StateImpact Oklahoma

StateImpact Oklahoma is a collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU. Joe Wertz, Emily Wendler, Jackie Fortier and Quinton Chandler travel the state to report on energy and the environment, education, health, and criminal justice — and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans.

StateImpact Oklahoma is funded with private contributions from listeners and readers. Donate here.

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When the Oklahoma Legislature passed House Bill 1010xx in March, it was the first time lawmakers had increased state taxes in 28 years. Both the House and the Senate applauded themselves.

The governor acted swiftly to sign the bill, and at first, it seemed like a reason for school leaders to celebrate. They had been begging lawmakers to increase teacher pay for years, and it finally happened.

But the excitement quickly faded.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Canadian County Sheriff Chris West sits in a dimly lit office decorated with hunting trophies and law enforcement memorabilia. 

West is visibly frustrated when he says the Oklahoma Department of Corrections owes his county $88,691 for at least two years of jail costs — and he isn’t the only one complaining. The Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association says the state is shortchanging most counties for housing state prison inmates.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Babies who begin life with a long hospital stay are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke. That’s galvanized health officials at one children’s hospital to focus on laying aside stigma when they ask parents a simple question: ‘Do you smoke?’

One of those parents is Tabitha Majors, who has had a tough three weeks. She’s sitting in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center in Oklahoma City, where her newborn son Brayden is recovering from surgery.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Deborah Gist cried as she stepped across the small stage in front the Oklahoma State Capitol. The Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools and a group of educators had just finished a 110-mile walk from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to highlight their fight for more school funding.

It was the seventh day of Oklahoma’s teacher walkout, and thousands of supporters rallied to greet the group as it finished the final mile.

“This is not a rally,” Gist yelled to the crowd. “This is not a protest. This is a movement!”

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

George Wang, a senior at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, recently made a discovery that disrupts a fundamental theory in chemistry.

He’s modest, and little shy about his finding, but Fazlur Rahman, his chemistry teacher at the high school in Oklahoma City, is ecstatic.

“It’s a wonderful feeling, isn’t it?” Rahman said. “That’s cool!”

George’s discovery came about because his teacher asked him to think outside the box.

Rahman was teaching about the Carbon atom, and its natural tendency to form four bonds, which he says is basic chemistry.

DANK DEPOT / FLICKR/CC BY-NC 2.0

In June, Oklahomans will vote on State Question 788, a ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, and many people are asking – how has this worked in other states?

Who has legalized medical marijuana?

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

As Donald Trump's EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt is popular with conservatives for his aggressive rollback of Obama-era environmental regulations. He has also been strongly criticized for alleged ethics violations. But there’s another side of Pruitt that’s less well known.

Zoe Travers

The state’s market for engineering and technology jobs is growing, but the test scores of Oklahoma students lag behind national averages on science and math test scores. Researchers say one way to fix this gap is training science educators to do more than teach the facts — and to think beyond the textbook.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma wants to go where no state has gone before: Executing death row inmates with nitrogen gas. Officials say nitrogen will bring quick, painless deaths, but the research is slim — and it has never been used in U.S. executions.

The case for nitrogen hypoxia sounds simple. Nitrogen is already in the air we breathe, but, as long as humans get the right mix, nitrogen is safe. The state wants to make death row inmates breathe pure nitrogen.

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma teacher walkout and educators’ demands for more school funding dominates the news. It’s unclear if lawmakers are willing to meet those demands and quell daily protests. One lingering question: If schools get more money, what happens to other state agencies and workers who need funding, too?

Oklahoma’s state Capitol has been a madhouse all week. Teachers pack the rotunda early, and by 9 a.m. the chants are loud enough to echo through the tunnels underneath the building.

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