Weekly Wonk: Summer months bring hungry Oklahoma children | Revenue reductions in FY24 | More

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

Policy Matters: Engaging the next generation in local, state policy: For Oklahoma to reach its full potential, we need to ensure that the generations who follow us are prepared and engaged in the serious work of community building and governing. That’s why I relish working alongside college students and recent graduates to help show them why state policy and budget issues are so important. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Two bills creating the lion’s share of anticipated revenue reduction for FY 2024 (Capitol Update): The State Board of Equalization met recently and certified $190 million less in revenue available for appropriation for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins this week on July 1. The state constitution requires the board to meet in June each year to increase or reduce the funding available for appropriation as the result of measures passed affecting the state’s revenue during the session just ended. Anticipating the loss of revenue, legislators have already taken this reduction in funding into account as they finalized the budget last month. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Summer months bring hungry Oklahomans: In Oklahoma, the absence of school meals during summer poses a significant challenge for families struggling with hunger. Approximately 84% of Oklahoma children rely on free or reduced lunch programs during the school year, leaving them uncertain about their next meal when summer break begins. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record

Upcoming Opportunities

OK Policy’s 15th Anniversary Celebration: Please join us for cocktails and conversation as the Oklahoma Policy Institute celebrates our 15th anniversary! We will be hosting an evening social in Tulsa on July 20 in conjunction with our Summer Policy Institute program that introduces college students and recent grads to state policy issues. [More Information or RSVP]

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. A food insecure household is one that at times during the year was uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. In very low food security households, normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. Very low food security corresponds to the common understanding of hunger.

Nationally, 10.5 percent of households were food insecure in 2020, including 3.9 percent that had very low food security, or hunger. Despite the pandemic, the national food insecurity rate was essentially unchanged in 2020 compared to 2019, which reflects the effective action taken by Congress to strengthen food support programs. In Oklahoma, 14.6 percent of households experienced food insecurity on average from 2018-2020, which was the 4th highest rate in the nation. This included 4.5 percent of Oklahoma households that experienced very low food security, or hunger, which was the 19th highest rate in the nation.

Food insecurity and very low food security are more prevalent in households with children, especially young children, single-parent households, Black and Hispanic households, and low-income households.

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

Quote of the Week

“I didn’t think at 68 years old I would have to be concerned about public education for my grandkids going backwards instead of forwards.”

-Debbie Burleson, who attended a contentious public forum in Norman featuring State Superintendent Ryan Walters [Fox 25]

Editorial of the Week

Enid News & Eagle Editorial: Maternal mortality stats for Oklahoma just keep getting worse

The news for pregnant women in the United States – and particularly in Oklahoma – is not good.

A study from the University of Washington released just this week shows maternal mortality rates more than doubled in some states between 1999 and 2019 with a sharp increase for some racial and ethnic groups. The national average in maternal deaths also rose. Researchers are saying this is the first study to provide such maternal mortality calculations for every state.

According a CDC report issued in May, Oklahoma persistently ranks among the states with the worst rates of maternal deaths in the U.S. Oklahoma’s maternal mortality rate was 47.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is above the national average of 33 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and above the Healthy People 2030 target goal of 15.7.

The U.S. maternal mortality rate increased nearly 40 percent in 2021 and was the highest for Black women.

Recent statistics show Oklahoma’s maternal mortality rate is on par with Florida, Texas, South Carolina and Arizona. The worst states are Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama.

California has the best maternal mortality rate at 9.7 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

According to information from the Oklahoma State Department of Health, maternal mortality is viewed as an indicator of the overall effectiveness of the obstetrical and the general health care systems. Through appropriate interventions, prevention of risks, and reduction of racial disparities, these mortality rates can be dramatically decreased.

Studies also show there has to be more focus on women’s health before, during, at the time of pregnancy and after delivery. One of the primary risks during pregnancy is vascular risks, and more needs to be done to determine why that is occurring in certain demographics and population areas.

The March of Dimes organization tracks infant and maternal vulnerability, and there are some positive policies in place to try to address this serious issue. Oklahoma has expanded Medicaid to allow women greater access to preventative care during pregnancy, and the state allows for Medicaid reimbursement at 90% and above for certified nurse midwives.

The state has a Maternal Mortality Review Committee to understand and address causes of maternal deaths, and has a Perinatal Quality Collaborative to identify and improve quality care issues in maternal and infant health care

However, the state has not taken action to extend coverage for women beyond 60 days postpartum and it has not allowed for passage of Medicaid coverage for doula care.

Particularly post the overturning of Roe v. Wade and with Oklahoma’s strong restrictions on abortions, our lawmakers have to be more focused on creating better strategies and policies to decrease pregnancy-related mortality. This will serve not only to improve the health of women and children, but will provide overwhelming benefits for all Oklahomans.

[Editorial / Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • 21% – Estimated rate of Oklahoma children who live in poverty. About 199,000 Oklahoma children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which in 2021 was below $27,479 for a family of four. [KIDS COUNT]
  • $34,300 – Median annual income for Black families in Oklahoma with their own children under age 18 living in the household. This is less than half of the median annual income for white families ($77,700) who have their own children under 18 in the household. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 30% – Rate of children whose parents lack secure employment in Oklahoma. [KIDS COUNT]
  • $29.3 million – Amount of questionable spending of federal grant money provided for pandemic relief during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021. [State Auditor & Inspector] | [Full report]
  • 6 – Average number of decayed teeth in American Indian/Alaska Native children aged 2-5, compared to only 1 on average for all children aged 2-5 in the U.S. [National Indian Health Board]

What We’re Reading

  • 3 social triggers for behavioral health needs – and what to do about them: Exposure to poverty is deeply intertwined with the deterioration of emotional health. This linkage is often exacerbated by a lack of coordinated social support for individuals and families. To appreciate this connection and how efforts in some communities suggest ways to address it, consider three public health issues and their impact on mental health: homelessness, food insecurity, and hygiene poverty (i.e., a lack of resources to maintain personal hygiene). [Brookings]
  • Inflation, Health Costs, Partisan Cooperation Among the Nation’s Top Problems: The public’s list of the top problems facing the nation includes inflation, health care affordability, drug addiction and gun violence. Yet the ability of Republicans and Democrats to work together rates about as high on the problems list as these other concerns. And it is one of the few, among 16 problems included, on which there is no partisan divide. [Pew Research Center]
  • The ‘Independent State Legislature Theory,’ Explained: On June 27, 2023, the Supreme Court rejected the “independent state legislature theory” in Moore v. Harper. This piece explains a dubious interpretation of the Constitution called the “independent state legislature theory” that links partisan gerrymandering of congressional maps in North Carolina, attempts to dissolve the Wisconsin Election Commission, and efforts to overthrow the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. [Brennan Center for Justice]
  • The Case for Reparations in Tulsa, Oklahoma: A Human Rights Argument (2020): Following the Tulsa Race Massacre, government and city officials, as well as prominent business leaders, not only failed to invest and rebuild the once thriving Greenwood community, but actively blocked efforts to do so. No one has ever been held responsible for these crimes, the impacts of which black Tulsans still feel today. Efforts to secure justice in the courts have failed due to the statute of limitations. Ongoing racial segregation, discriminatory policies, and structural racism have left black Tulsans, particularly those living in North Tulsa, with a lower quality of life and fewer opportunities. [Human Rights Watch]
  • Oral Health in Indian Country: Challenges & Solutions: Tribal communities nationwide, like many underserved populations, suffer from a variety of dental afflictions. Poor oral health can result in missed school or work and decreased ability to eat healthy foods. Poor oral health also puts individuals at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, dementia and diabetes. A lack of prevention services and a severe provider shortage throughout Indian Country contribute to these problems. [National Indian Health Board]


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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