02 Oct

Lawmakers Support Education Best Practices, not Hollywood Hype

State of Oklahoma

House of Representatives




October 2, 2012


Rep. Ed Cannaday                                            Rep. Curtis McDaniel

State Capitol Building Rm. 539-B                                   State Capitol Building Rm. 316

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  73105                                  Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  73105

Contact: Valorie Owens



Lawmakers Support Education Best Practices, not Hollywood Hype


OKLAHOMA CITY (October 2, 2012) Today lawmakers expressed dismay over Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi’s endorsement of a “parent trigger” law, a policy idea that is based more on ideology than empirical data and which has recently received a lot of Hollywood hype in the new film “Won’t Back Down.”


Trigger laws, such as the one proposed by Senator David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, for the coming 2013 legislative session, provides that if 51 percent of parents whose children attend a failing school sign a petition, they can radically transform the school using any of a set of “triggers.” Parents can petition to: fire the principal; fire half of the teachers; close the school and let parents find another option; or convert the school into a charter school, which are privately managed, taxpayer-funded public schools that are granted greater autonomy from regulations applicable to other public schools.


“I am disheartened by Superintendent Barresi’s response, but not surprised, as she has consistently sought to perpetuate myths about public education and undermine parents’ confidence in our public school teachers,” said Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum. “I am beyond frustrated that she undercuts funding for public schools, seeks to grade these schools using questionable standards, then defines many of them as irretrievably broken and pushes for conversion to charter schools.”


The first parent trigger law was enacted in California in 2010, and is now on the books in six other states — Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Texas.


To date, there have been only two attempts, both in southern California, to pull the parent trigger. One never made it to the approval process, and the other, which served as the premise of the “Won’t Back Down” film, was tied up in the court until recently as many parents, feeling deceived by the for-profit charter-backed organizers who came in to gather petitions, sued to have their signatures withdrawn from the petition. The California Superior Court judge decreed that parents who have signed a parent trigger petition do not have the right to change their minds and may not rescind their signatures. The future of this school remains unknown, as charter operators are now eligible to bid for the school, but parents are divided on the best course of action to take at this time.


“I think that this is yet another attempt to undermine and demoralize the reform efforts taking place in our public schools right now,” said Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville. “We have report cards on school districts going out to parents next week, and the grades are skewed so you have to score a 93.7 to earn an A. I have serious concerns that the underlying goals of all of these actions is to convince parents that public schools are failing our kids and that they need to seize control of these schools then hand them over to privately-managed charter schools.”


Rep. McDaniel noted that since Supt. Barresi took office she has focused her efforts not on supporting public schools but on expanding the footprint of charter and virtual schools across the state.


“There is no evidence that overall charter schools perform better than public schools,” said Rep. McDaniel.


A study conducted at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution presents evidence that students in only 17 percent of charter schools show greater improvement in math and reading than students in similar traditional public schools, whereas 37 percent deliver learning results that are significantly worse than the student would have realized had they remained in public schools.


“I think in our Oklahoma public schools we have some of the best teachers in the nation who not only strive to teach children the fundamentals, but also try to assist on out-of-school factors that have an impact on student performance,” said Rep. Cannaday. “Our schools offer many wraparound services, such as meal programs, tutoring, counseling and after-school programs, and they are constantly being asked to do more while being provided less and less. We need to support our public schools and teachers, now more than ever.”



02 Oct

House Studies Veteran Care

Oklahoma House of Representatives

Media Division

October 2, 2012


NOTE: HD video clips of the study are currently available at User name/Password: okhouse / tvbroadcast. Folder Name: VeteranCare



State Rep. Richard Morrissette

Contact: Jacklyn Brink-Rosen

Phone: (405) 250-6263

State Rep. Joe Dorman

Phone: (405) 833-1117

House Studies Veteran Care

 OKLAHOMA CITY – Cases of abuse and neglect at Oklahoma’s seven long-term care veteran centers may be the result of poor policy at the administrative level and poor pay and lack of training among those who work in entry-level positions, according to testimony received today by the Oklahoma House of Representatives Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

State Reps. Richard Morrissette and Joe Dorman requested a study of the quality of care and process of accountability at the centers after a Journal Record story chronicled cases of unreported abuse and neglect.

“Although those officials we talked with today framed these cases as isolated, I suspect a more prevalent problem,” said Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “I do not like it when I see victims saying there is a widespread problem and officials taking the opposite position. I think we need leaders who push and encourage an atmosphere of prompt service and accountability. It starts with leaders and we also need to do what we can as lawmakers to ensure the proper accountability is in place.”

“Veterans have made great sacrifices on our behalf and we have an obligation to provide them with a high quality of life in these homes,” said Dorman, D-Rush Springs. “It doesn’t matter if the problem is widespread or isolated, it is obvious that the current system needs an overhaul and it is up to lawmakers to change the system”

Norman Veteran Center resident Mike Simmons and advocates Susan Simmons and Mike Callahan gave testimony regarding the cover-up of abuse at the Norman and Claremore centers. Administrators from the Sulphur, Lawton and Talihina centers spoke about the complaint and response process at their individual centers and the policies they are hoping to institute to address failures in the complaint process.

Certified nurses’ aides were frequently mentioned as the entry-level position against whom complaints are made. These employees make approximately $11 per hour and typically earn their license in a two-to-three-month time period.

“We need to find ways to improve the pay scale on these jobs so we can get the best qualified employees hired to care for these veterans,” said Dorman.  “We also must look at better ways to provide oversight, such as creating new written reviews on the centers and making them available for the public to see how a center measures up to private nursing homes.”

“We heard about the need for proper pay and advancement opportunities to recruit top-level professionals and we also discussed training, screening and whether there is a need for a more transparent system, through the use of cameras or other recording devices. For those policies in the implementation stage at individual centers, perhaps those could be passed on to all seven centers,” said Morrissette. “It’s a multi-faceted problem.”



01 Oct

John Olson Stands Up to Koch Brothers!

In a continuation of highlighting our candidates for Congress, we want to tell you about our 1st Congressional District candidate, John Olson.

Our nominee in the 1st District is John Olson. John is a 15-year Army veteran, including service in Afghanistan, where he was awarded the Bronze Star. John is a small-business owner, husband and father of six kids. He is also one of 7 candidates across the country who have been endorsed by the Young Democrats of America as a “Young Leader” who has shown commitment to youth issues.

Help John by making a donation of $5, $10, or $50 today!

John has been campaigning for almost a year, talking about making our tax code truly fair, investing infrastructure, energy and education, and preserving the promise of Social Security and Medicare.

John’s Tea Party opponent upset incumbent John Sullivan in a nasty primary. Jim Bridenstine is a radical, who is way outside the mainstream–he wants to impose a 30% Federal sales tax on everything we buy, and prohibit Social Security and Medicare unless you’ve exhausted your family’s savings. His extremist views are even alienating members of his own party!

Olson recently raised over $10,000 in a “Koch Brothers Challenge” which was a response to Bridenstine receiving $5,000 from the Billionaire Koch Brothers who are trying to buy elections in November. Over 150 people helped John stand up to the Koch brothers with their donations.

Donate $10 today and join over 150 people people who helped John stand up to the Koch brothers!

Help John stand up to the extremist views of his Tea Party opponent.


Wallace Signature

Wallace Collins, Chair

28 Sep

What is Markwayne Mullin Hiding?

For Immediate Release
September 28, 2012
Contact: Trav Robertson

Candidate Opposes Senator Coburn and OK GOP


Oklahoma City – “Are Markwayne Mullin’s hiring practices so questionable that he is willing to go against the Oklahoma Republican Party and Senator Tom Coburn,” asked Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins.

E-verify is a free resource that is offered by the Department of Homeland Security for employers to do background checks on potential employees and verify their U.S. citizenship. The searches can be as simple as using a name and can result in finding marital status, property records, and criminal history.

Republican congressional candidate Markwayne Mullin (OK-2) refuses to use “e-verify or whatever it is” to do background checks on his employees at Mullin Plumbing. His actions are contradictory to the Oklahoma GOP and Senator Tom Coburn who has cosponsored legislation to make E-verify a mandatory and permanent procedure for all businesses in the United States.

Chairman Collins continued,”As an employer, it seems like a no-brainer to check out future employees and the only reason you wouldn’t is to hide or cover something up.”



27 Sep

Lawmakers Review Remedial Placement in Oklahoma Colleges

State of Oklahoma

House of Representatives




September 27, 2012


Rep. Danny Morgan                                                      Rep. Donnie Condit

State Capitol Building Rm. 501                                        State Capitol Building Rm. 500A

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  73105                                 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  73105


Rep. Steve Kouplen                                                        Rep. Curtis McDaniel

State Capitol Building Rm. 546                                        State Capitol Building Rm. 316

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  73105                                 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  73105


Contact: Valorie Owens



Lawmakers Review Remedial Placement in Oklahoma Colleges

OKLAHOMA CITY (September 27, 2012) On Tuesday four state lawmakers hosted an interim study to review criteria for placement in college remediation courses.


Representatives Danny Morgan (D-Prague), Steve Kouplen (D-Beggs), Donnie Condit (D-McAlester) and Curtis McDaniel, (D-Smithville) requested the interim hearing after reviewing two new studies that found that many colleges unnecessarily place students in remedial courses, which is costly and can often derail their college careers.


Almost half of all first-time Oklahoma freshmen are being required to take zero-credit remedial courses before being accepted in a college level course. During the 2010-2011 academic year a total of 54,155 students were enrolled in remedial courses, with the vast majority of these students (79.3%) being remediated at community colleges.


“I know of students who had an outstanding grade point average, but because they did not score well on a college assessment test, they were required to take a remedial course where they paid the same amount in tuition and fees but earned no college credit,” said Rep. Morgan. “I think that the placement tests cast too wide a net, and many students who are labeled as underprepared for a course would do well in a college credit course that provided tutoring support.”


Presenters at the interim hearing included: Tony Hutchinson, Vice-Chancellor of Strategic Planning, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education; Dr. Jay Corwin, Senior Associate Vice President, Enrollment Management, University of Central Oklahoma; Dr. Paul Bell, Jr., Dean and Vice Provost for Instruction; University of Oklahoma; Dr. Bradley Walck, Vice President for Student Affairs, Seminole State College; and Tamara Carter, Director of Mathematics, Oklahoma City Community College.


According to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE), there is no statewide mandate as to criteria for placement in a remedial course, but most colleges look at a student’s ACT score on the subjects of English, math, science and reading, and if it is 18 or below they require the student to take an assessment test issued by the university. The score on the assessment test then determines if a student will be placed in a remedial or a college-level course.


According to Dr. Corwin of UCO, 45% of first-time freshmen require some form of remediation, with math being the most cited deficiency. He states that UCO has recently taken many steps towards remediation reform, to include decreasing the number of remedial courses one must master before enrolling in college algebra. Previously UCO required those assessed as underprepared for college algebra to pass three courses: pre-algebra, elementary algebra and intermediate algebra. Now UCO requires only two courses, Fundamentals of Algebra I and II, before entering college algebra.


Rep. Condit questioned the validity of the placement tests used to screen for college readiness, as research from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College estimated that one in four students assigned to math remediation could have passed a college-level math course with a grade of B or better and one in three students assigned to English remediation could have passed freshmen composition with a B or better.


“All of us want our students to succeed in college, and I know the goal of these remedial courses is to improve the likelihood of that occurring, but my concern is that many students are incorrectly being branded as unprepared,” said Rep. Condit. “In these instances the students not only incur more debt in tuition and fees for a course in which they’ll receive no college credit, but they also lose valuable time as it delays their graduation date. In some cases, it may deter them from even attempting to attend college.”


Research by Complete College America, a Washington-based national nonprofit organization, shows that just 1 in 10 remedial students graduate from community colleges within three years and a little more than a third complete bachelor’s degrees in six years.


“I think it should be up to the student to determine if they want to try their hand in a college-level course, or accept the recommendation of the college to first attend a remedial course,” said Rep. Morgan. “I think of it as being similar to a walk-on football player, who is given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, and who accepts the risks and consequences involved. I think it is inherently unfair that a student who is paying good money for a course, and is willing to invest their time and energy towards succeeding in that course, is being denied that option.”




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