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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Racial Disparities In School Suspensions Found Across State

May 3, 2015
Thelma R. Parks Elementary School in Northeast Oklahoma City, which had the highest overall suspension rate in Oklahoma City at 42.1 percent.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Minority students are being suspended at higher rates than their white classmates not only in Oklahoma City Public Schools, which triggered a federal probe, but also in other districts across the state, U.S. Department of Education data show.

The disparity is often greatest between black and white students, but also occurs between white students and American Indian and Hispanic students.

See student suspensions by school and race.

Oklahoma State Capitol
Joseph Novak / Flickr

Oklahoma lawmakers are looking at taking between $100 and $140 million from the state's "rainy day fund" and could tap agency revolving funds for more than $100 million to help backfill the state's budget hole,  a source close to Governor Mary Fallin's office said Wednesday.

Oklahoma is facing a $611.3 million budget gap.

"Everything is very fluid right now, but it looks like revolving funds and 'rainy day' money will be used," said the source, who asked to remain unidentified.

Manufacturer Asks Oklahoma To Return Execution Drug

Apr 30, 2015
Oklahoma has authorized four different lethal injection protocols: a single, lethal dose of either pentobarbital or sodium pentothal, a two-drug procedure using midazolam and hydromorphone, or the same three-drug method used in Florida.
James Heilman, MD / Wikimedia Commons

One of the pharmaceutical manufacturers that produces a drug used in Oklahoma’s botched execution last year has asked the state to return all of the doses of the drug.

Illinois-based Akorn is one of several manufacturers that makes the sedative midazolam, which is part of a three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections in Oklahoma and other states.

The company sent a letter to state Attorney General Scott Pruitt on March 4 demanding that any of the company’s midazolam be returned for a full refund. The company said its drugs are not approved for executions.

U.S. Supreme Court West Facade.
UpstateNYer / Wikimedia Commons

Updated May 1 at 12:15 p.m.: Listen to the oral arguments from Wednesday's Supreme Court hearing on Oklahoma's death penalty challenge. 

Original post below:

Exactly one year after a botched execution in Oklahoma, the state’s new lethal injection protocol came under intense questioning Wednesday by a divided U.S. Supreme Court, with the pivotal justice, Anthony Kennedy, doing little to tip his hand.

State long-term care ombudsman Bill Whited, holding a picture of his grandmother, Pearl Wolf.
M. Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

In the summer of 2013, Pearl Wolf, 93, got sick and went to the hospital. After watching her health decline, her family decided to place Wolf in a nursing home.

“She was really starting to deteriorate,” her grandson, Bill Whited, said.

The family decided to place Wolf in Rose Manor in Shawnee. Located near Wolf’s house, the facility accepted Medicaid and Medicare patients and Whited considered its staff excellent. The family hoped Wolf would get well enough to return home.

Thelma R. Parks Elementary School in Northeast Oklahoma City, which had the highest overall suspension rate in Oklahoma City at 42.1 percent.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

The higher number of black student suspensions starts at an early age in Oklahoma City, where 12 elementary schools suspended more than 40 percent of their black students in 2011-2012.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education show black students in elementary schools are consistently suspended at higher rates than their white peers in Oklahoma City.

Taft Middle School officials have suspended more than half the school's black students so far this school year.
Victor Henderson / Oklahoma Watch

With two months still left in the school year, administrators at Taft Middle School in Oklahoma City have already suspended more than half of their black students.

At Capitol Hill High School, the average length of a suspension is nearly 12 days, or more than two weeks of missed class time. Capitol Hill officials also told several parents that re-enrolling their children was a “waste of time” because of the re-enrollment date.

Legacy Of The Oklahoma City Bombing

Apr 20, 2015
The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on May 19, 1995, exactly one month after the bombing. It was demolished four days later.
Than217 / Wikimedia Commons

What does the Oklahoma City bombing mean now, two decades later? Will the memory and meaning of April 19, 1995, gradually recede into a distant echo?

That's hard to believe as one considers the extensive observances and media coverage this month. The grief and shock of what happened are as palpable as ever: On a sunny Wednesday morning, a terrorist bomb ripped apart the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 men, women and children. Those who saw it will never forget the black smoke rising in the sky, the bloody images of the  injured, and the wreckage of the  building marring the downtown skyline.

This multimedia story, including a video and a podcast, revolves around a question: What has changed because of the bombing? Oklahoma Watch spoke with several experts or leaders about their views on the impact of the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

Bill Calls For State Constitutional Convention

Apr 5, 2015

Oklahoma could see its first state constitutional convention in more than 40 years, if two state lawmakers get their way.

State Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City and Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, are pushing a house resolution to ask voters whether or not to hold a constitutional convention.

The measure, House Joint Resolution 1020, would ask Oklahomans if they wanted to convene a constitutional convention on July 10, 2017.

The Wellness Clinic in Roland
Anny Sivilay / Sequoah County Times

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous drugs has revoked the narcotic prescribing license of Dr. Ronald V. Myers Sr., a physician in Roland, Okla., who prescribed 4.6 million dosage units of addictive drugs over an 18-month period in 2013 and 2014.

In a document filed Thursday, the bureau said Myers' record as medical director of the Wellness Clinic in Roland provided "clear and convincing evidence" of multiple instances of overprescribing activity.

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