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By The Black Wall Street Times Editorial Board
Oklahoma’s public schools are in dire straits.
The state is experiencing one of the worst teacher shortages in the country. Our per-pupil funding suffers at one of the lowest rates in the nation. A global pandemic has left educators exhausted and students struggling with learning loss and trauma.
But the trials our students face did not start with COVID. The decline in reading and math scores has been ongoing for years, outpacing the rest of the country. Righting this ship will require real, thoughtful solutions – not empty and divisive rhetoric.
Against this backdrop, Oklahomans are faced with a choice between two candidates for State Superintendent who will determine what the future of education in our state will look like.
On November 8th, we unequivocally urge Oklahomans to vote for Jena Nelson.
Jena Nelson will advocate for teachers, parents and students as State Superintendent
Nelson, a former Oklahoma teacher of the year, has a deep commitment to our public schools. She regularly credits teachers with saving her life as a child and inspiring her to enter the same career for herself. While not a skilled politician, Nelson has held her own on the campaign trail and offered a clear vision for stronger public schools.
As State Superintendent, Nelson has pledged to focus on improving mental health support for students across the state. She has signed on to a plan that would give every teacher in the state a $5,000 raise. Nelson has also promised to reduce testing, mandates and added work that make it harder for educators to simply teach.
And perhaps most importantly, Nelson staunchly opposes rejecting federal funding and pushing a voucher scheme that would decimate urban and rural schools.
Ms. Nelson’s opponent, however, offers a starkly different and darker contrast.
Walters unfit for role of State Superintendent
Ryan Walters’ focus as Secretary of Education and throughout his campaign has been championing imaginary problems of widespread porn and indoctrination in schools.
Secretary Walters’ approach and tactic has been, not just crass, but entirely beneath the character of Oklahoma. His vicious, public attacks on teachers with whom he disagrees politically is deeply disturbing, as is his reported push to mandate teachers take “patriotic education” courses created by a far-right group.
He offers no plans to truly reform education and improve outcomes for students, but instead consistently pushes politicized narratives in an attempt to gain votes.
As Walters blazes a warpath against public school districts, communities like Tulsa and Mustang are the first to suffer the consequences. Should he win this election, it is certain that many more communities – rural, urban and suburban – will experience the same.
It’s difficult to imagine a more distinct example of children being used as political pawns, and it’s disappointing to see a formerly well-respected educator fall into the trappings of power so quickly.
Mr. Ryan’s rhetoric, bullyish behavior, dismissal of facts and unabashed plans to put needed dollars on the chopping block don’t simply make him the worst choice for voters, they make him wholly unfit.
We regret we must print such an excoriating rebuke of a candidate, but it’s the reality Walters has willfully created.
Vote Jena Nelson on November 8th
Thankfully, voters have a chance to do more than simply reject Ryan Walters.
They have the chance to vote for Jena Nelson.
Like Jena, we believe all children deserve to feel safe in their schools and have every opportunity to thrive. And, like Jena, we believe all teachers should be paid their worth and treated with the respect the profession demands.
Jena is the only candidate who will work every day to make these things a reality.
We will be casting our votes for her with enthusiasm. We encourage every Oklahoman to do the same.