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Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

Effie Craven is the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Imagine you are a child waiting in the school lunch line with your friends.  You laugh and joke as you move through the line and get your trays, enjoying the break from class.  But when you get to the cashier and scan your meal card, there is not enough money for your lunch.  Your tray is taken from you – your hot meal is thrown away and replaced by a cheese sandwich as your classmates look on.

Practices like this, known as lunch shaming, are all too common in schools. And these practices are emotionally damaging to children, who have no control over their family’s financial situation and are often facing food insecurity at home as well. One in four Oklahoma children has inconsistent access to adequate, healthy food. The National School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs provide critical nutrition support to more than 425,000 Oklahoma children every year, but many students are either not eligible or not enrolled in the free and reduced price school meals programs.

continue reading Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

Don’t ask Oklahomans to step down from guiding state agencies (Guest post: RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor)

by | February 8th, 2018 | Posted in Children and Families, Healthcare | Comments (2)

RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor are advocates for families on the DDS (Developmental Disabilities Services) Waiting List.

As parents of adult children with developmental disabilities, we’ve earned seven decades of experience.   We’re familiar with programs and supports other families rarely need: TEFRA, assistive technology, and Medicaid waivers, to name just a few. As family advocates, we’ve served on numerous oversight bodies evaluating state policies that serve family members like ours.  Boards and commissions afford consumers of agency services some decision-making influence.

Yet, as early as this week, legislators are poised to hear a special session bill, HB 1027XX,  that would eliminate boards and commissions at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OKHCA), Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services (ODMHSAS), and several other agencies.  Current boards and commissions would devolve to agency advisory committees with no formal authority. HB 1027 would grant the Governor sole authority to appoint or terminate agency leadership at OKHCA, ODMHSAS, and a half dozen more agencies. This is one of the proposals being promoted by Step Up Oklahoma.

continue reading Don’t ask Oklahomans to step down from guiding state agencies (Guest post: RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor)

Spending labeled ‘non-instruction’ is wrongly characterized as waste (Guest post: Senator Ron Sharp)

by | December 6th, 2017 | Posted in Education | Comments (1)

Senator Ron Sharp

Senator Ron Sharp is a Republican representing Senate District 17, which includes parts of Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties. Senator Sharp is now in his sixth year in office. He is Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Governor Fallin has requested through an Executive Order that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) submit a report showing non-instructional costs compared to instructional costs of the state’s 515 public school districts. This report is due to her office by September 2018.

Legislators debated during special session that before additional revenue is raised, any waste in spending should be eliminated. One concern by some legislators was the lack of efficiency of public school districts that were not using at least 60 percent of state funding on classroom instruction. Gov. Fallin used this 60 percent mark in her Executive Order.

The purpose of this report requested by the Governor is to consider the forced consolidation of school districts that fail to meet the 60 percent instructional threshold. However, there is a problem.

continue reading Spending labeled ‘non-instruction’ is wrongly characterized as waste (Guest post: Senator Ron Sharp)

On World AIDS Day, a call to speak up

by | December 1st, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Andy Moore is the Clinic Administrator for the Infectious Diseases Institute at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, organizer of the OKC AIDS Coalition, and member of the board of trustees for the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund.

In June of 1981, five men walked into a Los Angeles emergency room and were diagnosed with a rare type of skin cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Over the next several months, dozens more presented with either KS or a similarly rare type of pneumonia, pneumocystis carinii. Questions swirled even as words like “wasting,” “AIDS,” and “death” became used with increased frequency on the evening news. By 1995, more than half a million people in the U.S. were infected with HIV. Today, that number is closer to 1.2 million, including an estimated 6,000 Oklahomans.

A lot has changed over the 36 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. What began as an unknown virus with no treatment that killed patients within a few years is now an intensely-studied, well-understood, chronic infection that can be managed by multiple advanced medication regimens that are tailored to the individual patient. Testing for the disease can be done for as little as $5 and as quickly as one minute, making outreach and diagnosis easier than ever. Smartphones and social media enable the public to find testing and treatment near them by simply sending a text. And due to these advancements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, people are living with HIV not just for years, but for decades.

continue reading On World AIDS Day, a call to speak up

​I’m an adoptive parent. S​tate budget cuts put my family at risk.

by | November 2nd, 2017 | Posted in Budget | Comments (5)

Shelley Cadamy

Shelley Cadamy is a native Oklahoman. She has worked in economic development in Oklahoma since 1994 and is a foster/adoptive parent.

Nine years ago, I fostered and then then adopted my three kids. They’re biological siblings, now 12, 15, and 18 years old, and they’re fabulous. I can’t imagine my life without them. However, like most kids in the foster care system, my kids have significant mental health needs due to neglect, trauma and abuse. When I adopted them, the State of Oklahoma offered limited resources to help support my kids, including a monthly subsidy and SoonerCare coverage until adulthood. Even with my income, which is above average, that support was what made adopting them possible for me. However, due to years of budget cuts, that support is at risk.

continue reading ​I’m an adoptive parent. S​tate budget cuts put my family at risk.

It’s time to revisit State Question 640 (Guest Post: Rep. Marcus McEntire)

by | September 5th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Taxes | Comments (12)

Rep. Marcus McEntire

Marcus McEntire is a freshman Republican legislator representing HD 50 (Duncan). A small business owner, he attended and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in communication studies, earned a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and earned a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Virginia.

When I was elected to the House, I knew the job would be challenging and there would be many obstacles. But at the end of my first legislative session, I realized there is a certain well-intentioned constitutional provision in place that proves to be an extraordinary hurdle to effective legislating.  

This hurdle is State Question 640, which voters approved in 1992. SQ 640 changed Oklahoma’s constitution to require either a majority vote of the people or a three-fourths majority vote in the Legislature to raise any tax.

continue reading It’s time to revisit State Question 640 (Guest Post: Rep. Marcus McEntire)

Attempts to repeal Affordable Care Act put Oklahoma patients in jeopardy (Guest post: Teresa Huggins)

by | July 26th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

Teresa Huggins is CEO of Stigler Health and Wellness Center in eastern Oklahoma.

Teresa Huggins

Being raised in small town, rural Oklahoma comes with its benefits.  Among those benefits are the close friendships, supports and cohesiveness of knowing everyone; however, many communities face extreme poverty and lack access to basic medical care, not to mention specialty care for the diverse needs and populations that reside in the rural landscapes of Oklahoma.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted to help ensure that Americans are able to access affordable health care, regardless of their residence or income status.  Millions have gained coverage through the ACA, and the law is helping shift the health care industry toward more preventive care instead of waiting to address health issues until something has gone seriously wrong.  In part thanks to the ACA, our health center has experienced a drop in uninsured patients, from 26 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2016.  Many of the patients newly enrolled in insurance may not have received care if not for the ACA.  Our health center has helped 2,749 patients obtain insurance, many through the individual marketplace created under the ACA. These patients will certainly be in jeopardy of becoming uninsured again if the ACA is repealed.

continue reading Attempts to repeal Affordable Care Act put Oklahoma patients in jeopardy (Guest post: Teresa Huggins)

Interested in disability advocacy? Apply for Partners in Policymaking (Guest post: Amy Smith)

by | June 15th, 2017 | Posted in Children and Families, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

Amy Smith is a graduate student in Disability Studies, a proud graduate of both Partners in Policymaking and the OK Policy Summer Policy Institute, and is currently a research intern at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.  She lives in Ada with her husband and two of her four children who haven’t flown the coop yet.

2015 Partners in Policymaking class

In one of the few bright spots in an otherwise frustrating Legislative session, advocates for any number of organizations and causes were increasingly visible at the Capitol and statewide. Teams including Together Oklahoma and Let’s Fix This have mobilized advocates through grassroots coalitions and informational resources while groups such as the Oklahoma Education Association and Oklahoma Public Employees Association make noise at the Capitol. Similarly, disability advocates have become more visible through rallies and helping to pass legislation such as the ABLE Act and the Autism Insurance Reform Act.

Many of those disability advocates, myself included, came to the Capitol via Partners in Policymaking, an international program that teaches adults with disabilities, their family members, and the professionals who work with them the skills to become advocates who promote systems change. In Oklahoma, this nine-month program is operated by the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council. Partners students meet one weekend a month to complete a slate of classes on topics including advocacy and grassroots organizing, special education law, sexuality and relationships, guardianship and alternatives, the state and federal legislative process, serving on boards, leadership development, employment, assistive technology, and navigating state and federal service systems.

continue reading Interested in disability advocacy? Apply for Partners in Policymaking (Guest post: Amy Smith)

Kansas experiment yields valuable lessons (Guest post: Heidi Holliday)

by | June 9th, 2017 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (2)

Heidi Holliday

Heidi Holliday is Executive Director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth.

You’re welcome, America. Our state, Kansas, just wrapped up a 5-year long experiment in governance from which the other 49 states can now glean some important lessons. The Kansas Legislature has voted to roll back much of the 2012 package of tax cuts that sent the state into a downward spiral of financial instability and weakened the Kansas’ public schools, universities, Medicaid program, and virtually everything else that the state funds.

With the state facing yet another budget shortfall of $900 million, government leaders decided that enough was enough. Governor Brownback, who heralded the 2012 experiment, was proposing yet more temporary band-aid approaches and more cuts deal with the shortfalls. The Legislature chose a different path and instead sent the Governor a bill that would raise more than $1.2 billion in new revenue over two years by, among other things, repealing a costly tax break for pass-through income, rebalancing individual income tax rates by reinstating a third tax bracket, and reversing course on the Governor’s plan to eliminate our state income tax. Brownback vetoed the legislation but, with bipartisan support, the House and Senate quickly overrode the veto.

continue reading Kansas experiment yields valuable lessons (Guest post: Heidi Holliday)

Arts and Culture: A public-private partnership that’s good for education, the economy, and Oklahoma’s future (Guest Post: Brenda Granger)

by | April 12th, 2017 | Posted in Budget, Economy, Education | Comments (0)

Brenda Granger is Executive Director of the Oklahoma Museums Association. Today is Oklahoma Arts Day at the State Capitol.

Arts and culture promote civility and transcend all boundaries. Arts and culture bring people together. Arts and culture are rooted in partnerships of all kinds, especially public-private partnerships. Arts and culture organizations offer transformational experiences to everyone across our great state and beyond. In these times of educational crisis and budget shortfalls, the Legislature should look to arts and culture as part of the solution. Funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC), and through them, arts and cultural organizations in our state, is important to our Oklahoma education, economy, communities, workforce, and future.

Not everyone realizes how important arts and culture are for Oklahoma’s education system and economy. In the next months, Oklahomans for the Arts, in partnership with Americans for the Arts, Oklahoma Arts Council, and several arts and cultural organizations, will have the latest economic impact numbers to share. It is expected the numbers will exceed those of the last study in 2010 of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that showed that the industry had a $314.8 million impact on the state’s economy, supported 10,156 full-time equivalent jobs, and generated more than $29 million in state and local government revenues.

continue reading Arts and Culture: A public-private partnership that’s good for education, the economy, and Oklahoma’s future (Guest Post: Brenda Granger)

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