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
6:00 am
Sat October 11, 2014

At State Capitol, Barely A Murmur Of Hispanic Voices

Mary Sosa, who lost in the Democratic primary runoff for an Oklahoma House seat, said the Hispanic community must do more to encourage Hispanics to run for office.
Credit M. Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

Mary Sosa’s campaign is over.

The yard signs have been taken down. The volunteers have gone home. The retired 65-year-old city employee has returned to her work as a community volunteer.

But for Sosa and some south Oklahoma City Hispanic leaders, the sting and bitterness over an unexpected defeat in the Democratic primary runoff for a state House seat still lingers.

Sosa’s defeat surprised her and supporters partly because House District 89 has the highest share of Hispanics in the state, at 61 percent in 2010.

Her loss in in the district, which is west of the historic Capitol Hill area, also represents a larger trend: the lack of Hispanics in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Among 149 House and Senate members, only one identifies himself as Hispanic, Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus. Another lawmaker, state Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, is the son of a Hispanic woman, but his website and Facebook page do not refer to his ethnicity.

The small number of Hispanic legislators stands in stark contrast to Hispanics’ share of the state population. Hispanics comprise nearly 10 percent of Oklahoma residents, making them the largest minority group, according to U.S. Census Bureau 2013 estimates.

But head counts don’t seal elections. In Sosa’s case, she lost by a wide margin in a low-turnout runoff, 395 to 258. The winner was 21-year-old Shane Stone, a non-Hispanic White who had moved back to the district in 2013.

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Oklahoma Watch
4:33 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Are Oklahoma Students College Ready?

Credit timiewisnm / Flickr.com

Test scores released for the SAT test this week would appear to show a majority of high school seniors are ready for college, but the test is an incomplete measure.

According to the 2014 SAT scores, 69 percent of students met the college-ready benchmark. The problem is that only 4.5 percent of graduating seniors, or 1,725 students, took the exam.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:00 am
Sun October 5, 2014

Overdose Deaths Level Off

Credit madpoet_one / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma's overdose death toll dipped slightly in 2013, but state drug law enforcers say it's too soon to celebrate.

The 2013 overdose death count was 821, compared with 850 the previous year, according to recently compiled data from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Although the 2013 count could rise by a few deaths as medical examiners complete reports on a handful of pending cases, the narcotics bureau said it appears unlikely that the final tally will rise above 2012's total.

"It's very encouraging. Something is changing in a positive direction," said bureau spokesman Mark Woodward. "But we're not seeing it plummet, so we don't want to get too excited. We saw some years in the past where we had a slight drop, and then it shot back up."

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Politics and Government
5:00 am
Tue September 30, 2014

New Push To Allow Juvenile Competency Hearings

Credit Kaiser Health News / Wikipedia Commons

The Tulsa County boy’s relationship with family was one of instability, impoverishment and abuse.

Psychologists would later determine that he was mentally ill and very immature, even for 12 years of age. But his alleged crime was serious – felony assault with a dangerous weapon on a family member who had abused him.

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Education
10:52 am
Sun September 28, 2014

OKC Superintendent, Associate To Appear At Public Forum

Rob Neu, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent
Credit Oklahoma City Public Schools

The public will get a chance to question new Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Rob Neu about his policies and goals for the district during a public forum on education Tuesday.

Neu is in his third month as Oklahoma City’s superintendent, but has already drawn attention with plans to increase teacher pay, implement more technology in the classroom and enact a student-loan forgiveness program for University of Central Oklahoma students who teach in the district for three years. He and new Associate Superintendent Aurora Lora, who will also appear at the forum, have said they wish to provide more support to principals and teachers and strengthen the curriculum.

The forum, organized by non-profit investigate news organization Oklahoma Watch, will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Kamps 1910 Café, 10 NE 10th St., in Oklahoma City.

Neu, who was hired to replaced interim Superintendent Dave Lopez in July, previously was superintendent for Federal Way Public Schools near Seattle.

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Education
8:46 pm
Thu September 25, 2014

State Board Of Education Tables Action On Testing Vendor

Credit timiewisnm / Flickr.com

State Board of Education members voted Thursday to table any action on rehiring a previously fired testing vendor for the upcoming winter testing period.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said Thursday morning prior to the discussion that rehiring the testing vendor was “unavoidable.”

“It is indeed frustrating that we are in this situation,” Barresi said.

The State Board of Education ended its contract with CTB/McGraw-Hill earlier this summer after two years of testing disruptions.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:04 am
Thu September 25, 2014

State May Have Little Choice But To Rehire McGraw-Hill As Test Vendor

timlewisnm Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma may ask beleaguered test vendor CTB/McGraw-Hill to come back months after firing the company for a second consecutive year of testing troubles.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:32 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Meth Deaths Climb In Oklahoma Despite Lab Shutdowns

OBN officers serve an arrest warrant in Lindsay in December related to a probe into distribution of Mexican meth.
Oklahoma Watch

Although fewer numbers of methamphetamine labs are being discovered across the state, the number of meth-related overdose deaths continues to rise.

Last year, 167 people died of meth-related overdoses, while 421 labs were shut down by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. That compares with 140 deaths and 830 lab busts in 2012.

The number of meth-related overdose deaths has been climbing for years. The number of lab discoveries grew to match them until 2012.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:01 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

Unspoken: Political Ties of Expert Witness at Executions Hearing

East Central University professor Michael Copeland speaks to members of the Oklahoma House Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
Credit Scott Carter / Oklahoma Watch

State Rep. Mike Christian told a House committee Tuesday that he favors dropping lethal injection and instead using an inert gas, such as nitrogen or helium, to execute condemned prisoners.

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Oklahoma Watch
5:48 pm
Sun September 21, 2014

'Staggering' Caseloads for Prosecutors

Credit Pixabay / Creative Commons

Oklahoma district attorneys are speaking in frustration over what they say is a severe underfunding of their offices in the face of "staggering" caseloads.

At its Thursday meeting, the Oklahoma District Attorneys Council unveiled a draft   proposal to seek a significant increase in appropriations from the Legislature. The council also handed out the draft of a fact sheet with dramatic figures and statements.

“Caseloads of prosecutors are staggering, leaving insufficient time for legal review, meeting with victims and case preparation,” the fact sheet said.

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