Will 2020 Hold a Brighter Future for Oklahoma’s Children?

For the Children is a weekly column by Joe Dorman, CEO of OICA

As we step into a new year, and debatably a new decade depending upon who you ask if decades start with a 0 year or a 1, we at the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy are looking for a brighter future for Oklahoma’s children.  This not only the tag line for our new desktop calendars, but also for our feeling that this will be the year when we truly begin to turn things in a new direction for our state.

This optimism comes from several factors which we will be facing as a state, and also a few challenges that we each will need to hold ourselves accountable to be better.

Starting with the challenges, we are facing a hostile election year when the rancor at the state and federal level generally stoops to a low point in civility.  While we may or may not like who currently holds an office or might see improved opportunities in their challengers, it is important to keep the conversation at a respectful level.  In other words, when debating about politics, do not behave in a way that you would punish your children for acting similarly. 

A definite challenge with a financial advantage for our state will be the tension between the United States and the Middle East.  Oil prices jumped and stocks fell on news that a powerful Iranian military leader had been killed in a strike authorized by the United States last week, ratcheting up geopolitical tensions in a region that supplies around 25 percent of the world’s oil and threatening to disrupt global supply. That result led oil prices to surge to more than $70 per barrel, which creates a greater demand for local oil.  Oklahoma’s portion of the state budget dependent upon this commodity was written last year to be based on $54.23 per barrel.  While other areas might see a decline, this increase, if long term, will provide additional revenue for lawmakers to help fill in gaps with areas of need.

A positive we see is the opportunity presented by the US Census.  If Oklahoma improves our population count, there is a chance to restore a Congressional seat by taking one from a larger state like California.  This also improves the resources coming to our state from the federal government, so more funding for road, bridges and schools.

The strongest positive we envision is legislators working on critical youth areas from our legislative agenda, such as improving economic opportunities for working Oklahoma families, reducing inappropriate suspensions for students who instead need counseling, and providing state agencies the resources to allow them to correctly list tribal students by their specific nation rather than simply as a Native American classification (this allows for increased opportunities for schools and tribal governments to apply for grants to assist their youth).  We also applaud the bipartisan effort to restore the law to increase the age for wearing a seatbelt in a car to older than age 8, as we are the only state in the nation that low. We also have a First Lady who has made it her priority to improve mental health opportunities and reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences for our state’s youth.

OICA will remain steadfast in our work at the Oklahoma State Capitol.  Please go to oica.org to sign up to receive our action alerts about legislation so you can contact lawmakers directly and be a part of this positive vision for 2020 in Oklahoma.