Gov. Kevin Stitt has nominated Ryan Walters, a former state teacher of the year finalist and executive director of the reform group Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, as the new Oklahoma Secretary of Education.
The role of the secretary of education is to advance the governor’s education policy initiatives regarding common education, higher education and career technology centers.The position is also responsible for working with the State Board of Education, college and university boards of regents or trustees, the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability and the State Board of Career and Technology Education.
“I am excited for the opportunity to serve on Gov. Stitt’s cabinet as the secretary of education and I know my public school classroom experiences will help support Gov. Stitt’s education policy initiatives,” Walters said in a press release Thursday. “Oklahoma students deserve what the governor has wanted from day one – for our state to be top 10 in education. I am honored to serve the state of Oklahoma and the governor by working to improve public education for every student in our state.”
The cabinet position has been vacant since former Secretary of Education Michael Rogers resigned in August, though he remains secretary of state. In his resignation letter, Rogers stated that he “should no longer juggle running an agency, negotiating your policy priorities, and serving as the secretary of education.” Rogers also stepped back from his position as Stitt’s chief policy negotiator.
Walters previously served as executive director of Oklahoma Achieves, an education reform group comprised of Oklahoma business leaders that functionally became Every Kid Counts Oklahoma. EKCO is overseeing the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet, which will distribute $8 million of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund in the form of $1,500 grants for low-income families to purchase curriculum content, tutoring services and technology.
Stitt’s new secretary of education pick is also a former AP history teacher and was named McAlester Public Schools’ teacher of the year in 2015. He was also an Oklahoma teacher of the year finalist in 2016.
“Ryan Walters is a committed educator who has dedicated his life to moving the needle in educational outcomes for all Oklahoma students and to supporting his fellow teachers,” Stitt said in the press release. “His perspective as a public school teacher, and his leadership experience as the CEO of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, will be invaluable as we continue to work toward Top Ten results in education.”
Walters’ nomination is subject to approval by the Oklahoma State Senate.