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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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In this photo taken Friday, Aug. 14, 2009, a display of items used in the "shake-and-bake" method of manufacturing methamphetamine is shown at the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics in Oklahoma City.
AP

Oklahoma has one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country. Many deaths can be attributed to opioids, but methamphetamine continues to plague the state. Meth overdoses are soaring, despite a big decline in lab busts.

Listen To The Story From Oklahoma Watch Reporter Brad Gibson

student in a classroom using a laptop computer
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Black and Hispanic students are much less likely to be identified as “gifted” than their white and Asian counterparts — a disparity found in Oklahoma that mirrors national statistics on gifted and talented education.

In Oklahoma, black students make up 9 percent of all students but 4.5 percent of students in gifted and talented programs. Similarly, Hispanic students comprise 16 percent of all students but 10 percent of students classified as gifted and talented.

Summerlinn Muhammad, right, elections assistant, checks in Jason Soper, right, for early voting in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

The lineup for November’s general election ballot will be settled after candidates in one congressional and 13 legislative races face off Tuesday.

The run-off elections will feature the top two vote earners from the June primaries in races where no candidate received at least 50 percent of the votes.

Districts in much of the state won’t vote because their legislative and congressional match-ups for the general election have already been set.

Voters participate in early voting at the Oklahoma County Elections Board in Oklahoma City, Thursday, June 19, 2014.
Sue Ogrocki / AP

A more than four-year legal challenge to overturn Oklahoma’s voter identification law was rejected earlier this week by a state district court judge who upheld the constitutionality of the measure.

Oklahoma County District Court Judge Aletia Haynes Timmons dismissed the case Monday after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the Oklahoma State Election Board and Tulsa resident Delilah Christine Gentges. Gentges’ attorney said he plans to appeal the decision.

Teachers In Oklahoma Expected To Spend Hundreds On Classroom Supplies

Aug 14, 2016
Tulsa high school history teacher Vince Facione expected to spend at least $300 before the first day of school. He gives each of his 190 students a three-ring binder.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

Elementary music teacher Tony Flores’ entire classroom budget for the year will be expended on music for three performances. Last year, he bought new instruments, to the tune of $1,000 out of his own bank account.

In Danielle Childers’ pre-kindergarten classroom, students will have snacks for snack time, mats for naptime and stickers for a job well done, but the cost of those items falls on her.

The Norman Public Schools' administrative offices.
Jennifer Palmer / Oklahoma Watch

Parents upset over the axing of a Norman Public Schools language program are driving an effort to create what could be the state’s second charter school allowed outside Oklahoma City and Tulsa under a new law.

A group of parents is asking the district to sponsor the school, which would continue the mission of a French immersion program that was eliminated in the spring at Reagan Elementary School to save the district $400,000. The charter school, Le Monde International School, also would offer Spanish immersion.

The Oklahoma Judicial Center houses the state Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Trevor Brown / Oklahoma Watch

Anti-abortion laws. A Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol. An overhaul of the workers’ compensation system.

Controversial rejections of all or parts of these legislative actions by the Oklahoma Supreme Court – coupled with a push by national and state conservative groups – have led to a steady march of bills over the past decade that would alter the process for choosing state Supreme Court and Appeals courts justices.

Expansion of Michelin's tire manufacturing plant in Ardmore and Goodyear's plant in Lawton are being subsidized by the state for nearly $89 million over 13 years.
Laura Estes / Oklahoma Watch

When a state commission examining business incentives voted in June to review 53 of them over four years, one did not appear by name on the list: a subsidy for big tire manufacturers in Oklahoma.

Lyle Roggow, chairman of the Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission, said when the group voted, members weren’t familiar with the little-known incentive, which is costing the state nearly $89 million over 13 years. Roggow said he learned about it after Oklahoma Watch asked the Office of Management and Enterprise Services why the incentive wasn’t named on the list for review.

wedding rings
John Morton / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Citing budget cuts, state officials are ending the controversial Oklahoma Marriage Initiative, a 17-year-old program originally aimed at reducing the state’s high divorce rate.

The state Department of Human Services announced it is eliminating its funding for the program because the agency is facing a budget shortfall of more than $100 million this fiscal year. It is implementing $45 million in cuts that include slashing 91 positions and reducing several public-assistance programs and will seek supplementary funding to help fill the remaining gap.

Oklahoma Watch

As Oklahoma schools prepare to start classes in coming weeks, they are dealing with the impact of having less money – fewer teachers, cuts in arts and music programs and tighter budgets for classroom supplies.

But according to state and local officials, the pain might be less if state and county governments took steps to ensure collection of school-related county taxes that are being lost because of incorrectly assessed property values.

Listen to the Audio Story

Prescription drug overdose deaths appear to be subsiding in Oklahoma as new laws and outreach efforts take effect. But black-market methamphetamine and heroin deaths are surging.

Drug law enforcers and medical professionals said they were both encouraged and alarmed by the latest overdose death data, generated by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and compiled by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

The encouragement comes from increasing evidence that tougher oversight and outreach are causing the toll of prescription drug overdoses to stabilize and decline slightly.

Sign reading "The Silent Majority Stands With Trump."
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Donald Trump has a new reason to believe that deep-red Oklahoma will swing his way as the presidential campaign accelerates into the final months.

Federal Election Commission filings released recently show that June was the first time the Republican presidential nominee has raised more money in the state than his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

Penny Reynolds, executive director of Sisu Youth, hopes to secure funding to open a 10-bed night shelter at Church of the Open Arms in Oklahoma City.
Trevor Brown / Oklahoma Watch

The five bunk beds, each with a white pillow and tightly fitted sheets, sit empty in the basement of the Church of the Open Arms in northwest Oklahoma City.

Nearby shelves hold donated clothing, cleaning products and young-adult novels.

All are waiting to be used by homeless teenagers. But for months, the beds and items have been sitting untouched by the young.

Tracy McDaniel, principal and co-founder of KIPP Reach Academy in Oklahoma City, said the school has been working on increasing its retention rate of students.
Michael Willmus / Oklahoma Watch

A little-known trend in KIPP Reach Academy's school enrollment casts a new light on its achievement record – a record considered when the charter school’s expansionproposal went before the Oklahoma City school board Monday.

Nearly three years ago, Gov. Mary Fallin requested an investigation into allegations of fraud against the state’s largest virtual charter school.

State agents launched the probe of Epic Charter Schools and, about a year later, turned their findings over to the Attorney General’s Office.

Since then, no charges have been filed against Epic or its employees, and no announcement has been made about the case.

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