The ballot is set in the race for state superintendent of schools: Republican Ryan Walters will face Democrat Jena Nelson in November. Walters, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education, clinched his party’s nomination in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff against April Grace, superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools.

Walters carried 53% of the votes, or 149,086, according to the (unofficial) results from the Oklahoma Election Board, compared to Grace’s 130,116.

Both Walters and Nelson are teachers. Walters taught history and government at McAlester High School but isn’t this year, according to the district. Nelson teaches English at Classen Middle School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City.

Their stances on critical issues facing education differ starkly.

Walters has focused on fighting cultural wars over what he calls “left-wing indoctrination” of students, which he rails against in videos posted to social media, many made from the front seat of his car. (He continues to refuse to answer questions from reporters at Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier about our investigation into the federal COVID-19 relief programs for students.)

He supports sending public funding to students in private schools and helped pass House Bill 1775, a law that bans certain discussions about race and gender in schools.

Nelson, on the other hand, has focused on supporting educators and says she’ll keep public dollars in public schools.

Jena Nelson, the Democratic candidate for state superintendent of schools. (Provided)

As we move closer to November, Oklahoma Watch will be reporting on the upcoming election and we’d love to hear from you. What information do you need to be informed at the ballot box? As always, send me story ideas via email or DM.

— Jennifer Palmer

Recommended Reading

  • A Norman English teacher has resigned over her school district’s policies related to House Bill 1775. The teacher posted a QR code in her classroom for students to access banned books but also made personal, political statements, the district said. [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tens of millions of Americans will have student loan debt canceled, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday. Across the U.S., 45 million people owe $1.6 trillion for federal loans taken for college. [The New York Times]
  • How Moms for Liberty has become a powerful force for the Republican party. [Mother Jones]

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