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For the Children: A Cost-Cutting Measure That Hurts Kids

With a $900 million budget shortfall dominating this year’s legislative session, many lawmakers are looking to balance the budget by cutting government spending. As advocates for children, our job at OICA is to shield Oklahoma’s youngest and most vulnerable residents from any “cost-cutting” measures that would adversely impact them and, in some cases, negatively change the trajectory of their entire lives. One of those measures is Senate Bill 81, which seeks to lower the grade level at which a student can be suspended from school. Currently, out-of-school suspension is only allowable at the 6th grade level and above. SB 81 would allow children as early as third grade (only 8 or 9 years old) to be suspended.  In addition, the bill would reduce the requirements for counseling programs available to these children, who are the ones who need it the most. Continue Reading →

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ICYMI: Reimagine the Alamo Unveils Proposed Master Plan Design

SAN ANTONIO – After nearly two years of intense work, the Alamo Master Plan Management Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the Texas General Land Office, the City of San Antonio, and the private Alamo Endowment, unveiled detailed design renderings of the proposed master plan for the Alamo Complex and surrounding area. The spectacular images depict a vision that restores reverence and dignity to one of the most historic battlefields in the United States while capturing the imagination of all ages and all cultures, for generations to come. Working in close collaboration, the Committee and the Master Plan Team, led by Dr. George C. Skarmeas of Preservation Design Partnership, LLC, undertook the first ever systematic study of the history and the physical evolution of the Alamo site from the arrival of the Spanish missionaries in 1724 to the present time, and conducted archaeological research in the summer of 2016. The resulting bold and visionary ideas are based on evidence and the best principles and practices of heritage conservation planning and design. “Today marks a major benchmark in the nearly two-year mission to restore a sense of dignity and decorum to our Shrine of Texas Liberty,” Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said. Continue Reading →

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Be a Part of the Solution During Child Abuse Prevention Month

April is national Child Abuse Prevention Month, and I believe child advocates must use this as an opportunity to advance two important goals: first; to help our friends and neighbors fully grasp how widespread and terrible the problems of child abuse and neglect are; second, to encourage them to be part of the solution. When it comes to evaluating the prevalence and impact of child abuse and neglect, the numbers tell a frightening tale. The KIDS COUNT Data Center, a joint research product of OICA and the national Annie E. Casey Foundation, reports that of the more than 200,000 children in Oklahoma County under the age of 19, 41 percent have had an adverse childhood experience

On a statewide level, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services’ statistics paint an equally grim picture. Since 2014, over 363,000 cases of alleged abuse and neglect have been reported to the agency. More than 44,000 were eventually confirmed. Continue Reading →

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Legislators Urged to Support Efforts to Modernize Oklahoma Alcohol Laws

OKLAHOMA CITY — With less than two months left in the Legislative session, lawmakers in the Oklahoma House of Representatives will soon be voting on a flurry of bills that would further update the state’s alcohol laws. Modernize Oklahoma, a group supporting consumer choice and local businesses, is encouraging legislators to vote “yes” on these proposals and continue the push to end prohibition era rules and regulations. Modernize Oklahoma Executive Director Alex Weintz said his organization was originally formed to promote State Question 792, the successful initiative petition to allow the sale of cold, regular strength beer and wine in grocery stores, liquor stores and convenience stores beginning in October 2018. After the law’s passage, however, it became clear that several smaller reforms would be needed to ensure a level playing field for alcohol vendors, support consumer choice, and ensure the implementation of SQ 792 went smoothly. “When State Question 792 passed by a margin of two to one, the people of Oklahoma spoke very clearly,” said Weintz. Continue Reading →

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For the Children:   The Good, the Bad and the Ugly After Key Legislative Deadline

Oklahoma – Last Friday marked the end of what political insiders call “deadline week” at the Oklahoma State Capitol. It is the last opportunity this year for legislation to pass in the chamber (House or Senate) where it was originally introduced. Legislation that fails to advance is “dead” in 2017. It is a major turning point in the session, as it gives us an opportunity to evaluate what ideas and reforms are gaining traction and which have fallen by the wayside. The House of Representatives, for instance, began with 1370 bills and resolutions, but only 316 made it past deadline week and remain active. Continue Reading →

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New Norman Charter School Expands Opportunities for Parents and Students

“Choice is on the march”
NORMAN, OK – ChoiceMatters, a parent-led group that advocates for expanding educational opportunities for Oklahoma families, today thanked the Oklahoma State Board of Education for approving a new charter school in Norman. Le Monde International School, now set to open in 2018, will offer students both French and Spanish immersion education. Reagan Elementary, the local public school, had previously offered a French immersion program but had discontinued it. In response, local parents worked to build support for a new charter school and submitted a successful application to open next year. “This is a tremendous victory for parents and children in Norman,” said ChoiceMatters President Robert Ruiz. Continue Reading →

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Foster Care Reform and Improvement Bill Passes in Oklahoma Senate 

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) and the head of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) today thanked the state Senate for their unanimous support of a bill proposing several improvements within the state’s foster care system. Senate Bill 727, by Sen. AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie) would:

Ensure a more collaborative process between parents and DHS and more actively engage parents around decisions involving child placement. Strengthen long-term accountability at DHS by requiring yearly public reports be submitted regarding the foster care system, child welfare staff workloads and other key metrics. Increase support and resources for foster parents and strengthen the Foster Parents Bill of Rights. Reduce liability for foster parents to allow children in DHS custody to participate in appropriate activities, such as permitting foster children to participate in football or basketball. Continue Reading →

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Vice President to Visit Little Rock

Little Rock, AR –  Vice President Mike Pence will make his first official visit to Little Rock, Arkansas March the 24th.  Those wishing to attend have been directed to park 1000 East Roosevelt Road.  The location is Horace Mann Magnate Middle School. People are encouraged to arrive early for processing and the shuttle ride to the location where Pence will be speaking.  The event opens at noon with remarks at 2:30 p.m.

The visit is being supported by the Republican Party of Arkansas located at 1201 W. 6th St, Little Rock, AR 72201. Continue Reading →

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Arkansas Candidate For Land Commissioner Coming to Texarkana

Texarkana, AR – Tommy Land will be on the edge of his state this Thursday when he visits the area.   He will be at NewCom at 1103 Arkansas Blvd in Texarkana.  The business is located just beside Old Tyme Burger and is owned by former candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives, Rusty Latham. Rusty Latham and Greg Jones are hosting a meet and greet for the candidate from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  There will be soft drinks and hot dogs and the public is welcome and encouraged to drop in and meet Mr. Land. Tommy Land is the husband of Cleburne County Assessor Judy Land, the first Republican elected to that office in the history of the county. Continue Reading →

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BBQ at Sidney Masonic Lodge in Fouke to Support Scholarship Fund

Sidney Masonic Lodge will host a BBQ Scholarship Fundraiser on March 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Sidney Lodge is located in Fouke, Arkansas.  All proceeds from the event will be awarded to students in Miller County, Arkansas. A BBQ lunch will consist of a BBQ sandwich, chips, drink and desert.  Each meal cost $5.  In addition to the BBQ, everyone will have an opportunity to win one of two door prizes. Continue Reading →

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