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In January, Kevin Stitt re-appointed Oklahoma State Superintendent Ryan Walters to serve another term as the state’s Secretary of Education. Walters, who has been serving in both roles since he was sworn in as state superintendent, was awaiting senate approval. Now, with a senate hesitant to re-appoint Walters to the post, Stitt has appointed a new State Secretary of Education, while Walters maintains his post as State Superintendent of Instruction.
Dr. Katherine Curry will take over as Education Secretary, Stitt announced on Tuesday.
Curry, a professor at Oklahoma State University, taught High School English for three years in Texas. According to KTUL, Curry holds a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma and has received numerous awards and recognitions throughout her career.
The shift means that Ryan Walters will no longer oversee numerous agencies and boards across the state. He was reportedly receiving an extra $40,000 salary while serving as both the Education Secretary and State Superintendent.
As Education Secretary, Dr. Curry will now manage organizations the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the State Board of Career Technology and Education, among others.
Announcement of new Education Secretary comes as Walters faces increasing pushback from both sides of the aisle
Ryan Walters had recently come under fire by higher education leaders and by Republican legislators for comments about higher education. At a State Board of Education meeting in February, Walters questioned “whether we should be recommending [students] go into these institutions.”
“These institutions” Walters was referring to are Oklahoma’s many state colleges and universities.
House Republicans hit back in a joint statement, calling Walters’ remarks “disparaging”. Since assuming his role as State Superintendent, he has increasingly found himself at odds with most members of the legislature. Those tensions have only continued to rise as his nomination for re-appointment to role of Secretary of Education stalled out.
Now, as Dr. Curry becomes the state Secretary of Education, Walters will resume a sole role as the State Superintendent.
In the months since being sworn in as the head of the state’s Department of Education, Walters has used his position to crusade against porn in schools. He pushed the State Board to issue new penalties for schools found to have broadly defined “pornographic material” in their libraries.
The state Attorney General rebuffed that effort. Attorney General Gentner Drummond said Walters doesn’t have the legal authority to implement rules without the legislature’s consent.