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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Oklahoma Watch
7:44 am
Fri November 14, 2014

Oklahoma Business Tax Breaks More Than Double

Tax breaks for energy companies have soared since 2010.
Enid News & Eagle

Key industry tax breaks in Oklahoma have more than doubled over the past four years and are now costing the state well over half a billion dollars a year, state records show.

The two dozen business tax breaks combined grew from $356 million in 2010 to $760 million in 2014. The 2014 figure is equivalent to just over 10 percent of the state’s $7.2 billion budget, and more than the state spends every year on prisons and public safety.

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Native American
9:44 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Live Tweets From Monday's Senate Hearing On Native American Museum

American Indian Cultural Center And Museum

Oklahoma lawmakers are looking at several options to find roughly $40 million in state funding to complete the unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum along the banks of the Oklahoma River southeast of the intersections of Interstates 35 and 40.

Oklahoma Watch’s state Capitol reporter M. Scott Carter attended Monday’s Senate Education Subcommittee on Appropriations hearing packed with lobbyists, lawmakers, state and Oklahoma City officials to gather more information about what officials says would be a “Smithsonian level” facility.

Carter live tweeted the 9:30 a.m. hearing:

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Education
7:00 am
Sun November 9, 2014

OEA Wants To End High-Stakes Testing

Credit Oklahoma State Department of Education / Facebook

A push to end high-stakes testing in Oklahoma received a boost from the state’s largest teachers’ union the day after a new superintendent of education was elected.

Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said she believes too much emphasis has been put on testing results. She used the third grade reading retention law as an example.

That law requires students who scored at the lowest level on the state’s reading test be withheld from fourth grade unless they meet certain exemptions.

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State Capitol
9:28 am
Thu November 6, 2014

Oklahoma Secretary Of Veterans Affairs Suffers ‘Mini-Stroke’

Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs Rita Aragon
Credit State of Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Rita Aragon, suffered a "mini stroke" Tuesday, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

Aragon, who has served as state VA Secretary for four years, has been hospitalized due to the health issue, Alex Weintz, Fallin’s Director of Communications, said.

“They are still doing tests,” Weintz said. “Governor Fallin has visited her in the hospital and is in communication with her family to monitor her progress.”

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Oklahoma Watch
10:11 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Low Voter Turnout Marks Oklahoma's Election

Credit StickWare / Flickr Creative Commons

Only 40.7 percent of Oklahoma's registered voters filled out a ballot during Tuesday's gubernatorial election Tuesday, according to preliminary results. That makes it the lowest turnout going as far back as 2002.

State data shows 51.5 percent of registered voters participated in the 2002 election. In 2006, 56.1 percent of voters turned out while 50.7 percent of voters participated in 2010.

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Oklahoma News
7:30 am
Sun November 2, 2014

Ex-DHS Staff Worry About Former Patients But DHS Says Most Doing Well

Oklahoma Dept. of Human Services
Credit Oklahoma Dept. of Human Services

Mable Stone spent a decade providing direct care at Northern Oklahoma Resource Center of Enid, taking care of people like Gary Wilkinson.

Wilkinson died a little more than a week after he was moved out of NORCE into a community home and cared for by a private company.

When reached Friday, Stone had just learned of Wilkinson's death through a newspaper report. She said her coworkers at NORCE kept him alive for years, said Stone, who left NORCE as part of staff reductions earlier this year.

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Health
5:00 pm
Fri October 31, 2014

Deaths Of Disabled People Prompt Call For More Scrutiny

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid
Credit Oklahoma State Senate

The deaths of 17 developmentally disabled people transferring or already transferred out of two large state-run institutions are raising questions about whether the closing of the centers put residents’ health at risk.

The deaths occurred after the state decided in November 2012 to shutter the facilities in Enid and Pauls Valley over the objections of some of the residents’ guardians and parents. Almost all of the nearly 230 adult residents were to move to small, privately owned “community homes,” where services are offered by various providers.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:59 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Oklahoma County District Judge In Abortion Ruling Has Activist Past

Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves
Credit Oklahoma County

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the last year that Bill Graves served in the Legislature. He served from 1989 to 2004.

The judge who ruled against a Norman doctor challenging a state law restricting abortions authored more than a dozen pieces of anti-abortion legislation when he was a state representative, legislative records show.

In 2001, when he was a Republican state legislator in northwest Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves wrote that abortion caused more carnage than Nazi Germany.

Last week, Graves ruled against a challenge to a new state law that required doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Norman physician Dr. Larry Burns filed the lawsuit. Burns said the law, set to go into effect on Nov. 1, would force him to shut down his practice. Burns said he applied for admitting privileges at more than a dozen hospitals but was refused.

Graves ruled against Burns, saying Burns didn't file his request for admitting privileges on a timely basis.

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2014 Elections
1:16 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Hofmeister Outraises Cox As Election Day Nears

Joy Hofmeister speaks during an Oct. 19, 2014 debate in Norman.
Kate Carlton Greer KGOU

Campaign finance reports filed Monday show state schools superintendent candidate Joy Hofmeister has outraised and outspent her opponent, John Cox, heading into the closing days of their campaign. She also has more money left in her campaign coffers.

Reports show Hofmeister, a Republican, had $120,921 in unspent funds as of Oct. 20 while Cox, a Democrat, had $49,742.

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Oklahoma Voices
11:02 am
Mon October 27, 2014

The Turnaround Challenge For Oklahoma City Public Schools

(L-R) Oklahoma Watch executive editor David Fritze, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Robert Neu, and Associate Superintendent Aurora Lora
Oklahoma Watch

By any measure, Oklahoma City Public Schools is struggling.

Many schools are underperforming. Thousands of students are falling short in reading or math. Teachers are stressed and say they are underpaid, leading to constant turnover.

Superintendent Rob Neu and Associate Superintendent Aurora Lora spoke to those issues and others at an “Oklahoma Watch-Out” community forum Sept. 30 near downtown Oklahoma City.

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