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Oklahoma Watch

State Readies Plan For Opening Nursing Homes, But Industry Skeptical

May 22, 2020
Staff wearing protective gear work at an eastern Oklahoma nursing home.
Provided

State health officials are developing a plan that could allow visitors back into nursing homes. But facility managers and industry advocates point to complications with testing and a shortage of protective equipment as signals that Oklahoma isn’t ready to reopen the homes.

A man hangs his head during a batterer intervention class at Catalyst in Oklahoma City. The 52-week program is an alternative to prison ordered by the court for some of Oklahoma's domestic abusers.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A bill that would add four domestic violence offenses to the state’s list of violent crimes is headed for Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk, and indications are he will sign it.

What Medical Groups Say About Reopening Oklahoma’s Economy

Apr 25, 2020
A line of cars waits to exit Penn Square Mall in OKC April 15 before driving to the State Capitol. The rally, organized by a group called OK Back 2 Work, was intended to push state leaders to lift business closures enacted because of the pandemic.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

In the wake of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to start reopening Oklahoma’s economy, Oklahoma Watch reached out for reaction from top medical groups and checked the remarks from Oklahoma City and Tulsa mayors. Here’s what they gleaned:

n a telltale sign of the crippling effects of COVID-19 on the economy, parking lots were empty in front of shops in Norman's University Town Center on March 24.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday took the most definitive steps so far to start reopening an Oklahoma economy that has been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, while acknowledging the risk of a new spike in infections that could undermine the effort.

Oklahoma Could See Big Spending In Medicaid Expansion Campaign

Dec 13, 2019

Oklahoma is poised to become the next battleground in a Medicaid expansion fight that has poured tens of millions of dollars into campaigns in other states.

Declining ACT Scores Raise College Readiness Concerns

Nov 6, 2019
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma high school graduates’ scores on the ACT college-readiness exam declined in every subject this year, according to a report released Oct. 30.

In Oklahoma, A Discredited Theory Of Reading Is Widely Used

Sep 27, 2019
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

In classrooms across Oklahoma and the nation, students are taught to read using a theory that has been discredited by decades of research by brain scientists.

With Kids’ Futures At Risk, Schools Seek New Ways To Lower Chronic Absenteeism

Sep 19, 2019
Jones Elementary teacher Carol Moshiri talks to pre-kindergartener James Williams on his way to class on Sept. 13., 2019. James is holding hands with fifth grader Leola Hopkins and first grader Nola Southern walks in front of them.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma has joined dozens of other states in trying to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools. And some schools are trying new approaches to succeed. But is the problem beyond schools’ control?

More District Schools Offer Full-Time Virtual Programs. Do They Work?

Sep 9, 2019
Brylee Brungardt-Davis (right) and her brother Vander Brungardt-Davis are enrolled in Putnam City Schools virtual classes, along with their two siblings who are in high school. Brylee, 12, said she gets more school work done because she isn’t distracted b
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A growing number of traditional district schools are offering full-time virtual education or a blend of online and in-person classes. But it’s not clear whether the quality of instruction is the same.

Second Amendment Backers Plan Tests Of Permitless Carry Law

Aug 27, 2019
Elaine Thompson / AP Images

Backers of an approaching law allowing Oklahomans to carry a gun without training or a permit say they’re willing to test compliance with the law by showing up in certain places carrying a firearm.

Gun Deaths In Oklahoma: Trends, Laws And Survival

Aug 6, 2019
A glimpse from 2016 into a bucketful of confiscated guns in the Oklahoma City Police Department’s property room.
Michael Willmus

Mass shootings in Texas and Ohio over the weekend have put gun deaths and firearm laws back in the spotlight.

Oklahoma’s last major mass shooting event was in 1986, when 14 people were killed at an Edmond post office. But the state’s death rate from guns used in both suicide and homicide has been rising and a major loosening of gun regulations is upon us when the state’s new “permitless carry” law goes into effect Nov. 1.

Did Lobbying Efforts Influence Spending On School Panic Button?

Aug 2, 2019
The Rave Mobile Safety app features a large "active shooter" button at the top and other buttons for reporting emergencies such as a fire or medical emergency.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A $3 million taxpayer-funded program will soon give schools across the state access to a relatively untested “panic button” app that can alert authorities and staff if there is an active shooter, fire or emergency in the school.

Boxes of produce are available to shoppers at The Urban Mission food pantry in Oklahoma City, which qualifies for donations from the USDA.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Food intake doubled at Oklahoma’s food banks over the past year – the result of a short-term federal program designed to buy up products from farmers who faced disruption from other countries’ responding to the Trump administration’s tariffs.

A sign is seen outside of 50 Penn Place in Oklahoma City, where Epic Charter Schools leases 40,000 square feet for administrative use.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

A state investigator’s search warrant filed in court Tuesday seeks evidence of alleged embezzlement of state funds and obtaining money under false pretenses at Epic Charter Schools, including through the use of “ghost students” who receive no actual instruction at the school.

Cynthia Garcia, a director for the pro-immigrant nonprofit Dream Action Oklahoma, says President Trump’s warnings of raids to arrest undocumented immigrants have sown fear in the state’s immigrant communities.
Trevor Brown / Oklahoma Watch

Nebert Adala had a tough decision to make in 2014 when he found out his work visa would not be renewed.

Adala, a Kenyan immigrant, had arrived in the country about five years earlier and just begun to settle down in Tulsa. He studied radiological technology at Tulsa Tech and Hillcrest Medical Center, getting married and finding a job in assisted-living care.

District Attorney David Thomas, who represents Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Kiowa and Tillman counties, closes the door at the start of the private District Attorneys Association meeting on June 20.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

The meeting room is like so many others in Oklahoma, with a standard conference table, overhead projector and wall map. Attendees exchange small talk and grab coffee from the back of the room.

Oklahoma Air Quality Dips After Years Of Steady Gains

Jul 1, 2019
Vehicles threaten Oklahoma's air quality with a range of pollutants, including carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and dust and other particulates.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma’s air may be getting worse.

The newest data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows air quality throughout much of the state was down during each of the past two years. That bucked a trend in which Oklahoma, like most of the country, had seen significant strides in making the air healthier during much of the past decade.

Former Epic Teachers Describe Pressure To Manipulate Enrollment

Jun 27, 2019
Epic Charter Schools' is transforming its testing site in Midwest City to a blended center that will serve students in grades 7 through 12.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Administrators at Epic Charter Schools have been allowing, encouraging or pressuring teachers to manipulate students’ enrollment for years in order to improve employees’ bonus pay, according to at least seven former teachers.

Lobbyist Spending Nears Record Levels

Jun 18, 2019
Members of the Senate are seen nearing the end of a session in May 2018.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Lobbyists seeking to influence elected officials in Oklahoma continue to spend some of the highest amounts ever in spite of rules intended to curb their practices.

Cheaper, stripped-down health plans could soon see a resurgence in Oklahoma, potentially reducing the number of uninsured while leaving policyholders with unexpected medical bills.

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