The teacher walkout has officially ended, but there were still hundreds of teachers at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Monday.  Meanwhile, legislators have gotten back to their normal business, working on a variety of bills before the session adjourns for the year. With the large number of candidates filing this year, along with the numerous challenges to incumbents and many long-time legislators retiring, there is a distinct possibility the Legislature will have a very different look in 2019.
 
Regardless of how the November elections play out, one thing is for certain: lawmakers will have to reckon with thousands of re-energized and highly engaged teachers. We were proud to play a role this year in helping teachers engage with policy-makers through Chalk the Vote, OICA’s initiative to sign up a teacher “block captain” in every school building in the state. Chalk the Vote now has more than 5,000 Facebook followers and 600 teachers receiving and disseminating our email alerts. If you are an educator and interested in getting your colleagues more engaged in public policy issues, go to https://oica.org/events/chalk-up-the-vote/ to learn more.
 
One of the things we preach to our block captains and all our advocates is the importance of taking the long-view when it comes to public policy. Most of Oklahoma’s problems have been created over many years and will take years or even decades to correct. This is especially true with policies regarding children. Many of the policies that promote healthy childhood experiences pay real dividends years later when those children grow up to be healthier, more well adjusted adults.

One such issue has been a priority for OICA all session long: reducing Adverse Childhood Experiences (or ACEs) and pursuing trauma-informed care. OICA has been pushing a bill that would create a task force to study these issues and develop policy recommendations. That bill passed a House committee unanimously last week and moves on to the full body this week.  We must look forward to ideas and  improvements which will take time, otherwise we will continue to dwell at the bottom of far too many rankings.  Our thanks go out to the Potts Family Foundation and the numerous volunteers who have been advocating for this legislation.
 
OICA will also work to highlight many other child well-being bills on May 9 at our Child Advocacy Day at the State Capitol.  We will work with Let’s Fix This, our partner organization for bringing awareness to legislators and voters alike, to host a day of advocacy training and dialogue with policy makers.  We highly encourage you to attend this day-long event if you are able, and please join us for our Advocacy Day Luncheon where we will celebrate our 35th Anniversary of work in Oklahoma.  This luncheon will be held in the Governor’s Mansion Pavilion where we will hear from one of the plaintiffs in the Terry D. lawsuit which created our program. Governor Fallin will be present to recognize our organization and we will also have a few special surprises.  You can register for both the Advocacy Day, free to anyone, and the Advocacy Lunch, for a suggested $100 donation to OICA, at the following website: https://oica.org/events/child-advocacy-day/
 
Thank you for reading our column and staying engaged!  It takes many advocates working together to see the change we want, and we appreciate your support and participation locally and with us at the state level as we work to build a better state for Oklahoma’s children.