Weekly Wonk: Report shows Oklahoma ranks 46th for child well-being | Our children deserve better

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

KIDS COUNT Report Shows Oklahoma Ranks 46th for Child Well-Being: Oklahoma ranks 46th nationally in overall child well-being — and in the bottom half of all but one of the health and well-being metrics included in state rankings — for the 2023 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how children and families are faring. [Oklahoma Policy Institute]

Policy Matters: Oklahoma children deserve better than 46th: Most Oklahomans would say the well-being of our children should be a top priority. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, however, shows Oklahoma is not serving our children well. In fact, the 2023 Kids Count report showed Oklahoma ranked 46th nationally in overall child well-being. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

OK Policy will celebrate its 15th anniversary this summer with two evening socials — in Oklahoma City on June 29 and Tulsa on July 20 — in conjunction with our Summer Policy Institute program that introduces college students and recent grads to state policy issues. RSVPs required. [Learn More & Register]

Weekly What’s That


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a federal program that protects certain undocumented immigrants from deportation. Created by an Obama administration Executive Order in 2012, it allows people who were brought to the United States without authorization before their 16th birthday to apply for temporary protected status for two years, renewable for two year terms. Applicants must meet several criteria, as defined by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services:

  1. Be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that it planned to end DACA. A federal court ruled that action illegal and kept the program in place. In June 2020, the Supreme Court overturned the Trump Administration decision to end DACA. On July 16, 2021, a U.S. district court in Texas issued a decision and injunction holding that DACA is unlawful and freezing applications from first-time applicants, but allowing the program to continue for current recipients. Federal courts heard arguments on the Texas case, and a separate case filed on behalf of DACA applicants, in July 2022. The Biden Administration, which has tried unsuccessfully to provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, is appealing the Texas court decision and is also moving forward with rulemaking on the DACA process.

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

Quote of the Week

“Often, Native American Tribes have come to this Court seeking justice only to leave with bowed heads and empty hands. But that is not because this Court has no justice to offer them. Our Constitution reserves for the Tribes a place—an enduring place—in the structure of American life. It promises them sovereignty for as long as they wish to keep it. And it secures that promise by divesting States of authority over Indian affairs and by giving the federal government certain significant (but limited and enumerated) powers aimed at building a lasting peace.”

– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neal Gorsuch writing in the concurrence opinion, along with Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, upholding the Indian Child Welfare Act. [KOSU]

Editorial of the Week

Enid News & Eagle Editorial: State’s child well-being stats show failure; we must come up with a strategy for improvement

The most recent statistics from an annual report on child well-being in the nation shows some pretty scathing numbers for Oklahoma, and it demonstrates major failure from our government leaders in making Oklahoma anywhere close to a Top 10 state.

The report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation is used to gauge how well states are doing when it comes to children’s education and welfare. It is the industry standard used by states in determining public policies regarding children and family well-being.

From last year’s report, Oklahoma dropped from 40th in the nation to 46th. The four categories broken down in the report rank Oklahoma 38th in economic well-being; 49th in education; 37th in health; and 43rd in family and community context.

Our state dropped in almost all categories with education being the lowest ranking. The one bright spot is that due to Medicaid expansion, children have seen greater opportunities for access to health care.

Other than that, it’s bottom city for our state in taking care of our future — our children. Our state has been fighting low rankings for decades, and these numbers show that we are not only not making enough improvements, we are declining.

So what can we do to get out of this cycle?

Hopefully, some of the legislative efforts this year in improving education funding will make a difference. Also, the lack of broadband access in rural areas is finally being addressed — although it seems as though our expectations still are low in getting extensive broadband service to rural areas in a more timely manner.

We do not know how the tax credit plan will impact public education. It will take many years to determine that. However, there still is concern than these tax credits for families to send their children to private or religious schools will further hamper public education funding in rural areas.

And, then there is the Ryan Walters factor — we’ve elected a state superintendent of education who is openly hostile to teachers and public education in general and is too busy waging cultural wars to actually provide a cohesive direction for educational improvement in our state. We have to demand and expect better from our educational leaders.

As for economic well-being, our legislators can enact policies that will help increase educational and employment opportunities in our state. We’ve known we need to invest in education and training programs to developed a skilled workforce that meets the needs of current and future industries.

In the area of family and community context, our legislators can switch from their focus on pro-birth policies to pro-child policies. Our state has opportunities to better fund services that help vulnerable families raise healthy and resilient children. These aren’t welfare handouts — these are programs that help families help themselves. Our legislators have the ability to help families bond with their children through more broad-minded policies on maternal and paternal leave and support.

The crux of the matter is that to make positive changes in child well-being in our state, we have to get off the ideological merry-go-round and start thinking logically and with common sense about how to improve the quality of life for not only our children, but all our citizens.

Every positive outcome we want in Oklahoma begins with raising healthy and resilient children. If we keep that goal in focus and work from that perspective, only then can we make improvements.

[Enid News & Eagle / Editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 44% – About 44% of recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, (formerly known as food stamps), reported skipping meals in May because of a combination of reduced benefits and higher food costs. [CBS News]
  • 85.4 – In 2018, Oklahoma landlords filed an average of 85.4 evictions per day. [Eviction Lab]
  • 46th – Oklahoma’s rank for overall child well-being in the 2023 KIDS COUNT report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 90 – LQBTQ+ workers earn about 90 cents for every dollar the typical worker earns. [Human Rights Campaign]
  • 28 – Number of states and the District of Columbia that legally recognize Juneteenth (June 19) as a public holiday, meaning state government offices are closed. Oklahoma was among the first states to officially recognize Juneteenth in 1994, but today it is among the states that do not recognize it as a public holiday. [Pew Research]

What We’re Reading


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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