Friday, December 16, 2016

Former State Rep. Jason Nelson joins The E Foundation

Former State Representative brings policy heft

OKLAHOMA CITY – The E Foundation for Oklahoma today announced that former State Representative Jason Nelson has joined the organization as Senior Advisor.

Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb, chairman and founder of the E Foundation, said Nelson’s leadership experience and background in public policy are important assets for the foundation.

“The E Foundation has a clear goal of developing long-term policy initiatives to make Oklahoma an even better place to work and live and raise a family,” said Lamb. “Representative Nelson has shown an incredible ability to drill down into difficult issues and create viable solutions. He was one of the most respected members of the legislature due to his seriousness as a lawmaker. Jason has always tackled tough issues and works with others to see them through. We are very excited that he will be a part of the E Foundation team moving forward.”

Representative Nelson, an Oklahoma City Republican, just finished his fourth term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection.
Nelson is recognized as a knowledgeable and effective leader on a wide range of children's issues, including education and human services.

Jason Nelson
“I’ve seen during my time in public service the challenge of translating a good idea into policy and then ensuring it is faithfully implemented,” Nelson said. “This is an exciting opportunity to work with a talented team focused on overcoming these challenges. The E Foundation was created to fill this important public policy need and is tackling many of the same issues I’ve spent much of the last eight years working on. It’s a good fit all around, and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”

This year, Nelson led the successful bipartisan effort to require insurance coverage for the diagnosis and medically necessary treatment of children on the autism spectrum.

In 2011, he led a bipartisan working group in an unprecedented review of the Department of Human Services child welfare system. The group's work resulted in sweeping reforms during the 2012 session. A constitutional amendment proposed by the group was also approved by voters that year abolishing the DHS Commission.

Michael Carnuccio, E Foundation President, highlighted Nelson’s particular experience in education issues.

“No one in the Legislature has worked harder during the last decade to understand the structural inefficiencies in our education system and to develop good solutions that improve both our schools and student performance,” said Carnuccio. “Representative Nelson not only has the ability to comprehend those complex issues, but he also has the creative capacity and foresight to offer implementable policy ideas that work. Our team is much stronger with the addition of Representative Nelson, and I am excited to see him in a policy role that utilizes all of his experience and skills.”

In 2010, Nelson led the bipartisan effort to pass the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act, which allows students with special needs to use a portion of their state education money at a qualified private school of their choice. This law was the first of its kind passed in Oklahoma.

Nelson most recently served as House Majority Floor Leader and on several committees including the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, the Rules Committee and the Common Education Committee.

Nelson has had a varied career in the public and private sector, including time on the staff of former Governor Frank Keating.

Nelson and his wife, Lori, have two children: Benjamin, 14, and Grace, 10.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Fallin Invites Oklahomans to Septemberfest at Governor’s Mansion

Free event runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin and First Gentleman Wade Christensen will host Septemberfest on Saturday, September 10, at the Oklahoma History Center.

“Septemberfest is a beloved fall tradition for many Oklahoma families,” said Fallin. “The First Gentleman and I are proud the event has grown so much over the past 20 years that it is now hosted at the Oklahoma History Center, 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, just north of the Governor’s Mansion.

“We’re thrilled Oklahomans have shown they love Septemberfest as much as we do.”

Septemberfest celebrates what makes Oklahoma unique. The event was founded in 1997 by Friends of the Mansion, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to preserving and improving Oklahoma’s historic 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.

“Septemberfest is a gift passed from governor to governor for the people of Oklahoma and it continues to grow each year,” said Studio Architecture President Jim Hasenbeck, who is in his 14th year as chairman of the event. “It’s exciting to welcome new generations to this fall tradition.”

The festival, which will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., features more than 50 attractions for people of all ages. Activities include:

Arts and crafts
Bungee statiom
Chuck wagon cooking
Laser tag
Museum exhibits
Oklahoma musicians and performers
Pony rides
Square dancing
Storytime with Governor Fallin
The Oklahoma History Center will be open and free to the public all day, while tours of the Governor’s Mansion will be available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Food vendors will be on site and families are encouraged to bring picnics to enjoy on the lawn.

Septemberfest is free and open to the public, with no registration or tickets required. For more information, visit or call (405) 557-0198.

Septemberfest was started in 1997 by Friends of the Mansion, Inc., a non-profit organization to restore and preserve the Oklahoma Governor’s Mansion. The mission of Septemberfest is to provide an interactive opportunity for Oklahoma families and children to celebrate the state’s past, present and future heritage and many diverse cultures.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nelson Comments on AG Opinion Regarding On-site Educational Services for Children in Mental Health Treatment

Nelson discussing status of resolving on-site educational services issue with
parents, providers and advocates at the Capitol earlier this month
OKLAHOMA CITY (May 20, 2016) – State Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, issued the following statement today regarding the release yesterday of Attorney General Opinion 2016-4, which was issued in response to a request for an opinion by Nelson in December about the legality of Oklahoma City Public School's refusal to provide on-site educational services to children receiving treatment for severe mental illnesses at day treatment or partial hospitalization program facilities, which precludes attendance at school by the children. State law requires school districts to provide a minimum of three hours of on-site educational services per day and other related educational services to children in mental health treatment programs. Oklahoma City Public Schools is currently refusing to provide such services.

“This opinion is a big victory for children suffering from mental illness. The Oklahoma Constitution guarantees the right to an education for every child. State law protects children from being forced to choose between receiving treatment for mental illness and receiving an education. Oklahoma City Public Schools has willfully and systematically denied hundreds, if not thousands, of children the benefit of these laws for at least the past decade.

“Oklahoma City administrators and board members have been confronted several times over the District’s refusal to provide on-site educational services to children in a partial hospitalization program located inside the district boundaries, which is clearly required by law. I’ve personally discussed my concerns with District officials and have so far been ignored — with the former district superintendent storming out of a meeting when confronted.

"The opinion describes current state law as ‘plainly and unambiguously’ establishing residency for these children and by extension the responsibility of Oklahoma City Public Schools to educate these kids and describes as ‘nonsensical’ a key argument by the district as the basis for not doing so.

“I have asked the state Department of Education and the Attorney General to take aggressive action to immediately correct the harmful and illegal actions of Oklahoma City Public Schools and to hold accountable all administrators and board members who are responsible for or who have willfully ignored this massive, ongoing civil rights violation.

“District board member Bob Hammock misled the public in a November op ed writing, "It is a source of great pride for me that public schools accept all kids. We educate every child, from gifted pupils to children with learning, physical and often severe emotional disabilities." This is certainly not true in his district.

“District administrators and board members must be held accountable for their discrimination against these children. This district has a history of allegations of violating the civil rights of children. Unfortunately, the type of attitude and behavior that has resulted in federal civil rights investigations continues.

“I requested the opinion after Oklahoma City Public schools last June stopped providing on-site educational services to children receiving treatment at Positive Changes, a local mental health services provider.

“The district is also currently refusing to provide on-site educational services in at least two other treatment facilities located within the district’s boundaries. Former district superintendent Rob Neu bragged in a meeting that the district was providing an education to children at only one facility. Oklahoma City Public schools is not the only school district in the state that has at some point refused to serve vulnerable students in similar circumstances.

“With the clarity provided by this strong legal opinion I expect this type of hostility toward this group of kids to cease.”

(Note: Two new laws authored by Nelson and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin this legislative session are a result of his efforts to address issues he's discovered while helping these children and their families.)

Related news stories:

12/3/15 Health advocacy group files discrimination complaint with state agency against Oklahoma City school district

12/22/15 Attorney general is asked to rule on OKC school district program

12/17/15 AG Opinion Request Regarding On-Site Educational Services

5/13/16 National Alliance on Mental Illness celebrates passage of Oklahoma legislation

5/21/16 Oklahoma's attorney general says the Oklahoma City school district must provide services to kids getting mental health treatment

5/19/16 AG Opinion Regarding On-Site Educational Services for Children in Mental Health Treatment Programs

Sunday, March 20, 2016

4 percent is not enough

By way of Team McCoy-Daddy's page on Facebook. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Status of the New Okahoma Academic Standards

I'm excited the new academic standards for English language arts and mathematics were developed for Oklahoma students by Oklahomans. I support approval of the new standards during this legislative session. This is not inconsistent with the need to make some improvements first. 

The main goal of House Bill 3399 in 2014, was to repeal the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and to put the responsibility for Oklahoma's academic standards back in the hands of Oklahomans and to put academic experts in Oklahoma together to write new English and math standards. 

I'm grateful that so many educators gave so much of their time to create the new standards. This was the first time that experts in Oklahoma from common education, career and technology education and higher education  came together to develop academic standards.

Some have suggested I've held myself out as an expert on academic standards because I have an opinion. The truth is, I've never held myself out as an expert on much of anything. However, regarding the new academic standards, I have read what experts in Oklahoma have to say and from this I have formed an opinion. 

From virtually everything I've read, the new standards are an improvement over our current standards. But a review and comparison of the new standards and the CCSS by experts at the University of Oklahoma suggests that some improvements may be warranted. 

The law passed two years ago calling for the creation of new standards also required the State Board of Education to provide a comparison of the new standards to the the CCSS. (70 O.S. § 11-103.6a (G.1))

The South Central Comprehensive Center at the University of Oklahoma which is funded by the United States Department of Education was chosen by the state Board of Education to develop the comparison. The comparison was sent to state Supt. Joy Hofmeister on January 25, 2016. It was then provided, along with the new standards, to legislators on February 1, 2016, and posted on the state Department of Education's website.

The comparison indicates that the new academic standards are an improvement over Oklahoma's current standards and the CCSS. That said, the comparison does mention a few needed improvements. 

On page 7 of the comparison, in analyzing the progression and coherence of the English language arts standards for pre-K through fourth grade, it states there is an "assumption that the complexity of texts increases as students advance to later Grades." I have been told by knowledgeable educators in Oklahoma that this should not be left to assumption.

Supt. Hofmeister has stated that exemplars were not included in the new English standards because the law prohibited text exemplars. This is not true. The law does say "reading lists" shall be determined by school districts. However, the law doesn't prohibit exemplars which are not considered a reading list by practice or by law.

On page 15, the comparison states both the new standards and Common Core, "Would benefit from minor revisions (Including some confusing terminology) to enhance clarity and coherence and to balance rigor with developmental appropriateness." Specifically regarding the new standards, the report points out that the new math standards, "Do not explain relationship between standards and objectives."

Also on the new standards, the comparison mentions the following:

On page 17, regarding the general analysis of the rigor of the new math standards, "Level of rigor is not consistent across grade bands."

On page 18, "While the content expresses intent to find a balance between rigor and developmental appropriateness, this is not always accomplished."

On page 18, "the default minimum could leave students unprepared for later learning."

On page 18, "Some standards and objectives lack rigor, which could limit potential of students."

On page 20, "Verbs are used to clarify the level of rigor expected at each grade level with similar content; occasionally, the verbs for one Grade seem lower level than the verb used in the prior Grade or course."

On page 21, "The standards convey a unified vision of mathematics and attempt to show the connections between number sense & operations, algebraic thinking & algebra, geometry & measurement, and data & probability. For the most part, this attempt is successful; however, there are a few examples provided below where the connections are unclear. In these cases, the disconnectedness creates a feeling of 'piecey-ness' of the standards and their objectives, as well as between standards within a grade level and across grade levels within a grade band. Occasionally, objectives of the standards are duplicative. Although it appears that choices have been made about what content is most important at each grade level, an introductory statement for each grade level would make this more explicit."

Pages 21-22, "Some objectives seem duplicative or overlapping, which will likely cause some confusion … same task of sorting in both with potentially different levels of student performance expected."

Page 22, "Some objectives do not link directly to their associated standard, but rather indicate skills leading up to the standard."

Page 24, "Ancillary documents, such as expanded glossaries, examples, counterexamples, and philosophical statements about the connections between standards and objectives, would improve the clarity of the standards themselves."

Page 24, "Some standards and objectives use words and phrasing that may lead to imprecise mathematical terminology ... . Some standards and objectives will require additional explanation and support for teachers to understand the depth of student performance expected."

Page 25, "Some standards and objectives will require additional explanation of terminology and/or expectations for student performance."

Page 25, "Some standards and objectives use words and phrasing that may lead to imprecise mathematical terminology or understanding."

Page 26, "Some standards and objectives could be more meaningful to classroom instruction if the focus were on formative and/or classroom level assessments."

Page 28, "Similar objectives within the same Grade may cause confusion on the level of student performance expected."

These are a few of the issues I believe should be reviewed by the state Board of Education and addressed before the standards are finally approved and fully implemented. 

It is my understanding that these changes could be made within a few days to a few weeks and returned to the Legislature for final approval this session. It is difficult to understand why anyone would oppose making these improvements before final approval and implementation. 

Some have criticized the Legislature for not acting on the standards sooner. The state Board of Education was required by law to begin the process of developing the new standards in June, 2014. (70 O.S. § 11-103.6a (B.2)). The Board did not begin until March, 2015. The Legislature received the new standards February 1, 2016, the first day of session, due to the 10 month delay. 

If the Board had followed the timeline set by the Legislature, the new standards would have been ready for review by everyone 10 months earlier. The Legislature would have had ample time to consider the new standards and act on them much earlier this session. 

I understand from conversations with some of the experts involved in writing the standards and the development of the comparison that some of these improvements have already been made. There is no reason of which I'm aware that these improvements could not be completed and the standards approved during this session. To not  do so would be to let up just before the finish line. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Childhood Cancer Research Measure Passes First of Many Votes

Childhood Cancer Research Measure Passes First of Many Votes: A proposed amendment to the State Constitution setting aside funds for childhood cancer research passed the House Rules Committee February 1...

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Bipartisan Autism Insurance Reform Bill Heads to Full House

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bipartisan measure authored by more than 30 House Republicans and Democrats that would require health insurers to cover autism treatment for children cleared a House committee today.

House Bill 2962, by state Rep. Jason Nelson, would require a health benefit plan offered in Oklahoma to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of an autism spectrum disorder in children. The bill would limit the yearly maximum benefit to $25,000, but would place no limits on number of visits.

“I am pleased that many families are one step closer to receiving the same benefits from their health insurance policies that parents of children who suffer from very similar disorders currently receive,” said Rep. Nelson, R-Oklahoma City “I’m grateful that we were granted a hearing in committee and that the many supporters of this important bill have the opportunity to continue working for its passage this year. We certainly recognize the sincere concern held by many members of the Insurance Committee regarding the potential cost. We have pledged to work with insurance companies, families, physicians and therapists to find ways to address the concerns about cost and still provide a meaningful benefit to children.”

The Legislature last considered an autism insurance reform bill in 2008. Nelson said since then 43 states have implemented some form of reform to health plans to provide treatment for autism disorders.

“Seven or eight years ago, we were one of only a handful of states that were considering this issue, and there simply wasn’t enough claims data available for the Legislature to accurately gauge how much the reform would cost,” said Nelson. “Now there are only a handful of states that have not enacted some form of autism insurance reform, and there is plenty of information available to help us determine what the cost impact would be if we were to move forward.”   

House Bill 2962 passed out of the House Insurance Committee by a vote of 6-4 and now heads to the full House for consideration.

Authors of HB2962:

Rep. Jason Nelson - R
Sen. A.J. Griffin - R
Rep. Lee Denney - R
Rep. Chris Kannady - R
Rep. Jason Dunnington - D
Rep. Katie Henke - R
Rep. John Montgomery - R
Rep. Mike Brown - D
Rep. Jeannie McDaniel - D
Rep. Steve Kouplen - D
Rep. Ben Sherrer - D
Rep. Ed Cannaday - D
Rep. Dennis Casey - R
Rep. Bobby Cleveland - R
Rep. Donnie Condit - D
Rep. Marian Cooksey - R
Rep. Claudia Griffith - D
Rep. Elise Hall - R
Rep. Scott Inman - D
Rep. Dan Kirby - R
Rep. James Lockhart - D
Rep. Mark McBride - R
Rep. Casey Murdock - R
Rep. Pat Ownbey - R
Rep. David Perryman - D
Rep. Dustin Roberts - R
Rep. Wade Rousselot - D
Rep. Mike Shelton - D
Rep. Shane Stone - D
Rep. Steve Vaughn - R
Rep. Emily Virgin - D
Rep. Kevin Wallace - R
Sen. Randy Bass - D
Sen. Larry Boggs - R
Sen. Roger Thompson - R

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Rep. Nelson Praises Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Ruling

OKLAHOMA CITY –State Rep. Jason Nelson issued the following statement after the Oklahoma Supreme Court today ruled unanimously that the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act in 2010 does not violate Section 5 of Article 2 of the Oklahoma Constitution, also referred to as Blaine Amendment. Rep. Nelson was the House author of House Bill 3393 that created the scholarships in 2010.

“I’m relieved and excited for the students and families who now have certainty about the program. I know that they have worried that they would wake up to learn that the law had been struck down but they don’t need to worry any longer. The nearly six year old question has been answered.

“We have always known that we are on the right side of the law, and this ruling today confirms what we have always believed. It is a wonderful program that hurts no one but one that has changed lives for the better. Some parents have told me that it saved their child’s life. They’ve told me that their children were bullied without mercy at school and nothing was being done to stop it. Some of them even feared their children would take their life as a result.

“I am very grateful for the many people who have supported this policy and also those who fought for it in court. In particular, I am grateful to former Governor Brad Henry, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Solicitor General Patrick Wyrick, Assistant Solicitor General Sara Greenwald and my colleague Senator Patrick Anderson, along with a host of associations and organizations who helped along the way. Finally, I am certainly thankful for the justices of our Supreme Court for their faithfulness to the Constitution in their decision today.”

Pruitt Successfully Defends Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Case

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program, overturning a district court ruling that held that the program violated Oklahoma's Constitution.

The Lindsey Nicole Henry Act established a scholarship fund for parents of disabled children to receive scholarship money to send their children to a private K-12 school. The scholarships must be used at one of more than 50 participating schools, some of which, but not all, are religious. 

“I have always contended that the Lindsey Nicole Henry scholarship program is constitutional, and with the decision of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, parents of students with disabilities will once again be empowered to seek educational opportunities to help their students learn and succeed,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “The Court’s decision was appropriate to ensure that parents in Oklahoma are given the opportunity to choose a school for their children based on the educational needs of their child, a decision that I firmly believe should be made by parents, and not bureaucrats. I hope that today's ruling, the second time that the Oklahoma Supreme Court has rejected these attacks on the program, will finally put an end to these shameful attacks on a wonderful program.”

Click here for a copy of the Court's opinion. Click here for a copy of the concurring opinion.

Fallin Issues Statement in Response to Oklahoma Supreme Court RulingUpholding Scholarship Program

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today issued this statement after the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act, which is a scholarship program intended to provide educational options for children with disabilities who live within the state:

“This program saves money for the public school system, while benefiting children with special needs by allowing them to select the educational options that best suits them. This is a victory for students with disabilities across our state and for their families. This also is a victory for education in Oklahoma. All students learn differently, so each of them should have the opportunity to attend a school that offers the best environment for success. This can be accomplished through Education Savings Accounts, which I encourage legislators to approve this session, while still protecting school finances.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Despite age restriction, pot use by kids increases in Colorado

Youth past month marijuana use in Colorado increased 20 percent compared to the two year average prior to legalization according to a new report: "The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact."

Nationally youth past month marijuana use declined 4 percent during the same time.

Colorado youth ranked #1 in the nation for past month marijuana use. 

The Colorado law passed two years ago permits adults 21 years of age or older to posses one ounce of marijuana or THC.

Link to report:
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