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Shortly after Ryan Walters was sworn in as state superintendent of public instruction, the governor reappointed him secretary of education, according to the Tulsa World, a cabinet position Walters has held since 2020.
If the appointment is confirmed by the Senate, Walters will be in the unusual position of serving both roles for the state. Even more unusual, if not unprecedented, he will receive both salaries: $124,373 for state superintendent plus $40,000 for his Cabinet secretary position.
That’s more than the governor’s $147,000 salary.
The two positions are distinct under state law. The main duty of the state superintendent is to control and direct the state Department of Education, as well as advise the Board of Education and adopt policies and rules for the department.
The state superintendent serves as chairman of the Board of Education and the state Board of Career and Technology Education and holds a seat on the Board of Equalization.
Duties of the secretary of education include oversight of the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, a state agency that handles teacher certification and teacher college accreditation, and generally advising the governor of policy changes or problems with education in the state.
Just before the inauguration, Walters resigned from Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, a not-for-profit education reform organization, where he was executive director and earned at least $120,000 a year. Critics viewed that position as a conflict of interest with his responsibilities to the state.
Also, Stitt shook up the state Board of Education by appointing four new members: Donald Burdick, CEO of an energy company; Marla Hill, a homeschooling mother; Kendra Wesson, who owns an accounting firm in Norman and unsuccessfully ran for the House in 2022; and Suzanne Reynolds, a pharmacist.
They replace Brian Bobek, Jennifer Monies, Estela Hernandez and Carlisha Bradley.
— Jennifer Palmer
- Oklahoma auditor says Epic Charter Schools misused $30 million in public education dollars — more than previously thought. [The Oklahoman]
- The chairman of the Senate education committee unveiled an education reform plan that includes $241 for teacher pay raises and maternity leave for educators. [KFOR]
- An employee at the school where a first-grade teacher was shot searched the backpack of a 6-year-old student to check for a gun. No weapon was found, but police accuse the child of shooting his teacher later that afternoon. [The New York Times]
- In Florida, colleges are cancelling classes or modifying curriculum since the “Stop Woke Act” was signed into law in April — limiting the freedom of professors who are experts in their fields. [ProPublica]
New on Oklahoma Watch
A new federal law with bipartisan support takes aim at the high cost of prison phone calls. Here’s why it will take further action to help Oklahoma families. [Read More]
Oklahoma Watch education reporter Jennifer Palmer explains why the state’s virtual charter school board remains in limbo. Also: Keaton Ross on a legislators’ personal financial interests and Ashlynd Huffman on capping prison phone rates. [Listen here]
Top legislative leaders have left positions on the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board unfilled for months, rendering it unable to meet. Reforms to Epic Charter Schools and an anticipated application for a Catholic charter school await. [Read more]
Oklahoma Watch has obtained the most recent legislative financial disclosure reports and included them in a searchable and sortable database. [Read more]
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