Joy Hofmeister is term-limited and recently announced she’s running for governor. The race to fill the state’s top education post will be critical to the future of public education in Oklahoma.

Three candidates so far have announced they are running: John Cox, superintendent at Peggs Public Schools; April Grace, superintendent at Shawnee Public Schools; and Ryan Walters, secretary of education. All are Republicans (though Cox ran as a Democrat in 2014 and 2018.)

I took a look at the latest campaign finance reports to get an early peek at the candidates’ fundraising. Totals as of September 30 were:

• $20,750 for Cox

• $104,170 for Walters

• $136,025 for Grace

Grace, who was named 2021 Superintendent of the Year, is well known in education circles and her campaign donations reflect that. She’s received donations from educators around the state; most were small and incremental but often reoccurring donations.

On the other hand, Walters’ role in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet lends him name recognition and some political clout – which is reflected in donations to his campaign. He’s a public school teacher and executive director of Every Kid Counts, an education advocacy organization. Stitt appointed him education secretary in September.

Stitt personally gave $2,900, the maximum amount for individuals, to Walters’ campaign in July, shortly after he declared his candidacy.

Stitt wasn’t the only big name to give to Walters’ campaign. Gene Rainbolt and his son, David, of BancFirst, and Larry Nichols, of Devon, each gave the maximum. Two Stitt appointees to Board of Education — Trent Smith and Brian Bobek — donated, as did Brandon Tatum, a Stitt appointee to the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

Interestingly, a recent poll by Amber Integrated shows Cox in the lead — but it’s still very early in the race and 40% of those polled said they don’t know or didn’t answer. Among those who did, 20% said they would vote for Cox, 11% said they’d vote for Walters and 10% said they’d vote for Grace.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this race. Thoughts, tips, story ideas? As always, email and DMs open. Have a great week.

— Jennifer Palmer

What I’m Reading

  • How schools embraced internet spyware on school computers during the pandemic, tracking everything students do. [Bloomberg]
  • Claremore Mayor William “Bill” Flanagan resigned from the state Board of Education, citing health issues. [The Oklahoman]
  • A record number of emergency certified teachers are in Oklahoma classrooms this year. [Tulsa World]
  • College enrollment plunges for the second year in a row as young adults choose work instead. [The Hechinger Report]

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