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Oklahoma Watch

A woman votes at a polling station in Norman on Aug. 25, 2020.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Potential Oklahoma voters have just over two weeks to register to vote and to verify that they won’t be locked out of this fall’s pivotal general election. 

Anne Ham poses in January with her fifth-grade students at Lincoln Elementary School in Norman. Ham decided to retire one year early because of health concerns stemming from COVID-19.
Courtesy Anne Ham

Oklahoma’s teacher shortage is growing more severe with the spread of COVID-19. More teachers are opting for retirement than last year, and many say fear of going back into the classroom is the reason.

Epic Charter School California has offices in Anaheim and is authorized to operate as a virtual charter school in five counties by the Orange County Board of Education.
Jessica Ruiz / For Oklahoma Watch

The company that manages Epic Charter Schools in Oklahoma refuses to provide state auditors details about how it spends millions of dollars provided by the state to pay for students’ extra activities.

Five Oklahoma Takeaways From The White House 'Red Zone' COVID-19 Report

Jul 19, 2020
Workers at a COVID-19 test site in Norman placed patient paperwork on windshields until cars reached the front of the line. The information is then retrieved and matched up with a number on a test tube that will hold the sample taken through a nasal swab.
Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

An internal White House report about states in the so-called "red zone" for COVID-19 includes Oklahoma and recommends mandating masks and closing bars and gyms in localized areas where infections are spreading rapidly.

Months before the Memorial Day death of George Floyd and the weeks of nationwide protests that followed, Oklahoma’s Legislature had a chance to take up issues that today dominate the headlines. 

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter begins closing statements during the opioid trial at the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Okla. on Monday, July 15, 2019.
Chris Landsberger / The Oklahoman

Just days after the state health department took down localized COVID-19 data, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter provided health officials with a legal basis for making the information public again.

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.

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