November 3, 2022

Jena Nelson Calls on Walters to Disclose Donors, Relationship with Hillsdale College

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Jena Nelson is a public school educator and the 2020 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. She is running for Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction against Ryan Walters, current secretary of education who is also employed by the school privatization group Every Kid Counts Oklahoma. 

According to a joint investigation by two of Oklahoma’s most reputable news outlets, The Frontier and State Impact Oklahoma, much of EKCO’s funds come from national school privatization and charter school advocates including the Walton Family Foundation and a group founded by billionaire Charles Koch. EKCO was charged with distributing $8 million of Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds and was cited by the US Department of Education’s Investigator General for mishandling and misspending a significant amount of those funds.

“I’m calling on Ryan Walters to release the names of every donor to his non-profit organization, Every Kid Counts Oklahoma. While he was tasked by the Governor to serve as Secretary of Education and look out for the best interests of our kids, Ryan Walters was running a private school advocacy group funded by millionaires and billionaires ready to line their pockets with our tax dollars. He wasted no time selling out our public schools for his own enrichment and is now threatening to turn down all federal education funds that help our most vulnerable students,” Nelson said.

As reported in the Tulsa World, Walters plans to require Oklahoma public school teachers to undergo patriotic education training provided by Hillsdale College, a radical religious school in Michigan. Hillsdale is trying to establish a national network of charter schools including a new one in Tulsa. Larry Arnn, Hillsdale College President, compared the public education system to “a plague” and said that public school teachers are educated “in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”

This election will be important for public education in Oklahoma. Read more about Nelson’s statement here. 

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