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
7:32 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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Oklahoma Watch
9:31 am
Sun September 21, 2014

In Pursuit Of Breakthroughs In State’s Mental Health Struggles

Credit Kaiser Health News / Wikipedia Commons

Four out of five people who kill themselves in Oklahoma are men.

Law enforcement officers are only beginning to learn how to deal properly with the mentally ill.

Society as a whole, including the medical field, often fails to see the relationship between mental and physical health, leading to tragic outcomes.

Those were among the key messages imparted at a mental health gathering in Tulsa on Thursday and Friday attended by nearly 700 people, including advocates, funders and professionals in mental health and law enforcement.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:45 am
Thu September 18, 2014

What Grade Did Your School Receive On Report Card?

Oklahoma Watch

Fewer schools are getting A’s and more are getting F's in the third round of Oklahoma’s A-F school report cards, released Wednesday.

According to the 2014 report:

  • 289 schools got an overall grade of A, down 22.5 percent from 2013
  • 473 got a B, down 5.5 percent
  • 504 got a C, up 6.3 percent
  • 299 got a D, up 12 percent
  • 200 got an F, up 18.5 percent
  • 30 did not get a grade this year, down from 31 last year.

The letter grades are based on student results on spring 2014 end-of-instruction tests in reading, English, writing, math, algebra, geometry, science, biology and U.S. history. This is the third year that letter grades have been issued.

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Oklahoma Watch
10:07 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Rape Report Surge Reflects New Definition, Other Factors

Credit Nestor Lacle / Flickr Creative Commons

While recently released crime statistics from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation show a large spike in the number of reported rapes over the last two years, the actual increase might not be as dramatic, according to police.

The number of rape cases reported to police between 2011 and 2013 rose 21 percent, according to the OSBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report, which tracks several types of crime statistics across the state. All other forms of violent crime fell during that period.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:47 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Oklahoma's Native American Tribes Pushing Minimum Wage Higher

Samantha Lowe of Tahlequah works the front desk of Cherokee Nation’s Career Services office. She received a full-time position after two years of participating in the tribe’s Summer Youth Employment Program making minimum wage
Provided Cherokee Nation

Though the minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour for most Oklahomans, several tribal nations pay more or have boosted their entry-level wage above the federal level, a move that could cause the Oklahoma Legislature to take another look at the issue.

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Energy
7:45 am
Wed September 10, 2014

Vaughan: Lawmakers Should Reexamine Disposal Well Regulations

State Rep. Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City) speaking during Tuesday's interim study on oil and gas regulation.
Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

At an interim hearing at the state Capitol Tuesday, a state representative from north-central Oklahoma questioned whether the state was properly inspecting oil and gas wells and had the rules necessary to prevent contamination of water supplies.

State Rep. Steve Vaughan (R-Ponca City) conducted the interim study and held the hearing. He’s concerned about saltwater pollution in Kay and Noble Counties, which has had large-scale fish-kills for three years in a row.

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Oklahoma Watch
9:12 am
Mon September 8, 2014

Tax Revenue Jump Is Largest In Over A Year

Oklahoma Treasurer Ken Miller
Credit Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s August tax collections increased by 7.5 percent, the largest percentage increase in monthly receipts since July 2013, State Treasurer Ken Miller said in a media statement. Miller said August receipts “were just less than $900 million.”

“Oklahoma’s economy continues to climb up the expansion side of the business cycle,” Miller said. “Our people are earning and spending more, as reflected by steady growth in income tax and sales tax receipts.”

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Oklahoma Watch
1:26 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

Can Foreign Countries Teach Oklahoma A Lesson About Education?

Credit Oklahoma Watch

How did Finland, South Korea and Poland become international leaders in education? How can the United States and Oklahoma learn from their models?

That question and ways to improve the teaching profession were the main topics of a “Teachers Matter” forum held in Oklahoma City Thursday. Speakers included author and journalist Amanda Ripley, teacher of the year Peter Markes, Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Robert Neu and Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard. The event was organized by Stand for Children, which advocates for stronger schools.

Ripley’s book, “The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way,” features an Oklahoma high school student who studied abroad in Finland, and it looks at what other nations have done with improve education.

Here are 10 key takeaways from the discussion:

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