Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.

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Kris Steele, former Oklahoma House speaker and now director of The Education and Employment Ministry, and other community leaders are backing two proposed ballot initiatives intended to address prison overcrowding.
Michael Williams / Oklahoma Watch

An advocacy group, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, is seeking more than 65,000 signatures by early June to put two measures before voters on November’s ballot.

Should the group garner enough signatures, the ballot would include State Questions 780 and 781, both seeking to address prison overcrowding and community mental health and to reduce sentences for future offenders convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes.

Real estate developer Grant Humphreys wants to stop operating Carlton Landing Academy, located on the shores of Lake Eufaula, as a private school and re-open it as a public charter school.
Leilani Ott / Oklahoma Watch

Editor’s Note: Carlton Landing is an underwriter of KGOU. This story was produced by our content partner Oklahoma Watch. Both newsrooms at KGOU and Oklahoma Watch are editorially independent from KGOU’s fundraising.

A proposed charter school in a lakeside resort community would mark the state's first expansion of public charters into rural areas under a new law allowing for their presence statewide, school officials say.

oil well tools in a pickup truck bed
OakleyOriginals / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders have agreed to tap $78.5 million, or about a fifth, of the state's "Rainy Day Fund" to partially offset current-year cuts to budgets for common education and corrections.

That news was welcomed by state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and interim Corrections Department Director Joe Allbaugh, who said it would help their agencies avoid some drastic cutbacks that would affect essential services.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a "Get Out the Caucus" rally at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has out-raised the five remaining Republican presidential candidates combined as Oklahoma heads into Tuesday’s primary election, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

While Clinton has a solid fundraising lead in individual contributions, the ones on the Republican side were spread out among 15 candidates who raised any money; most have dropped out.

More than half of Oklahoma’s incarcerated juvenile offenders are held in facilities that don’t comply with federal policies for preventing sexual assault, an Oklahoma Watch investigation found.

Those rape-prevention standards are required in all Oklahoma adult prisons and halfway houses as well as in more than a dozen county jails.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Night after night, state Sen. Josh Breechen of Coalgate has stayed up until midnight, answering impassioned emails and calls from parents worried about schools being consolidated.

Sen. John Ford of Bartlesville says more people are stopping him in Walmart and at church and Rotary Club meetings to unload their viewpoints on the issue.

money
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

The National Rifle Association is exempt from the sales tax in Oklahoma. The American Civil Liberties Union is not.

Organizations promoting the preservation of wild ducks and turkeys get a sales tax break. Groups promoting different wildlife, or the welfare of dogs and cats, do not.

Oklahoma chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution have a specific sales tax exemption. The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma does not.

empty classroom
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Two state officials are on different pages when it comes to chances that a dedicated education fund will fail this year.

Both agree, however, that additional education cuts are coming, partly because a separate fund likely will fail.

Joe Allbaugh, interim director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, describes himself as a quick decision maker who wants to make a difference.
Michael Willmus / Oklahoma Watch

After a little more than a month on the job and touring more than a dozen facilities, Interim Oklahoma Department of Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh said he believes the agency is in a precarious position.

In an interview with Oklahoma Watch, Allbaugh, 63, said Oklahoma's prison system is dangerously antiquated and changes are needed. Among possible moves: leasing dormant private prisons and closing portions of outdated and dangerous state-run facilities.

Anne Fisher leads a remedial math study session at Tulsa Community College as students prepare for a final exam last December. TCC is among several universities and colleges in Oklahoma revamping remedial courses in math and English.
Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

The warning directed at nine Tulsa Community College students last fall, heading into finals week, couldn’t have been clearer: Be ready for fractions – lots of fractions.

Numerators, denominators, decimal conversions – these were among the math expressions that students in professor Anne Fischer’s class should have learned in high school but didn’t. If they don’t master them, they won’t be able to earn an associate’s degree or pursue their major at a four-year college.

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