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Statewide News

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced a goal to increase post-secondary education and training attainment for Oklahomans. The goal, named Launch Oklahoma, is for 70 percent of Oklahoma’s residents, age 25-64, to complete a postsecondary degree, certificate or credential by the year 2025. About 40 percent of the state’s residents now have that level of education or training.*

“Projections show that in 2025, 77 percent of the state’s new labor market will require greater than a high school diploma, highlighting the critical need for higher education,” said Fallin, who authorized Launch Oklahoma in Executive Order 2016-41. “The workplace is changing rapidly with the growth of technology, and it is vital that today’s students possess the skills to meet this reality. Launch Oklahoma will help ensure Oklahoma has enough workers with the right skills to enter and succeed in the workforce. In return, Oklahoma will succeed.”

Launch Oklahoma was developed as a result of recommendations by the Oklahoma Works Leadership Team, led by Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Natalie Shirley. The team includes representatives from higher education, CareerTech, the state Department of Education, the Commerce Department, the Office of Workforce Development, and the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative.

“The state is facing a critical gap between the skills of the current workforce and the skills that are needed to fill vital jobs,” Shirley said. “Launch Oklahoma will address this issue by encouraging youth to seek postsecondary education and training, and by helping Oklahomans who have left the education system to get back in and upskill. Through these efforts, Oklahomans will have the opportunity to get the higher wage jobs that are critical to our economy.”

The statewide goal to increase the overall postsecondary educational attainment of Oklahoma’s workforce from 40 percent to 70 percent means nearly 600,000 more workers will need a postsecondary degree, certificate or other high-quality credential in just eight years. The need for this goal is outlined in a 2016 research study of Oklahomans who have neither started nor completed postsecondary education. The study, commissioned by the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development and paid for with funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, will be released next month. Among other findings, the report revealed that students and parents/guardians need more evidence of the importance of a postsecondary certificate or degree.

“The state of Oklahoma must employ a globally competitive workforce to attract companies with high wages to increase the wealth and quality of life for all Oklahomans,” Fallin said. “To meet this challenge, I created Launch Oklahoma to build upon my existing Oklahoma Works initiative. By aiming for this ambitious postsecondary education attainment goal of 70 percent by 2025, we will put Oklahoma on the path to meet labor demands, recruit new and grow current businesses, and increase the opportunity for all Oklahomans to achieve the American Dream.”

To meet this goal, state agencies, educators, businesses and workforce partners will collaborate during the next several months to create a strategic plan to increase overall educational attainment. This plan will be due to the governor by Nov. 1, 2017.

“Governor Fallin’s ambitious Launch Oklahoma goal demonstrates the vital role that postsecondary degrees and credentials play in meeting Oklahoma’s current and future workforce needs,” said Higher Education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Oklahoma’s state system of higher education strongly supports the Oklahoma Works initiative through our college degree and certificate completion efforts in Complete College America. “Our public colleges and universities continually collaborate with business and industry partners to link our academic programs directly to employment needs in high-demand occupations, including critical STEM disciplines.”

“Oklahoma CareerTech programs – such as those in common education 6−12, in technology centers and the skills centers programs in correctional facilities – afford students the opportunity to earn certificates, industry-recognized credentials, career readiness certificates, and college credit toward an associate degree,” said Marcie Mack, director of the state Department of Career and Technology Education. “These opportunities are solutions to both the workforce gap and to meeting the established educational attainment goal. Oklahoma CareerTech empowers middle school, high school and adult students to add workforce value to their education, and our partnerships with business and industry are vital to ensuring workforce needs are met in our state.”

Jennifer Monies, executive director of the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative, said: “Gone are the days where a high school diploma alone will lead to a quality job for most Oklahomans. This ambitious goal will put every Oklahoma student on a trajectory of life-long learning, while encouraging students and adults alike to pursue career training or college no matter their stage in life. I applaud Governor Fallin and the entire Oklahoma Works team for setting high expectations for all Oklahomans with this education attainment goal.”

To learn more about the goal, current research and data, visit the Oklahoma Works website (http://oklahomaworks.gov/attainmentgoal), or follow Oklahoma Works on Twitter and Facebook.

* Data from the Lumina Foundation. For more information, go to http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2016/#oklahoma

Meals on Wheels team

MEALS ON WHEELS TEAM - Meals on Wheels prepares and delivers hot and nutritious meals to dozens of McAlester-area residents each weekday of the year. From left are McAlester Regional Health Center employees Jennifer Bloxham, program coordinator, Josie Miranda and Rita Webber.

Volunteers across the country join forces every year to help others during the Christmas season. But a local hospital project ensures some of the most vulnerable people in the community are getting a hot, nutritious meal delivered right to their door, five days a week, 12 months a year.

Meals on Wheels has operated out of McAlester Regional Health Center for years, with employees who cook and serve, and drivers who are (usually) volunteers.

“We have one cook, one server and one-part time fill-in delivery person,” said Jennifer Bloxham, program coordinator at MRHC’s Food & Nutrition Services Department. “We’re always looking for more drivers.”

Each weekday before noon, Bloxham and her team prepare several dozen trays of nutritious meals: a meat, potato or other starch, vegetable, slice of bread, salad, milk or juice, and a dessert. The specially constructed covered trays are insulated and designed for travel; each is collected by the next day’s delivery driver to be returned to the hospital for cleaning.

“Those trays aren’t cheap,” Bloxham said, citing a price of nearly $70 each.

As with the food and paid employees, money for the supplies comes not from a federal grant or other subsidy, as with some local programs. Instead, Meals on Wheels is self-funded. Recipients pay a modest $2.35 for each meal.

“The hospital isn’t making any money off of this program,” Bloxham explained. “But it is self-sustaining.”

Mostly, deliveries are to McAlester residents who do not drive. Some are elderly or chronically ill. Others are disabled. For some, the daily arrival of their hot lunch is their sole interaction with another person.

Bloxham’s volunteers spend 30-45 minutes each month on distributions, and their contributions are essential to the program’s success.

“We couldn’t do it without them!” Bloxham said.

To volunteer for deliveries or to inquire about joining the program, contact Meals on Wheels Program Coordinator Jennifer Bloxham at MRHC at 918-421-8091.

MOW Rita Webber

MOW RITA WEBBER – Meals on Wheels Server Rita Webber dishes up a hot meal at McAlester Regional Health Center.

MRHC is a regional 171-bed general acute care public trust hospital serving a region comprised of eight counties in Southeast Oklahoma. With more than 800 employees, the hospital offers a wide array of clinics, and ancillary and outpatient programs.

By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner

It has been an exciting and challenging year at the Oklahoma Insurance Department. We’ve dealt with tornadoes, high winds as well as earthquakes. We’ve implemented meaningful programs to help Oklahomans understand and respond to their insurance needs. We’ve also asked the State of Oklahoma to let us stand on our own two feet financially by removing us from the legislative appropriations process. 2016 has been a big year for our office and as a result, we’ve highlighted some of our efforts I am most proud of:

Insurance Commissioner Doak Calls for No State Funding of His Agency – March
Because of the budget crisis in Oklahoma and the OID’s ability to operate on the licensing fees collected, our agency requested to no longer receive funds from the state. Since I took office in 2011, the OID has received more than $9,000,000 in appropriated funds. In that same time period, the Legislature has taken $28,500,000 from the OID’s revolving account.

Insurance Help Available for Tornado Victims – May
A state of emergency was declared in 15 Oklahoma counties after deadly tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds and flooding. Staff from the OID canvassed Garvin County, one of the hardest hit areas, to speak with tornado victims and help them with insurance concerns. Anti-fraud investigators were also on the ground in the towns impacted by the storms to educate people on potential scams.

Commissioner Doak Declares Earthquake Insurance Market Noncompetitive – June
After months of research and a public hearing to discuss the rise in earthquake insurance rates, I declared the earthquake insurance market noncompetitive. The order changes the way insurance companies file their rates with the OID. Now, they must show a valid reason for a rate increase. The requirement ensures earthquake coverage remains available and affordable.

Insurance Department Offering Help After Historic Earthquake – September
The OID stepped in to help after the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history struck Pawnee County. I walked through some of the damage after the 5.6 quake with Mayor Brad Sewell, and our Consumer Assistance team set up at the Pawnee Public Library to answer insurance questions for anyone with damage.

Insurance Department Reaching Out to Consumers After Cushing Earthquake – November
The town of Cushing had significant damage after a 5.0 earthquake. As I toured the wreckage with city officials, I heard many stories from residents about why they didn’t have earthquake insurance. While the Consumer Assistance team sat up a make-shift outreach center at the Chamber of Commerce, I met with insurance agents in the area to clarify the common misconceptions on earthquake insurance.

Nationwide Service Will Help Oklahomans Find Lost Life Insurance Policies – November
Oklahomans now have access to a national service that helps them find life insurance policy benefits. The service builds on the life insurance policy locator program developed at OID and other state insurance departments. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) launched the new tool last month. The free tool has a bigger database that can search across the country, not just in Oklahoma. So far, the NAIC has received 635 policy locator requests from Oklahomans.

These are just some of the many achievements the OID has accomplished in 2016. We look forward to helping more Oklahomans in 2017 and making positive strides in the new year.

For more insurance information, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Dec. 15, 2016) – At its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the State Board of Education (SBE) today voted unanimously to approve the final recommendations of the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) for a new system of assessment and accountability scheduled to take effect in the 2017-2018 school year.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister commended the board’s approval of the school report card system that emerged from the months-long work of a 95-member Assessment and Accountability Task Force.

“This proposed accountability system is a more reliable, valid and meaningful measure of student and school performance, one that includes a wealth of information that removes a bias against high-poverty districts while placing an emphasis on individual student academic growth,” she said. “Informed by a diverse task force of education stakeholders, this plan represents a more robust, contextualized approach to school accountability. We are grateful for the efforts of task force members, whose countless hours of collaboration resulted in a system we can all take pride in. I am confident that the new school report card will serve the needs of families, communities, schools, educators and above all, the schoolchildren of Oklahoma.”

The new school report card meets federal and state mandates established by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind, and House Bill 3218, which Gov. Mary Fallin signed into state law earlier this year. House Bill 3218 mandated that a new system of state assessment and accountability be presented to the SBE for approval before Jan. 1, 2017.

The new calculation gives equal weight to student performance in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics as well as student growth in these subjects. Other indicators include English language proficiency assessment (ELPA) progress, graduation rate, postsecondary opportunities and chronic absenteeism, which is defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year.

Elementary and middle school report card scores will be factored with a 90-point rubric as follows:

ELA performance – 15 pts.
Math performance – 15 pts.
Science performance – 5 pts.
ELA growth – 15 pts.
Math growth – 15 pts.
English language proficiency assessment (ELPA) progress – 15 pts.
Chronic absenteeism – 10 pts.
While high school grading is similar to that of elementary and middle schools, greater emphasis is placed on college and career readiness. Measuring growth is problematic in the short term given that OSDE is recommending an off-the-shelf college-readiness exam for 11th grade, but the OSDE’s final report details how a growth indicator could be added within several years.

The point structure for high schools is:

ELA performance – 15 pts.
Math performance – 15 pts.
Science performance – 15 pts.
ELPA progress – 15 pts.
Graduation rate – 10 pts.
Chronic absenteeism – 10 pts.
Postsecondary opportunity – 10 pts.

In addition, a high school can receive an additional point for high participation and proficiency in U.S. History.


OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak will ride-along with Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) troopers to raise awareness of highway safety laws. Commissioner Doak wants to make sure drivers are moving over for emergency vehicles, maintaining liability insurance coverage and not texting and driving.

“This is one of the busiest weeks for road travel,” said Doak. “We want to make sure everyone gets to their destinations safely. The best way to do that is to devote your full attention to driving. Safety is our main goal, but we also want people to avoid crashes that could lead to higher auto insurance premiums.”

Oklahoma’s Move Over law requires drivers to move over a lane of traffic when encountering flashing lights on the roadway, either from emergency vehicles or tow trucks. Another state law requires drivers involved in non-injury wrecks to move off the roadway to exchange insurance information in order to not block the flow of traffic.

Commissioner Doak also hopes to raise awareness of Oklahoma’s compulsory auto insurance requirement. Drivers are required to carry liability coverage. It is estimated that one in four Oklahoma drivers doesn’t have it.

OHP will take part in the fourth annual “Interstate 40 Challenge Drive to Zero Fatalities” traffic safety initiative. It will consist of increased patrols along the I-40 corridor that stretches through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and North Carolina. The challenge will take place on Nov. 23 and Nov. 27. Troopers will focus on drivers who are in violation of state laws, including those related to speeding, impaired driving, occupant protection and texting.

AAA Oklahoma is projecting that 556,000 Oklahomans will drive to their Thanksgiving destinations this year.

Thursday, 10 November 2016 18:06

Get Screened for Diabetes, Oklahoma

By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner

The month of November is for giving thanks. We reflect on the blessings of our life, our family and our health. And this month, I’m asking that you reflect on a disease that is debilitating and killing our friends and family and maybe even yourself.

World Diabetes Day is on Nov. 14. It’s a time to understand the disease, recognize the signs and symptoms and know where to turn for proper medical care. This year organizers want to encourage people to get screened for diabetes.

More than 450,000 people in Oklahoma have diabetes. Of these, an estimated 100,000 have diabetes but don’t know it. Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes. In fact, a person can live with type 2 diabetes for a long time without knowing it. But by the time of diagnosis, diabetes complications can already have taken a toll.

That’s why, on World Diabetes Day, we are rallying together to ask Oklahomans to get screened. The earlier a person is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can start to reduce the risk of harmful complications. These complications include cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation.

People with diabetes also have medical expenses about 2.3 times higher than those who do not have diabetes. The disease costs an estimated $3.7 billion in Oklahoma each year. Depending on the diagnosis and your life stage, there is help to manage the costs associated with diabetes.

Families and children with diabetes

In the past, many people with diabetes and other chronic conditions who tried to buy insurance had a hard time finding a plan that would accept them, that was affordable or that provided adequate coverage. Since 2014, insurance plans are not allowed to deny coverage or charge more because a person has diabetes or any other pre-existing condition.

Seniors with diabetes

Medicare beneficiaries who have diabetes need to review their Part D prescription drug plan during open enrollment which ends on Dec. 7. This is a time to make sure you are not paying too much for insulin or other diabetes medication. Depending on income, some seniors may also qualify for extra help to pay for prescriptions.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Medicare Assistance Program (MAP) is offering free, unbiased help during open enrollment. Trained counselors can help beneficiaries understand Medicare benefits and the enrollment process. For help, call MAP at 800-763-2828.

Every year about 19,000 Oklahomans are diagnosed with diabetes. So, on Nov. 14, let World Diabetes Day serve as a reminder of the importance of diabetes screening and early detection. For more information on World Diabetes Day, go to www.worlddiabetesday.org.

For more insurance information, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.

Thursday, 10 November 2016 18:03

Governor Mary Fallin Veterans Day Statement

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin released the following statement concerning Veterans Day:

“We owe our veterans and active-duty military men and women a huge debt for their courage and sacrifice. They protect our freedoms and keep us safe, and they do so at a great cost to themselves and their families.

“I’m asking all Oklahomans to join me in thanking our veterans for everything they have done for this country and for the people of Oklahoma, and to show them our gratitude not just today but every day. We should never forget their dedication and their service.”

Video by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch, Oklahoma National Guard Public Affairs

FORT SILL, Okla. - The Oklahoma Army National Guard (OKARNG) continues to build its female force within combat arms.

In the video you see 2nd Lt. Jamie Ellis of Pawnee, Oklahoma, receiving her certificate of completion from Field Artillery’s Basic Officer Leadership Course, Tuesday Oct. 25 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. This makes her the second qualified field artillery female officer within the OKARNG.

“I appreciate them opening the door for me to give it a try,” Ellis said. “I think if a female wants to do it then yes, definitely give it a shot.”

For Ellis, when the order came down that females could now join their male counterparts within combat arms, she didn’t think twice.

“I was drawn to it. I was excited about it,” Ellis said. “Everybody who comes to talk to you about that branch was excited about it and it’s like a big family; everybody takes care of each other.”

Ellis’ completion of field artillery school comes just after Oklahoma Guardsman 1st Lt. Kayla Christopher’s, who was the first qualified female officer within the branch.

From here, Ellis will join Christopher as a Fire Direction Officer in the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery.

“It makes me proud that the 160th and the state of Oklahoma is leading the way in this endeavor to get the Leader-First program on the board in Oklahoma so that females can join the field artillery as well as other combat arms units,” Lt. Col. Paul Harris said, commander of 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery. “It’s an exciting time and it’s a new future for the Army; it’s a great thing.”

Thursday, 13 October 2016 21:28

White House Watch: Trump Takes the Lead

The full results from Sunday night’s debate are in, and Donald Trump has come from behind to take the lead over Hillary Clinton.

The latest Rasmussen Reports White House Watch national telephone and online survey shows Trump with 43% support among Likely U.S. Voters to Clinton’s 41%. Yesterday, Clinton still held a four-point 43% to 39% lead over Trump, but that was down from five points on Tuesday and her biggest lead ever of seven points on Monday.

Rasmussen Reports updates its White House Watch survey daily Monday through Friday at 8:30 am Eastern based on a three-day rolling average of 1,500 Likely U.S. Voters. Monday’s survey was the first following the release of an 11-year-old video showing Trump discussing women in graphic sexual detail but did not include any polling results taken after the debate. All three nights of the latest survey follow Sunday’s debate.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has dropped slightly to six percent (6%) support, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein holds steady at two percent (2%). Four percent (4%) still like some other candidate in the race, and another four percent (4%) remain undecided.

Eighty-four percent (84%) now say they are certain how they will vote in this year’s presidential election, and among these voters, Trump posts a 49% to 46% lead over Clinton. Among voters who say they still could change their minds between now and Election Day, it’s Clinton 40%, Trump 37%, Johnson 19% and Stein four percent (4%).

The survey of 1,500 Likely Voters was conducted on October 10-12, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 2.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Most Republican voters still think top GOP leaders are hurting the party with their continuing criticism of Trump and are only slightly more convinced that those leaders want Trump to be president.

Trump has 75% support among Republicans, nearly identical to Clinton’s 76% backing among Democrats. He has 15% of the Democratic vote; she picks up 13% GOP support. Trump holds a double-digit advantage among voters not affiliated with either major political party.

Johnson gets 13% of the unaffiliated vote, but like Stein is in low single digits among Democrats and Republicans.

Clinton continues to lead among women, while Trump has regained his advantage among men. Those under 40 still prefer the Democrat but also remain the most undecided. Older voters favor Trump. The older the voter, the more likely he or she is to be certain of their vote.

Trump remains ahead among whites and has a slight lead among other minority voters. He appears to be making a dent in the black vote, but blacks still overwhelmingly favor Clinton.

Ninety (90%) of voters who Strongly Approve of the job President Obama is doing choose Clinton. Among voters who Strongly Disapprove of the president’s job performance, 89% prefer Trump.

Hillary Clinton jumped on the release last week of an 11-year-old video in which Trump makes graphic sexual comments to say it shows her Republican rival's demeaning attitude toward women. But Trump countered that Clinton was an enabler who allowed her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to sexually assault women for years. We’ll tell you what voters think at 10:30 a.m. Eastern today.

Nearly two-out-of-three voters believe the economy is unfair to the middle class.

Voters are even more likely than they’ve been in the past to say they’ll wait until Election Day to cast their vote.

Only 24%, however, say they’ve ever changed the way they were going to vote after watching the debates between presidential candidates.

Tuesday, 04 October 2016 18:21

ELEVATE: Everyone Needs a Buddy

wford buddy bench crop

OKLAHOMA CITY (October 4, 2016) – No one likes to feel left out, including students at recess. That’s why schools across the state are adding buddy benches to the playground.

“I think it’s made a big difference in the awareness that the other kids have that someone might be having a bad day,” said Jane Johnson, principal at Garfield Elementary in Enid.

Will Duran, a student at Garfield Elementary, was instrumental in the getting the buddy bench because he was frustrated about having no one to play with.

“You sit on it, and someone might come. You never know,” Duran said.

The 9-year-old saw a video online explaining how a buddy bench works and took the idea to community members.

Thanks to the United Way and Leadership Greater Enid, 11 Enid elementary schools now have a buddy bench, and the idea is catching on across the state, from Enid to Weatherford to Piedmont. The benches may look slightly different from place to place, but the purpose remains the same.

So what exactly is a buddy bench? Watch Elevate: Everyone Needs a Buddy to learn more.

If your school is interested in getting a buddy bench, click here for additional information.

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