Weary apologies here, I said I’d have a post about Stitt by Friday. While I did post some things, none of them were about Stitt. So let’s begin. This post is going to be about how Stitt is terrible for Oklahoma education. I will link to the previous posts below.
The subject of Oklahoma teaching is (like a lot of the things I blog about) a source of contention to some of my friends. My best friend is a teacher, but then another of my closest friends is a hard-core conservative who is not too keen on the teachers union. Obviously, my sympathy lies with teachers, but my more logical conservative friends do have points we should not ignore. I’m going to state those points here, and please, if you are an intelligent conservative, leave any constructive criticism in the comments if you feel I misstate or mistake the position. The post is not going to be about these points, but I want to give the thinking opposition the credit for having intelligent and often correct ideas.
Looking at various articles, left, right, and centrist, its hard to pick and choose and yet be fair and respectful. But here is my effort. Remember, your Tired Blogger was conservative at one point of his life, so while these are not technically my views, I held very similar views in the not too distant past.
- While there is a correlation between higher education and higher income, there are also quite a few examples (though often exaggerated) of multi billionaires with little or no formal education.
- For the past century or more, there appears (at least to the conservatives) to be an enormous bias toward left-wing ideologies. Many conservatives feel that colleges are little more than breeding grounds for Communism, Anarchism, drug experimentation, sexual deviancy, and disrespect for both parental and governmental (well, Republican governmental) authority. Many points (some with and some without good evidence) to the propensity of teachers toward Democrat ideals.
- I was blessed with an incredibly positive school with amazing teachers, but I have learned that this is not the experience many are granted. Many of my friends tell me stories of sexism, ideological indoctrination, abuse, and incompetence. Can we really blame these folks for not having a high opinion of the modern American school system?
There is more, but I think that is enough for the discussion at hand. I’m not here to tell you what to think. If you are a conservative and all the above is true to you and then some, I’m not trying to convince you to change your mind. If you are liberal and all of the above is hogwash, I’m not here to change your mind.
I’m here to tell you that Kevin Stitt is NOT good for you, the schools, or the children of Oklahomans. He is failing Oklahoma education. (Ah…..finally the Tired Blogger gets to the point…only two hours in). I’ll be posting these sites:
From freepressokc.com we find the most execrable list of mishandled covid-19 funds that your Tired Blogger could ever imagine :
“Although undoubtedly some of these items were purchased as part of a “We’re going to Best Buy!” windfall shopping spree, the journalists included computers, laptops, tablets, headphones, most chairs, tables, desks and even game systems as education expenses, all in the service of isolating ClassWallet purchases that were definitely, absolutely not educational.
“These included dishwashers, car amplifiers, home theater equipment, brad nailers and air compressors, scooters and a vintage Pac-Man arcade game. Oh, and at least 548 televisions that total around $191,000.
“Now, I’m not shocked that some Oklahoma parents sold out their kids’ education for an air fryer or a new washer and dryer set while shouting “Let’s Go Brandon” to anyone within earshot. What’s completely inexcusable is that Stitt and Secretary of Education (Broheim Division) Ryan Walters did not put any safeguards on the system to keep people from abusing it. Instead of helping kids, Stitt “made it rain.”
They reference an OKlahomawatch.org. article about the incredible mishandling of the funds. I’ll leave that link here, and then quote from it.
This article relates about how Stitt and his protégé Ryan Walters rushed the dispersal of funds. To be fair, we were in a pandemic, and I don’t doubt that it would be easy to panic and make a mistake attempting to get things taken care of quickly.
But I think this one is a doozy.
Walters, who at the time was only a teacher, negotiated a contract with a Florida based software company ClassWallet to expedite the process. (Why is a mere teacher doing high level negotiations for our state? Hey Brook!!! Why aren’t you negotiating acquisitions for the state? I can think of quite a few items we need to buy…I’ll send you a Christmas wish list.)
Again, not upset yet, except I’m baffled why a teacher is doing all the negotiations. I mean, I get Governor Stitt didn’t have time to do that what with all his barbecuing, inspecting Air Force toilet seats, and fighting woke culture to save the purity of our precious bodily fluids. But…why wasn’t the head of Education doing that? Or even just a fricken’ superintendent? (Brook!? Ain’t Mary in administration? Can’t she negotiate some sweet Christmas gifts for us all?) Then it gets kinda sticky.
“While most parents spent the money on educational supplies, Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier found nearly half a million dollars in questionable purchases. Families also bought pressure washers, car stereo equipment, coffee makers, exercise gear and smart watches. “
According to the article, Stitt and Walters assumed that ClassWallet would oversee the dispersal of funds. Makes sense, especially since this is obviously the responsibility of someone in state government! Oddly enough, ClassWallet saw it differently, assuming the state would have the common sense to do its job. But they were wrong.
“Oklahoma ultimately returned $2.9 million in unspent relief money to the federal government intended to support students and teachers. ClassWallet ended the Bridge the Gap program one day early after federal investigators and attorneys for the state discovered the company was operating on an expired contract with almost no government supervision.
“Federal auditors are now investigating how the Stitt administration awarded the ClassWallet contract and distributed relief money, but the report has yet to be released.
“ A U.S. Department of Education review of Bridge the Gap and the private school voucher program, Stay in School, found that Oklahoma implemented few safeguards to prevent fraud or abuse. Records obtained by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier show the state placed no limits on what items families could purchase from vendors.”
Walters and Stitt both claim this program was a smashing success, and say it should be used as a model for the future on how to disperse emergency funds. I might agree if I could have one of those TVs…..
Evidently, the purpose of using ClassWallet was to get around the federal mandate that forbade states from dispersing money directly to parents. While I’m no fan of bureaucracy, I think in this case the mandate has been proven justified. Unless…you know…I can have a TV…in which case the damned Federal government should quit sticking its nose in our business!
“But states could get around the ban by awarding the funds to an eligible entity “that provides services to students,” which could then distribute money to parents and students.
Publicly, the Stitt administration said the educational nonprofit Every Kid Counts Oklahoma would manage the Bridge the Gap program. The organization was less than 6 months old at the time. Walters served as its executive director.
“Yet none of the federal relief money passed through Every Kid Counts before it was parsed out to parents in small grants to spend through the ClassWallet platform, the nonprofit said in a statement.
“Instead, the Oklahoma Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, a state agency that oversees teacher certification, sent ClassWallet a paper check for $17.35 million (the program amount, minus ClassWallet’s fee) via certified mail in August 2020.”
“Dan Craig, who was the agency’s executive director at the time, said Rogers [who was then the secretary of State and Education] asked him to sign the contract with ClassWallet. He said in an interview with Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier that he thought the money was simply supposed to pass through his agency to ClassWallet and the company would oversee the rest.
Craig, who left the office in 2021 to be superintendent of Kingfisher Public Schools, was soon fielding questions from federal monitors about how the state was tracking family purchases.
By fall 2020, ClassWallet still had about 1,000 Bridge the Gap grants to distribute and the end of the company’s contract with the state was looming. More time was needed to get all of the money out.
Stitt raised the income cap and extended the deadline so more families could apply. ClassWallet continued to distribute federal relief money to families even after its contract with the state expired on Dec. 30, 2020, records show.
ClassWallet CEO Jamie Rosenberg acclaimed the transaction as “incredibly successful.” And he is correct. His company saw profits triple during the pandemic. I wonder why…?
Ok…so he mishandled millions in Covid-19 funds. That doesn’t really mean he is bad for education! Maybe he just felt squeamish about handling other people’s money (which would explain how he was so successful at banking).
He’s so diligent, in fact, about handling other people’s money that he has written an Executive Order to protect the teachers from their predatory union. According to Oklahoma News channel 4: “Governor Kevin Stitt has issued an Executive Order to ensure Oklahoma’s teachers’ and school district employees’ right to decline an invitation and fees to join a union.
“It is time we fight back against the liberal unions that have been keeping a stranglehold on their cut of teacher pay, and stand up for Oklahoma educators’ first amendment rights,” said Governor Stitt. “Teachers should know they have the freedom to opt-in not opt-out of unions.”
“The order “urges the State Board of Education to take action to ensure that payroll deductions meet the requirements of state and federal law and that school district employees are fully informed of their First Amendment rights.”
Man! That sounds so good. So Conservative. Stick it to that liberal pile of filth that is the Teacher’s Union. Only…the order is pointless grandstanding.
“KFOR reviewed the Oklahoma Constitution and found mandatory unions are a misdemeanor under current law.
No one should be required, as a condition of employment, to:
– Resign from voluntary union membership;
– Become or remain a union member;
– Pay dues, fees, or charges of any kind to a labor union;
– Pay a pro rata portion of dues to any third party, in lieu of union payments; or
– Be recommended, approved, referred, or cleared by a union.
Union dues or fees may not be deducted from an employee’s wages without their authorization.”OKLAHOMA CONSTITUTION (ART. 23, § 1A)
To be fair, Stitt is a businessman and not a lawyer. Maybe he was just unaware that his order was an empty gesture. KFOR reached out to the Oklahoma Education Association and received this comment: “The Oklahoma Education Association is a respected organization that works tirelessly to protect and advocate for our public schools. We have always been an opt-in organization since our first meeting in 1889. We follow all state and federal laws and always have. The Supreme Court decision on JANUS also has no effect on Right to Work states like Oklahoma. The Executive Order filed on August 19, 2022 is a baseless attack on the voices of educators ahead of an important election. This only distracts from real issues like the educator shortage crisis and Oklahoma ranking 49th in education funding. The 90% of Oklahoma children who attend public schools and the professionals who serve them deserve better.”KATHERINE BISHOP, OKLAHOMA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT”
I can personally vouch that my best friend, who is a teacher, would not join the union for a long time because he is a conservative Republican. It was only in the last few years when the Union actually started obtaining some of the benefits his family needed that he finally joined the union.
We’ve established Stitt has (badly) mishandled Covid-19 funds meant for education. But that doesn’t prove he’s bad for education…right?
The real measure of a man is how he keeps his promises. I don’t claim I’ve been perfect myself, but if Stitt is good for education, we’ll be able to see in his record promises either kept, or at least some strong efforts at keeping them.
Jennifer Palmer with Oklahoma Watch reminds us that the teacher walk out happened just about the same time Stitt was being elected. She reminds us that Stitt promised to “improve education and make Oklahoma “a top 10 state.””
Stitt made it a goal to make Oklahoma a top 10 state when it came to education (he has nearly succeeded when it comes to violent crime, as Oklahoma now ranks 14th in the nation).
‘In 2018, Oklahoma’s average teachers’ salary ranked third in the region following the $6,000 boost. Stitt approved another raise in his first year in office, allocating $59 million for an average increase of $1,220.
“That put Oklahoma’s average compensation for a classroom teacher at $54,096 in 2021-22, the latest available data. That includes retirement and health insurance premiums, benefits valued at about $16,900 a year — or about one-third of a teacher’s total compensation.
“Oklahoma ranks fourth among surrounding states by that measure and 34th in the nation. Colorado, Texas and New Mexico reported higher teacher compensation — meaning the state lost ground under Stitt.”
So we have gone from 3rd to 4th…and yet Stitt claims this as a win and promise kept. He says that of the seven surrounding states, Oklahoma ranks first when you factor in cost of living.
So let’s say in some Non-Euclidean universe he has at least made progress. What are we to make of the fiasco that is Epic Schools? Stitt ordered an audit in the midst of the Pandemic. Joy Hoffmeister, who was then the Superintendent of schools (and was at the time a Republican) claimed he had done this on purpose to essentially pay back the teachers for the insult of winning a pay raise with the teacher walk outs. There is no way to prove whether or not this is true, but what was brought to light was nothing short of disgusting.
“State Auditor Cindy Byrd has called it “the largest amount of reported abuse of taxpayer funds in the history of this state.”
“A grand jury investigating called the school board’s cozy relationship with the management company “a system ripe for fraud” that allowed the owners to make a substantial personal profit “on the backs of Oklahoma students.”
“To Oklahoma Watch’s questions, Stitt said the important thing is to separate Epic the school from Epic’s management company.
“That management company is gone…so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We have to have vendors in our state, and as soon as we find out there’s a bad vendor, we’re going to sue that vendor,” he said.
“Epic Youth Services is no longer managing the school. Epic’s school board severed ties with the company after the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board moved to revoke the school’s authorization to operate. The company is suing the school for more money, and the school is countersuing.
“But the type of management arrangement criticized by the grand jury is still allowed under Oklahoma law.
“Stitt blames the state Education Department for Epic, claiming it was “asleep at the wheel.” Hofmeister said her efforts to hold Epic accountable were routinely blocked by the governor, including in 2020 when she recommended probation for the school, and the Stitt-appointed Board of Education rejected the move.
“Hofmeister said her agency used “all legal authority to root out waste, fraud and abuse by Epic.” Unlike many other state agencies, the department does not have subpoena power, and state statute doesn’t permit the superintendent to request an investigative audit of a school. Only the governor, attorney general, senate pro tem, house speaker or the state board of education may do so.
“Epic’s co-founders and chief financial officer now face criminal charges for allegedly embezzling school funds. Their arrests called into question whether the donations they made to political campaigns over the years were actually embezzled funds. Both Stitt and Hofmeister received donations from Epic-connected individuals.”
This post is running long, but I feel I’ve made a pretty strong argument that Stitt (and honestly, possibly Joy Hoffmeister as well) is not good for education. I feel I need to make another post about this. Wednesday (hopefully, I know I just trounced Stitt for breaking promises) I hope to write more about the Epic situation, and possibly about Oklahoma’s battle to keep pornography out of the schools. Stay tuned for more Tired Blogging! And until Stitt reveals how he made millions from a mere thousand…make mine Marvel. (And don’t sue me, Disney).
Normally I would leave you with a video. This time I’m going to leave with some images to consider. These images may not persuade, but I think they should be considered. Thanks for reading.
I have taught, and currently substitute at a school, I am also what some would call a conservative in many values. This is not who I am, who I am believes that the two poles most often used as measures between liberalism and conservatism, law enforcement/military and teachers/teacher unions are really just two sides of the same coin.
I’ve worked directly with mil/le many far right, but not all from around the world. I’ve worked, married into and reside with teachers/teachers unions many far left but not all liberal minds.
If both sides at that level spent 1 month in the shoes of the other, it would absolutely change how everything runs fundamentally.
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I believe there is a lot of truth to that. If I had to teach I would learn quickly what frustrates a teacher. If others had to work positions I’ve held, I wonder how many would be more positive than myself. I know some would. Thank you so much for the comment.
I lost all compassion for teachers when they started using children as shills to get a raise.
I lost respect when they had them panhandling for them on 71st street.
They were already part timers getting full time pay and benefits, and then the fiasco that is distance learning was born from C19. From that point onward teachers fought tooth and nail to stay out of the classroom.
They can pound sand.
I had forgotten about the 71st st. thang. I don’t feel the same (about all teachers I mean, the 71st st. pandering was pretty shameful, methinks), but I can totally understand your thinking. I’ve found that there is a range of teachers. Some don’t IMHO deserve the anger, but many indeed do. I feel Edwards is the Sultan of Shill. And if God is kind, and I live long enough and can get the goods on him, you may see the day when his sorry lying ass is exposed for the brainless strawman he is…..Does that mean I have some dirt on him? Or am I just blowing smoke…well, stay tuned and find out if I can make good…