Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Obama sues to stop parents from using LA school choice law

Baton Rouge, La. – The American Federation for Children, the nation's voice for educational choice and its state affiliate, the Louisiana Federation for Children, last week strongly condemned President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for seeking to limit educational options for the children of Louisiana. A motion filed by the U.S. Dept. of Justice seeks to prevent the state of Louisiana from offering school vouchers to children in school districts with existing desegregation orders for the 2014-15 school year unless the state receives authorization from the federal court overseeing the desegregation case.

Kevin P. Chavous
“President Obama's assault on educational options is unprecedented and directly impacts low-income families who have the right to high-quality educational options," said Kevin P. Chavous, executive counsel to the American Federation for Children. "We remain committed to fighting for children and ensuring those trapped in failing schools are not left behind."

The Louisiana Scholarship Program awarded scholarships to 8,000 students for the 2013-14 school year after receiving nearly 12,000 applications from parents across the state who demand better choices for their children. In just one year, the Louisiana Scholarship Program showed a 60 percent growth, highlighting the popularity of this program that offers scholarships to students trapped in failing schools. To qualify, students must either be enrolled in a school ranked C, D or F or be entering kindergarten for the first time; they must also meet strict income guidelines.

Across the state, 128 schools in 32 parishes are participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program, which was expanded statewide in 2012. Prior to the expansion, the program served children in New Orleans since its creation in 2008.


Kevin P. Chavous is a noted attorney, author, and national school reform leader. A former member of the Council of the District of Columbia and a former chairman of D.C.’s Education Committee, Chavous was responsible for enacting numerous education reforms in D.C. Chavous also presides as board chair for Democrats for Education Reform and is a former chair of the Black Alliance for Educational Options.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

For the record: my position on Common Core

The context of a quote in the Oklahoma Watch story "Effort to block Common Core education growing in Oklahoma" does not accurately reflect my position on this issue. The story ran in the Sunday, August 25, 2013, editions of the Tulsa World and The Oklahoman.

The story erroneously states, "I definitely plan to introduce legislation" that would repeal and replace Common Core.

I provided the following statement to the editor of Oklahoma Watch on Monday: "I'm still visiting with constituents, educators and others about the merits of the Common Core Standards already adopted by the state and do not have plans to introduce legislation repealing existing standards. I do intend to file legislation to prohibit the state from adopting the science and social studies Common Core State Standards."

While I'm on the subject, I also intend to file legislation to prohibit the State from accepting federal education funds requiring adoption of or compliance with the Common Core State Standards.

I will continue to work with Representative David Brumbaugh to better protect student data which is related to how the Common Core is implemented.

Because of the misunderstanding and confusion created by this article, I wanted to take a moment to inform readers of my position.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Barresi Calls for $2,000 Raise for Oklahoma Teachers

Oklahoma City –Oklahoma State Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi this weekend called for giving all Oklahoma teachers a $2,000 raise.

The raise would not require increased state appropriations, but could be funded by tapping surplus funds and reducing schools’ administrative overhead.

“How many of you have heard of all the teachers leaving for Texas?” Barresi asked the crowd of administrators and school board members attending a Saturday event hosted by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. “With a $2,000 raise, we will see Oklahoma teacher pay jump past numerous states, including our neighbor to the east, Arkansas, and get within just a few dollars of Missouri. We’ll also cut by more than half our gap with Texas.”

To provide teachers that raise, however, Barresi said Oklahoma’s school administrators will need to reset priorities. Oklahoma schools are facing a massive shortage of quality teachers.

“Our shortage is quality teachers, not administrators,” Barresi said, pointing to reforms in her administration that have reduced state Department of Education Department spending by more than $250,000 a month. “Aside from parents, teachers are the single most important factor in a child’s success.”

Barresi’s plan calls for moving less than 10 percent of Oklahoma schools’ carryover money – currently more than $700 million – to teacher pay, while also asking individual school superintendents and school boards to redirect 2 percent of money now going to administrative overhead to teacher pay.

Despite the biggest recession since the 1930s Oklahoma schools have left a record amount of money on the table in their carryover – money that is just sitting there, unused. Barresi noted it doesn’t do Oklahoma kids any good to have hundreds of millions of dollars sitting on the sideline when the state is facing a teacher shortage and the teachers that schools have are often financially stressed.

“By combining the 2 percent reallocation of non-instruction costs with a slight reduction to the carryover, we can give every teacher in the state a $2,000 pay raise in the next fiscal year,” Barresi said before challenging her audience. “At this point, this is not a mandate. There are many people who want to set a percentage of how much money goes to the classroom.  I want to see where your commitment is.

“I’m asking you to redirect 2 percent from your overhead to give our teachers a $2,000 raise. Make the adjustments where and how you see fit. Two percent for two grand, for every teacher in Oklahoma,” Barresi concluded. “Our teachers need our support. They have mine.”

ACT Scores Show Increase in Oklahoma Reading Benchmarks

ACT results released last week show that more Oklahoma graduating seniors are ready for college and career than in previous years.

According to ACT's 2013 Condition of College and Career Readiness report, the percentage of the state's 2013 graduates who met all four benchmarks in English, reading, science and math rose to 23 percent from 20 percent the previous two years and from 17 percent in 2008. The report is based on the results of the 2013 ACT college entrance exam.

“I’m bolstered by these results,” said State Superintendent Janet Barresi. “This shows that our education reform efforts in Oklahoma are paying dividends in student performance."

Barresi said while she is pleased with the bright spots in the state highlighted in the report, she is not satisfied.

"There is still much work to be done," she said.

A total of 28,988 students took the ACT this year; 75 percent of Oklahoma’s 2013 graduating class took the test at least once.

Oklahoma’s ACT 2013 composite score rose .1 to 20.8 over the 2012 score of 20.7, while the national composite declined from 21.1 to 20.9.

In Oklahoma, 23 percent of ACT-takers last year met all four benchmarks. Fourteen percent of students met three benchmarks, 17 percent met two, 18 percent met one and 29 percent met no benchmarks, according to the report.

Nationally, 26 percent of students met all four benchmarks. Oklahoma students, however, exceeded the national average for meeting the English benchmark -- 66 percent versus 64 percent; 45 percent of Oklahoma ACT-takers met the reading benchmark, slightly above 44 percent nationally. At the same time, reading scores were up from 21 to 22 for state test-takers.

Barresi said these results show that efforts to target reading instruction are translating into success.

Superintendent Barresi has hired 60 REAC3H Coaches to offer job-imbedded professional development for reading teachers throughout the state in addition to other training.

Only 37 percent of Oklahoma students met the math benchmarks, and 35 percent met the science benchmarks, compared with the national 44 percent and 36 percent figures, respectively.

Barresi pointed to the recent efforts at the State Department of Education that will help improve scores in these areas in the future.

Teams from the State Department of Education’s Office of Instruction are providing regional professional development workshops for educators throughout the state, free of charge to participants. The department also has gathered leading educators from throughout the state in science and math to participate in the inaugural class of OKSci and OKMath. This program is fashioned after Leadership Oklahoma with the goal of growing leadership participants who will work to disseminate best practices and resources with the goal of improving student performance in these subject areas.

In addition, the department is in the second year of offering Think Through Math, a digital program that prepares elementary and middle school students for Algebra. Participation in this program has doubled since the program started a year ago.

The State Department of Education also has partnered with the National Math and Science Initiative to increase the number of Advanced Placement courses available and the number of students participating in AP courses in science, math and English in selected high schools throughout the state.

Barresi said she’s confident these offerings will boost performance in all subject areas in the coming years.

Barresi said she while she is pleased with state results for minority groups, which outpaced the nation, she still would like to see more improvement and even more participation in the future. A breakdown by ethnicity shows:

  • Black/African American students made up 7 percent of the ACT-tested population, 2,067 students compared to 8 percent, 2,306 students in 2012. The composite score for this population was 17.4, which outdistanced the composite score of 16.9 achieved by national counterparts.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native students made up 8 percent of those tested, 2,428 students, compared to 9 percent, 2,723 student sin 2012 – a decline for the third consecutive year. The ACT composite score for this population was 19.0, significantly above the national composite of 18.0.
  • Hispanic/Latino students represent 10 percent of the ACT-tested population, 2,856 students, up from 9 percent or 2,717 students in 2012 – an increase for the sixth consecutive year. The composite score was 19.0, much higher than the national of 18.2. Hispanic/Latino participation has increased by 92 percent over the last five years.
  • White students make up 57 percent of those tested, 16,418 students, compared to 58 percent, 16,989 students, in 2012. White students earned a composite score of 21.7, up .1 from 2012 but still below the national composite of 22.2.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happy 15th Anniversary Lori - I love you!

Septemberfest to be held Saturday, September 7

OKLAHOMA CITY – Preparations are underway for the 17th annual Septemberfest to be held Saturday, September 7, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Governor’s Mansion and Oklahoma History Center. Hosted by Governor Mary Fallin and First Gentleman Wade Christensen, Septemberfest is a free annual event for the whole family.

“Septemberfest is a beloved fall tradition for many Oklahoma families,” said Governor Fallin. “The First Gentleman and I are excited to open the Governor’s Mansion and its beautiful grounds to Oklahomans from across our great state as we proudly host the 17th annual Septemberfest.”

A celebration of what makes Oklahoma unique; Septemberfest features a variety of attractions for people of all ages. Activities featured at this year’s Septemberfest include historic re-enactments, a chalk artist, pony rides, crafts, inflatables, carriage rides, steer roping, an outdoor music stage, American Indian dancers, chuck wagon cooking, a rock-climbing wall, and more, ensuring families an action-packed day of entertainment.

The Oklahoma History Center, located across Northeast 23rd street from the Mansion, is open free to the public all day and this year will bring the past to life. Along the Red River Journey, an exciting outdoor exhibit, visitors will enjoy interaction with living historians representing WWII, cowboys, land run participants, 19th century American Indians, antebellum musicians, the Civil War, plein air painters, and more! We will bring the past to life with learning stations, hands-on activities, demonstrations, and games. The adventure continues inside the History Center with live performances, storytelling, and unique exhibits about Oklahoma.

Some new and exciting features this year will include an outdoor music venue that highlights musicians from our great state, including local high school bands, Kyle Dillingham, Sarah Dye and Carter Sampson. Guests can hunt for hats throughout the exhibits, make their own hat, and enjoy a hat passport as they visit the living historians along the Oklahoma History Center’s Red River Journey.

Septemberfest was founded in 1997 by Friends of the Mansion, Inc., a non-profit, non-partisan organization whose mission is to preserve and improve the Governor’s Mansion, as well as its grounds and furnishings. The Oklahoma History Center began co-hosting Septemberfest with Friends of the Mansion in 2004. The chairman of this year’s event is Jim Hasenbeck, President of Studio Architecture. This is Hasenbeck’s 11th year to lead the event as chairman.

“Septemberfest is a gift passed from governor to governor for the
people of Oklahoma and it continues to grow each year, and with it, the number of activities we are able to offer. We are looking forward to this year’s event which promises to be one of the best yet,” Hasenbeck said.

Septemberfest is free and open to the public with no registration required. If you are interested in volunteering at Septemberfest, please register with the United Way Volunteer Center at For more information about the event, please visit the Friends of the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion Facebook page or contact Keili McEwen of Friends of the Mansion at 405-557-0198.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

First DHS Joint Citizens Advisory Panel Meeting Scheduled Today

OKLAHOMA CITY --The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) Joint Citizens Advisory Panel will hold its first meeting Wednesday, August 14, at the Credit Union House, 631 East Hill Street in Oklahoma City, beginning at 10 a.m.

House Bill 3137 from 2012 established four citizen advisory panels in the areas of administration, aging issues, children and family issues, and disability issues.

They will serve to provide advice, information, findings and analysis to the Director regarding policies and practices of DHS and their impact on outcomes. The panels will study and make recommendations to the Director regarding the management and operation of DHS, and will also offer recommendations for the implementation of the Pinnacle Plan.

Each advisory panel will meet at least four times a year; the entire Joint Citizens Advisory Panel will meet at least once a year.

The Human Services Commission for the DHS was abolished by the voters of Oklahoma on Nov. 6, 2012 with the passage of State Question State Question 765.

Previously, the Commission had oversight of DHS, but the passage of SQ 765 means that the Director of DHS makes all decisions for the agency and reports directly to the Governor.

The four citizen advisory panels will report to the Director and provide advice and recommendations on Administration issues, Aging issues, Children and Family issues, and Disability issues. Each advisory panel has five members, with one member on each panel appointed by the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate Pro Tempore, the Minority House Leader and the Minority Senate Leader.


Aug. 14, 2013 10 a.m.

Call to Order and Roll Call

Welcome and Opening Comments – Ed Lake, Director

10:15 a.m. Legislative Intent of House Bill 3137 –Senator Greg Treat and Representative Jason Nelson

10:30 a.m. Co-Neutrals –Eileen Crummy, Kathleen Noonan, and Kevin Ryan

10:45 a.m. Open Meeting Act and Open Records Act – Jan Preslar, Attorney General’s Office

11:15 a.m. Finance and Administrative Services –Melissa Lange, Finance Division

11:45 a.m. - Lunch

12:15 p.m. Media Relations – Sheree Powell, Director, Communications and Community Relations

12:30 p.m. Services under the oversight and direction of Chief of Staff:
12:30 Diane Haser-Bennett, Director, Human Resource Management
12:40 Connie Schlittler, Director, Planning/Research/Statistics
12:50 Samantha Galloway, Coordinator, Intergovernmental Relations/Policy

1:00 p.m. Legal Services – Richard Freeman, Legal Services Division

1:15 p.m. Community Living and Support Services - Mark Jones, Chief Coordinating Officer, Community Living and Support Services

1:45 p.m. Adult and Family Services – Jim Struby, Director, Adult and Family Services

2:15 p.m. Child Welfare and the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan – Deborah Smith, Director, Child Welfare Services


Go to for additional information and a complete list of scheduled meetings.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fallin Calls Special Session on Lawsuit Reform

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued an executive order (attached) calling for a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature, to begin Tuesday, September 3. The executive order calls on lawmakers to re-institute components of House Bill 1603, a comprehensive lawsuit reform package signed into law in 2009.

HB 1603 was designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and medical malpractice claims filed in Oklahoma, making the state more business friendly and protecting Oklahoma physicians from frivolous lawsuits. It was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Democratic Governor Brad Henry.

Earlier this year, the law was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court for violating the Oklahoma Constitution’s “single-subject” rule, a prohibition on legislative logrolling. Fallin is calling on legislators to separate the law into different bills, thus reinstating the policy without violating the single subject rule.

“Oklahoma’s lawsuit reform measures are part of what makes this state attractive to businesses and allows us to retain and recruit doctors,” Fallin said. “Those laws are now under attack. In the weeks since the court ruled our laws unconstitutional, at least a dozen lawsuits have been reopened against hospitals, doctors and other employers. As lawmakers, we need to act now to protect our businesses and our medical community from frivolous lawsuits and skyrocketing legal costs.”

Fallin said the alternative to a special session could mean delaying a potential fix for a full year.

“If we do not act now, we may not see a legislative fix implemented until August or even November of next year,” Fallin said. “It is important to address this issue immediately and with a singular focus. The alternative is to allow Oklahoma’s business climate and job market to erode.”

Fallin pointed out that those interested in affordable health care should be particularly interested in passing lawsuit reform legislation immediately.

“Legal costs and predatory lawsuits are a driver of rising health care costs,” Fallin said. “If we allow the floodgates to be opened for a host of new medical malpractice suits, health care premiums will rise and health care will become less affordable. It’s important – for both the health of Oklahoma families and their economic bottom line – to act now and prevent lawsuits from pushing the costs of medical care even higher.”

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DHS Awards Foster Care Recruitment Contracts

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) has awarded contracts to private partnerships for the recruitment, support and retention of foster families.

To keep up with the rising number of children coming into the foster care system, DHS must have an adequate number of foster families. Following the settlement of a class action, civil rights lawsuit against the state's foster care system, DHS developed the Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan, a five year improvement plan. The process for selecting the new foster care providers met the requirements of the plan.  

Foster care contracts have been awarded to the following vendors:
  • Angels Foster Family Network, Inc., Oklahoma City
  • DCCCA/Tall Grass Family Services, Lawrence, Kansas
  • St. Francis Community Services, Tulsa
  • TFI Family Connections, LLC, Emporia, Kansas

Through partnerships with these agencies, DHS will provide seamless customer service through one point of contact for foster families during recruitment, assessment, training and on-going support. The agencies will help support families as they interact with DHS throughout the foster care approval process, during placement and care of children in their homes, and help provide an understanding of the child welfare system.

The contracts were awarded on Aug. 6, 2013 and are valid through June 30, 2014, with an option for renewal. All providers have the option to sub-contract with local child placing agencies in the retention and recruitment of foster families.

This was DHS' second attempt at a bidding process for private agencies to provide foster care recruitment and retention services. In April, DHS Director Ed Lake canceled the previously awarded contracts because of concerns over the prescriptive nature of the contracts, how the service areas were defined, and the process did not allow for provider input.

Although the previous bidding process was carried out faithfully in accordance with state purchasing rules, Director Lake believed the result of that effort would not fully achieve the goals DHS established and there were serious enough problems with the approach that it was better to restart the process than to continue on that path.

During this new solicitation process, DHS, in conjunction with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) Central Purchasing, enlisted the aid of Dr. Dean Kashiwagi and his team from the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University, in utilizing the Performance Information Procurement System, or PIPS, to initiate three phases of the procurement process: selection, clarification, and management by risk minimization.

In the selection phase, DHS conducted a blind evaluation to rate provider capabilities, past performance, and cost, and hosted interviews with each provider to determine their expertise. In the clarification phase, DHS worked with providers who were identified as experts in foster care to develop the project scope and identify any risks to successful completion of the project. In the management phase, contract performance will be results-driven with all parties being held accountable for their respective responsibilities.

For more information about the foster care contracts, follow this link to view the award information posted on the OMES Central Purchasing website:

To learn more about how to become a foster or adoptive parent, visit the DHS Bridge Family Resource Center website at or call 800-376-9729.

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