The Weekly Wonk: SB 81 breaks Oklahoma’s obligation to educate all children, state agencies face terrible choices if the legislature fails to address the budget crisis, 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

Policy Director Gene Perry argued that Senate Bill 81, which would allow out-of-school suspensions for children as young as third grade, breaks Oklahoma’s obligation to provide all children with an education. Executive Director David Blatt reminded us that state agencies will face terrible choices if the legislature fails to address the budget crisis in his Journal Record column. 

Shay White, a social worker and advocate with Together Oklahoma and ACTION, spoke about what motivated her to get involved with policy change and what keeps her going in a new episode of OK PolicyCast. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update was hopeful that a willingness among legislators to talk about new revenue options bodes well for next year’s budget.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy data was cited in a PBS NewsHour story covering state lawmakers’ attempts to walk back the decision by Oklahoma voters to turn drug possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors. Perry was interviewed by the Claremore Daily Progress for a story about the possibility that state budget problems could lead to a federal takeover of the state’s foster care system. Policy Analyst Courtney Cullison was quoted in a Journal Record story about HB 2132, which would allow the creation of “prosperity districts” in Oklahoma with very uncertain results. Blatt was consulted by the Tulsa World for a story about the impact of immigration on the population of Tulsa County last year.

News9 covered an event facilitated by Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator Kara Joy McKee to help citizens learn more about the state budget process and ways they can get involved. Blatt was consulted by The Oklahoman for their editorial about the importance of new revenue for the state budget, and by Public News Service for an article about the budget difficulties that can result from massive tax cuts

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

Gross Production Tax

The gross production tax, or severance tax, is a value-based tax levied at a basic rate of 7 percent upon the production of oil and gas in Oklahoma. Under legislation approved in 2014 (HB 2562), effective July 1, 2015, oil and gas from newly-spudded wells will be taxed at 2 percent for the first 36 months of production. One percent of gross production tax revenues is divided between counties and school districts, with the remainder going to the state. Read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“We’ve got a deficit in this state, and it is not a deficit in resources. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a deficit of will. There are enough resources in this state to do what we need to do with public education, and if the leaders of this state won’t do it, maybe we need to put a Cherokee in charge.”

– Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaking at the Cherokee Nation’s Annual Public School Appreciation Day. The Cherokee Nation gave $5 million dollars to Oklahoma public school districts at the event. (Source)

Editorial of the Week

Editorial Board, The Oklahoman

Data from two national groups that focus on criminal justice make clear why it’s so important the Legislature approve bills stemming from Gov. Mary Fallin’s task force on justice reform. If no changes are made to Oklahoma’s system, say the Crime and Justice Institute and Pew Charitable Trusts, then the inmate population in 2026 will be roughly 35,800 (compared with about 28,600 today). This continued growth will eventually necessitate construction of three more prisons at a cost of nearly $2 billion, they say. On the other hand, if the Legislature were to approve all 12 task force-related bills submitted this session, the prison population would decline by about 5,600 by 2026.

Numbers of the Day

  • 3.26% – Oklahoma’s effective tax rate on oil production, which is less than half the next lowest state (Texas at 6.74%)
  • 26% – Percentage of Oklahoma children living in households where 30% or more of monthly pre-tax income is spent on housing
  • 58.6% – Percentage of Oklahoma household with savings accounts in 2013. The national average was 68.8%
  • 29% – Percentage of Oklahoma children living in households where no parent had full-time, year-round employment in 2015
  • 30% – Percentage of Oklahoma jobs with median annual pay below the poverty threshold for a family of four in 2013. The national average was 25.6%

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Handing Out Tax Breaks to Businesses Is Worse Than Useless [CityLab]
  • Proposed Cuts to AmeriCorps Would Be Devastating for Education Reform [Center for American Progress]
  • Crime Hotspots Need Investments, Not Just Policing [Marshall Project]
  • The evidence is clear: people with Medicaid are better off than those without [Vox]
  • The Worry I No Longer Remember Living Without [Nicole Chung/Hazlitt]


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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