Gov. Mary Fallin’s office has offered its strongest rebuke yet to rumors that Superintendent Janet Barresi could be the state’s next secretary of education.
Joe Dorman, a Democrat challenging Fallin for the governor’s office in November, issued a statement Wednesday evening saying he heard Fallin is considering Barresi for the position. Barresi finished third in her Republican primary in June, and her last day in office is January 9.
Dorman’s statement came a day after the current secretary of education, Robert Sommers, announced he will resign on Aug. 15 to move back to Ohio due to family health concerns.
Fallin spokesmen Alex Weintz and Michael McNutt both said Tuesday and Wednesday that Barresi has not asked to be considered for the position, and has not been asked by the governor if she is interested.
Weintz went a step further Thursday.
“It’s a blanket no. She (Barresi) is not going to be chosen,” Weintz said. “She’s not going to be the next secretary of education. I think Joe Dorman made it up to heat up his campaign.”
Weintz also accused Dorman of starting the rumor to make up for not having any political accomplishments after serving 12 years in the state House.
Dorman said he made his statement after other people raised concerns.
He pointed to a blog published by Oklahoma education blogger Brett Dickerson Tuesday that addressed the issue and its potential ramifications for Oklahoma, and unnamed educators who raised the concern during this week’s Vision 2020 summer education conference in Oklahoma City.
Dorman added the concerns are legitimate given that Barresi’s term ends in December, and that Fallin has an opening in her cabinet.
“They’re thick as thieves,” Dorman said. “Mary and Janet have worked together to promote A-F (school grades) and Common Core.”
Tricia Pemberton, a spokeswoman for Barresi, said Barresi has no intentions to seek the position, and doubts the governor would offer it after June’s primary results.
“She (Barresi) said today that the voters of Oklahoma have spoken,” Pemberton said in an email.
“She wishes Governor Fallin well, and she herself is looking forward to continuing the fight for education reform from the private sector.”
Both Fallin and Barresi were strong supporters of Common Core academic standards in Oklahoma at the beginning of the year. Both back-tracked amid mounting political pressure to repeal the standards.
The Legislature ultimately passed a bill removing the standards. The bill was signed by Fallin, and the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday the legislation is constitutional.
The campaign for Joy Hofmeister, who defeated Barresi in the primary, was quick to tie Barresi to Common Core, the state’s controversial A-F school and district grading system and her stance supporting third-grade reading retention policies.
Barresi finished last among three candidates with 21 percent of the vote. Hofmeister won with nearly 58 percent of the vote.
Dorman, considered a long shot against the incumbent Republican, has followed a similar tactic tying Fallin to Common Core and to Barresi.
You can read a Twitter exchange between Weintz and Dorman’s campaign account below: