Listen to this article here

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma’s state superintendent, hit a rocky start when he failed to give the state legislature a clear performance review and breakdown of the budget. Walters was scheduled to present the Department of Education’s budget and updates to lawmakers at the Capitol on Tuesday.

However, in a display that seems to have frustrated both Democrats and Republicans alike, Walters told lawmakers he planned to change the already approved budget.

In fact, according to Representative Forrest Bennett (D-OKC), Walters claimed his budget will look “drastically different”.

When asked for specifics on what would change, Walters had none.

“Okay, Ryan,” Bennett said in a video posted online, “if this budget increases funding to nearly every area of education this year, and yours, you say looks drastically different, how will it look different?”

“He was not able to answer these substantive questions,” Bennett said, clearly frustrated.

Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters fumbles budget hearing

In an extensive Twitter thread chronicling Walters’ presentation, Representative John Waldron (D-Tulsa), outlined the clear frustration from both sides of the aisle.

“He doesn’t actually have a budget,” Waldron wrote on Twitter. “Instead [he’s] bringing a flimsy 4 page gloss of state figures.”

Waldron later said that one legislator called the four pages of graphics Ryan brought to present “some elementary shit”.

“We learn today that he intends to present a new budget next week,” Waldron continued. “[Appropriations and Budget] chairman Mark McBride (R-Moore) remarks ‘I don’t know what’s the point’ of us being here today. Ouch!”

Waldron described confusion among members in the chamber as Walters’ presentation continued, calling it “an extraordinary moment”.

“We as legislators are struggling to understand what we are doing today.”

According to OKC FOX reporter Payton May, Chair McBride told the room “I feel like I’m sitting in a campaign speech.”

At one point, McBride reportedly had to inform Walters that he could not unilaterally make changes to an already approved budget. Any proposed changes would have to be approved by the State Board of Education. 

After leaving the House chamber, Walters took to Twitter himself to post a video while walking down the hallway. In the video, Walters says he will present a new budget to the Board of Education next week and claims he has “brought a level of accountability” back to the Department of Education.

He didn’t provide any details as to what the new budget would contain.

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...