'We Cannot Sit Back': Superintendent Ryan Walters On Oklahoma Education Ahead Of November State Board Meeting

Several items are on the agenda tomorrow for the last state board of education meeting for 2023: Accreditation, the lawsuit against the virtual catholic charter school, and an OSDE internal audit.

Wednesday, November 29th 2023, 5:57 pm

By: News 9, Haley Weger


-

One of the last state board of education meetings for 2023 is scheduled for tomorrow morning at 9 am. On the agenda: accreditation, the lawsuit against the virtual catholic charter school, and an OSDE internal audit.

Our Capitol Reporter Haley Weger sat down with the State Superintendent ahead of tomorrow’s board meeting.

“You've got to shake up the status quo. We cannot sit back and not take action when we see kids not learning as they should,” said Walters.

Since he has taken office, State Superintendent Ryan Walters has criticized the state’s low overall test scores and the fact that Oklahoma continues to rank 49th in education. Walters has implemented teacher pay raises, tutoring programs, and other initiatives, but says that isn’t enough to get the state to the level it should be.

Now, he’s proposing a major change to the state’s accreditation system. “What we'll be introducing on Thursday is a way for every school to be held to account for the performance of their kids,” said Walters. “Schools that perform less than 50% basic in math are going to have deficiencies moving forward, that's what we're proposing.”

Schools that have deficiencies in academics will get increased involvement from OSDE, with additional resources, personnel, and training programs. “We've got to identify the schools that aren't meeting these objectives and we've got to make sure that they're getting kids caught back up so they can learn and be successful,” said Walters.

We are still waiting to get all of the specific details of the proposed rule change, which will be laid out during Thursday’s meeting. 

Another push from the state superintendent - taking a close look inside the state department of education.

The change does have to go through a pretty lengthy process before it’s officially approved, and tomorrow will just be the first step. It will be presented to the board Thursday, there will be 60 days for public comment before an official board vote. If the board approves the rule, it will move to the legislature and has to be signed off by the house, senate and governor. 

Another item being presented Thursday is the results of an internal audit of OSDE. This is something Walters has been calling for since his campaign, and one of the first steps he took once he took office earlier this year. “The agency is a mess,” said Walters.

Walters hired an outside firm to conduct the audit, digging into finances, budget, and personnel. The audit has been completed, and Walters has plans to release those findings at Thursday's board meeting. “There are 18 findings in that audit. I think I refer to the agency multiple times as a dumpster fire. This audit shows there were not proper financial controls in place and there wasn't proper budgeting,” said Walters.

Before the audit came out Walters fired over 100 employees, paused state contracts, and drastically cut the education budget. He says even with those moves, more work needs to be done to get the agency back on track. “We absolutely fired folks that were not doing a good job. "We've absolutely trimmed the agency's budget and we're going to continue to think outside the box, find more solutions to problems, and be more efficient with taxpayer dollars,” said Walters.

Also on Thursday’s agenda, Tulsa Public Schools will be back in front of OSDE, presenting for the fourth month in a row, as their accreditation hangs in the balance. Walters tells News9 he will have some clear goals to lay out for TPS, and is looking forward to hearing their feedback and proposed changes for the district.

The state board members will also have the option to go into executive session to discuss the ongoing lawsuit that was filed against the state’s first publicly funded catholic charter school. The suit was filed in the state supreme court by Attorney General Gentner Drummond, and a motion for OSDE and Walters to be a part of the lawsuit was recently denied.

The state board meeting is Thursday morning at 9:30 at the Oliver Hodge Building.

The full agenda can be found here:

https://sde.ok.gov/sites/default/files/Agenda%20SBE-November%2030%2C%202023.pdf 

logo

Get The Daily Update!

Be among the first to get breaking news, weather, and general news updates from News 9 delivered right to your inbox!

More Like This

November 29th, 2023

February 20th, 2024

February 15th, 2024

January 31st, 2024

Top Headlines

February 24th, 2024

February 24th, 2024

February 24th, 2024

February 24th, 2024