Another Circle of Hell with Superintendent Walters – and a Little What-About-ism
Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters has put Tulsa Public Schools accreditation in limbo until the State School Board meets in August. According to reporting in The Oklahoman, Walters said that TPS has been “plagued by scandal.” The scandal he’s referring to involves former TPS Chief Learning Officer Devin Fletcher, who resigned in 2022, and is alleged to have misused thousands of TPS and foundation dollars. The TPS board has expressed support for the investigation and voted to “pursue civil litigations against Fletcher” according to reports by KWCS Public Radio Tulsa.
Walters’ real problem with TPS are his favorite boogie men: ripping away “religious liberty” and House Bill 1775 – the bill that wants to make sure that U.S. history is whitewashed so that white people don’t feel uncomfortable, and to ensure that LBGTQ people are made invisible. Superintendent Walters also enjoys book-banning discussions because in his mind, schoolteachers are promoting all kinds of pornography. Would he ban “1984”? Maybe he should read it.
If you haven’t heard, Tulsa School Board member E’Lena Ashley was rightly admonished by Superintendent Gist and School Board President Stacey Wooley for offering a public prayer at a school event. Superintendent Gist and Board President Wooley were correct to point out that it is against the law to promote a particular religion at a public-school event. That got Mr. Walters riled up. He would like to see Christianity inside public schools. The separation of church and state protects all of us. Ms. Ashley is perfectly welcome to pray privately or in her church or home, but not when she is representing TPS at a public-school graduation. In doing so, she’s leaving out students of different faiths or no faith. In the Christian faith, Jesus asks his followers to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:13 and Matthew 7:12). Doesn’t the Golden Rule apply to those who may think, look or act differently from us? The last time I checked, we had no state-sponsored religion, which is a good thing. It allows all of us to worship or not worship the way we want and to respect each other’s beliefs. We do not have a theocracy. Until that changes, state and local leaders should follow the law, if not the Golden Rule.
Superintendent Walters is the head of PUBLIC education in Oklahoma, yet at every turn, he is advocating for public schools to indoctrinate students, staff and teachers in his personal beliefs.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education dinged TPS for violating House Bill 1775 because the district supposedly provided implicit bias training. Walters does not like Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), calling it “Marxist” and “indoctrination,” and calls for schools to report their spending on DEI materials and staff. You can bet that there are some individuals nosing around who will report any off-message materials or presentations. It would be laughable if it weren’t so scary. While Walters has no say over colleges and universities, he also wants Oklahoma’s public institutions of higher ed to report their spending on DEI.
Does Walters understand what DEI is? We live in a diverse city, state, country and world. Understanding our differences and having insight into those differences is important in being able to live and work together. You can see the chaos, meanness, prejudice and division that happens when people don’t accept diversity, equity and inclusion by looking at Superintendent Walters’ actions. Should children follow this raving, angry, prejudiced person’s example of how to act toward others?
I find it hard to believe that most parents want their children to be miseducated. I believe most parents want their children to learn real history, good and bad. They want to be able to choose what their children read, not have the state do it. They want to be able to choose their own ways to worship or not worship, not have the state do it. Mr. Walters wants to make those choices for parents. That is not freedom. That’s indoctrination. It makes Oklahoma school children less competitive for jobs and college admission. Most parents actually like their child’s public school. In fact, a recent Gallup poll showed that 80% of parents liked their child’s school.
Walters would have us believe that schools are going to hell in a handbasket. Under his leadership, that could happen.
If you are a praying person, you can pray, as I do, that Superintendent Walters will wake up (become “woke”?) and realize that he is the leader for all public-school children in Oklahoma. TPS is a beautifully diverse district. We need support. We need to have leadership that supports our schools, our teachers and our students, not constant attacks. If Ryan Walters is truly concerned about children in Oklahoma’s schools, he would be working on getting more funding for schools, more reading specialists, wrap-around services for struggling families, small class sizes (just like the private schools have), qualified teachers who want to stay in the classroom, curriculum that recognizes diversity and equity. There is so much he could be doing rather than flame-throwing. Every time I hear or read something about or by Superintendent Walters, I wonder what circle of hell it’s going to take me to. Enough of the smokescreen issues of gay grooming and diversity indoctrination. There’s real work to be done for our children.
Most parents are probably tired of the drama. Why not create a strong, clear vision for improving public education for all children?
P.S. A little “what about-ism” for your Friday:
Devon Fletcher’s alleged illegal activity is worrisome, but what about Ryan Walters? What about that $18 million of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) that he handed over in a no-bid contract to Class Wallet, which distributed the funds for parents to use on their children’s education. Parents bought TVs, refrigerators, Christmas trees, patio furniture and the like. Who was in charge? Ryan Walters. A federal audit showed that there was $650,000 that did not go to educational purchases. What is he doing about that? Shouldn’t there be some consequences? If Walters weren’t so busy worrying about destroying public schools, he might have used that money to help children.
Read this disturbing interview with Oklahoma Watch education reporter Jennifer Palmer and State Impact Oklahoma’s Beth Wallis about Walter’s mismanagement of federal funds: stateimpact.npr.org/oklahoma/2023/02/23/how-oklahomas-mismanagement-of-federal-education-funds-could-leave-18-million-on-the-table/