OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Four Republican educators faced off Wednesday night, debating why they should replace Joy Hofmeister as Oklahoma State Superintendent at the end of her term.

The event, hosted by online publication NonDoc and taking place at the Renaissance Waterford Hotel, touched on topics ranging from school choice to transgender bathrooms to solving the teacher shortage to preventing mass shootings in schools.

“Joy Hoffmeister has been an absolutely abysmal state superintendent,” said candidate and Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters.

The others on the debate stage were Superintendent of Peggs Public Schools John Cox, Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace, and former state superintendent candidate William Crozier.

Walters expressed that he is going to fight against the Democratic politics of President Joe Biden and the National Education Association.

“The reality is Oklahoma schools are not going to go woke,” he said. “Our schools are going to continue to hold conservative Oklahoma values.”

Cox shared how the teacher shortage can be solved by raising teacher salaries.

“Teachers just want to be valued,” he said. “I’ve been advocating for a minimum pay of $50,000.”

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Candidates left to right: John Cox, Ryan Walters, April Grace and William Crozier. Image KFOR

Grace said if she wins, she’ll restructure the school systems.

“So, one of the things I’d like to consider doing is some regional service centers across the state in the four regions of the state in more close proximity to our rural districts to be able to serve them in closer proximity in face to face, people that they can get into contact with immediately, as opposed to everyone being in Oklahoma City which is sometimes hours away,” she proposed.

At one point, Crozier proposed more security at schools to prevent mass shootings.

“Check students and stuff coming in,” he said. “You can’t keep the drugs from coming in but anything that’s metallic, machetes, machine guns, pistols, things like that you can keep them from coming in, if that’s what it takes to keep people safe.”

Another point of passion were transgender bathroom use in schools.

“Allowing boys to go in girls bathrooms is not safe for students, period,” Walters said. “The boys bathroom, there should certainly be boys in that bathroom. The girls bathroom there should only be girls in that bathroom. Schools around the state have done a great job of saying, ‘listen if there needs to be an accommodation, here’s a private bathroom that a kid, if there’s an issue, go to that bathroom.'”

Cox gave his perspective on the matter as well.

“In our school district, we’ve just basically used common sense when we dealt with it,” he said. “If there’s a child that needed to use a different restroom or they were sensitive to being in a restroom then we would actually find one for them. I don’t believe boys should go in girls restrooms and what I’ve been telling people across the state is if my 10-year-old granddaughter goes in that bathroom and there’s a man that goes in there just because they’re a woman that day, there’s going to be problems with that.”

Walters and Cox had a tense exchange about school choice Wednesday evening.

“I’m running for state superintendent of public instruction. The money needs to stay in public ed, because are we going to give all our money away to give to private entities, to other businesses and not have the money left so that we can take care of the kids who are left?” Cox said. “Because face it, we’re going to have public schools and we need to be able to fix those public schools and we need the money within those public schools to take care of them. It’s so important that we focus on the 95 percent, the 700,000 kids. I know there’s 80,000 more [non-public] kids but they don’t want this money. Home schoolers do not want government in their business. Private schools do not want government in their business.”

Cox took offense when Walters then accused him of having a Democratic point of view, which Cox denied.

“I’m a little disappointed that you just parroted the talking points of the Democratic [party], but you’ve been parroting the talking points of the Democratic party that you’ve been a part of for years,” Walters said. “Yeah, of course Democrats don’t want more school choice. I want more school choice. I trust parents, plain and simple, period, end of the conversation.”

The winner for the Republicans will face off against the lone democratic candidate, Deer Creek Middle School Teacher Jena Nelson.

The primary election is set for Tuesday.