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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a school classroom with empty chairs
comedy_nose / Flickr Creative Commons

State education officials said Oklahoma’s new testing vendor “is absolutely not” tracking students on the Internet when monitoring social media in accordance with the state’s contract.

A provision in Measured Progress’ contract with Oklahoma calls for the New Hampshire-based education and testing vendor to monitor online platforms such as Twitter and Facebook for issues regarding testing. The company is supposed to report those issues to the state Department of Education.

Dr. Janna Morgan, who directs the mental health services unit for the Corrections Department, has had to travel to prisons to conduct therapy sessions herself because of a shortage of mental-health staff.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

Despite rising numbers of mentally ill prisoners, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections has slashed by nearly half its group therapy programs and pared back individual therapy for inmates, resulting in fewer offenders receiving preventive treatment.

The department’s psychologists, psychiatrists and related staff members instead are focusing on crisis intervention, reacting to things like suicide attempts and erratic or violent behavior.

quality jobs paperwork
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

Oklahoma’s premier business incentive, the $1 billion Quality Jobs program, entered new territory nine years ago.

Until then, businesses only received payroll subsidies from the state if they created new jobs in Oklahoma.

In 2006, the program was expanded to begin providing subsidies for existing jobs if a “change in control” occurred and the Oklahoma Department of Commerce director determined the jobs were “likely to leave the state” because of new ownership.

How New Subsidies Started

Mar 25, 2015

It all began with a Kerr-McGee spinoff.

A “change-in-control” provision was added to the Quality Jobs program by the Legislature in 2006 and signed into law by then-Gov. Brad Henry.

Commerce Department spokeswoman Leslie Blair said it was done at the request of McAfee & Taft, an Oklahoma City law firm acting on behalf of a new company called Tronox Inc.

Tulsa World / Creative Commons

Oklahoma gained one spot to claim the fourth lowest average teacher salary in the nation, not because teachers are earning significantly more, but because the average salary in Idaho went down.

Todd Lamb: On the Road

Mar 17, 2015
Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb.
ok.gov

Todd Lamb, Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor, isn’t at the Capitol much.

Now in his second term, Lamb, a Republican, has spent a good portion of his tenure as second-in-command traveling across Oklahoma or out of state. He just finished his fifth tour as lieutenant governor in which he visited 77 counties in 77 days.

On Friday, in McAlester – his last stop on the tour – Lamb was asked by a McAlester News-Capital reporter about any plans to run for governor in four years. “I’ve been asked if it’s in the back of my mind,” Lamb said. “It’s in the front of my mind.”

Cavan Images / Flickr Creative Commons

While supporters say House Bill 1125 would eliminate state-issued marriage licenses, public oversight of those marriages would continue, even if the licenses are no longer issued.

Currently, state law requires religious officials and others who officiate at marriage ceremonies to register with county officials before a marriage certificate can be considered valid.

Fallin’s Office Didn’t Release Records Sought in Past 11 Months

Mar 15, 2015
Gov. Mary Fallin and other state leaders observe a PowerPoint presentation of revenue projections.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Until Friday, Gov. Mary Fallin’s office had not released records requested in the previous 11 months by members of the news media and other groups, according to her office’s catalog of Open Records Act requests.

A lawsuit filed Thursday asks the state Supreme Court to find that the State Pension Commission violated the Oklahoma Constitution because two of its seven members are legislators.

Oklahoma City Attorney Jerry Fent's lawsuit said the pension commission is an executive branch entity. He said state Senator Rick Brinkley's membership on the commission violated the separation of power because Brinkley is a member of the legislative branch. Kent's lawsuit named commission chairman Ken Miller, the state treasurer, and Brinkley as defendants.

Beyond The Racist Chant: The Facts About Black Inequality In Oklahoma

Mar 11, 2015
Predominantly black northeast Oklahoma City is plagued by abandoned and vacant homes.
Shawntel Brown / Oklahoma Watch

Recent controversy over a racist chant at a University of Oklahoma fraternity focused attention on the state’s race relations. But the numbers beneath the headlines perhaps cast a longer shadow.

By almost every metric, blacks struggle in most of the quality-of-life factors in the state. Oklahoma is first in the nation, per capita, for blacks to die at the hands of police officers among states reporting. Blacks are about half as likely to own a home, are more likely to go to prison, less likely to go to college and less likely to graduate.

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