1 dead, 1 critical after electrocuted in Oklahoma City canal

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Police in Oklahoma City say one man is dead and another is critically hurt after being electrocuted in a canal in the city's downtown entertainment district.

Sgt. Gary Knight says the man who died had fallen into the Bricktown canal Sunday night, then tried to pull himself out of the water by grabbing a small light fixture. Knight says the fixture broke and electrocuted the man.

Knight says another man jumped into the water and tried to save the first man, but he also suffered an electric shock. That man was in critical condition Monday at a hospital.

The names of the men have not been released.

Oklahoma City Fire Department Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson says witnesses described the two men as strangers.

•••

Changes in Oklahoma's liquor laws take effect Monday

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma liquor stores are selling cold beer, and grocery stores and gas stations are now selling wine and strong beer.

A voter-approved overhaul of liquor laws took effect Monday.

Prior to the change, liquor stores couldn't refrigerate beverages and grocery and convenience stores could not sell wine and could only sell cold beer if it was 3.2 percent alcohol by volume. That meant popular craft beers that often have a higher alcohol content had to be bought hot and cooled later.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the overhaul in 2016 via a constitutional amendment. The new laws bring conservative Oklahoma in line with most other states when it comes to alcohol.

•••

Report: Oklahoma school consolidation could save $27M

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma could save nearly $27 million by consolidating its school districts, according to an education professor's recent policy paper.

James Machell, the dean of the University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies, recently released a report titled "Right-sizing Oklahoma Districts," The Oklahoman reported .

Oklahoma had 525 school districts that served about 700,000 students last year, which is about three times the number of districts in other states with a similar enrollment size, the report found.

"I am for increased investment in education, while at the same time increasing efficiencies and decreasing wasteful practices," Machell said. "I believe (having this many school districts) is wasteful."

The report recommends consolidating some of the roughly 390 districts that have less than 1,000 students. The state could save nearly $27 million if it only had 200 school districts, Machell said.

"It sounds like common sense to say we need fewer school districts, but I also understand that this issue is political dynamite," he said.

Some lawmakers are pushing for consolidation to reduce superintendents and administrative costs, while rural residents worry consolidation will hurt their communities, Machell said.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said there isn't much political support for consolidation.

"However, if there was legislation that was more specific to targeting schools that were close to one another to where they had to start sharing superintendents or sharing administrative services, I could see something like that getting some support," Stanislawski said.

•••