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Mayors Back OICA on ACEs; Healthcare on Lawmakers’ Agendas

OKChildren

Now that the 2020 session of the Oklahoma Legislature is underway, we have a better idea of measures we as child advocates must support and those about which we must be cautious. Normally there are 149 lawmakers, 101 state representatives and 48 state senators. There are currently two vacancies, one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. The 147 left were busy, filing 2,243 new bills for this year. Combined with the those still alive from last year, lawmakers have more than 4,500 bills bouncing around the State Capitol that could be considered. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Session Begins; OICA Begins Examining Proposals

Gov. Kevin Stitt delivered his second “State of the State” to the Oklahoma Legislature Monday on the first day of the Second Session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature.  The bicameral legislative branch meets from the first Monday in February until they must constitutionally conclude business on or before 5 p.m. the final Friday in May. Along with the speech, the various newly-submitted bills offered by the lawmakers were considered “first read” on the opening day, another constitutional mandate.  The Oklahoma Constitution requires bills be read at least three times on three separate days in each house before it could be sent to the governor for consideration. This provision prevents lawmakers from rushing through a proposal any faster than five calendar days, a safeguard protecting citizens and allowing the press to monitor every bill. Having said that, in 25 years of working in and around the State Capitol, I only remember bills passing in the constitutional minimum five days only a few times, and those were in special sessions called specifically to deal with one issue. OICA has not taken an official position on most of Governor Stitt’s proposals, but I want to share with you some of what was discussed.  The governor asked lawmakers to set aside $100 million of current funds for the state savings account, the so-called “Rainy Day” fund.  The governor said the state’s greatest challenge is dealing with reducing bureaucracy and securing the fiscal stability of the state. Continue Reading →

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DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS® OFFERING PRIZES AND SCHOLARSHIPS TO TEXAS STUDENTS

Don’t mess with Texas Scholarship Contest and Don’t mess with Texas K-12 School Art Contest now taking submissions

AUSTIN — Don’t mess with Texas is holding two contests to award prizes and scholarships to Texas students demonstrating efforts to raise awareness about litter prevention in their communities. The 2020 Don’t mess with Texas Scholarship Contest and the Don’t mess with Texas K-12 School Art Contest are presented in partnership with Keep Texas Beautiful. Both contests are currently accepting applications and submissions. The 2020 Don’t mess with Texas Scholarship Contest is open to any Texas high school senior currently attending public, private or home school and planning to attend an accredited college or university in the coming year. The contest will award one $5,000 scholarship, one $4,000 scholarship and one $3,000 prize in May 2020. The scholarships recognize the achievements of high school seniors who are taking an active role in preventing litter in their schools and communities, while working to build awareness for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Don’t mess with Texas initiative. 

In the Don’t mess with Texas K-12 School Art Contest, Texas students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade are invited to submit their original artwork for the opportunity to be featured in the 2021 Don’t mess with Texas Calendar. The artwork should promote the Don’t mess with Texas and/or Keep Texas Beautiful litter prevention messages to encourage and inspire Texas residents to advocate and take action for litter prevention. Continue Reading →

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Parent-Led Education Group Backs Gov. Stitt’s Plan for Equal Opportunity Scholarship Expansion

OKLAHOMA CITY – ChoiceMatters, an Oklahoma City-based parent organizing group, today praised Governor Kevin Stitt for proposing the expansion of the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit. The governor’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget, released this morning, includes the following section:

Raise the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit cap from $5 million to $30 million. Hundreds of Oklahoma’s low-income students are benefiting greatly from the success of this scholarship program to attend the school of their parents’ choice. We believe the time has come to provide this opportunity, funded by generous Oklahomans, to even more students. Tax credit scholarships are used to support low-income Oklahomans who choose to send their children to private schools. Continue Reading →

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The Alamo Announces Lead Actors For World Premiere of Remember on Feb. 29

SAN ANTONIO – On Saturday, February 29, the Alamo and the Tobin Endowment will present the world premiere of Remember, a musical honoring those who gave their lives for Texas. The Alamo is proud to announce the casting of Ben Jones as William Barrett Travis, and Michael Dailey as Stephen F. Austin. Rated as “show-stopping” by the San Francisco Classical Voice, Ben Jones has performed principal roles in productions of Sweeney Todd, Guys and Dolls, The Last Five Years, and Cats. 

Michael Dailey, who has been described by Opera News as being “blessed with freshness,” has performed over 32 principal roles with opera companies like Opera San Jose, Theater an der Wien, Tricities Opera, and New York Harlem Productions. He has been a featured tenor soloist with the Berkeley Symphony, Sacramento Choral Society, Virginia Beach Symphony Orchestra, and the Cole Porter Society. Remember was written by W. Blake Winchell, who has directed over 30 amateur performances including Camelot, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Forever Plaid. Born in Houston, Blake has written six musicals and Remember is the first one to premiere publicly. Continue Reading →

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The 2020 Legislative Session Can Be Optimistic with Your Advocacy

OKChildren

It is less than a week before the second session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature convenes, and we hear from Governor Stitt about his proposals in the annual State of the State address. 

The issues facing young people in our state and nation are often depressing. The adverse experiences which plague children – and then often repeat when those grown children have kids of their own – have created widespread problems affecting health, the economy, workforce, and life expectancy. These issues also have an overall impact with how well our rankings appear with other states. I have mixed emotions and predictions about what we will see as far as improvements for Oklahoma, but I always lean toward optimism. I am even hopeful that this being an election year will not deter good ideas simply from party-line stubbornness. Continue Reading →

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Parent Power Summit and Education Expo to be held in OKC on January 30, 2020

Oklahoma Flag

As part of National School Choice Week, the Oklahoma City-based non-profit ChoiceMatters is hosting an Oklahoma Parent Power Summit & Education Expo on Thursday, January 30. The event will take place from 4-8 PM at St. Luke’s Christian Life Center in midtown Oklahoma City (251 NW 14th St, OKC OK 73103).The event will include:

A school expo, where parents can learn more about all of the educational options available to students, including public charter schools, private schools, virtual schools, scholarship programs, and other programs to give parents more power in their child’s education;A screening of the movie Miss Virginia, a groundbreaking film about the real-life story of Virginia Walden-Ford, who fought against tremendous odds to create opportunities for her son’s education;A student showcase and reception, featuring student performances from schools all over Oklahoma;A parent power panel, where attendees will hear parent stories and learn about parent-led initiatives throughout Oklahoma to create better educational opportunities for students; andSchool awards, recognizing some of Oklahoma’s top traditional and non-traditional schools. This event is free and open to the public. More information and a detailed schedule can be found at Facebook.com/edchoicemattersMore about ChoiceMatters:ChoiceMatters is an Oklahoma City-based nonprofit that offers parents information, resources, and support to help them navigate Oklahoma’s pre-K through 12th grade educational offerings.ChoiceMatters’ mission is to inform and organize parents so they can exercise their innate power to improve education for their children, schools and/or school systems. Its vision is that one day, every child will have access to a quality education that best fits their needs and allows them to reach their full potential regardless of where they are born or the income of their parents.For more information on ChoiceMatters, go to edchoicematters.org. Continue Reading →

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Adverse Childhood Experiences Plague Oklahoma’s Children

OKChildren

The latest report from America’s Health Rankings shows a slight improvement in Oklahoma on a critical child wellbeing area, Adverse Childhood Experiences also called ACEs.  Sadly, Oklahoma is still the worst in the nation in the frequency of Adverse Childhood Experiences among our children, but awareness is making a difference. The study examined the percentage of children ages 0-17 who endured two or more of the following ACEs: economic hardship; parental divorce or separation; living with someone who had an alcohol or drug problem; neighborhood violence victim or witness; living with someone who was mentally ill, suicidal or severely depressed; domestic violence witness; parent served jail time; being treated or judged unfairly due to race/ethnicity; or death of parent (2-year estimate).  

The reports shows that the national average of 20.5% endured ACEs, which is a slight decrease from recent years.  In Oklahoma, 28.5% of our youth have two or more of these toxic, long-term experiences.  The good news is the number is down from 32% in recent research. This issue goes beyond family and the children impacted.  A September report Psychology Today examined lost economics in the workplace because of ACEs across two continents.  The study looked at immediate losses for employers who lost time on the job with their employees, as well as the long-term impact of reduced productivity or health-related costs for mental and physical health conditions. In Europe, the total annual costs from ACEs was $581 billion  or 2.67% of the GDP. In North America, it was worse, with an economic hit of $748 billion or 3.6 percent of the GDP, mostly from alcohol abuse and anxiety issues. Continue Reading →

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Will 2020 Hold a Brighter Future for Oklahoma’s Children?

OKChildren

As we step into a new year, and debatably a new decade
depending upon who you ask if decades start with a 0 year or a 1, we at the
Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy are looking for a brighter future for
Oklahoma’s children.  This not only the
tag line for our new desktop calendars, but also for our feeling that this will
be the year when we truly begin to turn things in a new direction for our state. This optimism comes from several factors which we will be
facing as a state, and also a few challenges that we each will need to hold
ourselves accountable to be better. Starting with the challenges, we are facing a hostile
election year when the rancor at the state and federal level generally stoops
to a low point in civility.  While we may
or may not like who currently holds an office or might see improved
opportunities in their challengers, it is important to keep the conversation at
a respectful level.  In other words, when
debating about politics, do not behave in a way that you would punish your
children for acting similarly. 

A definite challenge with a financial advantage for our
state will be the tension between the United States and the Middle East.  Oil prices jumped and stocks fell on news
that a powerful Iranian military leader had been killed in a strike authorized
by the United States last week, ratcheting up geopolitical tensions in a region
that supplies around 25 percent of the world’s oil and threatening to disrupt
global supply. That result led oil prices to surge to more than $70 per barrel,
which creates a greater demand for local oil. 
Oklahoma’s portion of the state budget dependent upon this commodity was
written last year to be based on $54.23 per barrel.  While other areas might see a decline, this
increase, if long term, will provide additional revenue for lawmakers to help
fill in gaps with areas of need. A positive we see is the opportunity presented by the US
Census.  If Oklahoma improves our
population count, there is a chance to restore a Congressional seat by taking
one from a larger state like California. 
This also improves the resources coming to our state from the federal
government, so more funding for road, bridges and schools. Continue Reading →

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WWII VETERAN REQUESTS 100 CARDS FOR 100th BIRTHDAY

BONHAM, TEXAS – Today, Chairman of the Veterans Land Board George P. Bush asked the community for help in ensuring WWII Navy Veteran Lyndoll Hurley receives 100 birthday cards for his centennial birthday. It’s not every day that a WWII Veteran turns 100 years old. On Wednesday, January 8, WWII United States Navy Veteran Lyndoll Hurley will turn 100 years young. Lyndoll Hurley proudly served in WWII in the Navy. Please help us celebrate this momentous occasion by sending a birthday card to Lyndoll Hurley’s home at the Clyde W. Cosper Texas Veterans Home, run by the Veterans Land Board. Continue Reading →

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