Oklahoma Watch

Jeff Raymond / Oklahoma Watch

John Whitfield was just a mile or two away from his home in northeast Oklahoma City when he noticed police lights in his rear-view mirror during a spring night in 2016.

Whitfield, who is black, said he didn’t think he was speeding or had committed any other traffic infraction. He said he had gone to the store because he was out of soap.

Sue Ogrocki / AP Images

Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The colorless, odorless gas makes up 78 percent of our air.

Yet it is used in some assisted suicides in Europe. It is touted by some advocates for industry euthanasia of animals. And the gas – nitrogen – is what U.S. Air Force pilots are exposed to during high-altitude tests that gauge their reaction to reduced oxygen and can render them unconscious.

Now Oklahoma plans to use nitrogen in its death-penalty chamber.


Oklahoma Watch

A threatened teacher walkout in early April casts a shadow over the legislative session and could disrupt the lives of parents, children, educators and many others should it go on for days or weeks.

State employees also are planning a multi-agency work stoppage on April 2, which would widen and deepen the impact.

Interviews Show Teachers On A Collision Course With Unwavering Lawmakers

Mar 9, 2018
Jennifer Palmer / Oklahoma Watch

It became official Thursday: The largest, most organized voice for Oklahoma teachers issued an ultimatum to legislators that teachers will shut down much of Oklahoma’s public-school system indefinitely unless serious money is found to boost teacher pay and education funding.

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A dispute between Oklahoma and federal agencies over relatively high payments for hundreds of doctors who treat Medicaid patients is a key reason state taxpayers are on the hook for $140 million in emergency funds for the state’s two medical schools, records obtained by Oklahoma Watch show.

Elaine Thompson / AP Images

Every year, Oklahoma state lawmakers propose legislation to make carrying guns easier and push back on attempts to constrain gun ownership.

Yet nationally, firearms and momentum for stricter gun control continue to be high-profile issues that draw widespread attention after each mass shooting, whether in Nevada, Texas or Florida.

Step Up Campaign Highlights Gap In State Disclosure Laws

Feb 22, 2018
Jeff Raymond / Oklahoma Watch

The Step Up Oklahoma plan to raise taxes on cigarettes, fuel and energy failed to pass, but it highlighted a gap in state campaign finance laws that keeps much of the funding and spending on both sides of the issue a secret.

Is A Teachers Strike Imminent?

Feb 20, 2018
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Budget cuts to education are mounting. And on Monday, the Oklahoma House moved to reduce funding for state agencies for the current fiscal year.

The state Education Department stands to lose $16.2 million. Combined with higher education and other education agencies, the losses would be nearly $22 million.

Attempts to raise revenue have so far failed, including a penny-on-the-dollar sales tax and a proposal by a coalition of business and civic leaders called Step Up Oklahoma. Many Oklahoma teachers say they are fed up, and there is talk of a strike.

Oklahoma Watch

Faith leaders are looking for answers after a Republican legislator issued guidelines that could block a large swath of the state’s religious community from leading lawmakers in prayers that kick off each day of the legislative session.

Jeff Raymond / Oklahoma Watch

Lawmakers are right back where they started after a much-anticipated vote to pass one of the largest tax increases in state history fell short in the state House.

Despite business luminaries and hundreds of educators filling the Capitol in support of the Step Up Oklahoma Plan, the revenue-raising proposal only received 63 votes, which was 13 votes shy of passing the constitutionally required three-fourths threshold for revenue-raising bills.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

At least 60 private schools receiving tax-credit scholarships have been given three months to comply with a state law that prohibits discriminating against applicants based on disability.

The Opportunity Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit that last year collected $5.1 million in donations to help pay students’ tuition at private schools across the state, says schools that don’t comply will be removed from the program.

Oklahoma Watch

Update from Health Department spokesman Tony Sellars: “The Oklahoma State Department of Health confirms the resignation of CFO Mike Romero. The agency will not have any additional comment at this time.”

elementary school library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

With the start of the 2018 legislative session eight days away, lawmakers have submitted a flurry of proposals related to education.

They range from the expected — proposed salary boosts and other financial compensation for teachers — to the unexpected, like bills to allow schools to sell and place ads on school buses and to permit students to apply their own sunscreen.

The intent of many other proposals is still unknown, as many education-related bills were submitted as “shell bills,” written with no substantive text and to be amended later.

M. Kathi Rawls, an Oklahoma City area attorney, represents consumers in civil cases that involve auto loans, debt collection, repossession and identity theft.
Oklahoma Watch

When customers with poor credit buy a vehicle at some used-car lots in Oklahoma, they must agree to an unusual condition: Let the dealer’s finance company attach a Global Positioning System device to the vehicle that tracks their every location.

If the buyer defaults on the loan, then the lender can find the vehicle easily and repossess it. In some cases, the tracking system also allows the company to disable the ignition if the buyer is late on payments.

Oklahoma Watch

Already one of the most conservative states in the nation, Oklahoma continues to grow redder.

prison bars
mikecogh / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma has one in eight inmates who are serving a life sentence or a sentence of at least 50 years, a new report using 2016 data shows.

Oklahoma Watch

Private schools in Oklahoma that offer tax-credit tuition scholarships are required to have admission policies that prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin or disability.

But a check of websites for more than 80 participating private schools by Oklahoma Watch found that just seven post policies saying they won’t discriminate in admissions against children with disabilities.

Several schools are explicit about reserving the right to reject students whose disabilities the schools say they are unable to accommodate.

A broad-based coalition of Oklahoma business and civic leaders are the latest group to offer a specific plan to end the state’s ongoing budget impasse.

The proposal is sweeping and dramatic, and is backed by some of the most prominent and powerful industry interests in the state. Whether it will fly with legislators and citizens remains to be seen.

Allison Herrera / KOSU

The number of people sentenced to Oklahoma prisons in 2017 fell slightly, but the state remains second in the nation in overall incarceration and could be ranked first by the end of this year.

Oklahoma Department of Corrections data shows that on the last working day of 2017, a total of 28,153 inmates were in state prisons, halfway houses or in jails awaiting transfer to prisons. That was a less than 1 percent decline from the end of 2016.