KGOU

Oklahoma Watch

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi
Oklahoma Department of Education

State Superintendent Janet Barresi told members of the State Board of Education Wednesday that Oklahoma could be facing stricter federal regulation if the state loses its extension of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

State Department of Education staff filed a request for extension of the flexibility waiver beyond the 2013-2014 school year earlier this month.

The waiver is the Obama administration’s exemption from many of the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act, which was first granted to Oklahoma in 2012.

Last year, Oklahoma pharmacies filled 9.7 million prescriptions--or nearly 600 million doses--for controlled dangerous substances. Prescribers logged into the Prescription Monitoring Program database 1.2 million times, suggesting that many do not use the system routinely. An investigation by Oklahoma Watch and The Oklahoman determined that the lack of routine PMP checks is one factor contributing to a dramatic increase in drug overdose deaths in Oklahoma.

Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, and Dave Lopez, interm superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, answer questions from the audience on a range of education issues at an Oklahoma Watch-Out forum on March 6, 2014.
Carmen Forman / Oklahoma Watch

Third-grade reading, new education standards, teacher pay and the arts were among key issues addressed by superintendents from Oklahoma’s two largest public school systems during an education forum last week.

Dave Lopez, interim superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools, and Keith Ballard, superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, fielded questions from an audience of more than 50 during the forum, held at Kamp’s 1910 Café in Oklahoma City. The forum was sponsored by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit journalism organization.

A Think-Twice Proposal for Divorcing Couples

Feb 26, 2014

A house committee has approved a bill that would require couples with children considering divorce to take a course on the effects of divorce on children.

New Data Reveals Widespread Financial Losses Among Small Oklahoma Hospitals

Oct 28, 2013
Bruce Mayhan, lab manager at Pauls Valley General Hospital, looks at a blood sample through a microscope in the hospital’s lab.
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

A majority of small general hospitals in Oklahoma are losing money, and health care officials warn that some hospitals could close, be sold or cut services.

Federal financial reports for nearly every hospital in the state, obtained by Oklahoma Watch and analyzed and reported with the Tulsa World, show that in each year from 2009 to 2012, between half and three-fourths of general hospitals with fewer than 100 beds lost money. Most are in small cities or rural areas. More than half posted losses in multiple years.

Larger hospitals fared better. In each year during the four-year period, between 7 percent and 19 percent of general hospitals with 100 beds or more lost money.

From 2010 to 2012, of the 66 officers who had their certifications revoked or suspended, were given a letter of reprimand, or surrendered their certification, according to records from the Council on Law Enforcement and Education, or CLEET, 18 were convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, sex crimes.

Texas State Offender Registry

View a map showing officers with certification actions.

In July 2010, a former Kingfisher County Sheriff’s Office deputy pleaded no contest to a charge of committing lewd acts with a child when he was an officer two years earlier.

Shawn Theo Thomsen, then 43, was given a five-year suspended sentence, court records show. Now living in Texas, he’s required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Despite the crime, Thomsen is still certified as a peace officer by the Council on Law Enforcement and Education, or CLEET. State law requires that the state agency take away certification for an officer who pleads guilty or no contest to a felony charge, thus removing him or her from law enforcement.

Even though key features of the federal Affordable Care Act are now in place, the conversations continue over the law's implementation in Oklahoma.

The Republican-controlled state government continues to object to the federal mandates that are part of the new law.

Oklahoma state government, led by Gov. Mary Fallin, declined to set up a state-run exchange or accept additional Medicaid funding from the federal government.

Bonnie Campo / Oklahoma Watch

Hugh Meade hopes he can find a health plan that costs less than his home mortgage. Katie Bolin is looking for an insurer who won’t turn her down for pre-existing conditions. Ricardo Lopez Jr. wants coverage so he can stop going to free clinics.

Meade, Bolin and Lopez are among several hundred thousand uninsured Oklahomans whose lives could change when the next phase of the Affordable Care Act takes effect.

United States Army

Oklahoma veterans and active-duty military personnel are killing themselves at twice the rate of civilians, despite increased efforts to address the problem.

The 2011 suicide rate for soldiers was about 44 per 100,000 population, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of Oklahoma State Department of Health data. This rate includes active-duty military as well as veterans from the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea and World War II. The civilian rate for people over the age of 18 was about 22 per 100,000.

graph of the results of the point-in-time homeless count
Oklahoma Watch

Nearly 4,400 homeless Oklahomans were identified during the 2013 statewide count of homeless people, reflecting a slight decrease over two years ago, according to numbers released this week by state officials.

The statewide Point-in-time Homeless Count, which is conducted in January and mandated by the federal government every two years, seeks to identify each state’s homeless population. Some cities, including Oklahoma City and Tulsa, also do homeless counts in other years, but the statewide count is biennial.

Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

In just six weeks, nearly one in 10 Oklahomans will be able to buy subsidized health policies from private insurance companies through a new online marketplace set up by the federal government.

Many more who don’t qualify for the subsidies will still be able to shop on the marketplace and obtain coverage, even if they’ve been turned down in the past for pre-existing conditions.

But it won’t be simple. Several companies will offer policies, with different levels of coverage. Tax credits will be available for people falling within certain income ranges. Many people will need one-on-one assistance to navigate the registration process.

Oklahoma’s arrest rate for marijuana possession is slightly above the national rate, and arrest rates vary considerably among counties, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of 10 years’ worth of FBI data.

Click on a button to see a county’s rate of arrests for marijuana possession. Each button is placed on a county seat. The red buttons denote the counties with the highest rates.

State Penitentiary Fades As Oklahoma Shifts Inmates To Private Prisons

Jul 29, 2013
Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, the oldest prison in the state, has seen its inmate population fall to less than half of what it was five years ago as officials move hundreds of the state’s most dangerous convicts to private prisons.

The decline has been so steep that some state lawmakers, corrections guards and others wonder if “Big Mac,” as it is called, will become home to only Death Row and the execution chamber, or if the prison will eventually be closed.

Pages