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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Natalie Freitas / Flickr

Oklahoma’s Parent Teacher Association voted Friday to boycott all non-federally mandated tests in an attempt to pressure lawmakers to cut back the number of high-stakes tests students take.

The boycott targets the state’s controversial writing tests, history and geography tests and any end-of-instruction tests not needed to graduate, but would not affect most math, English and science tests.

Oklahoma PTA President Jeffery Corbett said the resolution shows parents believe it's time to end standardized testing.

Alberto G. / Flickr

The Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association is considering boycotting a slew of Oklahoma’s high-stakes tests, as educators continue to push back against such testing.

State PTA President Jeffery Corbett said on Wednesday that the organization will consider a resolution this Friday boycotting all non-federally mandated tests.


Gov. Mary Fallin is pushing the Oklahoma Board of Corrections to loosen its policies governing when most prisoners serving time for “85 percent crimes” can be awarded early-release credits.

Murders, rapists and others convicted of violent crimes would be eligible for the credits. However, because of existing law, any change made by the corrections board would not affect those convicted of drug or human trafficking crimes, said Steve Mullins, Fallin’s general counsel.

The corrections board must approve the proposal.

health insurance cards and dollar bills
Lindsey Whelchel / Oklahoma Watch

Two private health insurance companies participating in the Affordable Care Act market in Oklahoma are expected to leave the program next year, while another big insurer wants in.

The shuffle, which would occur on Jan. 1, illustrates the rapid evolution of the “Obamacare” health insurance marketplace as it approaches its third year of operation. Some insurers are finding it difficult to make a profit on Affordable Care Act policies, while others see an opportunity that could pay off big over time.

Demonstrators gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. after Friday's ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Ted Eytan / Flickr

Republican lawmakers, chafing after the U.S. Supreme Court shot down bans on same-sex marriage and upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, could push back with new bills in the 2016 session, two state lawmakers said Tuesday.

The proposals could come in the form of resolutions denouncing the rulings and bills aimed at protecting those who would oppose same-sex marriage, the lawmakers said. The moves would also appeal to many Republicans' conservative base during the 2016 election cycle.

a school classroom with empty chairs
comedy_nose / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma is writing new academic standards in math and English that in some ways go beyond the current standards and the now-repealed Common Core goals, according to a review of initial drafts by Oklahoma Watch.

The drafts show, for example, that elementary-school students would have to write research papers and learn the use and concepts of American currency. High school students would be expected to grasp the “whys” behind math formulas.

Ginny Sain, left and Anna Marie Lane protest the conditions at the Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday evening.
M. Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

The sewage problems at the Oklahoma County’s beleaguered jail continue. In an echo of last year, sewage lines at the jail overflowed recently, flooding an unknown number of cells.

The incident mirrored a problem from 2014 in which a sewage line under the building collapsed and prevented county officials from using the kitchen for months.

On Tuesday a half-dozen protesters took to the sidewalk in front of the jail. They said they wanted the public to know just how bad conditions were in the facility, with one calling it “the worst jail in America.”

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court on Thursday after the ruling that Affordable Care Act subsidies are constitutional.
Ted Eytan / Flickr

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act means that more than 80,000 Oklahomans can continue to receive federal subsidies to help them pay for health insurance.

It will be days, possibly weeks, before the full impact of the ruling is assessed. In this Q&A, Oklahoma Watch addresses some of the immediate issues raised by the ruling.

Left-to-right: David Fritze, Nicole Washington, Roxanne Hinther, Janet Cizek
Oklahoma Watch

Women in Oklahoma face often unique mental-health challenges in different life situations – whether incarcerated, suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, or dealing with severe anxiety as a professional or parent.

At an Oklahoma Watch-Out forum in Tulsa May 21, three experts talked about issues ranging from incarcerated women and trauma to postpartum depression and both the cultural and biological factors of mental health.

Verna Foust, CEO of Red Rock Behavioral Health Services in Oklahoma City, said people with mild depression, anxiety and other problems are "falling through the cracks," not getting treatment.
Lindsay Whelchel / Oklahoma Watch

Every year, thousands of Oklahomans with mental-health or addiction problems call or show up at state-funded treatment centers and get little or no care.

The message is: Until you get sicker, you will get minimal help from the state.

That’s because Oklahoma’s mental-health system relies on a “triage” approach that limits most subsidized treatment to the seriously ill.