Oklahoma

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Fighting Childhood Obesity is “Work Worth Doing”

“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

I saw this post on a friend’s social media page. As Teddy is my favorite President, I was surprised that I had not seen this quote before. If you have read about him, this certainly describes his attitude and how he lived his life. Equally in the spirit of this quote are the people who also want to see better, even if on different paths. That is what makes policy work an unusual beast; almost all want to see better results and opportunities for the people served, but various philosophies, party registrations, backgrounds, and viewpoints create different daily dynamics. Continue Reading →

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Child Advocacy Group Praises Passage of Tribal Affiliation Bill, Thanks Sponsors

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) said the enactment of a bill to add tribal affiliation to school data collection was a positive step for Oklahoma’s children. “This bill will help collect vital data on our students that will help schools do a better job for Native American students,” said Joe Dorman, chief executive officer of the group. “We are extremely grateful to Rep. Mark Vancuren and Sen. John Michael Montgomery for their hard work in seeing this bill become law.”

Vancuren, a Republican from Owasso, is a 30-year-educator and coach. Montgomery is a Republican from Lawton. Dorman said the bill was important because schools educating Native American students qualify for a variety of programs that can attract federal dollars that will improve education for the students. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers Consider Ideas to Improve Children’s Lives

This week, I want to write about some of the great ideas for children being considered by Oklahoma’s representatives and senators. The job of a lawmaker is often tough; fortunately, there are many advocates and activists who are experts in their respective fields who provide input and ideas. It is the job of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) to offer data-driven suggestions on policy to help lawmakers make good decisions on the best path for state government to help children. OICA is watching 200 bills with potential impacts on children still alive for the 2021 session. Senate Bill 339 by Sens. Continue Reading →

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We Must End the Cycle of Racism by Remembering and Reckoning

Numerous incidents this past year have increased discussion over what constitutes a hate crime. Just about every minority community has endured violence throughout the world based upon this type of bias. A commitment is needed to help reverse what has been ingrained in so many for so long if we want to see better for the next generation. At the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, we hope a more serious discussion occurs about understanding and accepting racial cultures and differences. 

Why is a child advocacy group raising this issue? Because what adults say and do will impact children around them, including conversations that create bias and racism in the next generation. Continue Reading →

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Child Advocacy Group’s Heroes Ball WinsNational Award for “Best Virtual Presentation”

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy (OICA) is the winner of a national award for Virtual Presentations for its 2020 Heroes Ball, OICA’s annual awards and fundraising banquet. The COVID-19 pandemic canceled countless events during 2020, including many nonprofit organizations’ fundraising events. As these cancellations reached epidemic proportions, OICA’s Board of Directors and staff realized their own annual event – the Heroes Ball – was at risk. The Heroes Ball normally hosts about 400 child advocates, state leaders, and award honorees in a traditional banquet hall. Proceeds from the event comprise almost one-quarter of OICA’s annual budget for child advocacy. Continue Reading →

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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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