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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 acting secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office resigned earlier this month, after just nine months in the job.

A nurse waits at the emergency room entrance at OU Medical Center, where patients are being evaluated before entering the building.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

With a surge in COVID-19 deaths since last week, Oklahoma now ranks 18th highest in the nation in the rate of coronavirus deaths.

Staff members are seen entering Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman on March 26. Two residents at the facility tested positive for coronavirus and both died in recent days. One woman was in her 60s and the other in her 90s.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Health inspectors cited Oklahoma City’s Windsor Hills Nursing Center last November after a certified nursing assistant was seen not washing her hands before, during or after treating five residents with incontinence one morning.

Parking lots were empty in front of several shops in Norman's University Town Center on March 24.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Each step taken by public officials to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Oklahoma raises questions about what is banned and what’s just a recommendation.

Until Coronavirus Surfaces, Mandates Are Scarce In Rural Communities

Mar 23, 2020

Many rural communities across the state have been hesitant to implement restrictions or closures because the fast-spreading coronavirus has not yet reached their edges. Meanwhile, some local health facilities are running short of masks, gloves and gowns.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health on Thursday abruptly replaced its state epidemiologist with a new interim one.

Oklahoma has quietly released details of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Medicaid expansion plan, with the state’s own report saying the plan “will likely depress enrollment” by thousands of Oklahomans compared to a traditional Medical expansion plan.

he CDC provides laboratory test kits for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which causes the COVID-19 disease.
Photo provided by CDC

Call it test anxiety, but not the kind you might remember from school.

With a shortage of COVID-19 testing kits available at Oklahoma’s state lab, public health officials are prioritizing who can get tested for the virus, but it’s causing high anxiety among some patients. State officials said Wednesday they’re waiting on shipments of the raw materials that go into the testing kits to come from the federal government.

Children in a class for 2-year-olds at a Norman daycare center raise their hands during a song in July 2018.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

As cities move to shut down public spaces, bars, restaurants and workplaces in response to COVID-19, and schools have been shuttered for at least three weeks, daycare centers are one of the few businesses to receive the opposite message: Please stay open.

Rhonda Williams, a criminalist for the Combined DNA Index System unit at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, points to an example of DNA analysis similar to DNA analyses of hair.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is working with district attorneys and others to examine 81 cases for possible wrongful conviction due to use of microscopic hair analysis, a debunked science. The cases include murder and rape and go back decades; some could be reopened.

Epic Charter Schools board met in Oklahoma City on Oct. 16, 2019.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The state is drawing a hard line: Public education funds that flow to a private company are public.

Founders of the state’s largest online charter school are fighting to shield those funds. Their company has refused to comply with subpoenas from the State Auditor and Inspector.

A medical marijuana shop owner is seen putting away a roll while a customer holds her purchase in a bag.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Home delivery of medical marijuana, a shorter dispensary setback from schools and making the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority its own agency are among the proposals that survived last week’s first legislative deadline.

Voters cast their votes at a polling station in Oklahoma City during the 2018 primary election.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Securing first place won’t be the only thing on the minds of the five remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls competing in Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday contest. Like the rest of the country, Oklahoma will not use a winner-takes-all format for its Democratic presidential primary.

Epic Charter Schools had more graduates than each of the state's 10 largest districts in 2019. Epic held commencement ceremonies in Oklahoma City on June 1 and in Tulsa on June 8, pictured above.
Photo provided by Epic Charter Schools. / Photo provided by Epic Charter Schools.

In a five-month investigation into Epic Charter Schools’ college-going rates, Oklahoma Watch found that fewer than one in five 2019 graduates enrolled in a public Oklahoma college or university last fall. Epic’s rate was lower than rates for all of the state’s 10 largest school districts.

Voters cast their ballots for the 2018 general election at the McClain County Election Board building in Purcell.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

When they step into the voting booth for Super Tuesday, many Oklahoma voters might be surprised at how many choices they have in the presidential primary election. And how many choices they have that won’t count.

Advocates and lawmakers say it’s looking more like a question of how, rather than if, Oklahoma will unlock federal funds to help about 5% of the state’s population pay for health insurance. But a fight is emerging over how to cover the state’s costs.

Kinsley Ellis, then 3, stood next to her mom and grandmother while they voted in polling stations at the Pottawatomie County Election Board in Shawnee on Nov. 1, 2018, the first day of early voting.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Nearly five years after the Legislature authorized the Oklahoma Election Board to launch an online voter registration system, the work remains unfinished.   

Gov. Kevin Stitt talks with reporters following a Dec. 20 meeting of the state Board of Equalization.
Trevor Brown / Oklahoma Watch

Gov. Kevin Stitt has some big decisions to make in 2020. The Republican governor is entering his second year in office with his promise from the 2018 political campaign still defining expectations for his performance – to make Oklahoma a “top 10” state in several critical areas.

Trends In Oklahoma Public School Enrollment

Dec 23, 2019
Students in an Oklahoma classroom.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Enrollment in Oklahoma public schools is growing, but it’s not happening in every district. Who are the winners and losers?

A divided Oklahoma Supreme Court on Tuesday disciplined an Oklahoma County district judge over her unpaid taxes and parking tickets, but stopped short of ordering a trial for her removal from the bench.

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