OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — At least eight textbook publishers have withdrawn from the Oklahoma State Department of Education textbook committee consideration process. The State Superintendent says the reason being those textbook companies are “woke.”

Recently, Moms for Liberty – Tulsa Chapter Chair, Janice Danforth spoke with the State Department of Education. She voiced her concerns over social-emotional learning curriculum she allegedly found in textbooks.

“It’s focusing on social awareness, self awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision making, and self management which all of those are social-emotional learning,” stated Danforth.

Danforth also filed a complaint with the Oklahoma State Department of Education on September 15. That complaint was heard by the textbook committee in early October.

“In the elementary level textbooks for mathematics we found SEL (Social Emotional Learning) embedded within the curriculum. We feel strongly that embedding SEL into all subjects is not only unnecessary, but takes time away from the actual learning of academics, the very thing children are at school to do. And in this case, it’s taking time away from children learning math,” the complaint wrote on behalf of Moms for Liberty Tulsa.

McGraw Hill Chief Academic Officer, Katie McClarty, said in a response, “McGraw Hill firmly believes that students’ success in academics is tied not just to the high-quality content and sound pedagogy found in our programs but to their individual ability to think mathematically and work productively, confidently, and collaboratively with their peers through the rigorous math content they are learning. The student edition offers opportunities for students to explain, support, and share their mathematical thinking as they problem solve through each lesson. The Teacher Edition offers academic explanations for the instructor of these pedagogical areas of focus which align to mathematical actions and processes of learning. These Math Mindset features are intended to facilitate academic content discussions in the classroom if desired by the instructor and district.”

Per the State Department of Education’s High-Quality Instructional Materials rubric, social-emotional learning is a requirement the textbook committee looks for.

“Do the materials provide opportunities for students to collaborate with one another, reflect, and ask clarifying questions to develop a value for alternative ways of knowing? Do the materials encourage a student mindset that problem solving extends beyond procedural or algorithmic activities with a goal that is limited to the identification of a correct answer?”

Oklahoma State Department of Education High-Quality Instructional Materials, Mathematics Instructional Material Evaluation Rubric

Oklahoma Representative Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman, who used to work as a Norman educator told KFOR social-emotional learning is the teaching of soft skills.

“We’re talking about setting and achieving goals, failing, and demonstrating empathy. That’s even become an attack piece right now. These are things you have to do not only just to grow and be an adult in this world, but also to be in a 21st century job,” he added.

Levi Patrick is a former Oklahoma State Department of Education Director of Secondary Mathematics Education. He worked with OSDE for nine years.

The textbook committee has been considering 17 different math textbook publishers this year, according to the Oklahoma Voice.

“The process, over the years, has been improved and now includes very detailed rubrics that support districts in making well-informed decisions on the quality of the curriculum they have access to,” said Patrick.

Patrick was part of the textbook committee and said members would look for ways in which the textbooks provided assessment, support, intervention, and ideas.

News 4 asked Patrick if eight textbook publishers withdrawing from Oklahoma is normal.

“It’s very abnormal the publishers are withdrawing their names from the process. I think usually once a publisher has made a decision to put their name in the hat, they’ve indicated their willingness to do this. They’re putting their own resources behind, making adjustments to their curriculum for Oklahoma State standards. You usually see them follow through with that,” said Patrick.

Three of the 12 companies on the previous math textbook approval list have withdrawn, including one of the largest textbook publishers in the country. Another four haven’t submitted an intent to bid, according to Oklahoma Voice.

Oklahoma Voice also reported a well-known online learning provider, Edmentum, withdrew from the textbook adoption process, but the company said it still intends to offer supplemental online courses.

Four of the other eight withdrawing publishers include Carnegie Learning, CPM Educational Program, Heinemann and Marshall Cavendish Corporation, per Oklahoma Voice.

News 4 sent OSDE Director of Communications, Dan Isett a list of questions over email on Tuesday. With no response, we followed up but Isett never replied.

Isett did tell Oklahoma Voice, “Unlike the previous administration, Superintendent Walters is committed to eliminating woke indoctrination in Oklahoma classrooms, including in textbooks. Consequently, the process is different now from in years past because it includes an extra layer of review.”

“If the state has gone against the vote of the textbook committee to change the rubric process, I think that would certainly be a cause for concern. It would be unprecedented to do it out of order like that. I would imagine that would cause some publishers to remove their name from the bidding process. We wouldn’t even accept a textbook unless it was actually supporting positive disposition of our students. It’s not only in our standards, it is in the state approved rubric for our curriculum. It’s all there and required. The fact we’re pushing back on the things that are as expected and best practice is really shocking.”

Levi Patrick, former Oklahoma State Department of Education Director of Secondary Mathematics Education

Patrick told KFOR textbooks are re-evaluated every six years, so “this is a decision right now that will affect kids for the next six years of their schooling experience and not just the students, but the teachers.”

During the September Board of Education meeting, the State Superintendent laid out his public education allocation request for the next year.

In his slideshow revealed textbooks not receiving an increase in funding.

“There definitely has to be an increase in textbook funding across the state. I think the current numbers I have access to is they’re only funding around 60% of the real costs for instructional materials through the through the state textbook allocation. The rest of the money is left up as a variable for districts and some districts are able to bond to support the purchase of other instructional materials,” explained Patrick. “Now we have a huge variability across 500+ districts in our state. But even if you have a level of funding as the number of students increases, that means the per student allocation decreases. It’s unreasonable to even request a level funding model for that if the student count is increasing.”

Although News 4 did not receive a statement from OSDE, Supt. Walters posted his remarks on X, formerly Twitter, Wednesday afternoon.

He blamed the withdrawal of applications on textbook publishers being “woke.”

“What are you effing talking about? The only indoctrination I see is what they’re throwing out there. It’s constant and people are starting to believe it. That’s why it’s so important we push back, depoliticize and push back. Because if we don’t, what’s going to happen? Companies aren’t going to want to invest in Oklahoma textbooks or really anything else that Oklahoma has to do with. They’re going to start moving out, too,” said Rep. Rosecrants.

Rep. Rosecrants said Supt. Walters’ actions are another political move to incite fear and to gaslight Oklahoma voters.

He plans to spark a conversation with his Republican colleagues about Walters’ latest move on textbooks.

“I don’t hate Ryan Walters. I just hate the fact that he’s turned into the person that he is and won’t revert back to the person I thought he was,” said Rep. Rosecrants.

News 4 has reached out to Moms for Liberty and received the following statement on Wednesday evening:

McGraw Hill has embedded Social Emotional Learning (SEL) into its elementary level math books. Every minute spent on this ideology is a minute taken away from students learning academics. In 2022, Oklahoma 4th graders were only 27% proficient in math. We cannot afford to spend time teaching this ideology when our students are failing such a vital core subject as mathematics.

Janice Danforth, chair of Tulsa County Moms for Liberty