All articles by Guest

Exonerating the wrongly-convicted should be a shared priority (Guest Post: Lawrence Hellman)

by | October 23rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice | Comments (0)

Lawrence K. Hellman is Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Oklahoma City University School of Law. He serves as executive director of The Oklahoma Innocence Project.

innocence projectIt is no longer contestable: innocent people sometimes get convicted of serious crimes. How often? No one knows. But this we do know: since 1989, more than 1,400 people have been released from prisons in America based on evidence of innocence. Twenty-eight of these exonerations occurred in Oklahoma, including 7 people who had been sentenced to death.

A peer-reviewed, statistically-validated study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concludes that at least 4.1 percent of defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent. The percentage of wrongful convictions for non-capital offenses may be even higher.

More than 26,000 people are currently incarcerated in Oklahoma. If “only” 2 percent of them are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted, more than 500 inmates deserve to be exonerated and returned to freedom.

continue reading Exonerating the wrongly-convicted should be a shared priority (Guest Post: Lawrence Hellman)

State Question 769: Allowing military guard and reserve members to hold elected office (Guest Post: David Dickerson)

by | October 13th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Elections, State Questions | Comments (1)
Oklahoma Air National Guard soldiers prepare to conduct search and rescue operations in Moore after the May 2013 tornado. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James.

Oklahoma Air National Guard conduct search and rescue operations after the Moore May 2013 tornado. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James.

David Dickerson is a retired military officer who served in the active component, Reserve, and National Guard. He now works as an advocate for veterans at the local, state, and national level.

During the last thirteen years of sustained war in Afghanistan and Iraq, National Guard and Reserve units and personnel have been deployed with unprecedented frequency to augment the active component forces. Thousands of Oklahoma’s National Guard and Reserve service members have served with distinction while having their “normal” lives disrupted. Some of those mobilized and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom also held elected and appointed offices in state and local governments.

continue reading State Question 769: Allowing military guard and reserve members to hold elected office (Guest Post: David Dickerson)

The public education crunch goes from bad to worse (Guest Post: John Waldron)

by | October 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (8)

john waldronJohn Waldron is a high school history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School

There is a crisis in Oklahoma education. Here’s the view from the ground.

I teach at one of the finest high schools in Oklahoma – Booker T. Washington in Tulsa – and I have long been concerned about the effects of budget cuts on our programs. Since 2008 we have cut our staff approximately 20 percent, while adding 6-7 percent to the student population.

For me, this has meant larger class sizes. Prior to 2008, class loads were capped at 140 students per teacher. Typically, I had about 110 in my classes, which are generally upper-level history courses. Today, after six years of cuts, I have 147 students. To give you a sense of what that means, consider this: if I give an essay question to each student (something I believe is a critical part of an upper-level course) and spend five minutes on each essay, it takes over 13 hours to grade them. That’s about how much planning time I have in three weeks of school. It has also meant eliminating my elective classes to teach more survey courses. And, of course, 147 students means 147 names to memorize, and 147 sets of individual circumstances to respond to. You see the dilemma. How can we deliver quality instruction to every student, under increasingly stressed conditions? How can we make bricks without straw?

continue reading The public education crunch goes from bad to worse (Guest Post: John Waldron)

How to strengthen nutrition and health for Women, Infants & Children (Guest Post: Monica Barczak)

by | October 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)
Photo by Bev Sykes

Photo by Bev Sykes

Monica Barczak is Director of Innovation Lab at CAP Tulsa, where she leads a small team responsible for a variety of research and program design and improvement efforts.

A child’s successful growth and development depends on many factors, including good nutrition and health from the pre-natal period through the earliest months and years of life. Unfortunately, too many Oklahoma children lack sufficient nutrition, hampering their readiness for school and learning and triggering other health issues ranging from obesity to infections to increased risk of social-emotional problems.

While the private sector and faith-based community play a significant role in alleviating hunger in Oklahoma, such services tend to limit the number of times families can access help. But pregnant women and young children in particular need a consistent source of adequate nutrition to ensure healthy development. Federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are invaluable in filling the gap. So it is critical that such programs are designed to make the most impact for clients while operating in the most effective and efficient way. While WIC generally receives high marks among users, improvements could be made to help clients take full advantage of the program benefits.

continue reading How to strengthen nutrition and health for Women, Infants & Children (Guest Post: Monica Barczak)

Budget cuts not horsing around (Guest post by Steve Lewis)

by | September 2nd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (2)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

Photo by Filip Knežić.

Photo by Filip Knežić.

A recent article by Journal Record columnist Marie Price reported on a meeting of the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission.  The OHRC was created when the people voted in pari-mutuel horse racing in 1982.  The story caught my attention because it seems to describe the condition of many state agencies.  OHRC officials were quoted as saying the agency’s funding has been slashed so much over the past several years that it is in danger of becoming unable to perform its mandated functions.  In FY 2008, the OHRC received an appropriation of almost $2.7 million.  The FY 2015 appropriation is about $1.97 million, a cut of over 25 percent. 

In addition the OHRC was among those agencies whose law enforcement personnel were given a 6.25 percent salary increase by the legislature without funding to pay for it, according to its Executive Director.  According to the article, pay hikes were covered by reducing overtime at race tracks, not filling two positions, canceling contracts and other steps.

continue reading Budget cuts not horsing around (Guest post by Steve Lewis)

A deserved downgrade of Kansas’ bonds (Guest Post: Michael Leachman)

by | August 14th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Taxes | Comments (0)
Michael Leachman

Michael Leachman

Michael Leachman is the Director of State Fiscal Research with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This post previously appeared on the Center’s Off the Charts blog.

The meaning of Standard & Poor’s recent downgrade of Kansas’ credit rating, in which it cited Kansas’ “structurally unbalanced budget,” is clear: Kansas’ budget is a train heading off a cliff.

Here are the details:

continue reading A deserved downgrade of Kansas’ bonds (Guest Post: Michael Leachman)

Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma (Guest Post: J.C. Moore)

by | July 17th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Matters | Comments (3)

business_moneyJ.C. Moore is a retired science teacher, a member of the the American Geophysical Union, and co-founder of OKcitizensfirst.org.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a great influence on our state politics, but many Oklahomans have heard little about the organization. On the surface,  ALEC is an organization made up of corporations and state-level elected officials which meets three times a year to write “model legislation” for states. Officials can then take the model legislation back to their state for consideration. That sounds like a good process, except that what goes on under the surface of ALEC is kept secret.

In May of 2013, ALEC met in Oklahoma City. While corporate representatives from ALEC met with our legislators, a group of citizens protested across the street. The protesters, as well as members of the press, had been barred from attending by security guards. The agenda of the meeting was secret and an elaborate drop box system was created to avoid FOIA requests. Now, over a year later, there is still little known about the meeting or its influence on our legislators.

continue reading Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma (Guest Post: J.C. Moore)

Providing essential resources to schools without the financial burden (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

by | July 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

Sarah Julian is the Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC). On July 16, the OPSRC is hosting an open house for anyone who is interested in learning more about the organization. You can register at http://nwea.us/OkieEdOPSRC.

opsrcIt’s news to no one that our public schools face enormous challenges in virtually every area of operations, including finances.  Oklahoma education funding is among the lowest in the nation and yet mandates remain, leaving schools without the proper resources to support them. 

Smaller schools and districts feel this more intensely, as they don’t often have the funding to support full-time staff in key areas of administration and support services for teachers and students. Because of this, we often see school staff juggling multiple roles to the point where it affects instruction, burnout becomes widespread, and ultimately, students suffer. 

 This is where the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center (OPSRC) comes in.  OPSRC was created as a non-profit center with the goal of supporting small schools—both rural and public charters—across the state in several key areas: finance, legal, technology, communications, teaching & learning, and educational policy.

continue reading Providing essential resources to schools without the financial burden (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition: Building self-sufficiency and prosperity (Guest Post: Christy Finsel)

by | July 8th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

ONACChristy Finsel is an enrolled tribal member of the Osage Nation and the Coordinator of the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition.  She has been engaged in asset building research and program design and implementation since 2003. 

Oklahoma is home to thirty-nine federally recognized tribes and their citizens.  Through Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, tribes and Native non-profits are administering innovative Native asset building programs such as financial education, credit builder workshops, Voluntary Income Tax Assistance sites, and entrepreneurship training programs.  Our partners also offer homeownership assistance and foreclosure prevention, emergency savings programs, matched savings accounts, and children’s savings account programs.  

History and Mission of ONAC

about_onac

ONAC staff and leadership team

Since 2007, the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, known as ONAC, has represented a consortium of Oklahoma tribes and partners interested in establishing asset-building initiatives and programs in Native communities.  ONAC has been coordinated and led by Native asset building practitioners.  The mission of our coalition is to build and support a network of Oklahoma Native people who are dedicated to increasing self-sufficiency and prosperity in their communities through the establishment of comprehensive financial education initiatives, Individual Development Accounts, and other asset-building strategies.  While we believe that individual assets are important, we also are interested in simultaneously building family and community assets.

continue reading Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition: Building self-sufficiency and prosperity (Guest Post: Christy Finsel)

Why tracking school readiness matters (Guest Post: Krista Schumacher & Naneida Lazarte Alcalá)

by | July 1st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty | Comments (1)

risk and reach report coverNaneida Lazarte Alcalá is a Research Manager with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Oklahoma State University. Krista Schumacher is a Senior Researcher with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. She is working on a Ph.D. in Educational Research and Evaluation from Oklahoma State University. Both are members of Scholars Strategy Network.

Considerable research points to the dire consequences of starting school unprepared to learn. A combination of experiences and environments from the moment of birth shape a child’s likelihood of entering school developmentally ready and succeeding in the long term. Circumstances such as poverty, low maternal education, single-parent families, limited English skills, and abuse and neglect place children at extreme risk of starting kindergarten without the appropriate cognitive, social-emotional and behavioral skills necessary for learning.

Too often the burden of bridging the developmental gap between where children should be and where they actually are is placed squarely on schools. However, studies using data from the Kids Integrated Data System, which matches data on individual children across the Philadelphia school district with the city’s human services, health, and housing agencies, found that differences in student performance between schools was attributable more to the concentration of adverse early experiences among children than to school resources. Although school quality matters in terms of student supports that can be provided, schools cannot be held accountable for the skills, or lack thereof, children possess when they first enter a kindergarten classroom. This is a problem that must be addressed at the societal level.

continue reading Why tracking school readiness matters (Guest Post: Krista Schumacher & Naneida Lazarte Alcalá)

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