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With Revenue Bills, Legislature Enters Murky Legal Waters

In the session’s closing days, legislators passed three bills totaling $476 million in new revenue, saying they skirted a constitutional ban against passing revenue bills during the last week. But lawmakers’ earlier comments indicate they could find it difficult to fight off court challenges, which, if successful, could throw the state back into a budget crisis.

Forum Video: Effects of State Budget Decisions on Children

Three leaders involved in children’s issues talk about the implications of state budget decisions on the lives of kids. Our “Oklahoma Watch-Out” forum featured state Sen. AJ Griffin, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman, and Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth Director Lisa Smith.

An oil derrick sits on the grounds of the Oklahoma Capitol.

Donations, Lobbying Reflect Influence of Oil and Gas Industry

Oil and gas companies, along with their trade groups, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to lawmakers over more than two years, with top Republican leaders at the forefront of budget talks taking in some of the largest amounts.

Concerns Prompt New Law Revising How Virtual Schools Track Attendance

Virtual charter schools will have to start tracking student attendance in accordance with a new law signed Friday by Gov. Mary Fallin. The proposal arose after Oklahoma Watch revealed last year that all five of Oklahoma’s virtual charter schools reported between 98 and 100 percent attendance last year. Two reported 100 percent.

Summer and After-School Programs Out of Reach for Many Parents

When school’s out, in summer or afternoon, many parents face a struggle. Research shows that children without access to summer and after-school learning programs can suffer academically, but finding good, affordable ones is an arduous task. Oklahoma provides no state funding, and a federal program could be eliminated.

Students Sometimes Face ‘Lunch Shaming’ When They Can’t Pay

In some Oklahoma schools, children whose school meal accounts aren’t paid in full sometimes face embarrassment in the cafeteria line. The schools take away their trays and give them a cold sandwich instead. Others put a stamp on the student’s hand that reads “lunch money.” The practices have triggered a backlash.