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
7:04 am
Sun October 26, 2014

Inmate Violations Plagued Northeast Oklahoma Halfway Houses

The state removed all 212 inmates from the Avalon Tulsa halfway house in January after a video was released showing an alleged guard-sanctioned fight between inmates. Ten months later, the facility again is holding more than 200 inmates.
Oklahoma Watch

Serious violations by inmates plagued Oklahoma’s two largest halfway houses for three years before the state took action in January by removing all inmates from one and later demanding a corrective plan at the other.

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Oklahoma Watch
5:00 am
Sat October 25, 2014

Cancer Group Seeks Tanning Spa Restrictions

Credit U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The American Cancer Society will try to persuade Oklahoma lawmakers next year to pass a law prohibiting minors under the age of 18 from using indoor tanning facilities.

Paula James Warlick, Oklahoma grassroots manager of the ACS Cancer Action Network, said passage of a tanning salon bill is at the top of the organization’s legislative priority list for 2014.

A bill that would have required parental consent for tanning salon customers under the age of 18 was passed by the Oklahoma Senate in 2013. But it failed to win House approval.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:25 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Marriage Initiative Expects To Serve More Gay Couples

Credit Takashi Hososhima / Flickr Creative Commons

The company that runs the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative said it anticipates “a greater interface” with the gay and lesbian community after a federal court ruling overturned Oklahoma’s ban on same-sex marriages.

However, at least one of the initiative’s programs will remain off limits to same-sex couples.

Kendy Cox, director of community-based training services at Public Strategies, the Oklahoma City consulting firm that operates the publicly funded Marriage Initiative, said the initiative would likely draw more participation from gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual couples. She did not say whether the company would increase outreach specifically to that community. The initiative’s goal is to promote healthy families and marriages.

“We do anticipate a greater interface with the LGBT community as a part of these standard practices given the recent action on same-sex marriages,” Cox said in an email.

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Politics and Government
9:14 am
Sat October 18, 2014

Dorman's Fundraising Improves But Fallin Still Has Plenty of Cash

Joe Dorman and Mary Fallin
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman is no longer cash-poor.

Dorman, a Democratic state representative from Rush Springs, is challenging Gov. Mary Fallin, the Republican incumbent.

Political experts have said Dorman can't beat Fallin partly because he wouldn't be able to  raise enough money to compete. And indeed, at the end of August, Fallin’s campaign war chest had more than $1.3 million compared with Dorman's $142,000.

But the money picture has changed.

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Education
10:33 am
Thu October 16, 2014

Oklahoma's Education Funding Remains Below 2008 Pre-Recession Levels

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

A new study shows Oklahoma's per-student education funding from the Legislature is more than 23 percent below where it was in 2008, more than any other state.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released figures on Thursday that show Oklahoma is among at least 30 states providing less per-pupil funding for grades K-12 now than before the start of the recession.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:30 am
Wed October 15, 2014

In Education, Do Parents Matter?

Henderson Harris (right) talks with Jannett Taylor at a GEAR UP event in Oklahoma City. Harris, whose daughter attends Douglas High School, and Taylor, who’s granddaughter attends Douglas, are looking to increase the number of participants in the school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association.
Credit Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

At John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City, only 22 percent of parents attended a parent-teacher conference in 2012-2013, state records show.

In Tulsa, just 4 percent of parents at Central Junior High School made at least one parent-teacher meeting – the lowest rate in the district.

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Oklahoma Watch
8:38 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

OKC District Examines ‘Redskins’ Name At High School

Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City.
Credit Oklahoma City Public Schools

Oklahoma City Public Schools is looking into whether the Redskins nickname at Capitol Hill High School should be changed.

“The Oklahoma City Public School District has been researching how other institutions have addressed similar issues and we are also seeking the perspectives of Oklahoma-based Native American tribes,” district spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said in an email Tuesday, responding to a question about the matter.

Tinnin did not say whether the district or high school had received any complaints.

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Politics and Government
6:00 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Governor's Attorney Seeks Appeals Court Seat

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.

The top attorney in Governor Mary Fallin’s administration is applying to fill an open spot on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Steven K. Mullins, Fallin’s general counsel is one of 11 applicants to fill the open District 2 spot on the court vacated by Charles A. Johnson, who retired in July.

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Health
4:21 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Oklahoma Health Officials Say Ebola Plans In Place

Gov. Mary Fallin meets with state and local health officials to discuss ongoing preparations for potential Ebola threat .
Alex Weintz Twitter

Oklahoma health officials say there are no cases of Ebola virus infections in the state — but that emergency response plans are in place in case a person is diagnosed with the disease.

State health and public safety officials joined Gov. Mary Fallin Monday to discuss how the state will respond should someone in the state be diagnosed with Ebola. A health care worker at a hospital in Dallas where an Ebola victim was treated before his death was diagnosed with the disease during the weekend. Late last week a patient who was being monitored with Ebola-like symptoms at Deaconess Hospital in Oklahoma City was confirmed not to have the virus.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:00 am
Sat October 11, 2014

Political Parties Reach Out to Hispanics

Republican State Representative Mike Sanders
Credit Okahoma State House

Despite election losses for years, Hispanic leaders say the continued growth of their community will eventually lead to more Hispanics in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Republican and Democratic officials are anticipating the changes, trying to recruit more candidates and voters.

State Rep. Mike Sanders, a Republican from Kingfisher, said he has ramped up his efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community in north central Oklahoma and to encourage them to engage politically.

Sanders is in charge of the House Republican political action committee and the House GOP’s candidate recruitment efforts. Oklahoma’s Hispanic community, he said, is an untapped resource.

“There have been some outreach efforts,” Sanders said. “But we could do a lot more. The Hispanic community is still growing and expanding and, like everyone else, they have concerns. But I think there’s some fear involved and I think there’s some hesitancy get involved in politics.”

Oklahoma Hispanics are still establishing themselves but they are responsive when approached, Sanders said.

“At first it was difficult,” he said. “In fact, it was like pulling teeth … But I’ve contacted many members of the Hispanic community and asked them to participate and they’ve responded.”

Democrat strategists are running a similar game plan. State Democratic Party chairman Wallace Collins said Democrats have spent the past year reaching out to the Hispanic community in an effort to register voters, get residents involved and recruit candidates.

“There is still a lot of work to do, but this year we had several Hispanic candidates seek office and we hope to expand that in the future,” Collins said.

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