TULSA, Ola. (KFOR) – Gov. Kevin Stitt is pursuing a special audit of Tulsa Public Schools, following a request from two school board members, and he claims the school district may have violated state law by conducting training related to critical race theory.
Stitt sent a letter Thursday to State Auditor & Inspector Cindy Byrd, requesting she conduct a special audit of the school district. He told Byrd he was requesting the audit after a “threefold series of troubling events” was brought to his attention.
He said two Tulsa School Board members, E’Lena Ashley and Dr. Jennettie Marshall, informed him about “substantial evidence” that the school district mishandled public funds, saying the members referred to the impropriety as a “pattern of operation.” He also expressed concern over the school district staying closed over 300 days during the COVID-19 pandemic despite receiving more than $200 million in federal funds that were intended to minimize school disruptions during the pandemic. Finally, he says the district may have conducted training related to teaching critical race theory, which he said is a violation of HB 1775.
Stitt alleges critical race theory defines and divides young students by their race or sex. However, some Oklahoma educators have defended the teaching of critical race theory, saying it discusses discrimination caused by certain policies and laws within the nation’s history.
The governor elaborated on the three “troubling events,” in the letter, describing them as follows:
“First, in a letter dated July 1, 2022, Tulsa School Board Members for Districts 3 and 4 disclosed to me that most board members were left “in the dark” while the TPS Superintendent conducted an internal investigation into what one Tulsa World article described as “almost $20,000 in irregularities tied to a vendor contract within the district’s Talent Management Department.” According to Tulsa School Board Members, there is “substantiating evidence” that this mishandling of public funds “is not a one-time situation but a pattern of operation.”
Second, pursuant to federal law passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, TPS has been allocated three rounds of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, totaling a little more than $205 million. Although ESSER funds were intended to minimize disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic and support the well-being of students, TPS stayed closed over 300 days—longer than any other school district.
Third and finally, sources have publicly indicated TPS may have conducted a training in contravention of House Bill 1775 and the administrative rules adopted in response to the legislation, which banned the teaching of critical race theory.”Gov. Kevin Stitt
Stitt pledged to get to the bottom of the allegations against Tulsa Public Schools.
“I have every confidence in State Auditor Cindy Byrd, who is also conducting a financial audit of the State Department of Education which I called for last year,” he said in a video-recorded statement. “To be Top Ten in education, parents need to know exactly what’s going on in their child’s school and in their child’s classrooms.”
The two school board members’ letter to Stitt, as well as Stitt’s letter to Byrd are included below: