Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters wasted no time in throwing out the first red herring of his governance by saying his No. 1 priority is getting rid of “liberal indoctrination” and resumed his car videos with a pledge to revoke licenses of two teachers with whom he has a political disagreement.
Tulsa World Editorial: Don’t fall for distractions from State Superintendent Ryan Walters
In a blistering editorial, the Tulsa World encourages Oklahomans not to be misled by their new State Superintendent.
This is a distraction playing to a fringe with no base in reality. It’s a sleight-of-hand trick to draw attention from other things. Don’t fall for it.
Anyone with knowledge of Oklahoma’s current state of public education knows the biggest challenges are in the workforce, resources and youth mental health.
The state has gone from granting 32 emergency teaching certifications in 2011 to now more than 3,700. The state has 33,000 people who hold full certifications but have chosen to stay out of the profession.
With the way Walters and others are demonizing public school teachers, who could blame them?
Average teacher pay is 34th nationally and fourth in the region. Starting teacher pay ranks 39th, and only 10% of districts offer a starting salary of more than $40,000.
Per-pupil expenditure is at 46th nationally. Those reflect resources for students and teachers, such as electives and extracurricular activities.
Bemoaning the academic outcomes of public education without acknowledging the low investment in schools is unfair. Getting better results will require getting better tools.
But that’s not what Walters is interested in. It’s not how he ran his campaign.
Walters was elected on an anti-public school platform, supporting private school vouchers and railing against perceived liberal teachings. He promised to turn away federal money, the receipt of which would require compliance with federal guidelines, though he hasn’t said which programs funded by that money he would eliminate.
He is backed by a state school board hand-picked by Gov. Kevin Stitt, who vows to get a private school voucher passed under the guise of school choice. That choice, though, wouldn’t hold private schools to the same standards of transparency and curriculum and would largely be limited to metro areas.
Walters is bad news for education in Oklahoma. Read the full editorial here.