate the same level of concern for its citizens?”

-Davison, one of many Oklahomans who shared their experiences with the debt traps created by predatory lenders (Source)

Editorial of the Week

David L. Kirp, New York Times

The class assignment: Design an iPad video game. For the player to win, a cow must cross a two-lane highway, dodging constant traffic. If she makes it, the sound of clapping is heard; if she’s hit by a car, the game says, “Aw.” “Let me show you my notebook where I wrote the algorithm. An algorithm is like a recipe,” Leila, one of the students in the class, explained to the school official who described the scene to me. You might assume these were gifted students at an elite school. Instead they were 7-year-olds, second graders in the Union Public Schools district in the eastern part of Tulsa, Okla., where more than a third of the students are Latino, many of them English language learners, and 70 percent receive free or reduced-price lunch. From kindergarten through high school, they get a state-of-the-art education in science, technology, engineering and math, the STEM subjects. When they’re in high school, these students will design web pages and mobile apps, as well as tackle cybersecurity and artificial intelligence projects. And STEM-for-all is only one of the eye-opening opportunities in this district of around 16,000 students.

Numbers of the Day

  • 11.5 – Retail drug prescriptions filled at pharmacies per capita in Oklahoma in 2015
  • $3,412,858,517 – Total retail sales for prescription drugs filled at pharmacies in Oklahoma in 2015
  • 22 – Breast cancer deaths per 100,000 women in Oklahoma in 2014, down from 23.4 in 2012
  • $27 – Price per barrel of oil needed to cover operating expenses in Oklahoma’s SCOOP and STACK oil regions, the second lowest among all major U.S. oil-producing regions.
  • 8% – Uninsured rate for children age 0-18 in Oklahoma in 2015, down from 11% in 2013

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


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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