dei report
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters addresses State Board of Education members at a meeting on Thursday, April 27, 2023. (Bennett Brinkman)

In a 90-minute meeting that was relatively short by State Board of Education standards, members requested a special report of school districts regarding their diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

Arguing that a “more accurate” term for the programs would be “divide, exclude and indoctrinate,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters said that although most districts do not have such programs, the Oklahoma State Department of Education needed a better breakdown of how much money has been going to DEI initiatives and what materials were being shown to students.

“These programs are developed by radical leftists to indoctrinate our kids into not believing in themselves and their individual identity, and to be successful on their own merits.” Walters said. “What it seeks to do is divide. It is Marxist at its core, and we have to reject this in our schools. We must tell every student that they are special and uniquely created by their creator, that they are capable of great things.”

Board members unanimously approved the measure. All Oklahoma school districts will have until June 1 to provide a preliminary DEI report to OSDE about how much money and time they spend on such programs, what — if any — third-party vendors they use, and what materials are given to students. Districts that have DEI programs will then be required to give more detailed information to the agency by September.

Walters set to appear before House A&B Committee

Walters took the opportunity during his comments to the board to call again for school choice reform this legislative session. A plan for a massive new education appropriation and refundable school choice tax credits is currently stalled in the Legislature, with tensions between the House and the Senate escalating even further.

“I want to stress that it is a top priority of this administration to ensure that every parent has full parent choice — that parents decide for their kids where their children attend school and are the ones making those decisions that most impact their children,” Walters said. “This has to get done this session.”

As Walters calls on the Legislature to pass school choice tax credits, House members seem to have received an answer to their request that he appear before a committee.

Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) said Thursday that Walters had confirmed he will appear before the House Appropriations and Budget Committee on Monday afternoon.

McBride sent a letter to Walters last month asking for a “friendly” meeting so he and other House members could ask questions about some of the things that the superintendent had said about public education.

But Walters had refused the invitation up to this point, at times saying that he was too busy meeting with parents to meet with the Legislature.

On Thursday, House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) said he has “confirmed” that Monday’s meeting of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee will be attended by Walters.

“I reached out to him and just had another conversation and implored him to appear,” McCall said. “I did tell him I will compel him. I don’t think that’s a good look, and if it was a problem with his schedule, that’s something we would work with him on. But he has committed to be there Monday to answer questions, and it will be the full Appropriations and Budget Committee.”

Despite the Thursday’s seemingly light meeting of the State Board of Education, 11 people spoke during the public comment period. All but one made arguments in line with Walters’ rhetoric for parental rights and a desire to protect kids against “Marxism.”

Additionally, OSDE legal counsel Bryan Cleveland announced that an investigation is underway in Putnam City Public Schools after two reports were made to the department regarding a coach having his players do a “privilege walk.”