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On OETA main
Oklahoma Forum Sunday Apr. 27 @ 12:30pm
On OETA okla
Oklahoma Forum Wednesday Apr. 23 @ 8:30am
Oklahoma Forum Thursday Apr. 24 @ 2:30pm
Oklahoma Forum Sunday Apr. 27 @ 2:30am
Oklahoma Forum Sunday Apr. 27 @ 3:00pm
Oklahoma Forum Sunday Apr. 27 @ 7:00pm

The Sheet

The Blog for Oklahoma Forum

Oklahoma's weekly, statewide discussion program, Oklahoma Forum, provides civil, meaningful discussion of news and issues that impact citizens statewide. Hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Dick Pryor and produced by Emmy Award-winner Mickie Smith, Oklahoma Forum is more than sound bites and spin. It is purpose-driven television - seeking answers, providing insight – about life in Oklahoma and its people.

Oklahoma Community Colleges

Written by Dick Pryor on Thursday November 17, 2011

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The Sheet

November 18, 2011

Enrollment at Oklahoma's 14 two-year community colleges has been increasing dramatically in the last decade. Over the past ten years, the number of degrees and certificates conferred has increased by 23%. That's evidence of the growing influence and popularity of community colleges.

This week on Oklahoma Forum we discuss the role and the impact of Oklahoma's community colleges with Gary Davidson, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Association of Community Colleges; Dr. Stephen E. Smith, President of Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton; and Dr. Terry Britton, President of Rose State College in Midwest City.

There are many reasons for the increase in interest in community colleges. For one, they are very affordable. The average yearly tuition for two-year colleges in Oklahoma is $2,775. That's well below the $4,394 annual tuition at regional colleges and far below the annual tuition cost of $6,781 for students at Oklahoma's comprehensive universities.

The relatively low cost encourages not only students who wish to receive an associate degree, but those who have a concurrent enrollment with another college or university. Increasingly, students are doing their first two years of coursework at a community college before finishing up at a regional college or comprehensive university.

Another advantage that makes community colleges attractive is their location. The 14 Oklahoma community colleges are accessible to students at 32 locations spread around the state. It is that easy access that our state's founders favored when establishing the community college system and it is still a selling point today. The goal all along has been to provide access to anyone in the state that is interested in obtaining a college degree.

Also, for an increasing number of students, including older, non-traditional students, community colleges are providing specific training that is helpful in employment fields such as health care, especially nursing. In these uncertain economic times, community colleges have helped displaced workers require the education and certification they need to obtain a new job.

Like all state agencies, community colleges face funding challenges. Aging infrastructure is also a problem. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Our guests can explain all this better than I can. I encourage you to watch this week's program to learn more about our state's sometimes under-appreciated community college system. We at OETA hope to develop further initiatives with our two-year colleges as we work together to serve our state through the core government function of education.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Gary Davidson, Dr. Stephen E. Smith, Dr. Terry Britton)

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Jobs for Veterans

Written by Dick Pryor on Thursday November 10, 2011

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The Sheet

November 11, 2011

This Veteran's Day program focuses on jobs for members of Oklahoma's military community. A new study, Best Places for Military Retirement: Second Careers, released this week by USAA and www.military.com ranks Oklahoma City first among 379 cities. The report places Oklahoma City at the top of the list based on various factors, including stability, the types of industry, medical facilities, aviation and opportunities for people with military skills.

The state of Oklahoma has also been active in developing a job climate and support structure that helps veterans get the assessment, training and placement services they need to re-enter the workforce. Oklahoma's nationally-recognized Department of Career and Technology Education has led the way in helping veterans prepare for and secure good jobs through its Returning Warriors program. That's why on this week's Oklahoma Forum show we brought together Dr. Phil Berkenbile, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education and Major General Rita Aragon (ret), Oklahoma's Secretary of Military and Veterans Affairs.

By the spring of 2012, CareerTech will help provide veterans with certificates that are recognized by civilian employers and assist them in finding jobs suited to their skills through a partnership with private businesses and other government agencies. CareerTech assists with skill assessment and training of veterans in popular jobs including Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and jet engine mechanic.

Secretary Aragon announced that a new website, VeteranCentral.com, will serve as a national social network that will help connect employers and military veterans with appropriate job skills. The VeteranCentral.com service is scheduled to be launched later this month. In addition, she encouraged veterans to contact the following programs for job assistance:

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission;

Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education;

Oklahoma Community Colleges; and the

Oklahoma Small Business Development Center.

We hope this program will help veterans and their families as they make the adjustment into the workforce and civilian life. If you need further information, Secretary Aragon encourages veterans to contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Rita Aragon, Phil Berkenbile)

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2012 Election Political Roundtable

Written by Dick Pryor on Friday November 4, 2011

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The Sheet

November 6, 2011

The 2012 General Election is now just one year away. 365 days. So, with that in mind we thought it would be a good time to talk politics on Oklahoma Forum. Joining us for this look ahead at 2012 (with few predictions just yet) are Neva Hill, strategist and President of Neva Hill & Co.; Sheryl Lovelady, former political strategist and pollster who is now with the Women's Leadership Initiative at the University of Oklahoma; and Keith Gaddie, Political Science Professor at OU and Editor of Social Science Quarterly.

We had a fast-moving conversation about the presidential campaign, congressional and legislative races, hot-button issues, voter ID, redistricting, the mood of the electorate and state ballot initiatives. As usual since 1964, Oklahoma is not expected to be a venue that presidential candidates will visit in 2012, other than to raise some money.

Republicans Mitt Romney and Rick Perry have already been here, but just for short stays. Don't expect President Obama to come to Oklahoma in 2012 – the state has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1964 and John McCain took every Oklahoma county in 2008. Oklahoma was the only state in the union to have every county go for McCain. Most signs point toward another strong year for Republicans in Oklahoma in 2012.

This program officially launches our Oklahoma Votes 2012 election coverage on OETA. Our election reporting will start earlier than usual in 2012, since the Oklahoma presidential primary will be held on Super Tuesday, March 6, 2012 and state candidate filing will be held April 11-13, 2012.

Hope you enjoy the show and it gets your political juices flowing!

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Neva Hill, Keith Gaddie, and Sheryl Lovelady)

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Crime and Punishment

Written by Dick Pryor on Thursday October 27, 2011

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The Sheet

October 30, 2011

The United States has 5% of the world's population and puts 23% of its people in the criminal justice system. Oklahoma is among the world leaders in the percentage of our people that we put behind bars. Our state is third in incarceration of men and first in incarceration of women and our prison population has maxed out our available resources.

It is a critical juncture in Oklahoma's criminal justice system, and now an ongoing study from the Council of State Governments' Justice Reinvention Project sheds new light on what is working, and what is not, in Oklahoma. Speaker of the House Kris Steele and Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Justin Jones recently visited Oklahoma communities to share the news and get citizen feedback.

This week on Oklahoma Forum, we discuss the findings in the new Justice Reinvestment Project report on Oklahoma's criminal justice system, with our guests Justin Jones, Director, Oklahoma Department of Corrections; Darrell Weaver, Director, Oklahoma Department of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs; Richard Dugger, Chair, Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board; and Greg Mashburn, District Attorney, Dist. 21 (Cleveland, Garvin and McClain counties).

This is a huge subject with serious implications on state government, its budget and the well-being of our citizens. One of the factors that stands out in the report is that while corrections spending has gone up 41% in Oklahoma, the violent crime rate remains virtually unchanged. This, while at least 36 other states have seen new approaches lead to a decrease in the violent crime rate. And, as we learned on the program, much of the violent crime is related to drugs and a large majority of the persons incarcerated in Oklahoma are behind bars on drug convictions.

It is interesting that all our guests agreed that more law enforcement officers on the streets, community and alternative sentencing, and greater investment in education, treatment and community supervision are needed to reduce the strain on Oklahoma's prisons, families and state budget. Lack of funding and political will, it appears, is all that is standing in the way of needed change.

Nationwide, spending on corrections has risen faster in the last 20 years (from 1988 to 2008) than any other budget item except Medicaid. That stress on the budget is one of the biggest drivers behind corrections reform. And, its not coming anytime too soon. This is a topic we will be following closely in the months ahead.

Thanks for reading. Until next time,

Dick Pryor

 (Pictured above, left to right:  Host Dick Pryor, Justin Jones, Darrell Weaver, Richard Dugger, and Greg Mashburn)

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Small Business

Written by Dick Pryor on Friday October 21, 2011

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The Sheet

October 23, 2011

As Oklahoma becomes more and more "business-friendly," we're reminded that the majority of Oklahoma businesses are small- and home-based businesses. Small business is considered the backbone of the American economy and Oklahoma appears to have a favorable environment for small business growth.

Nationally, 75% of all businesses have no employees. They are considered non-employer businesses. That means that most small businesses in America are not "creating" jobs, but are providing goods or services to support the owner and his or her family. One of the goals in growing the economy is to encourage those small, family-owned businesses to expand and put on staff.

That was one of the topics we discussed on Oklahoma Forum with our guests Fred Morgan, President and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma; Dottie Overal, Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration's Oklahoma District Office; Mike Crandall, Owner of Sandler Training in Oklahoma City; and Carlos Amaya, Business Development Specialist at the University of Central Oklahoma Small Business Development Center.

Our guests provide assistance to small businesses and those considering beginning a small business. They help new business owners navigate the regulatory system, develop marketing strategies and find needed capital. Also, and this is very important, Mike Crandall says they can help do market research so that people with an idea can determine whether they can make money on their project. Since Oklahoma has a favorable business climate, especially when it comes to taxes and tax incentives, and a low cost of living, the state is one of the most attractive places in the U.S. for new small businesses.

According to The Business Journal, Oklahoma City is second and Tulsa ranks fifth on the list of best cities for small business. The Fiscal Times also rated Oklahoma City number 2 and Tulsa number 6. Tulsa, in fact, is about ten percentage points higher than the national average when it comes to small businesses per capita.

Among the reasons for Oklahoma's good showing in these national ratings are low cost of living, access to capital (especially investors in the oil and gas industry), tax climate, and a ready workforce. The areas where the state still needs to improve are in education, infrastructure, technology (such as access to broadband), and quality of life. Oklahoma's high rates of smoking, obesity and heart disease are a major drag on the state's image and workforce.

Small businesses have a major impact on the U.S. economy.  According to the SBA, 99.7% of ell employer firms (those with employees) are small businesses.  Small businesses employ just over half of all private sector employees and pay 44% of the total U.S. private payroll.  And, small businesses have created  64% of net new jobs over the past 15 years.

Of particular interest in these trying economic times is the amount of money available through the Small Business Administration. Dottie Overal told us about an Oklahoman making about $3,000 per month who got an SBA loan to start a new business and is now making ten times that amount. Indeed, tough economic times, even unemployment and under-employment, can help drive investment and entrepreneurship that lead to small business creation and success.

Thanks for watching.

Until next time,

Dick Pryor

(Pictured above, left to right: Host Dick Pryor, Fred Morgan, Mike Crandall, Dottie Overal, Carlos Amaya.)

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