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November 21, 2006

Chess brings students to Edmond tourney

EDMOND — Sixty schools represented by 248 students descended upon Ida Freeman Elementary Saturday for the largest chess tournament ever in the state of Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Scholastic Chess Organization’s tournament was to determine State Grade Championships. Ida Freeman walked away with state championship teams for both the fifth and third grades. Fourth-grade students placed second.

“It was a mad house but great fun,” Ida Freeman’s chess coach David Nichols said.

The remarkable thing was the third graders showed up Thursday wanting to enter the Saturday tourney and then walked away with the top team award for their grade level.

“In addition, three players who played on Ida Freeman’s fifth-grade team last year won the Sixth Grade State Team award for Central Middle School,” Nichols said.

The fifth-grade section had 67 players with 45 from Ida Freeman.

“Fourteen of the top 20 best players in the state were from Ida Freeman,” Nichols said, “and six of the top 10 were also from Ida Freeman.”

One other team entered from Edmond was Chisholm Elementary and individuals from Sequoyah and Northern Hills also entered.

“In our building kids play a lot,” Nichols said. “Chess club has provided chess boards for all levels. Teachers ask for them for indoor recess time on rainy days.”

The popularity of this club that only fifth graders may join is limited only by the time available for the coach.

“In an informal survey last year with first through fifth graders, we found if we opened our club up to everyone interested we would have 325 members,” Nichols said.

Fifth-grade chess club members meet Wednesday and Thursday during lunch and recess.

“We have about 65 students in fifth grade and 52 are in chess club,” he said.

The library is open from 8-8:30 a.m. each morning and fourth and fifth graders may come and play then.

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    Dorman cautioned that while Oklahoma’s jobless rate improved in June, the state’s rankings for the well-being of children has dropped from 36th to 39th place, for one of the largest declines in the U.S., according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Project.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Gov. Mary Fallin said this week.
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    The non partisan Congressional Budget office reported in February that raising the minimum wage could kill a half-million jobs in the United States.
    According to The Washington Times, CBO analysts reported, “Once the other changes in income were taken into account, families whose income would be below six times the poverty threshold under current law would see a small increase in income, on net, and families whose income would be higher under current law would see reductions in income, on net.”
    President Barack Obama in February signed an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour.
    Weintz said the governor believes tax cuts have enabled families to keep more of their money.
    No one is talking about the under-employment rate of families working minimum wage jobs, Dorman said.
    “It’s all fine and good when you have fast-food jobs that don’t cover the bills and that counts toward your unemployment rate.”
    Oklahoma’s minimum wage reflects the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour, a standard set in 2009.
    Fallin signed legislation this year to prohibit municipalities from raising their local minimum wage above $7.25 an hour.
    “If the minimum wage goes up to $15 in Oklahoma City, all of the sudden you would drive retail, business, service industry locations outside of the city limits and that would be detrimental to the economy, consumers and to businesses,” Weintz said.
    Fallin has said that she opposes raising the minimum wage in Oklahoma because it would stifle job growth for small business and lay off workers. A lot of people earning the $7.25 minimum wage are part-time workers and many of them are students, Weintz said.
    “We believe raising the minimum wage is not a good way to address poverty,” Weintz said. “A lot of people earning the minimum wage are actually people living with their parents or other people who are employed full time, and in many cases they are middle class families. So it’s not a good tool to reduce poverty.”
    Dorman said he does not necessarily support the proposed $10.10 an hour minimum federal minimum wage that is being discussed by Congress.
    “I think we need to have a living wage in Oklahoma that is reflective of our economy,” Dorman said.
    About 102,300 jobs have been added in Oklahoma since Fallin took office in January 2011, according to her office.
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    So a minimum wage increase should be tied to economic gains so that families can pay their bills and afford to care for their children, Dorman said.
    Independent candidates for governor include Richard Prawdzienski of Edmond, Joe Sills of Oklahoma City and Kimberly Willis of Oklahoma City.

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