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Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum wrote to the state board of education, urging them to reject a state takeover of TPS.

First reported by the Tulsa World, Bynum tells the board he wants to be “unequivocally clear” about his opposition to a takeover of Tulsa Public Schools.

“The City of Tulsa does not seek this, we do not want it, and we do not need it,” Bynum wrote.

Bynum was intentional about elevating the importance of protecting local control in Tulsa. The Mayor said a takeover “would be an affront to the democratic principles of self government upon which our country was founded.”

Bynum also cautioned the board against wielding its ability to reduce a district’s accreditation in such an extreme way.

“Just because we have the power to do something, doesn’t mean we should.”

The letter comes days before a critical state board meeting where the accreditation of TPS hangs in the balance.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters has spent much of the summer attacking and threatening Tulsa Public Schools. Walters used a press conference about school prayer in July to warn he may try to downgrade or remove TPS’s accreditation.

That threat heightened in late July when Walters pulled the district out of an accreditation vote. Walters claimed he had insufficient information to authorize the district’s accreditation, moving the item to the August 24th state board meeting.

The move, coupled with Walters’ rhetoric, prompted fears of a state takeover.

Bynum’s letter comes as Walters attempts to take over district and oust local superintendent

Walters has been clear he wants to oust the current district superintendent, Dr. Deborah Gist. To do that, he would need to downgrade the district’s accreditation, allowing him to install a hand-picked interim superintendent.

Parents, teachers, students and community advocates have forcefully rejected the idea. Even Kevin Stitt, who helped elevate and launch Walters’ political career, seemed to distance himself from his protégé.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education, which Walters oversees, called for the district to be accredited earlier this year. At a special meeting of the Tulsa School Board this week, board members approved a resolution asking OSDE to honor that recommendation.

Last month, a group of four Tulsa city councilors penned a letter also urging the approval of TPS’s accreditation.

Now, Mayor Bynum, a Republican who met with Walters on multiple occasions in the last month, has done the same.

“I respectfully ask that you accredit Tulsa Public Schools,” Bynum wrote. “Let us get on with the work of building a better future of Tulsa children 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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