WALTERS WATCH: Oklahoma Republicans Distance Themselves From Besieged, Careless Superintendent Ryan Walters

by Laurel Powell

Supt. Walters’s Board of Education continues to flounder as its botched data for a key schools ranking program draws ire from Gov. Stitt & its package of administrative rules is held back by the legislature

OKLAHOMA CITY—Chaos continues to reign at Ryan Walters’s Oklahoma State Board of Education, as setback after embarrassing setback pile up.

Following a dramatic and heart-wrenching Board meeting where a mother and disability rights advocate was arrested in front of her children and jailed, the bad news continues to roll in as members of his own party in the State Administrative Rules Committee held back the Board of Education’s proposed rules package - which, among other controversial provisions, would dismantle inclusion initiatives at districts, allow misgendering of students, and enable Walters to continue to threaten schools that he will rescind their accreditation - for additional scrutiny. While hundreds of other agencies had their rules passed through the committee uneventfully, Walters’s rule package was singled out for additional scrutiny. This represents a major step toward holding Ryan Walters accountable for his reckless, failed leadership - and it was done by members of his own party.

Lending more credence to claims that the state Department of Education is deserted and rudderless, Walters failed to provide key data to a U.S. News and World Report survey that ranks public school systems, meaning even Oklahoma’s highest performing schools saw their results skewed down in the rankings. Whether a purposeful omission or a careless mistake, Oklahomans across the political spectrum spoke out about the impacts that this could have on local families and businesses, noting that school rankings are an important detail parents and employers look at when deciding where to expand businesses or create new jobs. One local superintendent said “[The list] is a place where families and businesses moving into the state of Oklahoma look to see the quality of the schools in that particular district. Our chambers of commerce really work hard to increase the appeal of our communities for outside businesses and families.” Even Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt spoke out about the fiasco, saying Walters and other Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) leaders need to be held “accountable’” and that these rankings “play a factor for families and businesses when choosing whether to locate in Oklahoma.”

If that wasn’t enough, the Oklahoman reported during Teacher Appreciation Week that Walters and OSDE continue to blame teachers for the $50,000 bonuses the department awarded in error, even casting the department as the “victim” in this matter.

Ryan Walters is embarrassing Oklahoma on a national stage. He is failing to do the basics of his job while he focuses instead on picking on students, defying federal civil rights laws, and trying to grab even more power. Ryan Walters is failing Oklahoma students and every power grab that goes unchecked is a decision to invest in his own political ambition at the expense of Oklahoma's students and schools.

Laurel Powell, HRC Spokesperson

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