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 This heavy handed decision comes after the passage of House Bill 3399, a measure which repealed the untested Common Core State Standards and put in place a process to develop and adopt new, superior standards with the help of Oklahoma higher-education and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.
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