OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State Superintendent Ryan Walters finally sits down with House members to discuss OSDE and his concerns regarding Oklahoma schools.
“It was an absolute dumpster fire when we got to this agency,” said Walters, starting off the meeting with criticism towards his predecessor.
Room 450 was packed to capacity. An overflow room was opened for the public and extra lawmakers in attendance.
Walters has refused to show before the House Education Budget Committee for months, but on Monday he spent hours taking questions from the full House Appropriations and Budget Committee, which holds 37 members.
Lawmakers wanted to know about specifics regarding federal grant programs and which ones were being applied for and the procedure to make that determination.
“I guess what I’m hearing you say, because you said a lot there. I’m just trying to get to the root of what my question was,” said Rep. Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond, frustrated with the long-winded response from Walters. “Can I expect to see that list of grants that have been applied for and their status, one week from today May 8 in my inbox?”
The Superintendent said he would get the information to Martinez.
“We don’t have to do a hearing over every time someone has a question over a grant,” said Walters, while also stating his administration would be the most transparent.
But several lawmakers didn’t agree.
Representative Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee said he tried contacting Walters several times to no avail.
Walters said he would get back to him with a date to meet.
Rep. Dick Lowe, R-Amber, asked about the Red Bud program. He said it was due in February.
Lowe wanted the list of schools associated with the funding.
Walters said it was the “first I’m hearing about it.”
The State Superintendent is known for his fiery language towards teachers and “the radical left.”
“You know I don’t negotiate with the teachers’ union. They’re a terrorist organization,” said Walters, at one point.
The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) responded to Supt. Walters’ comment Monday night.
“In less radical times, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction calling the educators who serve in our public school classrooms ‘terrorists’ would be shocking; however, this inflammatory and demonizing rhetoric continues to escalate in ways that endanger our educators and undermine public education.
“Public school educators are not getting rich off of this job. They keep their hearts and classrooms open to every single child across Oklahoma because they love their students. Comparing them to people who blow up buildings is disgusting, especially when every educator puts their life on the line to protect students as school shootings begin to rise.
“Unprofessional attacks on these educators is not a strategy to improve outcomes for Oklahoma children.”Oklahoma Education Association
Supt. Walters has railed against CRT and pornography in schools since election season.
One Republican took issue with his usage of CRT.
“Critical race theory, while I don’t like it, it’s neo-Marxist – it’s highly technical. It’s a literary criticism is what it is. I’m worried that your use of CRT, that you’re broadening it to what it’s not,” Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan.
The exchange most people were waiting for was between Walters and Republican Mark McBride, R-Moore.
Walters previously questioned McBride’s conservative bona fides, and McBride said at one point he wanted to put Walters “in a box.”
The two have been back and forth over what Walters considers “pornography” in schools.
“You know me. And you know the kind of person I am. And to even think that I would be for pornography in schools and things like that – you know better,” said McBride.
Democrats were questioning Walters and groaning at a lot of his responses throughout the meeting.
Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, asked for data regarding the intersection of indoctrination and how it impacts student outcomes.
The tipping point came at the end of the meeting.
A huge shouting match between Walters and the Democrats came from a discussion over Bibles in schools.
Vice-Chair Martinez had enough, slamming the gavel and calling an adjournment to the meeting.