Monday, November 24, 2014

Fallin Issues Statement on Oklahoma’s Waiver to the Federal No Child Left Behind Education Law Being Restored

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Education announced it was restoring Oklahoma’s waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education law for the remainder of this school year. Reinstating the waiver ensures that Oklahoma schools will retain control of up to $30 million in federal funds.

“The Oklahoma State Department of Education and Oklahoma schools should be afforded the maximum amount of flexibility when using federal dollars. Restoring Oklahoma's NCLB waiver is the correct decision and will help us get more money in the classroom."

STATEMENT: House Speaker Jeff Hickman comments on the U.S. Department of Education’s reinstatement of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver

“As we said when we passed House Bill 3399 last session, if the Obama administration’s immediate reaction was to take Oklahoma’s waiver from No Child Left Behind, our bill included a safety net. It required a review of our state’s current PASS standards by higher education and CareerTech to determine if they were indeed college and career ready. Once that review was complete, not only were our standards certified as college and career ready but our CareerTech and higher education leaders offered numerous suggestions on ways to strengthen our existing standards.

“Utilizing the academic expertise we have at colleges and universities across our state as well as leaders in best CareerTech system in America to improve education in our state is something which should have been done long ago. I am excited we now have all tiers of education in Oklahoma engaged in improving the educational opportunities for students in our state.

“The action by the U.S. Department of Education to reinstate the NCLB waiver restores the flexibility given to Oklahoma school districts over the expenditure of Title I funds. While some have tried to politicize this issue, since removing Common Core testing from state law, this process has played out as we thought it would which again validates that the action we took in Oklahoma under HB 3399 was about policy that is best for our next generation of Oklahomans. Despite the relief and flexibility this decision provides, I again strongly encourage the State Board of Education to continue moving forward in earnest in the creation of our new rigorous and superior education standards. This is a tall task for our state to undertake and we must not waste a single day working toward development of the standards which will guide the success of our students in classrooms across our state. If we know we can offer a better education to Oklahoma’s next generation, each year that passes under an inferior system cheats our most precious resource, our children, out of a brighter and more prosperous future.”​

STATEMENT: Rep. Jason Nelson Responds to Reinstatement of No Child Left Behind Waiver

OKLAHOMA CITY - State Rep. Jason Nelson released the following statement today after the federal government reinstated the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver:

“The U.S. Department of Education had only one choice – restore Oklahoma's NCLB flexibility waiver. With certification by the State Regents for Higher Education in mid-October that the PASS standards are college- and career-ready, the department had to reverse course.

“The truth is, the waiver should have been restored prior to the mid-term elections. The waiver process is unnecessarily political, as were the erroneous claims made by groups like the OEA and Stand for Children. I'm pleased that we've not governed based on political sound bites from education special interest groups that are busy spreading misinformation and fear. That clearly would have been the wrong course in this instance, and I don't believe it has served the children of Oklahoma well before now. What has happened since House Bill 3399 was signed into law in June stands in stark contrast to all the claims made by those groups. As I have stated from the start, federal education funding in Oklahoma has NOT been at risk.

“Sound leadership in the Legislature has resulted in a comprehensive review and certification of our PASS Standards and a new, permanent process to create new standards that includes the three legs of our state's education stool: common education, career technology education and higher education. This should have been done decades ago.

“There is still a lot of work to do and I encourage all Oklahomans with expertise and interest to be actively involved.”

See also: 

U.S. Department of Education restores Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waiver for remainder of school year

U.S. Department of Education restores Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind Flexibility Waiver for remainder of school year

OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 24) — The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) announced today it is reinstating Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Flexibility Waiver for the 2014-15 school year. Although the waiver had been pulled after state lawmakers repealed Common Core academic standards deemed college- and career-ready, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reconsidered that earlier decision after Oklahoma higher education officials determined the state’s existing academic standards were sufficient.

“On behalf of Oklahoma educators, parents, students, lawmakers and all Oklahomans invested in better schools, we are grateful for this decision to reinstate the state’s flexibility waiver,” said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.

“The ramifications of losing the waiver would have been significant and with potentially disastrous consequences. Instead, Oklahoma now has an opportunity to build upon the innovations and successful reforms of recent years.”

On Aug. 28, the USDE told the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) that Oklahoma was losing the waiver that provides the state and school districts with relief from 13 federal regulations and flexibility in spending Title I funds. Federal officials indicated they were impressed by how many Oklahoma schools had improved under the waiver, but an obstacle remained. The USDE requires all states applying for waivers to use English language arts and mathematics standards aligned with college- and career-ready guidelines, and the Common Core repeal made that problematic.

Federal officials indicated at that time that the state could reapply for a waiver to take effect in the 2015-16 school year.

OSDE requested immediate reinstatement of the waiver, however, after the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education concluded Oct. 16 that existing Priority Academic Student Skills, or PASS, standards for English and math are college- and career-ready.

In addition to that development, OSDE pointed to significant progress made under its school improvement program, with 51 out of 175 Priority schools improving their letter grade this school year, and more than 100 Targeted Intervention schools raising their grade. Priority and Targeted Intervention schools are schools that need the most intensive help in raising student achievement.

In a letter today, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah Delisle praised Oklahoma for education reforms made in an effort to strengthen rigor and improve academic performance.

“I am confident that Oklahoma will continue to implement the reforms described in its approved ESEA flexibility request and advance its efforts to hold schools and school districts accountable for the achievement of all students,” she wrote.

As state leaders look ahead to the spring of 2015 and the likelihood of requesting another NCLB Flexibility Waiver, Supt. Barresi said it is critical that Oklahoma remains committed to reforms that will spur academic achievement.

“While the USDE decision certainly allows districts and schools to breathe a little easier, this reinstatement cannot be misinterpreted as a concession to low expectations,” she said. “Oklahoma should forge ahead with creating stronger academic standards and shoring up a system of true accountability.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Senators take oath of office

Friends, family and supporters looked on as newly elected and reelected members of the Oklahoma State Senate took the oath of office on Tuesday in the Senate chamber. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, President of the Senate, presided over the ceremony. The oath was administered by the Honorable John Reif, Chief Justice-Elect of the Supreme Court.

New members taking the oath of office were Marty Quinn, R-Claremore; Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow; Roger Thompson, R-Okemah; Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City; Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher; Jason Smalley, R-Stroud; Ervin Yen, R-Oklahoma City; Jack Fry, R-Midwest City; and Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, was sworn in during an earlier ceremony. Quinn, Floyd, Pittman and Smalley have previously served in the House of Representatives.

Returning members who were sworn in on Tuesday included Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa; Mike Schulz, R-Altus; Mark Allen, R-Spiro; Randy Bass, D-Lawton; Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate; Rick Brinkley, R-Owasso; Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow; Kim David, R-Porter; Eddie Fields, R-Wynona; AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie; Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City; Frank Simpson, R-Springer; and Anthony Sykes; R-Moore. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, and John Sparks, D-Norman, took the oath of office in an earlier ceremony.

Returning members were able to file legislation for the 2015 session beginning November 17, while new members can begin filing bills on November 19. The deadline for requesting bills is December 12. January 22 is the deadline for introducing legislation to be heard in the 2015 session.

The full Senate will officially convene for an organizational day on Tuesday, January 6, 2015, and the First Session of the 55th Legislature reconvenes on Monday, February 2.

The Senate website has streaming video from all committee rooms and the chamber. Legislation, the Senate Journal, biographical information on members, high resolution photos, committee and floor agendas, votes and press releases can also be accessed at www.oksenate.gov.

Senate Republicans elect leadership team

Sen. Brian Bingman named President Pro Tempore-Nominee for the 55th Oklahoma Legislature

Following the swearing-in of new and returning Senators on Tuesday, Senate Republicans met in caucus to elect their leadership team for the 55th Oklahoma Legislature. Without opposition, Sen. Brian Bingman was reelected as President Pro Tempore-Nominee of the Senate. Bingman also announced that Sen. Mike Schulz will continue to serve as Majority Floor Leader for the 55th Legislature. Majority Caucus Chair Bryce Marlatt and Majority Caucus Vice Chair A.J. Griffin were also elected without opposition.

In addition, the Senate Republican Caucus elected assistant majority floor leaders and majority whips on Tuesday.

“I’m grateful to our caucus for once again entrusting me with this responsibility, and I look forward to working together as we advance the state of Oklahoma,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “The eight new members of our caucus bring a diverse array of experience and a dedication to serve the people of their districts. We will continue working to ensure Oklahoma remains a leader in economic development and job growth for years to come.”

Senate Republicans also elected the following members to leadership posts Tuesday:

Assistant Majority Floor Leaders:
Sen. Rick Brinkley
Sen. Eddie Fields
Sen. Greg Treat

Majority Whips:
Sen. Nathan Dahm
Sen. Kim David
Sen. Frank Simpson
Sen. Rob Standridge

Majority Caucus Chair:
Sen. Bryce Marlatt

Majority Caucus Vice Chair:
Sen. A.J. Griffin

“I congratulate this fine group of Senators on their election to Senate leadership,” Bingman said. “These men and women will be instrumental in our efforts to advance conservative policy.”

The 55th Legislature will include eight new Republican Senators. Four Senate seats have switched from Democrat to Republican, including Marty Quinn (District 2), Joseph Silk (District 5), Roger Thompson (District 8), and Darcy Jech (District 26). The Senate will also welcome four freshmen in seats previously held by Republicans with the addition of Senators Stephanie Bice (District 22), Jason Smalley (District 28), Ervin Yen (District 40), and Jack Fry (District 42).

The Senate will meet for organizational day on Jan. 6, where leaders will be formally elected and rules for the 2015 session will be passed.

State House Members Take Oath of Office

OKLAHOMA CITY – The 101 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives took their oath of office today including 22 new members who will be serving in the 55th Oklahoma Legislature.

“This is an exciting day at the Capitol,” said House Speaker Jeffrey W. Hickman, R-Fairview. “As the branch of state government closest to the people, these House members have been visiting with Oklahomans across the state and are prepared to share the ideas and concerns of our friends and neighbors as we begin to address the issues we face this upcoming session.”

Oklahoma Chief Justice-elect John Reif performed the ceremony. The House currently consists of 72 Republican and 29 Democratic legislators, the same as the previous Legislature.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives will convene on January 6 for Organizational Day and will formally elect House leadership. The bill filing deadline for the 2015 Session will be January 22 at 4 p.m., and regular session will reconvene on February 2.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thank you!

I want to say thank you to so many friends for supporting my re-election campaign. I especially want to thank my family, all of whom have made a tremendous sacrifice to allow me to campaign and serve. This was a very competitive, hard-fought race and my opponent was the toughest I have faced yet. He matched us in fundraising and I know he knocked on many, many doors. But his team could not compete with our volunteers. It has been said that one should never underestimate the heart of a volunteer and I have never felt this to be more true than now. 

As many of you may know, three weeks ago, our 8 year-old daughter, Grace, was diagnosed with advanced stage kidney cancer.  We have been tremendously blessed by the outpouring of support so many of our friends, neighbors, and church family have offered during this time. Countless numbers of you swung into action to help our family on the campaign and in many personal ways. My wife Lori and I thank you for each call you made, letter or note you wrote, and each door you knocked to help us win. Simply put, we could not have won without your efforts. Most importantly, as we help Grace fight this fight, we ask for your continued prayers and are forever grateful for your kind actions.    

Many tried to make this race a referendum on education and the many reforms I have been proud to support in recent years, like the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program for children with special needs. I think they were right. This victory proves that putting people over partisan politics works. It’s not about protecting an elite class or the education establishment – it’s about doing the right thing for individual families, like that of Diane Brumley, who went above and beyond to tell her story of how the LNH scholarship changed her family’s life. While special interests and dark money groups rallied to defeat those of us who believe parents always know what’s best for their child’s education, you, the people of House District 87 rallied to defeat those special interests and I am grateful for the continued trust you have placed in me.

I first ran for office because I believed I could help make a difference by helping to build an Oklahoma that our children and grandchildren would be proud to call home. This mission has taken on renewed meaning for me. May God bless our great country and our great state.
Thank you,

Jason Nelson

(Jason Nelson was reelected with 53.2% of the vote.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Nelson wins reelection with 53.2%

14 of 14 precincts

Nelson
Walke
Total
Nelson
Walke
397
237
634
62.6%
37.4%
323
210
533
60.6%
39.4%
529
329
858
61.7%
38.3%
281
337
618
45.5%
54.5%
336
359
695
48.3%
51.7%
388
243
631
61.5%
38.5%
424
270
694
61.1%
38.9%
305
218
523
58.3%
41.7%
102
159
261
39.1%
60.9%
318
300
618
51.5%
48.5%
294
382
676
43.5%
56.5%
398
513
911
43.7%
56.3%
123
160
283
43.5%
56.5%
184
160
344
53.5%
46.5%





4402
3877
8279
53.2%
46.8%

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

District Attorneys to lead domestic violence awareness, education efforts in their communities

OKLAHOMA CITY (Sept. 16, 2014) – The Oklahoma District Attorneys Association (ODAA) and Verizon announce the second “District Attorneys Against Domestic Violence” (DA’s Against DV) collaboration. Together, their efforts will help raise awareness of domestic violence in communities across the state.

The ODAA seeks to foster and maintain the honor and integrity of the prosecuting attorneys, and improve and facilitate the administration of justice in the State of Oklahoma. The 27 elected district attorneys are responsible for prosecuting all crimes in their respective districts and as a result, the district attorneys see first-hand the affects of domestic violence and sexual assault on their communities and are together dedicated to strengthening the state’s response to this devastating crime.

“Approximately one in four women are victims of domestic violence,” said Chris Ross, president of the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association. “A growing problem within our communities, we are determined to help the victims of domestic violence learn about the ways of getting help. Oklahoma is ranked third in the nation for the number of females murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents. By combining the support of all the district attorneys of Oklahoma, we hope to further provide opportunities to raise awareness throughout all 77 counties in Oklahoma.”

The awareness campaign will involve HopeLine phone drives in district attorneys’ offices across the state. HopeLine is a program by Verizon that takes donations of no-longer-used cell phones and cell phone accessories and turns them into a “hope” line for survivors of domestic violence. The donated phones are refurbished, loaded with free wireless minutes, and given to domestic violence shelters and other support organizations as tools to help provide victims with a private and reliable phone for contacting family, counselors or prospective employers as they work to rebuild their lives.

In addition, each district attorney will have the opportunity to host a free screening of the documentary Telling Amy’s Story. The documentary is the true story of a young mother who died at the hands of her husband as she was trying to leave their abusive relationship. It is a powerful testimony of how quickly, and subtly, a troubled relationship can turn deadly.

“United with the same goal, we hope our joint effort with the district attorneys in Oklahoma will make a difference for victims of domestic violence in Oklahoma,” said Kristi Crum, president of Verizon Oklahoma. “We appreciate the work the Oklahoma District Attorneys Association has done and we know they have great influence in their local communities. Together we can make a difference.”

To learn more about HopeLine or Telling Amy’s Story, visit www.verizonwireless.com/hopeline or www.telling.psu.edu.

Media Opportunity: The ODAA will host a press conference to kick off the 2014 DAs Against DV collaboration with Verizon Oklahoma. The press conference will take place on Sept. 18, 2014 at 1:15 p.m. in the Blue Room located at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Media is welcomed to attend. Representatives from the DA’s Against DV collaboration will be available for interviews and questions following the press conference.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fallin Announces Record Increases in Education Resources from School Land Holdings

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin announced today that public schools, colleges and universities have received record earnings during the last four fiscal years from funds distributed by the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO).



More than $519.9 million has been distributed to the CLO’s education beneficiaries during the 2011 through 2014 fiscal years, according to the agency. That amount is 57 percent, or $188.7 million, more than the $331.2 million distributed during the next-highest four-year period in state history (2007-2010).

“This is great news for public education,” said Fallin. “This money provides much-needed additional funds for school districts, colleges and universities. The increase in CLO dollars is one more way to supplement the $150 million increase legislators appropriated for K-12 education in the last two years. I appreciate the hard work of the land office commissioners and CLO Secretary Harry Birdwell for helping to produce these high returns.”

The CLO distributes money from oil and gas exploration and land leases on the agency's controlled property as well as dividends from investments made by the trust fund.

Public schools received most of the money, or $381.9 million of the $519.9 million, distributed the past four fiscal years by the CLO. Higher education received $137.9 million.

The money for kindergarten-through-grade-12 schools is distributed to each of the state's 517 school districts based on school attendance numbers.

The value of the CLO’s permanent trust fund since 2011 has grown by nearly $700 million, from $1.606 billion to $2.304 billion.

It took 95 years for the CLO’s permanent trust fund to reach the $1 billion threshold. It took only 11 additional years for the permanent trust fund to pass the $2 billion mark.

The CLO is assigned the task of managing, leasing and selling properties set aside decades ago to be managed for the maximum financial benefit of Oklahoma's common and higher education schools.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Pruitt Comments on Federal Government's Denial of Oklahoma No Child Left Behind Waiver

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt made the following statement Friday on the federal government's denial of Oklahoma's No Child Left Behind Waiver:

"I believe in academic standards. I believe that we ought to ensure our students graduate prepared for life and to attend college if they so choose.  High expectations matter to our future as a state and a country. But it is wholly inappropriate and unlawful for federal bureaucrats to dictate to the states what our standards should be. However, just yesterday, President Obama's Education Secretary did what so many other federal agencies are doing under the leadership of this President -- disregard the law and make it up as they go along. The law does not allow the secretary to condition Oklahoma's waiver from No Child Left Behind on yielding the state's right to define and establish standards. It would appear in this case the Obama administration has exceeded its authority under the law and my office will continue our examination of the best manner in which the state will respond." 

Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship opponents fall short with court ruling

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma County district court judge yesterday ruled that using publicly funded scholarships for students with special needs at a private sectarian school was unconstitutional. However, the narrowly tailored decision held that scholarships from the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program Act could be used at private secular and religiously-affiliated schools.

The ruling is a setback for the plaintiffs who were asking the judge to strike down the entire law. Instead, the judge upheld the basic program as constitutional with a “narrow” exception.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

House Leaders Comment on Feds Penalizing Oklahoma for Pursuing Superior College and Career Ready Academic Standards

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House leaders expressed disappointment today after learning the federal government will pursue a punitive course of action following Oklahoma’s repeal of Common Core State Standards earlier this year.

Oklahoma officials received a letter today from the United States Department of Education stating they will not renew Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver. This heavy handed decision comes after the passage of House Bill 3399, a measure which repealed the untested Common Core State Standards and put in place a process to develop and adopt new, superior standards with the help of Oklahoma higher-education and CareerTech systems. The U.S. Department of Education has deemed Oklahoma’s pursuit of proven college and career-ready standards to be a failure to adhere to the NCLB waiver principles.

“We knew the federal government could opt to take some actions when we passed HB3399,” said House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview. “None-the-less, this decision is troubling because it sets back the efforts of our local schools to continue improving by imposing on them unhelpful and unnecessary regulations.”

In a letter to Oklahoma officials, Deborah Delisle, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, explained the basis of their decision stating that “Oklahoma can no longer demonstrate that the state’s standards are college and career-ready standards.”

“I challenge the U.S. Dept. of Education to ‘demonstrate’ that Common Core is college and career ready in Oklahoma before they begin dictating how we run our state’s education system,” said Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “They can’t do it. Each state’s college remediation requirements are different and they have absolutely no idea if Common Core meets their own requirements.

“In the Obama administration’s determination to compel Oklahoma to stay with Common Core, they plan to impose onerous federal regulations on our education system that were unnecessary this morning but are now, amazingly, necessary this afternoon. It’s obvious that states like Oklahoma must not flinch in taking back control of our standards if we truly want standards that can be ‘demonstrated’ to be college and career ready. Unfortunately, this letter is the latest example of the slow death of federalism which is being replaced with flawed logic.”

Pruitt Will Appeal Ruling in Lawsuit Challenging Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities

OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Thursday he would appeal a ruling that invalidated a portion of the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program, which allows parents of children with disabilities to obtain scholarship money from the state to fund their child’s attendance at a school of their choosing.

A district court judge ruled funds from the scholarship program cannot be used to send students with disabilities to sectarian schools. The judge's order is stayed pending appeal, which means the scholarship program remains unchanged for now.

“This scholarship program empowers parents of children with disabilities to obtain scholarship monies from the state to fund their child’s enrollment and attendance in a private school of their choosing,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “Prohibiting the use of Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship funds from being used to send students with disabilities to sectarian schools would require the state to discriminate against those schools. That is highly troublesome and why we will appeal the ruling.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New short documentary about Positive Tomorrows, an OKC private school

Positive Tomorrows is an exclusive private school serving very special children in the Oklahoma City area. This short documentary gives you a glimpse of the school's heart-warming mission in action. Education Savings Account legislation in Oklahoma would help more students in need gain access to schools like Positive Tomorrows. Your help is needed to make this opportunity a reality for more children. 





Legislators focus on welfare reform in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three state legislators are working with a conservative think tank to ensure that welfare is used as the temporary safety net that it was designed to be rather than a long term crutch. Last week, Sen. Rob Standridge worked with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) in hosting a forum on welfare reform in Oklahoma along with Rep. Jason Nelson and Rep. Tom Newell. The featured speaker was conservative political activist Star Parker who discussed her visionary ideas on empowering those trapped in the welfare system. 

Social policy consultant Star Parker speaks on welfare
reform alongside Sen. Rob Standridge 
(R-Norman) and
Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole) at a recent OCPA forum.
Parker is the founder and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (CURE) in Washington, D.C., which works to create a national dialogue on issues of race and poverty. Parker opposes many welfare programs believing that instead of teaching people how to take care of themselves, they create a system of government reliance and helplessness. Parker had seven years of first-hand experience in the grip of welfare dependency. Now, as a social policy consultant, she works with policy makers on how to transition America's poor from government dependency.

“I am extremely encouraged and excited that, amidst all of the political noise in the nation today, Senator Standridge is focused and deliberate about helping those most vulnerable. I look forward to working closely with him and his office to help those struggling to prosper and live in peace in this great nation of ours. Under Senator Standridge’s leadership, Oklahoma could be a model to help save the country.”

As Vice Chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Standridge has been a strong advocate of welfare reform authoring numerous measures to address Oklahomans’ growing reliance on government assistance.

“I enjoyed hearing Star Parker’s ideas for how to help strengthen individuals and families and get them off of welfare. When it was created welfare was intended to only be temporary assistance for the disabled and elderly and it has become a crutch for all ages and that has to stop,” said Standridge, R- Norman. “Part of being fiscally responsible is ensuring that all citizens have the education and skills needed to be contributing members of our society. The strength of our economy depends on this. I’m looking forward to continuing our efforts to reform Oklahoma’s welfare system and putting some of Star’s ideas to work in legislation for the upcoming session.” 

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee will be conducting an interim study this fall on Oklahoma’s welfare-to-work programs and the long term impacts of House Bill 2388, which allows DHS to deny Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits to applicants found using controlled substances. 

Nelson, who is the House Deputy Majority Floor Leader, serves as a member of both the House Appropriations and Budget Committee and Conference Committee on Health and Human Services.

“Star Parker's story is inspiring and her call to action compelling. Her call to provide our most vulnerable citizens with equal opportunities in education and to partner with families who want to work their way up the economic ladder resonated with me,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to expand these important opportunities. I'm grateful that Star is willing to invest her time and energy in Oklahoma and look forward to working with her.” 

Newell serves as the Chair of the Conference Committee on Health and Human Services as well as the Appropriations and Budget Committee on Health and Human Services. 

“A system once thought to help people when they’re in temporary need has become a big-government bureaucracy that has entrapped entire families for several generations now,” said Newell, R-Seminole. “Once well-meaning, America’s welfare system only serves to trap people and remove any motivation to get off the system and find gainful employment. It’s a cycle that must be broken somehow, and I believe Star Parker’s ideas on how to accomplish that could revolutionize the system. Also, it could provide true light for people who don’t want the government to take care of them, but want to be self-sufficient. It was an honor to discuss with Star what can be done to ensure the welfare system goes back to being a temporary safety net and not a catch-all way of life.”

The legislators will be working together to introduce strong welfare reform measures in the 2015 legislative session. The bill request deadline will be in early December.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

OK Supreme Court Says Common Core Repeal Law is Constitutional

Sen. Josh Brecheen, Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick and
Rep. Jason Nelson
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, issued the following statement on the State Supreme Court's decision today that House Bill 3399 that repealed Common Core is constitutional. Following a public hearing this morning, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a "Memorandum Opinion" this afternoon confirming the constitutionality of HB 3399. In its brief opinion the court stated, "HB 3399 is not unconstitutional under either art. 13, §5 or art. 4, §1 of the Oklahoma Constitution." Nelson was the House co-author of House Bill 3399.

"The Supreme Court made the right decision today. I thought the justices asked great questions hitting all the salient points during the hearing this morning and I felt good about our case after the hearing. The arguments in favor of the constitutionality of the law are strong and left little doubt that the decision would be favorable. 

“I've believed from the beginning that this legal challenge was baseless and have said so since it was filed. The legal arguments against House Bill 3399 were thoroughly researched by the authors and determined to be baseless when the National Association of State School Boards, an out-of-state organization supporting the national implementation of the Common Core State Standards, first raised them in March. 


“I'm grateful to Attorney General Scott Pruitt and his staff, specifically Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick and Assistant Solicitor General Cara Rodriguez, for their outstanding legal defense of this legislative action. I'm also grateful to those individuals and organizations who voluntarily offered their perspectives to the Court by filing legal briefs in defense of the law. 


“The confusion caused by this lawsuit has been unfortunate as educators around the state have been busy preparing for the next school year, which is weeks away. The Court’s opinion today removes any uncertainty. Based on the many educators I know personally, I have no doubt that Oklahoma’s teachers are more than capable of making the necessary adjustments and will be more than ready when children, mine included, begin showing up after the summer break.”


State Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, Senate author of House Bill 3399, issued the following statement:

“The Court’s ruling today upholding the constitutionality of House Bill 3399 is a win for students, parents and teachers.  


“Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick masterfully relayed to the Court that the Board of Education, through Article 13, is given the authority to supervise instruction, emphasizing they may do so ‘as prescribed by law,’ akin to the way a construction project manager supervises an architect’s blueprints.  


“Today, the Court upheld HB 3399 on the grounds that the legislature can send the proposed new standards back with instructions to the board. HB 3399 will allow the board much more input into the education of Oklahoma’s children than the 2010 Common Core legislation did.  


“Further, one of the Justices correctly pointed out, that the authors of Oklahoma’s Constitution were concerned about the potential for abuse by non-elected, unaccountable appointees of the Executive branch, and so ensured the will of the people would be upheld through legislative oversight, which is exactly what HB 3399 will allow concerning education in our state.”


State Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, issued the following statement:


“I am pleased with today’s opinion in favor of House Bill 3399. The Oklahoma Constitution is abundantly clear in granting the Legislature the authority contained in HB 3399. The lawsuit brought by the plaintiffs is a textbook example of a “frivolous” lawsuit. I look forward to working further with Senator Brecheen, Representative Nelson and other like- minded conservative legislators in returning Oklahoma education to Oklahomans.”


Governor Mary Fallin issued the following statement: 


“Today the Supreme Court ruled that House Bill 3399, which repeals Common Core and directs the state of Oklahoma to develop new academic standards, is constitutional in its entirety. This bill has now been passed with large legislative majorities, signed by the governor, and reviewed by the courts. It is now time for parents, teachers, school administrators and lawmakers to work cooperatively to implement this law. We need all parties working together to ensure that Oklahoma's new standards are rigorous and can be realistically integrated into the classroom. Working together, I know that we can design Oklahoma standards that live up to a level of excellence our parents and students expect and deserve."


Related post: Lawsuit filed challenging Common Core repeal, Nelson responds


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Children the focus of many approved interim studies

OKLAHOMA CAPITOL — Ninety-three separate interim studies were requested by state representatives this year. House Speaker Jeff Hickman approved eighty-three studies this week. Sixty-one separate studies are available to be scheduled between August 5 and November 12 because twenty-two of the approved studies were combined with similar studies. Ten requests were not approved. 

One-third of the approved studies will address issues related to children. Studies of the repeal of the Common Core State Standards earlier this year and the potential benefits of medical marijuana for children are among the 28 studies approved that concern children. Below is a list of these interim studies:

Related to adoption and foster care: 
  • 14-047 requested by Rep. Ann Coody was combined with 14-054 seeks to explore “Reuniting foster children with biological families and other possible solutions in seeking their optimal welfare” including “the best possible solution in finding a permanent home environment for foster children.” 
  • 14-048 requested by Rep. Ann Coody will study “the necessity of an additional background check for certified educators who work in DHS before- and after-school programs.” Assigned to the Common Education Committee. 
  • 14-054 requested by Reps. Sean Roberts and Wade Rousselot will consider reforms to the state’s adoption laws. Assigned to the Human Services Committee.

Related to child trafficking and sexual abuse:
  • 14-014 requested by Rep. Lee Denney will examine Erin’s Law, a “Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Education” program. Assigned to the Human Services Committee. 
  • 14-055 requested by Rep. Sean Roberts will study child trafficking by studying “ways to combat the crime of human trafficking and identifying services available to victims.” Assigned to the Public Safety Committee.

Related to Common Core and academic standards:
  • 14-049 requested by Rep. Ann Coody will consider the question, “After Common Core – what next? A study of the possible solutions in developing and implementing rigorous educational standards for Oklahoma’s students.” Assigned to the House Common Education Committee. 
  • 14-059 requested by Rep. Ann Coody was combined with 14-049 and will explore the “impact of HB3399 on Oklahoma’s schools and steps which should be taken to mitigate the concerns of Oklahoma’s schools, administrators, teachers and students.  Costs and process for writing new standards.” 
  • 14-064 requested by Rep. David Brumbaugh was combined with 14-049 and seeks to study “Common Ed testing.” 
  • 14-076 requested by Rep. Jadine Nollan will study “The Transferability of High School Credits between Schools and its Effects on Student Graduation. The study would examine the standards and procedures for which public high schools accept transfer credits, as many transfer students fail to graduate on time due to insufficient credits.  A review of the different graduation credit requirements by school district should be included in the study.” Assigned to the Common Education Committee. 
  • 14-092 requested by Reps. Joe Dorman, Donnie Condit, Curtis McDaniel and Dustin Roberts was combined with 14-049 and seeks to study “Education Standards, Assessments and Testing” including “Developing Age-appropriate Oklahoma Standards, Reviewing Standards Associated with Common Core, NCLB, and other Programs; What is Necessary to keep NCLB Waiver.”

Related to student testing: 
  • 14-025 requested by Rep. Leslie Osborn was combined with 14-049 will study state and federal student testing policies. Specific issues to be reviewed include: “duplicative testing, testing alignment status, costs, use of tests to evaluate teacher effectiveness, testing special ed students, test results as a true criterion result, possible other testing options to meet career & academic guidelines, testing vendors and accountability on the product.” 
  • 14-068 requested by Rep. Ann Coody will study “Proper Transition from K-12 to Higher Education / Career Technology” including “End of Instruction Exams” and “Alabama’s Experiment with ACT Aspire.” Assigned to the Higher Education Committee. 
  • 14-070 requested by Rep. Jadine Nollan will study the “Implications of High-Stakes Testing for Students with Learning Disabilities. The study would address the most significant risks posed by high-stakes for students with learning disabilities, as well as the barriers to success on high-stakes testing for students with learning disabilities.” Assigned to the Common Education Committee.

Related to education funding:
  • 14-004 requested by Rep. Dan Fisher will study “Funding for schools that find themselves surrounded by federal property and thus have their tax base greatly reduced and suffer from reduced operating funds to no fault of their own. We would like to add the 12 districts / schools that are affected by this issue at a later date.” Assigned to the Appropriations and Budget Committee. 
  • 14-067 requested by Rep. Ann Coody will study the “State Funding Formula Weights for Special Education. What state/federal legal hurdles stand in the way of necessary data collection? How would Oklahoma update its school funding formula for special education weighting?” Assigned to the Appropriations and Budget Committee. 
  • 14-089 requested by Reps. Joe Dorman, Donnie Condit, Curtis McDaniel and Dustin Roberts was combined with 14-004 and seeks to study “Education Funding for Per Pupil Spending and Adequate Resources for Classrooms.” 

Related to schools:
  • 14-016 requested by Rep. Lee Denney will explore the future of K8 school districts. Assigned to the Common Education Committee. 
  • 14-069 requested by Rep. Ann Coody will study the “Effectiveness of Oklahoma’s Public Charter Schools” and “What effective strategies are taking place in Oklahoma’s public charter schools that can be replicated in the k-12 setting?” Assigned to the Common Education Committee.

Related to student support: 
  • 14-071 requested by Rep. Emily Virgin will study “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and CareerTech.” Assigned to the Higher Education Committee.

Related to teachers:
  • 14-046 requested by Rep. Ann Coody will explore preparing teachers and prospective teachers to recognize symptoms of dyslexia in students including the “role of higher education teacher preparation programs and professional development.” Assigned to the Common Education Committee.

Related to health:
  • 14-043 requested by Rep. Dan Kirby will consider the “benefits of Athletic trainer required at youth sporting events in Oklahoma.” Assigned to the Public Health Committee. 
  • 14-063 requested by Rep. Jon Echols will study “Allowing medical trials in the state of Oklahoma for the use of non-intoxicating CBD Oil for severe seizure disorders in children.” Assigned to the Public Health Committee.  
  • 14-085 requested by Rep. Todd Thomsen was combined with 14-063 and seeks to study “Medical Marijuana for Children. The study would take a narrow look at the medical use of marijuana in childhood disorder; seizures, etc. Included would be experts in the field, parents, law enforcement, and pediatricians.”  
  • 14-091 requested by Rep. Joe Dorman was combined with 14-063 and seeks to study “Medical Treatments for Children with Seizures & Regulation of Experimental Medicines.”

Related to Marriage and Families:
  • 14-012 requested by Rep. Jeannie McDaniel was combined with 14-023. Rep. McDaniel seeks to “examine the cost and benefit to the state and its citizens concerning the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative.”  
  • 14-023 requested by Reps. Mark McCullough, Lee Denney, Jason Nelson and Jadine Nollan will examine “Effective Interventions for the Potential Negative Impacts on Learning in Children from Single Parent, Divorced and Dysfunctional Homes.” Combined with 14-012 and assigned to the Human Services Committee.

Related to juvenile justice: 
  • 14-065 requested by Rep. Todd Thomsen will study “Juvenile offender rehabilitation programs and incarceration options with low recidivism rates. The goal is to take a long term view of where we are currently in dealing with Juvenile offenders and evaluate effective options to be considered for the future.” 
  • 14-075 requested by Reps. Seneca Scott and Kevin Matthews was combined with 14-065 and will explore “Ongoing data collection in Juvenile Justice and effective use of research and evaluation findings.” The study will “Gather and analyze data to document system problems and identify potential solutions based on available research regarding what may and may not work to reduce Disproportionate Minority Contact.” 

A study of “Educational Benefits of a Broad Education Focus” requested by Rep. Todd Thomsen was one of the ten requests not approved. The request described the study as, “an in-depth look at all programs including extra-curricular activities and elective classes such as music, art, sports that strengthen the education of a child.  Is the current direction of education promoting these important components of education?  What can be done to improve these aspects in the focus of education.  To include art educators, music educator, coaches.” 

Each approved interim study was assigned to a standing committee. The chairpersons of the committees to which studies were assigned will work with the requesting members to schedule hearings for each interim study. Questions about specific interim studies should be directed to the members requesting the study.  

Link to list of all approved studies: http://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/ShowInterimStudies.aspx

Link to related story: 2014 House Interim Studies Announced

Friday, July 11, 2014

2014 House Interim Studies Announced

OKLAHOMA CAPITOL — House Speaker Jeff Hickman today posted the list of approved 2014 Interim Studies.

Interim studies will be held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this year. Interim Studies can begin August 5th and must end no later than November 12th.

In an effort to keep permanent records of the important work that is conducted for current and future legislators, the author of each study will be required to file a report for each interim study that is conducted. Reports should include the date, time and location of the hearing/hearings and should also include contact information for any outside presenters or participants. A brief summary of the topics discussed by the author of the study and presenters should be included in the report. All handouts, PowerPoint presentations or documents used at the hearing/hearings should also be included. Interim Study Reports will be posted online on the House Website.

In a continued effort to increase transparency in the Interim Study process, reports will be archived with supporting documents so legislators, staff and the public can review in future years.

“This interim study period serves as one of our most important periods in the legislative process,” Speaker Jeff Hickman said. “The ability to meet, gather data, and query experts on matters that are important to the state is an invaluable tool.”

Link to 2014 Interim Studies: http://www.okhouse.gov/Committees/ShowInterimStudies.aspx


Related post: Children the focus of many approved interim studies
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