Oklahoma teachers shift from marching to running for office

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/13/2018 10:00 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — When Oklahoma second-grade teacher Cyndi Ralston heard her state representative berate teachers for walking out of the classroom and marching on the Capitol, she knew she’d be running against him in November.

Rep. Kevin McDugle, an ex-Marine Corps drill instructor, chastised teachers in a video he posted on Facebook for failing to thank lawmakers after he and other Republicans voted in favor of tax hikes to fund a teacher raise.

“I’m not voting for another stinking measure when they’re acting the way they’re acting,” Republican McDugle said.

The walkout that shuttered schools in many of Oklahoma’s largest districts for two straight weeks came to an end on Thursday, although some districts already had planned to close on Friday, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

The largest teachers union is calling for its members to shift their focus to electing pro-education candidates in November. Ralston is among at least a dozen teachers, most of them first-time candidates, who are taking heed.

“There are so many parents, community members and students up here seeing what’s going on and how they (lawmakers) are not responding to the voices of the people they represent,” Ralston said after filing her candidacy papers. “I think it’s going to grow.”

The teacher-led rebellion over low wages and funding cuts has spread from its genesis in West Virginia to Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s teacher walkout coincided with the three days when Oklahoma allows candidates to file for elective offices, giving frustrated educators an outlet for their enthusiasm. And as Kentucky’s legislative session wound down this year after a fight over teacher pensions, teachers mobilized to support legislative candidates, and the influential Kentucky Education Association signaled it would turn its attention to the ballot box.

Amanda Jeffers, a Democrat and a high school English teacher in Oklahoma, said she was spurred by the teacher movement to run against a Republican incumbent, even though she acknowledges an uphill battle in a district with a 2-to-1 GOP registration advantage.

“Looking at my district, there really hasn’t been anyone stepping up to the plate, so I thought: ‘Well, how about me?’” Jeffers said.

Despite the disadvantage on paper, Jeffers said she thinks the teacher movement could put some wind in her sails in an election where Democrats already are energized.

A similar effort by dozens of Oklahoma teachers in the 2016 election, most of them Democrats, was largely unsuccessful, but the Oklahoma Democratic Party’s 25-year-old chairwoman, Anna Langthorn, said she senses this cycle is different.

“Voters are more receptive, engaged and aware about what the issues actually are, and there’s not a presidential election at the top of the ticket,” Langthorn said, “so we’re focusing on Oklahoma issues, and I think that will give everybody a head start.”

Democrats also are emboldened by a string of four special election pickups from Republicans since 2016, including two victories by Democratic public school teachers. Republicans hold a 72-28 advantage in the House and a 39-8 edge in the Senate, but Democrats hope to chip away at that and have their eyes on an even bigger prize — the open governor’s seat.

Langthorn said the party has been overwhelmed in recent weeks with potential candidates seeking guidance on how to run for office. She spent Wednesday and Thursday greeting state House and Senate candidates with a packet that included details about free training, templates for literature and websites, and contact names of Democratic political consultants.

While many of the teacher candidates were Democrats, some Republican educators also threw their hat in the ring against GOP incumbents they felt weren’t supportive enough of public schools.

Republican Tammie Reynolds, an assistant superintendent from the southwest Oklahoma town of Elgin, said she decided to run against the GOP incumbent in large part because of his vote against a tax-hike plan that funded teacher pay and public schools.

“Regardless of Democrat or Republican, I think your representative should represent you, and if he doesn’t then I think it’s time to go and say: ‘You’re not representing me, and I’m either going to vote someone in who does or I’m going to file myself,” Reynolds said.

Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Pam Pollard acknowledged many GOP incumbents were faced with a difficult decision this session on whether to approve a tax hike and anger anti-tax conservatives to their right, or vote against it and upset teachers and educators in their district.

“It’s going to make them talk to their voters and explain their votes on both sides, either why did they raise taxes or why did they not vote for more taxes,” Pollard said.

Trebor Worthen, a former House member and now a GOP campaign consultant, said the political winds have clearly shifted since 2016 and many incumbents are feeling the pressure.

“I think that anyone running against incumbents will likely experience more success this year than they did in 2016,” Worthen said. “And teachers are certainly contributing to that anti-incumbent mood.”

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/15/2018 02:00 PM
TULSA, Oklahoma (AP) — Activists in Oklahoma are looking to entrench the right to use marijuana in the state's constitution by promoting a pair of ballot measures. The Tulsa World reports that the first state question would classify marijuana as an "herbal drug" and amend the Oklahoma Constitution. The other initiative says a person 21 years or older can possess or consume up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use. Both were filed in April. Voters in Oklahoma backed the medicinal use of the drug last month. Yet, Isaac Caviness with Green the Vote says the two state questions being promoted are an "insurance policy" to make sure State Question 788 is not over regulated.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/15/2018 08:00 AM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma's 4.0 earthquakes are up significantly this year, but the overall rate of earthquakes is declining. Oklahoma has had six quakes of at least magnitude 4.0 halfway through this year, which is one more than all of last year. But the overall rate of earthquakes has declined, with 96 quakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater through June 30, compared with 144 at this point last year and 302 by the end of 2017, the Tulsa World reported. A magnitude 4.6 in April near Perry was the 12th largest in state history. Scientists are largely seeing earthquakes on unmapped faults that were activated in 2014 by wastewater injection, said state seismologist Jake Walter. Scientists are researching specific mechanisms by which the state's ongoing seismicity is triggered, he said. Wastewater can trigger the initial earthquakes, but quakes themselves can lead to more quakes. "So in some ways the wastewater injection has created a new paradigm that defies how we would categorize main shocks and aftershocks if this were a fault that had slipped in a more natural setting," he said. Walter said that Oklahoma's seismic risk appears to be similar to the latest hazard forecast put out by the U.S. Geological Survey in March. The agency calculated Oklahoma's short-term hazard levels to be similar to active regions in California. The chance of earthquake damage in high-hazard areas of Oklahoma this year ranges from 1 percent to 14 percent, "much higher" than most parts of the U.S.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/14/2018 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Civil lawsuits have been filed in two Oklahoma counties accusing state health officials of improperly imposing strict rules on the state's recently approved medical marijuana industry. Separate lawsuits were filed Friday in Cleveland and Oklahoma counties over the policies that were adopted this week by the State Board of Health and then quickly approved by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. The board of Fallin appointees voted 5-4 on Tuesday to approve a ban on the sale of smokable marijuana and requiring pharmacists at dispensaries, infuriating activists who had worked for years to get medical marijuana on the ballot. The measure passed June 26 with nearly 57 percent of the vote. Interim Commissioner of Health Tom Bates said July 10 his office anticipated legal challenges and was prepared to defend the new rules.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/12/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Nearly 500 representatives of the 25 at-large and 88 in-jurisdiction Cherokee organizations recently traveled to Tahlequah for the Cherokee Nation’s 14th annual Conference of Community Leaders. The two-day conference hosted by the tribe’s Community and Cultural Outreach was held June 22-23 at Northeastern State University. Attendees attended workshops led by experts in sustainability and culture, and also met with tribal leaders, including Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tribal Councilors. The tribe concluded the conference with the Community Impact Awards banquet, which honors community organizations that do outstanding volunteer work, promote the culture and make other significant contributions. “The community organizations, both in the 14 counties and at-large, are some of the tribe’s most valuable partners, because they allow us to reach and help our citizens more effectively and efficiently,” Hoskin said. “Whether it’s mentoring youth or offering cultural enrichment programs or providing housing through temporary shelters, these groups define the values of community and family that are important to us as Cherokee people, and that is something to be commended and recognized.” Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas, an official at-large Cherokee Nation organization based in Houston, was honored with the 2018 Organization of the Year award. After Hurricane Harvey struck the organization’s community, members stepped up to help neighbors recover from the flooding and coordinated efforts to take donations to those in need. The organization also received the Strong Hands Award for its efforts after Hurricane Harvey. “We were all surprised and humbled to be recognized for our work following Hurricane Harvey,” Wade McAlister, Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas president, said. “We were just doing what we do. It was a team effort and exemplifies both the Cherokee ethic of gadugi and the Houston can do spirit.”?? Boys & Girls Club of Adair County received the Youth Leadership Award at the Cherokee Nation Community and Cultural Outreach conference. The nonprofit organization maintains in school, after school and summer programs for the youth of Adair County. “Boys & Girls Clubs of Adair County is based on inspiring and enabling youth to realize their full potential,” Kristal Diver, Boys & Girls Club of Adair County CEO, said. “Receiving the Youth Leadership Award is a great honor and has shown us that we are moving in the right direction. The continuous support of Cherokee Nation has made it possible for us to provide a safe, positive place with fun and engaging activities, supportive relationships with adults and opportunities for our youth.” <strong>Other organizations honored with Community Impact Awards were:</strong> Newcomer of the Year Award – Northern Cherokee County Community Booster Club Newcomer of the Year Award – Illinois River Area Community Organization Mary Mead Volunteerism Award – Native American Fellowship Inc. Mary Mead Volunteerism Award – Greater Wichita Area Cherokees Most Improved Award – Marble City Activity Organization Best in Technology Award – Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club Best in Technology At-Large – San Diego Cherokee Community Continuing Education Award – Spavinaw Youth and Neighborhood Center Hunger Fighters Award – Tailholt Community Organization Roy Hamilton Historical Preservation Award – Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association Roy Hamilton Historical Preservation Award – Mt Hood Cherokees Strong Hands Award – Mid County Community Organization Strong Hands Award – Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas Grant Writer of the Year Award – Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association Technical Assistance Award – Cherokee National Historical Society Best in Reporting Award – Stilwell Public Library Friends Society Best in Reporting At-Large – Kansas City Cherokee Community Community Partnership Award – Tailholt Community Organization Community Partnership At-Large – San Antonio Cherokee Township Community Inspiration Award – Noweta Cherokee Community Foundation Community Inspiration Award – New Mexico Cherokee Community Cultural Perpetuation Award – Washington County Cherokee Organization Cultural Perpetuation At-Large – Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley Donna Chuculate Cemetery Preservation Award – Webbers Falls Historical Society Museum Donna Chuculate Cemetery Preservation Award – Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley Youth Leadership Award – Boys & Girls Club of Adair County Youth Leadership At-Large – Valley of the Sun Cherokees Conference Attendance Award – Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation Foundation Conference Attendance Award – San Antonio Cherokee Township Above & Beyond Award – Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation Foundation Above & Beyond Award – Capital City Cherokee Community Community Leadership Award – Orchard Road Community Outreach Community Leadership At-Large – Cherokee Society of Greater Bay Area Lifetime Achievement Award – Gary Bolin (Brushy Cherokee Action Association) Lifetime Achievement Award – Dude Feathers (Oakhill Piney Community Organization) Organization of the Year Award – Mid County Community Organization Organization of the Year At-Large – Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas Sponsor Award – Cherokee Nation Businesses
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/11/2018 04:00 PM
VINITIA – Less than three months after the U.S. Surgeon General released a public health advisory urging more Americans to carry a lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, Vinita firefighters used that medication, naloxone, to save a life. In June, Vinita firefighters responded to a call about a female who had chewed a fentanyl patch. Vinita Fire Chief Kevin Wofford said when they arrived at the scene, firefighters found the patient unresponsive. After obtaining baseline vitals, they administered one dose of Narcan nasal spray, which is a brand name for naloxone. Within minutes, Wofford said, the ambulance arrived and the EMTs helped the patient into the ambulance where her symptoms abated. “In about three minutes after they had administered the Narcan, she was becoming more responsive and they got a reversal,” Wofford said. Wofford said the Narcan nasal spray for helping save this patient and describes the medication as being “a big help” to area first responders as they deal with the growing crisis of opioid overdose deaths. The Narcan nasal spray used in the June rescue was supplied to the Vinita Fire Department during a naloxone training hosted by in part by Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health Prevention Programs earlier this year. On Feb. 27, 100 representatives from Craig County area law enforcement agencies, fire departments and emergency medical services, as well as school administrators, teachers and coaches received naloxone training and were given free naloxone kits to use in emergency overdose situations. The training and naloxone kits were supplied by Behavioral Health, which received a $1 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as part of the First Responder Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. “The first part of the grant is to get all ‘traditional’ first responders — police, fire departments, EMS — trained and supplied throughout the 14 counties of Cherokee Nation,” Sam Bradshaw, Behavioral Health Prevention Programs manager, said. “Once we’ve done that, then we’ll come back around and offer the training and naloxone kits to ‘nontraditional’ first responders — doctor’s offices, nurses and other people in the community.” Due to grant requirements, first responders can only receive the naloxone kits from CN if they undergo training. To date, naloxone trainings have been held in 12 CN counties and will soon be presented in the last two. Bradshaw said he hopes to be able to offer the ‘nontraditional’ first responder training toward the end of the year. Anyone interested in attending a naloxone training and obtaining kits should call 918-276-2192. “We will resupply naloxone kits that have been used,” Bradshaw said. “To get the replacement kits, first responders must fill out a form, which allows us to collect the data we need for the grant. They can fill out the form they were given with the naloxone kits or contact Grand Nation, which has the forms and will help them get the form filled out correctly so we can get more kits to the first responders who need them.” Naloxone kits that aren’t used may also need to be resupplied, Bradshaw said. “This is a four-year grant and, hopefully, not all of the kits will be needed,” said Bradshaw. “But even those who don’t ever use it, need to be aware that these kits will expire. So we’ll resupply if they’ve expired.” While the naloxone training focuses on dealing with the consequences of opioid addiction, Behavioral Health Prevention Programs is also working to reduce prescription drug-related harm and increase awareness of the opioid epidemic. To learn more, visit the ThinkSMART Oklahoma Facebook page or <a href="http://www.ThinkSMARTok.org" target="_blank">www.ThinkSMARTok.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/11/2018 12:00 PM
NORMAN – The Native American Journalists Association announced the winners of its 2018 National Native Media Awards and the Cherokee Phoenix won four awards, which includes its ninth first place General Excellence award for a print publication. The annual competition recognizes excellence in reporting by Native and non-Native journalists across the United States and Canada. In addition to the General Excellence honor, the Cherokee Phoenix took first place in the Best Layout – Print category and Best TV Feature Story with former Reporter Stacie Guthrie’s “Remember the Removal” video, which can be viewed at <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11330" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11330</a>. Former Reporter Brittney Bennett won a third place award in the Print/Online – Best Health Coverage category with her “CN health providers want higher base pay” story, which can be read at <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11450" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11450</a>. “As the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix I am beyond pleased and honored anytime we receive recognition from our peers,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Everyone on our staff takes our role in keeping the Cherokee people informed to heart. I would personally like to thank everyone on the Cherokee Phoenix staff for all their hard work, and the members of the Native American Journalist Association for recognizing our dedication to providing thorough and prompt news coverage to our tribe nationwide.” Cherokee Phoenix staff members will have an opportunity to collect their hardware during a banquet at NAJA’s annual conference on July 18-21 in Miami, Florida. With the exception of 2011-13, the Cherokee Phoenix has entered the NAJA awards every year since 2001 and has won 99 total awards, including the prestigious Richard LaCourse Award for investigative journalism in 2003 and the Elias Boudinot Award in 2001 for becoming an independent news organization. Overall, the Cherokee Phoenix has won 32 first place, 37 second place, 21 third place and nine honorable mention NAJA awards.