Tulsa City Councilors on Wednesday sent a letter to State Superintendent Ryan Walters and the Oklahoma State Board of Education, urging them not to alter TPS’s accreditation.

The letter, signed by Councilors Bellis, Cue, Hall-Harper and Patrick, responds to threats from Walters to further downgrade the district’s accreditation. According to Public Radio Tulsa, Walters used a press conference on religious liberty last week to voice support for an accreditation downgrade.

“At the next board meeting we have next month, we will be looking at Tulsa Public Schools’ accreditation,” Walters said. “We are going to make sure that religious liberties are protected in Tulsa Public Schools”.

The district was already downgraded to “accredited with a warning” last year for supposed violations of “anti-CRT bill”, HB 1775.

Further downgrades could place the district on “probation”, potentially putting its entire accreditation status in jeopardy.

Should that happen, the city councilors argue, it could have devastating consequences for the state’s second largest city.

“The ramifications of downgrading the accreditation or removing the accreditation of Tulsa Public Schools gravely concerning for our students and our entire region’s economy,” the letter reads.

The councilors say the move would “negatively harm” Tulsa’s workforce development programs and its ability to “recruit and retain” businesses. They go on to note that such a move would also “exacerbate” the ongoing impacts of a statewide teacher shortage.

Superintendent calls Walters’ threats part of a “political”, “personal agenda”

In a press conference on Wednesday, TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist spoke about the attacks on the district.

According to The Frontier, Gist said under Walters, the accreditation process is “being politicized for a very specific personal agenda.”

“Areas of focus and areas not getting focus from this leader – or, person with formal authority I should say – is disappointing, shocking and worrisome,” Gist went on to say, according to a quote posted by KJRH’s Erin Christy.

“I think everyone in Oklahoma should be shocked and concerned.”

In their letter to the state board of education, the four councilors echoed those concerns for schools in their districts.

“We represent the communities within Tulsa with most of our Title I Schools, primarily serving low-income students,” the letter reads. “Our schools are at the heart of our community’s present and future.”

City Councilor urges State Department of Education to work with districts, not against them

Tulsa City Councilor Laura Bellis, a former educator, spoke directly to the BWSTimes about the looming vote.

“As a former TPS teacher, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges our students face, how hard the TPS team works to meet their needs, and how far there is to go to provide an excellent education to all children,” Bellis said.

Bellis was clear that the district “is not above reproach.” However, she urged against “a punitive approach that affects funding and causes great uncertainty.”

“Our community needs a state department of education that is here to collaborate and help,” Bellis said. “We can achieve so much more when we work together.”

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...

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