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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The Tulsa County District Attorney's Office filed sodomy and rape charges against a 17-year-old boy in April 2015. The case was ultimately rejected.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

State Rep. Scott Biggs, R-Chickasha, says he plans to amend a bill to include unconscious victims in Oklahoma's forcible sodomy law. In a news release, Biggs said, "“I am horrified by the idea that we would allow these depraved rapists to face a lower charge simply because the victim is unconscious. I think the judges made a grave error, but if they need more clarification, we are happy to give it to them by fixing the statute."

tax forms and a calculator
Oklahoma Watch

School choice advocates lost a bid this legislative session to channel more public funding to private schools through education savings accounts, a form of vouchers.

But a little-known existing program has succeeded at doing just that and, while still relatively small, is growing.

Taxpayers have received more than $1.4 million in tax credits over two years for donating to a program that gives tuition scholarships to private school students.

Gov. Mary Fallin, flanked by state officials, unveiled budget proposals Arpl 13, 2016.
Oklahoma Watch

In the confusing arithmetic of state budgets, the size of a cut or an increase can be in the eye of the beholder.

That was the case on Wednesday when Gov. Mary Fallin unveiled a new budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 calling for a 4.5 percent cut in budgets for 52 state agencies, including higher education.

But wait. That 4.5 percent is a share of those agencies' expected spending totals after receiving cuts during the current fiscal year, totaling 7 percent of their annual budget.

Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Rob Neu speaks to reporters in August 2014, shortly after taking the position.
Oklahoma City Public Schools / Facebook

Less than two years ago, Rob Neu arrived from the Seattle area to become superintendent of Oklahoma’s largest school district, Oklahoma City Public Schools.

On Monday, news broke that Neu is planning to resign.

Oklahoma Watch

At least two Oklahoma law enforcement agencies possess or have used a controversial device, shrouded in secrecy, to track and collect information from cellphones, an Oklahoma Watch investigation found.

The devices, often referred to as “cell site simulators,” are controversial because they collect information not only from criminal suspects, but also potentially from scores of other surrounding cellphone owners who have no idea the data is being gathered.

Ada City Schools Superintendent Pat Harrison says his district will save about $30,000 by cutting six days from the remainder of the school year.
Richard R. Barron / The Ada News

Oklahoma requires one of the shortest school years in the nation, in terms of instructional days.

But that hasn’t stopped a growing number of districts from ending their school year early this year or moving to four-day weeks to deal with cutbacks in state funding.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools administration building.
Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma City Public Schools district proposes addressing racial disparities in discipline through an “intense process” of reforms, an attorney for the district told the school board Monday evening.

The proposal is intended to resolve a 2014 complaint being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that the school district disciplined minority students more frequently and more harshly.

Steven Buck
Provided / Oklahoma Watch

Under current state law, the new executive director of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs appears ineligible to hold the job.

Also, the new Oklahoma Department of Corrections interim director appears ineligible to become the permanent director.

In an effort to smooth the issues, the Legislature is considering a Senate bill that would reduce the work experience requirements for both positions. That would move Steven Buck closer to qualifying by law for the job he was appointed to in January – executive director of the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

Nico Gomez, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced Tuesday its plans to cut reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers by 25 percent as a result of the state’s budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.

The cuts, which must first go through a series of public hearings over the next 60 days, would affect all provider types, including hospitals, physicians, pharmacy, durable medical equipment suppliers and nursing facilities, according to a news release from the Health Care Authority.

young girl in handcuffs, juvenile justice, corrections
houstondwiPhotos mp / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When they gathered at the State Capitol last week, criminal justice experts seemingly had reason to celebrate: From 2001 to 2013, the number of Oklahoma juvenile offenders ordered by courts into the state's secure detention centers dropped by 56 percent, slightly more than the national rate.

But no one at a March 15 meeting of juvenile justice officials, judges, prosecutors and legislators was trumpeting progress.

Some of the reasons:

Kris Steele, former Oklahoma House speaker and now director of The Education and Employment Ministry, and other community leaders are backing two proposed ballot initiatives intended to address prison overcrowding.
Michael Williams / Oklahoma Watch

An advocacy group, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, is seeking more than 65,000 signatures by early June to put two measures before voters on November’s ballot.

Should the group garner enough signatures, the ballot would include State Questions 780 and 781, both seeking to address prison overcrowding and community mental health and to reduce sentences for future offenders convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes.

Real estate developer Grant Humphreys wants to stop operating Carlton Landing Academy, located on the shores of Lake Eufaula, as a private school and re-open it as a public charter school.
Leilani Ott / Oklahoma Watch

Editor’s Note: Carlton Landing is an underwriter of KGOU. This story was produced by our content partner Oklahoma Watch. Both newsrooms at KGOU and Oklahoma Watch are editorially independent from KGOU’s fundraising.

A proposed charter school in a lakeside resort community would mark the state's first expansion of public charters into rural areas under a new law allowing for their presence statewide, school officials say.

oil well tools in a pickup truck bed
OakleyOriginals / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders have agreed to tap $78.5 million, or about a fifth, of the state's "Rainy Day Fund" to partially offset current-year cuts to budgets for common education and corrections.

That news was welcomed by state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and interim Corrections Department Director Joe Allbaugh, who said it would help their agencies avoid some drastic cutbacks that would affect essential services.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a "Get Out the Caucus" rally at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has out-raised the five remaining Republican presidential candidates combined as Oklahoma heads into Tuesday’s primary election, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

While Clinton has a solid fundraising lead in individual contributions, the ones on the Republican side were spread out among 15 candidates who raised any money; most have dropped out.

More than half of Oklahoma’s incarcerated juvenile offenders are held in facilities that don’t comply with federal policies for preventing sexual assault, an Oklahoma Watch investigation found.

Those rape-prevention standards are required in all Oklahoma adult prisons and halfway houses as well as in more than a dozen county jails.