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Oklahoma State Superintendent launches ‘public awareness’ campaign against teachers’ unions

State Superintendent Ryan Walters at a February Board of Education meeting.
Beth Wallis
StateImpact Oklahoma
State Superintendent Ryan Walters at a February Board of Education meeting.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters is again taking aim at teachers’ unions, this time with the announcement of an Oklahoma State Department of Education public awareness campaign he says highlights teacher unions’ positions on issues.

Walters accompanied the announcement with a video presented at Thursday’s State Board of Education meeting. It comes after Wednesday’s mixed reports regarding whether he had applied for certain federal grants — something Walters said is another lie from teachers’ unions. Walters called some press who reported on it, “a true enemy of taxpayers and an enemy of every parent and child in the state of Oklahoma.”

The video features speakers from the National Education Association’s 2022 conference, footage from Walters’ interview with Fox News, and an interview with the author of a young adult LGBTQ+ book. It also included a video from Texas and another from Pennsylvania defending pedophiles — it’s unclear what the connection is to Oklahoma teacher unions.

The full video can be viewed here:

It was briefly posted to the department’s website but has since been removed. A spokesperson for Walters told StateImpact the office is working on an “updated version” that, as of time of publication, has not yet been made available.

The campaign announcement comes after an early May legislative hearing, in which Walters called teachers’ unions “terrorist organizations,” — a claim he’s only doubled down on since.

The Oklahoma Education Association fired back in a statement:

The state’s other main professional teacher organization, Professional Oklahoma Educators, emailed a statement about the video to StateImpact:

"The video shown in this morning's State Board meeting showed clips of OEA's parent organization--NEA. The video is not who we are at all. It does not reflect the values of POE in any way. Professional Oklahoma Educators is not a union. We remain the only completely Oklahoma-based professional education association in the state."

Beth reports on education topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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