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Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters proposes education budget changes, no across-the-board teacher raises

State Superintendent Ryan Walters presents his education budget proposal at his first meeting as superintendent, January 2023.
Beth Wallis
StateImpact Oklahoma
State Superintendent Ryan Walters presents his education budget proposal at his first meeting as superintendent, January 2023.

Newly elected State Superintendent Ryan Waltersstumped legislators in a budget hearing earlier this week when he said he planned to change the Board of Education’s budget request approved under the previous superintendent.

At a Thursday board meeting, Walters’new numbers were revealed, and overall, it’s about $59 million less than the request approved by former Superintendent Joy Hofmeister last year.

The previous budget requested about $309 million toward a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for teachers. Walters’ request cuts that allocation in half to $150 million. And instead of across-the-board raises, he wants extra pay to be based on individual merit — such as having high evaluation scores or being Nationally Board Certified.

“We have to start shifting in education from a blanket socialist concept that everybody gets the same no matter what, and say, you know what, we want student results, that’s what we want,” Walters said at the board meeting. “We’re going to incentivize that with the way that we pay things in education.”

It would also allocate $100 million to a new line item the superintendent calls Student Proficiency. That money, Walters said, would go toward an instructional coaching network, tutoring support,Regional Education Administrative Districts, dyslexia intervention grants and other programs left up to individual districts.

Walters said measures for Student Proficiency success would include NAEP performance scores and scores from Oklahoma state testing, but didn’t provide specific benchmarks.

The full budget presentationcan be found here.

Walters began the board meeting withfamiliar refrains from his campaign:

“We will ensure that indoctrination and CRT are eliminated in our state. We will also make sure that our kids are safe. There will be no boys in the girls’ bathrooms. There will be no pornography in schools,” Walters said. “We will make sure all of our vendors and the schools are focused on education, and not diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Public school parent Ashley Daly spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, addressing Walters’ campaign rhetoric.

“Please stop calling teachers indoctrinators. Please don’t say that they’re pornography pushers. And please don’t say that they are groomers,” Daly said. “The teachers I know are selfless, and they are kind. They are not waging a civil war. Are the teachers that you worked with, is that what they were doing?”

Daly continued, alluding to the state’spassage of HB 1775, which bans teaching students about certain aspects of race or sex.

“And for the record, I want my daughter to learn about Black history. I want her to learn about Native American history. I want my daughter to learn history based on facts and not feelings. And she will feel uncomfortable,” Daly said. “And I am certain she will promise herself that she will never, ever stand for exclusion or violence or cruel words.”

In a press conference following the meeting, Walters said state money should be spent on “student outcomes” rather than “left wing indoctrination.”

“Are we actually investing in things that are meaningful for our kids to get in the workforce?” Walters asked. “Or are we part of a left-wing Biden agenda by pushing indoctrination?”

Despite the new budget request, Walters may not get everything on his wish list — final budget approval is up to the lawmakers to approve during the legislative session.

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

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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