Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Gov. Stitt declares Thursday as 'day of prayer and fasting' for those affected by COVID-19


OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 30, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today he is declaring Thursday, Dec. 3 as a statewide day of prayer and fasting for all Oklahomans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Oklahomans have always turned to prayer to guide us through trials and seasons of uncertainty, and I am asking Oklahomans of all faiths and religious backgrounds to join together with me on Thursday,” said Gov. Stitt. “I believe we must continue to ask God to heal those who are sick, comfort those who are hurting and provide renewed strength and wisdom to all who are managing the effects of COVID-19.” 

Gov. Stitt also encourages churches and other houses of worship to continue taking precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to care for vulnerable members of their congregations. 

“I believe our churches and faith communities have an incredible opportunity during this season to provide hope to Oklahomans who are struggling as we close a year that has been mentally, emotionally and physically draining,” said Gov. Stitt. “It’s important that we continue to find safe ways to gather as we all do our part to protect our families, neighbors and communities from this virus.” 

To read the proclamation, click here

Monday, November 30, 2020

Gov. Stitt appoints Tim Webster as DA for Atoka, Bryan and Coal counties


OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 30, 2020)- Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Tim Webster as District Attorney for District 19, which includes Atoka, Bryan and Coal Counties. Webster fills the seat of Emily Redman, who retired on October 1, 2020. By statute, Webster has been serving as acting District Attorney since then.

"Tim Webster has spent almost four decades serving the people of Atoka, Bryan and Coal Counties," said Gov. Stitt. "His experience as a litigator and prosecutor, as well as his heart for his community, makes him the best choice to serve as the next District Attorney for District 19." 

Music Monday: O Come, All Ye Faithful

This week's Music Monday is an orchestral arrangement of the Christmas carol O Come, All Ye Faithful (also known by the Latin title, Adeste Fideles). A decade or so ago, I played this wonderful arrangement with the Tulsa Bible Church orchestra.


See below for all previous Music Monday posts. Do you have a song you'd like to suggest for a future Music Monday? Email me at JamisonFaught@MuskogeePolitico.com.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Cong. Lucas: As COVID-19 winter approaches, Oklahoma must act

As COVID-19 winter approaches, Oklahoma must act
by Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03)

Oklahoma set a record for COVID-19 hospitalizations last week, and the United States reached a grim milestone of more than 250,000 coronavirus deaths. After earlier surges in the spring and summer, the country is now in the midst of the feared fall coronavirus surge and we’re peering into the darkness that winter will bring. With more than 1,500 Oklahomans now hospitalized and new positive cases averaging more than 2,600 per day, it’s time for Oklahoma to act.

On Nov. 17 and 18, Oklahoma reported COVID-19 daily records for hospitalizations, ICU patients and deaths. On average, 20% of Oklahoma’s hospital beds are filled with those battling COVID-19; ICU bed availability has dropped to between 5% and 7%. Increases in the number of active cases come as many hospitals and their staff, especially those in rural Oklahoma, are being pushed to their limits — physically and emotionally. While it’s true that more testing reveals more cases, the number of hospitalizations gives Oklahomans an objective measure of rampant community spread of the virus.

As deaths rise this winter, Oklahoma’s leaders will need to implement steps to slow the spread of COVID. Leaders — from Congress to mayors — show no support for total lockdowns or stay-at-home orders. But science shows that there are other temporary measures available to keep our communities safe, save lives and ensure Oklahoma flattens the curve.

Small: Plenty of reasons to question state's audit of Epic Charter Schools

Reason to question state audit 
By Jonathan Small
I’m a CPA with many years’ experience in government finances and I have had the opportunity to review the recent state audit of Epic Charter Schools as well as separate responses from Epic. An objective review reveals the performance of the audit has glaring flaws.
According to state law the office of the State Auditor and Inspector (SAI) is required to review all audits of public schools. When deficiencies are found by the SAI, the office is required to notify the school board of statements of deficiencies. There’s no indication that the SAI’s previous reviews ever found any deficiencies at Epic, so the SAI’s new claims of improper financial accounting at Epic are tantamount to an admission of neglect or incompetence by SAI—if those claims are true. But it appears many claims of financial abuse are unfounded.
The audit’s problems include a de facto recommendation that Epic violate state regulations on calculation of retirement contributions of teachers, even though Epic has provided documents from the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System that showed the school made the calculations correctly.
The audit went way beyond its scope to call for a ban on for-profit operation of charter schools, echoing the platforms of Socialist U.S. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and the democrat party platform.
One SAI staffer significantly involved in the audit has previously admitted to lacking basic accounting knowledge, such as understanding the principle of “assets = liabilities plus equity.”
When Epic expanded its model into California, that state’s regulators asked for documentation that demonstrated Epic’s financial soundness. That documentation included a bank statement showing millions of dollars of cash on hand.  SAI declared that providing such information was the equivalent of using state funds as collateral—yet Epic entered into no such agreements. The funds shown on that bank statement never secured any loan whatsoever.  They only provided financial documentation at the request of California officials.
Neglecting best practices, the SAI didn’t include Epic’s full responses to the allegations in its report, nor thoroughly review calculations with Epic before release of the allegations. The failure to abide by such standard auditing procedures is another red flag.
The SAI has since taken more than seven weeks to produce workpapers from the “special audit” and provide full support for some of the audit’s most salacious claims, including that Epic and the State Department of Education misclassified millions in administrative salaries.
Put simply, the audit omits much relevant information and ignores documents that undermine its most headline-grabbing claims, and SAI officials appear to be dragging their feet in facilitating a thorough review of their work product.
That pattern of behavior gives Oklahomans reasons to doubt the audit’s veracity.
An honest review of the state audit of Epic Charter Schools raises many questions. But those questions are centered around the validity and seriousness of the audit process, not on Epic.
Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Friday, November 27, 2020

HHS Brings Free ‘Surge’ COVID-19 Testing to Oklahoma

HHS Brings Free ‘Surge’ COVID-19 Testing to Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 24, 2020) – The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – in a public-private partnership with eTrueNorth and state and local officials – will bring free COVID-19 testing to Oklahoma between Nov. 28 and Dec. 19.

Surge testing efforts will temporarily increase federal support in communities experiencing a major uptick in cases and hospitalizations.

“We want to thank HHS for its continued support in protecting the health and safety of all Oklahomans,” Oklahoma Health Commissioner Lance Frye, M.D. said. “Across the country, we are experiencing aggressive, rapid, and expanding community spread of COVID-19, including here in Oklahoma. We must do everything we can to flatten the curve, to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies. Focused testing is key to interrupting the current surge, including the identification of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals. In addition to getting tested, we strongly urge Oklahomans to wear a mask at all times in public, increase physical distancing through significant reduction in capacity in public and private indoor spaces, wash your hands frequently, and get a flu shot.”

Testing at the surge locations is free to the public and available to individuals age 5 and older. Individuals under 18 years old must have a parent or legal guardian present to consent to testing.

Testing locations are drive-thru and by appointment only. Pre-register at www.DoINeedaCOVID19test.com. On-site registration will also be accommodated. An identification card is not required to get tested.

Surge testing sites use the nasal self-swab testing methodology. Test results will be received via email notification within 3-5 days.

The following is a schedule for surge testing locations:

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Gov. Stitt appoints Carol Iski as DA for Okmulgee and McIntosh counties

OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 24, 2020)— Governor Kevin Stitt announced today the appointment of Carol Iski as District Attorney for District 25, which includes Okmulgee and McIntosh Counties. 
"Carol Iski has spent her career making an impact within the criminal justice system in our state," said Gov. Stitt. "Iski is a proven prosecutor who has consistently advocated for justice on behalf of all Oklahomans, and I look forward to watching her continue to serve her community as District Attorney." 
Carol Iski has served as acting District Attorney (DA) for District 25 since Governor Fallin selected her in November 2018 to fill the empty seat caused by the passing of District Attorney Rob Barris. 

Cong.-elect Bice elected freshman GOP class president for 117th Congress

Congresswoman-elect Stephanie Bice Named GOP Freshman Class President for 117th Congress

OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 24, 2020)  - Congresswoman-elect Stephanie Bice was elected by her peers to serve as Republican Freshman Class President during last week’s House orientation in Washington, DC. 

It is believed that Bice is the first female Republican class president in the House.

Bice said she’s looking forward to encouraging open communication between members of the freshman class. 

“I came to Congress to help find solutions to some of our nation’s largest problems,” Bice said. “Working with the new representatives of the freshman class and fostering relationships among members will enable all of us to work better together to serve our constituents.” 

Bice is one of 16 Republican women elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, a new record. The House will have at least 28 Republican women serving in the 117th Congress, up from 15. Currently, there are 42 Republicans in the House freshman class. 

1889 Institute: ban collective bargaining in government

Even Franklin Roosevelt opposed collective bargaining in government employment.

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (November 23, 2020) – The 1889 Institute has published a new paper titled “Liberate Oklahoma from Public Sector Union Domination.” The paper argues that allowing government to collectively bargain with public employees “robs the people of their sovereignty over government,” which happens because unions can hold the public hostage by denying essential, government-monopolized services when they strike.

As demonstrated a few years ago, Oklahoma’s anti-strike law is inadequate, especially as it relates to teachers. In that case, the more subtle way that unionized public employees undermine the people’s sovereignty is in the way unions act as powerful political influences, effectively allowing government employees to hire their employers by being a key voting bloc. School boards clearly acted more as representatives of unionized employees than representatives of the people, parents, or students.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

'Parent Voice Oklahoma' launches at state capitol protest over school closures

'Parent Voice Oklahoma' Launches in Wake of School Closures

OKLAHOMA CITY – Parents from across the state today held a rally to protest school closures and a lack of parent involvement in education decisions. Now, many of those parents have organized to launch a new group: Parent Voice Oklahoma. The group exists to elevate the role of parents in regard to educational decisions at the school, district and state level.

Parent Voice Oklahoma starts with chapters in Owasso, Deer Creek, and Stillwater. Parents from Heritage Academy, a new Epic Charter School program that emphasizes bilingual learning and Hispanic culture and heritage, have also launched a chapter.

Dana Walsh, who attended today’s rally at the State Capitol, said she got involved with Parent Voice Oklahoma because she feels parents are being ignored by local school districts.

“We are tired of not being listened to,” said Walsh, an Owasso parent. “Our school boards are making decisions that impact the health and wellbeing of our kids as well as our ability as parents to work. It is clear they are listening to unions, to politicians, and to the media, but they aren’t listening to parents. Enough is enough.”

One of the initiatives being pushed by Parent Voice Oklahoma is a petition to create a recall process for school board members who fail in their duty to represent the interests of students and parents.

“I signed the petition because the bars are open in my town, the restaurants are open, but the schools are closed,” said Derek Lereviere from Deer Creek. “What does that say about our priorities? We have to put kids and families first."   

Robert Ruiz is the executive director of ChoiceMatters, an Oklahoma City-based non-profit that helps parents organize and advocate for their interests. He said that, while school closures are a catalyst for parent action, the real problem is the top-down nature of the public school system bureaucracy.

“We currently have a public school system where a few voices at the very top are making decisions about everything from curricula to personnel to school closures,” said Ruiz. “It’s very hard for parents to get inside that bubble and to impact policy. We need to turn that system on its head, so parents are the guiding force when we develop our education priorities. The system is funded with their tax dollars and exists to educate their kids. It makes no sense to exclude them from governance. That’s what Parent Voice Oklahoma is all about.”

For more information on Parent Voice Oklahoma, go to parentvoiceok.org.