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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Politics and Government
9:14 am
Sat October 18, 2014

Dorman's Fundraising Improves But Fallin Still Has Plenty of Cash

Joe Dorman and Mary Fallin
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman is no longer cash-poor.

Dorman, a Democratic state representative from Rush Springs, is challenging Gov. Mary Fallin, the Republican incumbent.

Political experts have said Dorman can't beat Fallin partly because he wouldn't be able to  raise enough money to compete. And indeed, at the end of August, Fallin’s campaign war chest had more than $1.3 million compared with Dorman's $142,000.

But the money picture has changed.

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Education
10:33 am
Thu October 16, 2014

Oklahoma's Education Funding Remains Below 2008 Pre-Recession Levels

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

A new study shows Oklahoma's per-student education funding from the Legislature is more than 23 percent below where it was in 2008, more than any other state.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released figures on Thursday that show Oklahoma is among at least 30 states providing less per-pupil funding for grades K-12 now than before the start of the recession.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:30 am
Wed October 15, 2014

In Education, Do Parents Matter?

Henderson Harris (right) talks with Jannett Taylor at a GEAR UP event in Oklahoma City. Harris, whose daughter attends Douglas High School, and Taylor, who’s granddaughter attends Douglas, are looking to increase the number of participants in the school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association.
Credit Nate Robson / Oklahoma Watch

At John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City, only 22 percent of parents attended a parent-teacher conference in 2012-2013, state records show.

In Tulsa, just 4 percent of parents at Central Junior High School made at least one parent-teacher meeting – the lowest rate in the district.

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Oklahoma Watch
8:38 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

OKC District Examines ‘Redskins’ Name At High School

Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City.
Credit Oklahoma City Public Schools

Oklahoma City Public Schools is looking into whether the Redskins nickname at Capitol Hill High School should be changed.

“The Oklahoma City Public School District has been researching how other institutions have addressed similar issues and we are also seeking the perspectives of Oklahoma-based Native American tribes,” district spokeswoman Tierney Tinnin said in an email Tuesday, responding to a question about the matter.

Tinnin did not say whether the district or high school had received any complaints.

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Politics and Government
6:00 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Governor's Attorney Seeks Appeals Court Seat

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.

The top attorney in Governor Mary Fallin’s administration is applying to fill an open spot on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Steven K. Mullins, Fallin’s general counsel is one of 11 applicants to fill the open District 2 spot on the court vacated by Charles A. Johnson, who retired in July.

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Health
4:21 pm
Mon October 13, 2014

Oklahoma Health Officials Say Ebola Plans In Place

Gov. Mary Fallin meets with state and local health officials to discuss ongoing preparations for potential Ebola threat .
Alex Weintz Twitter

Oklahoma health officials say there are no cases of Ebola virus infections in the state — but that emergency response plans are in place in case a person is diagnosed with the disease.

State health and public safety officials joined Gov. Mary Fallin Monday to discuss how the state will respond should someone in the state be diagnosed with Ebola. A health care worker at a hospital in Dallas where an Ebola victim was treated before his death was diagnosed with the disease during the weekend. Late last week a patient who was being monitored with Ebola-like symptoms at Deaconess Hospital in Oklahoma City was confirmed not to have the virus.

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Oklahoma Watch
7:00 am
Sat October 11, 2014

Political Parties Reach Out to Hispanics

Republican State Representative Mike Sanders
Credit Okahoma State House

Despite election losses for years, Hispanic leaders say the continued growth of their community will eventually lead to more Hispanics in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Republican and Democratic officials are anticipating the changes, trying to recruit more candidates and voters.

State Rep. Mike Sanders, a Republican from Kingfisher, said he has ramped up his efforts to reach out to the Hispanic community in north central Oklahoma and to encourage them to engage politically.

Sanders is in charge of the House Republican political action committee and the House GOP’s candidate recruitment efforts. Oklahoma’s Hispanic community, he said, is an untapped resource.

“There have been some outreach efforts,” Sanders said. “But we could do a lot more. The Hispanic community is still growing and expanding and, like everyone else, they have concerns. But I think there’s some fear involved and I think there’s some hesitancy get involved in politics.”

Oklahoma Hispanics are still establishing themselves but they are responsive when approached, Sanders said.

“At first it was difficult,” he said. “In fact, it was like pulling teeth … But I’ve contacted many members of the Hispanic community and asked them to participate and they’ve responded.”

Democrat strategists are running a similar game plan. State Democratic Party chairman Wallace Collins said Democrats have spent the past year reaching out to the Hispanic community in an effort to register voters, get residents involved and recruit candidates.

“There is still a lot of work to do, but this year we had several Hispanic candidates seek office and we hope to expand that in the future,” Collins said.

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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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