Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
Though Ryan Walters can't do what he says he might, he can still make life hell along the way
Tulsa Public Schools has issues, yet the biggest one remains the bullying tactics of the man who's supposed to make it easier, not harder, to educate kids
So Ryan Walters, elected to a position I still can’t type with a straight face — but what the hell, I’ll do it: State Superintendent of Public Instruction — has threatened to pull state accreditation from Tulsa Public Schools.
“He told the gathering … that his administration is considering ‘all options on the table,’ The Tulsa World reported from his Tuesday speaking engagement at Trinity Christian Academy, a private Lawton school.
Do you think, like LBJ in his dying days as president, when could only give speeches on military bases, the state superintendent of public instruction can only book engagements at private schools? I digress.
Anyway, though speaking in southwest Oklahoma, Walters’ brain was in northeastern Oklahoma, complaining about Tulsa schools.
“At the end of the day, if a school like Tulsa doesn’t want to change, we will take drastic action to fix them,” Walters said.
Thursday, during a meeting of the state board of education, he kind of made it official.
Here’s how The Oklahoman’s Nuria Martinez-Keel reported it:
While all other school districts in the state had their yearly accreditation decided Thursday, Tulsa Public Schools won’t learn its status until next month.
State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters asked to remove Tulsa from the pack for a separate vote in August. The rest of the Oklahoma State Board of Education agreed.
When asked whether revoking the district's accreditation is on the table next month, Walters said “all possible actions are on the table.”
A school district that loses its accreditation would be closed and dissolved, having lost all recognition and funding from the state.
It’s true, Tulsa Public Schools indeed has issues.
Here’s more from the World.
TPS has already been notified that it would receive a deficiency on its new, annual accreditation report for “lack of internal controls” tied to the findings in the district’s annual external audit, which flagged about $364,000 in questionable vendor contracts connected to former TPS Talent Management Director Devin Fletcher and indicated that Fletcher circumvented TPS’ disbursement and conflict of interest policies.
Also, it would appear, TPS is struggling horribly to keep its students proficient in math and reading. The entire state is struggling fairly horribly, too, but not as badly as the Tulsa system and here’s a story about that.
So we get it.
There are problems.
But there’s also still this:
Walters is the biggest problem.
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Most of his buffoonery, if not dismissible, is easily ignored.
His tweets are dumb, more hilarious than dangerous.
He’s dying to become the biggest thing in right-wing media since Tucker Carlson.
The folks he aligns himself with, like “Moms for Liberty,” are dumb, too.
More and more, it’s clear Kevin Stitt, who’s falling apart in real time, has no use for him either, while the legislature may be more tired of him than the governor, which is saying something.
So much of Walters’ act is self-aggrandizing, so while he adds no value to public education in the state, as long as he spends him time begging himself into Fox News segments, trying to get on the CPAC stage or at conferences and meetings populated by dummies wholly incapable of recognizing other dummies, how much damage can he really do?
That’s the problem.
Nor is it going away until he goes away, which requires the state legislature, an utter long shot, or criminal conviction, to make him go away.
Check it out.
This isn’t the first time Walters has tangled with the Tulsa system.
Here’s more from Martinez-Keel in The Oklahoman:
The school district experienced a surprising accreditation downgrade last year. The state Education Department recommended Tulsa suffer a penalty over House Bill 1775, a state law that bans certain race and gender topics from schools.
The agency admitted Tulsa didn’t teach one of the subjects the law prohibits, but a teacher training included comments that were “more likely than not” inspired by outlawed concepts, officials said.
Gee, that doesn’t sound crooked at all.
A training seminar pulled from “outlaw concepts” … because the whole idea, I guess, is to not foster critical thinking among Oklahoma students?
As to that $364,000 in questionable vendor contracts, Walters decided to come up wish his own number, backed by nothing.
“When I see over $1 million that they don’t know where it went, they don’t know who took it, they can’t find it, that’s a problem,” he also said Tuesday in Lawton.
So maybe he’s trying to get the number closer to the figure state auditor Cindy Byrd said he allowed to be spent fraudulently in the ClassWallet scandal?
Maybe his next fabricated figure will be $1.7 million, equal to the one Byrd factually arrived at concerning ClassWallet.
Then there’s this, reported by The Oklahoman’s Martinez-Keel:
The state superintendent recently attended a contentious news conference in Tulsa in which he hinted the district had “many, many violations” for the board to scrutinize.
In that news conference, Walters backed Tulsa Board of Education member E’Lena Ashley, who complained the district ordered her not to publicly pray at school events after she had done so at a high school graduation ceremony in May.
Walters and Ashley deemed this a violation of religious liberty.
So Tulsa schools are being threatened with losing accreditation, in part, because they’re going along with a Supreme Court decision, yet to be overturned, dating back to 1962?
The Tulsa system may have its issues, but here’s Walters inflating, making up, and outright lying about those issues, propelling himself into the center of the storm, not caring about the trauma he’s inflicting upon a district trying to educate 33,000 kids, even when the truth is he couldn’t possibly follow through on his harshest threat.
Walters can’t take accreditation away from Tulsa Public Schools because he can’t possibly leave all those students with nowhere to go.
He’d cripple the city and Tulsa mayor G.T. Bynum, though he’d prefer to not court controversy, can’t allow it to happen.
He’d throw thousands of teachers, administrators, janitors, librarians, support personnel and probably a few cops, too, out of work.
If he even tried it, teachers in Oklahoma City, likely Norman, maybe Edmond, maybe even Union, Jenks and Owasso, would threaten to strike with every intention of carrying out the threat until Walters backed down, perhaps until he’s removed.
Their 16-, 17- and 18-year-old students might just beat them to it.
So he can’t do it.
Any single one of the consequences of him doing it is far worse than anything, even in his warped mind, that might be gained by his doing it.
So it’s not going to happen.
Tell that to all those teachers, administrators, janitors, librarians, support personnel and cops.
Tell them to quit worrying because it’s a bluff.
Tell them the guy’s an idiot, everybody knows it, he’s not even popular in his own party to begin with and even if he really does want to do it, some conglomeration of the legislature, governor, attorney general, media and the public won’t let him do it.
Will they believe you?
Maybe, but it won’t make their plight much better as long as the threat and the trauma it’s unleashed remains, as long as Ryan Walters is allowed to literally bully them with inflated numbers, made-up issues and lies.
Because even buffoons can inflict great damage.
Even laughable idiots can paralyze those doing the real work.
Maybe he should be tossed.
Seems like that day could be coming.
Not soon enough.