Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

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Report Cards On Schools
6:29 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Fallin Says Educator Criticism Could Affect Next Year's School Funding

Gov. Mary Fallin
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin says criticism from educators of Oklahoma'  A-F grading of schools is unproductive and could affect funding for public  schools next year. 

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz told the Tulsa World that  the criticism cripples Fallin's ability to make the case to the public and to lawmakers that increased funding can help improve schools and student performance.   

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Growing Prison Population
4:29 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Department Of Corrections Looking For Increase In Budget

Credit Asianz / Flickr.com

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is seeking an additional $31.5 million in next year's budget to help manage the state's growing prison population.

With the increase, the agency is seeking about $495 million in funding for fiscal year 2015. The department says the money would be used to pay for a growing number of offenders who are placed in private prisons.

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It's All Politics
2:36 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Employment Non-Discrimination Act Passes First Senate Hurdle

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., at a 2011 news conference on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Heller announced his support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 5:59 pm

Update at 6:47 p.m. Senate Passes Bill:

With a vote of 61-30, the Senate voted to move forward on legislation that would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The vote Monday opens the floor to debate on the bill and the Senate is expected to schedule a full vote by week's end.

Our original post continues:

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Politics and Government
1:20 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Fallin Touts 'New Minimum' At New Mexico Summit

Gov. Mary Fallin during her 2013 State of the State address.
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin says education is the "new minimum" for economic success.

Fallin was in Santa Fe, N.M., Monday for a summit to discuss connecting education with the workforce.

Fallin said the number of well-paying jobs that required a high school education or less has fallen from 80 percent about 50 years ago to 35 percent today. She said the new minimum for well-paying jobs is a two-year or four-year college degree or a certificate in the field in which a person wishes to work.

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Oklahoma Voices
11:29 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Media Plays Part In U.S. Political Polarization

Thomas Patterson

The political polarization of the United States continues to capture the attention of politicians and political observers. University of Oklahoma President David Boren calls the problem, “one of the most serious threats to America’s influence at home and abroad.”

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Abortion
9:58 am
Mon November 4, 2013

UPDATE: Supreme Court Denies Oklahoma Appeal On Drug-Induced Abortions

Oklahoma is among five states, the others are Arizona, North Dakota, Ohio and Texas, that have sought to restrict medical abortions by limiting or banning off-label uses of drugs.
Credit Ben Ramsey / Flickr Creative Commons

Editor's Note: Post updated at 1:15 p.m. to reflect Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's comments.

The Supreme Court has rejected Oklahoma's bid to revive a state law that the Oklahoma Supreme Court said would effectively ban all drug-induced abortions.

Oklahoma's Republican Attorney General Scott Pruitt is criticizing the Oklahoma Supreme Court for its interpretation.

The justices did not comment Monday in dismissing the state's appeal of the Oklahoma high court ruling that struck down the law last year.

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Early Childhood
8:34 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Oklahoma's Children From Low Income Families Failing To Attend Quality Pre-K

Credit Annie E. Casey Foundation

A new study says nearly two-thirds of Oklahoma's kids from low-income families did not attend a preschool program from 2009-2011.

The Kids Count report on the first eight years of education was released Monday by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation that advocates for investing in the early years of a child's life.

The report also found that more than half of Oklahoma's kids from birth to eight years old were living in low-income households last year.

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Shots - Health News
7:05 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Exploring The Invisible Universe That Lives On Us — And In Us

Benjamin Arthur for NPR

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 2:28 pm

The next time you look in a mirror, think about this: In many ways you're more microbe than human. There are 10 times more cells from microorganisms like bacteria and fungi in and on our bodies than there are human cells.

Scientists increasingly think that these microorganisms have a huge influence on our health. Without them, our bodies don't seem to do as well. We don't seem to be as healthy and might actually get sick more often.

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The Two-Way
5:59 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Morsi Is Defiant As Trial Opens, Then Is Delayed Until January

Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi rallied outside the police academy in Cairo where his trial was opened, and quickly adjourned, on Monday.
Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 8:46 am

The trial of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi opened and then was quickly adjourned Monday in Cairo.

The judge ordered a delay to Jan. 8 after Morsi refused to recognize the court's legitimacy or wear a prison uniform, and after Morsi and other defendants disrupted the proceeding with chants that included "down with military rule, this is a state not a military camp."

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Indian Times
8:55 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Native American Heritage Month Celebrated At Oklahoma History Center

Matt Reed
Credit Susan Shannon

November is Native American Heritage Month and the Oklahoma History Center has planned some special events to recognize that.

Matt Reed, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and curator of the American Indian Collections for the Oklahoma Historical Society, has been envisioning since he got the job to have events during this month that educate the public about the Native peoples of Oklahoma.

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