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Whistleblower claims Oklahoma Superintendent Ryan Walters lied to state lawmakers

Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters applauds during the 2023 State of the State address.
Whitney Bryen
Oklahoma Watch
Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters applauds during the 2023 State of the State address.

A whistleblower who formerly worked at the Oklahoma State Department of Education claims Superintendent Ryan Walters’ administration failed to follow through on federal grant contracts worth millions of dollars, and that he outright lied to lawmakers about the status of grants.

According to reporting fromThe Tulsa World, the former director of grant development at the state department, Terri Grissom, came forward after Walters told lawmakers at a May 1 legislative hearing the agency, “hasn’t missed a single deadline for any grant or any program.”

Grissom said the department hasn’t applied for a single grant and is failing continuing obligations for grants already in the works.

She said one example is a contract renewal for a project that would create a searchable map of mental health providers for schools — Walters’ signature on that was due last October in his capacity as then-Secretary of Education.

Grissom estimated between $35 and $40 million of grant money hasn’t been spent, and the state could be on the hook to repay.

In the May 1 hearing before lawmakers, Walters made a claim about applying for another grant.

"We identified a grant that our higher ed institutions have been applying for, and we never had as an agency, never had in eight years," said Walters. "We applied for that grant."

Grissom said that can’t be true — the grant window for that specific grant doesn’t even open until 2024.

A spokesperson for Walters says the superintendent has intentionally “slowed things down” for oversight in the process.

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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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