Candidate for state superintendent of public instruction Jena Nelson. (Photo provided)

The latest political poll delivered a stunner: Jena Nelson, the Democratic candidate for state superintendent of schools, leads by five points over Ryan Walters, the Republican candidate.

With Election Day just under two months away, here are some of the main findings from the poll, which was conducted Sept. 2-7 by SoonerPoll.com for News9 and Newson6 in Tulsa:

• Likely voters were asked who they would cast their ballot for if the election was held today. 48.1% said Nelson, 43.1% said Walters, and 8.8% were undecided;

• Nelson has a considerable lead in support among younger voters (under 54), who are more likely to have children in school;

• Walters leads among older voters, (55-64 year olds, and those over 65);

• Nelson has the support of more than 19% of Republicans, plus more than 90% of Democrats.

Walters has a significant campaign fundraising advantage, who reported collecting more than $450,000 through the primary, compared to Nelson’s $75,000 (Walters, though, spent nearly $390,000 during that time, according to his campaign finance reports.) The candidates won’t have to submit their next reports until the end of October.

Walters also has more name recognition. He’s endorsed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, who appointed him to the secretary of education post in 2020. As one of the more polarizing political figures in Oklahoma, Walters regularly criticizes school officials and state superintendent Joy Hofmeister on issues such as critical race theory, school policies on transgender bathroom use, and explicit materials in school libraries.

He’s often seen on Twitter, posting videos of himself from inside his car. But Walters hasn’t posted to his state Twitter account since Aug. 31, when he demanded an English teacher from Norman be stripped of her teaching credentials after she posted a QR code in her classroom, linking to the Brooklyn Public Library’s banned books collection.

Nelson, on the other hand, has made significantly fewer headlines since announcing her run in March. She has been teaching full-time at an Oklahoma City middle school until this week, when she announced she will be taking a leave of absence to focus on her campaign, according to a FOX25 story.

Both Walters and Nelson are certified teachers; Walters was a finalist for Teacher of the Year in 2016, and Nelson won Teacher of the Year in 2020.

As always, send me story ideas via email or DM. I’d love to hear from you.

— Jennifer Palmer

Recommended Reading

  • States, including Oklahoma, have loosened the job requirements to be a teacher to deal with a long-standing shortage of trained educators willing to staff classrooms. [The Washington Post]
  • A new state law going into effect in November will require youth caught with tobacco, vape or nicotine products to complete an education course, not be fined. [NonDoc]
  • An investigation of New York’s Hasidic Jewish private schools found academic failures so terrible “generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.” Yet the schools have received more than $1 billion in public funds in the past four years. [The New York Times]

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