Recent Articles

Cinco de Mayo Festival to be One of First Major Events at Scissortail Park in 2021

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City’s Cinco de Mayo festival is poised to be one of the most exciting outdoor festivals held in 2021. The event, which has been growing in size over the last several years, has now moved to Scissortail Park to allow for an even broader audience in the centrally located downtown area. The festival, taking place on May 2, is free to attend and includes live music, folkloric dancing, activities for children, a parade of horses, and the crowning of Miss Cinco de Mayo. The Oklahoma City Cinco de Mayo Festival is being organized by Scissortail Development Corporation (CDC). Scissortail President Robert Ruiz said it is one of the most authentic Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States, owing in large part to Oklahoma City’s “sister city” relationship to the city of Puebla. Continue Reading →

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State and National Data Show Steep Decline in Nursing Home COVID Cases

OKLAHOMA CITY – Data released by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) shows that new COVID-19 infections in long-term care (LTC) facilities have fallen to less than 10 percent of rates reported in late 2020. From February 11-18 of 2021, there were 39 new COVID cases among residents, according to data reported by OSDH. In the last week of December 2020, that weekly total was 443. Additionally, test positivity rates continue to decline. In data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, far fewer Oklahoma counties are listed as “red.” In the last week of December 2020, 29 Oklahoma counties were listed as red counties for high nursing home positivity rates. Continue Reading →

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A Blizzard of Mental Health Needs

This cold snap is raising awareness of homelessness in Oklahoma – especially in northeast Oklahoma where a man froze to death overnight last week. Officials and volunteers have been working around the clock to help those in need, sometimes coming into a debate about the best way to assist.  Please do what you can to support the programs providing aid to the homeless as we continue to face this weather, and also those battling the pandemic facing the world. Much of our homelessness crisis stems from the crisis in mental health, which affects people of all ages.  Nearly 60% of Oklahomans in need of mental health treatment last year did not receive help, according to Mental Health America. A large part of this comes from a lack of support for state programs.

This is not just an Oklahoma problem. Trust for America’s Health, a non-partisan public health policy, research and advocacy organization, released a report last year called “The Impact of Chronic Underfunding on America’s Public Health System” with information that will likely shock the general public, though it is all too well known in advocacy circles.  They detail that the United States spends an estimated $3.6 trillion annually on health, with less than 3 percent of that spending directed toward public health and prevention. Continue Reading →

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Parent Voice Oklahoma Successfully Upends Status Quo in Local School Board Races

Candidates affiliated with the group Parent Voice Oklahoma (PVO) found success in last night’s local school board elections, with two PVO-endorsed candidates finishing in first place and another automatically going on to an April run-off.PVO was launched in November of 2020, when it held a rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol calling for schools to reopen for in-person instruction. Since then, the organization has worked to field candidates that are committed to empowering parents and ensuring their voices are heard.In the February 9 school board elections, Margaret Best of Edmond and Marshall Baker of Stillwater, both supported by PVO, finished first in their respective elections and will now be in April run-off elections.In Deer Creek, Derek Lariviere, who helped organize the November PVO rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol, will automatically be placed in an April run-off.In districts where PVO worked to field candidates, turnout also increased dramatically. In Edmond, the last competitive election for school board had 1098 votes cast. In 2021, that number rose to 2248.Even in school districts like Owasso, where PVO-backed candidate Kristin Vivar missed a runoff by 15 votes, grassroots organization helped increase turnout from 1223 votes cast in the last election cycle to 1868 this year.Parent Voice Oklahoma has also worked with state lawmakers to support significant education reform legislation. That includes SB 210, which allows a member of a school district board of education to be removed from office by a recall petition; HB 2241, which would fund schools based on an accurate and real-time student count; and SB 783, which allows for a more open transfer policy between school districts.Robert Ruiz is the executive director of ChoiceMatters, an Oklahoma City based non-profit that has helped to support PVO. Continue Reading →

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ChoiceMatters Honors Schools, Parent Leaders with “Parent Power” Awards

OKLAHOMA CITY – Three schools and two-parent leaders were honored with the 2020 Parent Power Awards on the final day of this year’s Oklahoma Parent Power Summit & Education Expo, which concluded on Friday, Jan. 29. The event was hosted in conjunction with National School Choice Week and aimed at providing parents tools to improve educational outcomes for children.Winning schools were selected for contributing to academic excellence in Oklahoma, expanding parent choices, and elevating the needs of parents and students over other considerations. Honorees included:

Traditional Public School District of the Year: Lawton Public Schools. LPS provided families the choice of in-person, remote or blended learning experiences in 2020. It did so after extensive input from the Lawton community. 

Public Charter School of the Year: Epic Charter Schools. Epic is the fastest growing school district in Oklahoma, offering parents an established, cutting-edge virtual learning option. Continue Reading →

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What You Need to Know about Getting the COVID Vaccination

Happy New Year, Oklahoma! There is light up ahead, at the end of this very long tunnel we have been traveling since last March. The first phase of COVID-19 vaccinations began last month with distribution to health care workers, long-term care residents, EMTs and paramedics, and public health staff. The estimated 150,000 Oklahomans in these categories are receiving their first of two doses with an expectation that Phase 1 will be complete this month. Then, Phase 2 can begin, which includes first responders (paid and unpaid including fire departments, law enforcement, emergency managers, homeland security, and medical examiners). Continue Reading →

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Parent Voice Oklahoma Launches in Wake of School Closures

OKLAHOMA CITY – Parents from across the state today held a rally to protest school closures and a lack of parent involvement in education decisions. Now, many of those parents have organized to launch a new group: Parent Voice Oklahoma. The group exists to elevate the role of parents in regard to educational decisions at the school, district, and state level. Parent Voice Oklahoma starts with chapters in Owasso, Deer Creek, and Stillwater. Parents from Heritage Academy, a new Epic Charter School program that emphasizes bilingual learning and Hispanic culture and heritage, have also launched a chapter. Dana Walsh, who attended today’s rally at the State Capitol, said she got involved with Parent Voice Oklahoma because she feels parents are being ignored by local school districts. “We are tired of not being listened to,” said Walsh, an Owasso parent. “Our school boards are making decisions that impact the health and wellbeing of our kids as well as our ability as parents to work. Continue Reading →

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COVID Worsening – It’s Time to Do More to Protect Children

Over the weekend, Oklahoma hit a horrible mark with a record new cases of COVID-19. Oklahoma had 4,741 new cases, almost doubling the previous record high. Combine that with more students returning to in-school learning and we have the potential for a human catastrophe greater than what we already have endured. There are few Oklahomans who have not been impacted in some way by COVID-19. One of my good friends died from COVID-19 last week. Continue Reading →

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Getting Older, Seeing Needs, Working to Meet the Challenge

Part of life is growing older, and I have the distinct pleasure of hitting the half-century mark this week. If you would have asked me in my younger days if I would have lived the life that I have, I doubt that I could have imagined where I would be. With the challenges I faced and experiences that helped shape me, I am grateful to have had an opportunity to help make Oklahoma be a better place to live. “Making things better” should be a goal for all of us – it is the rent we pay to be alive. My latest endeavor is to lead the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA). Continue Reading →

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