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Agricultural News

Secretary Ryan Walters Discusses Critical Topics Related to Oklahoma Education

Thu, 29 Sep 2022 14:48:35 CDT

Secretary Ryan Walters Discusses Critical Topics Related to Oklahoma Education Farm Director, KC Sheperd, got to chance to visit with Secretary Ryan Walters on some hot topics concerning education in Oklahoma as he runs for state superintendent.

On the topic of federal funds, which pay for many critical things in Oklahoma schools, Walters said he plans to audit every single dollar in education.

“Oklahomans deserve better than being 49th in education,” Walters said. “We have invested more in education, right now than we ever have as a state. We have invested in the last four years over one billion dollars in reoccurring revenue for education and if you ask teachers if they feel that investment, most of them will tell you they don’t. They have not seen that. It is not making its way to the classroom.”

Walters said he plans to fight the Biden administration to reject any type of agenda that doesn’t align with Oklahoma values and hopefully put those dollars out to better use. This doesn’t mean every dollar, Walters said, but simply means that money is going to the best use of Oklahoma teachers and kids.

“I’m going to make sure that we don’t have curriculum and programs that go against our values,” Walters said.

Walters talked about the voucher system and said parental empowerment is key to education, and that looks different in different areas. It is important to note that any type of voucher system or lack thereof would have to be approved through the legislature and Walters does not hold the power to do either of those things.

“Allowing parents to choose the school of their choice I believe is very important,” Walters said. “I believe in Tulsa and Oklahoma City you are going to see a lot of that. I think in rural Oklahoma it is more of the conversation we just had about access.”

In rural communities, Walters said, a concern from parents is access for their children to different programs such as FFA, for example, or work in an internship or externship. Rural schools are unique, Walters said, because of how involved the staff and community are.

“I believe in parents,” Walters said. “I believe in our rural communities and our rural schools. I believe they are the backbone of the education system in the state of Oklahoma. I am going to do all that I can to continue to empower them and to make sure they are strong. The governor and I pushed and passed the Redbud Act which put over 38 million into stabilizing our most rural schools. That is something we thought was very important.”

Anything related to parent empowerment, Walters said, is not going to damage rural schools.

Walters also talked about supporting a pay raise for special education paraprofessionals and the plan for paying teachers six figures.

“I think that our paraprofessionals are key to solving a teacher shortage, to getting stability to schools during this time, and on making sure that students have the support that they need inside of their schools,” Walters said. “It is key, number one, that we continue to push money from administrative staff into paraprofessional pay, and number two, I think it is key that if paraprofessionals want to become teachers or want to certify in certain areas, that we give them a fast track to do that.”

Instead of paying others outside of the school district to do trainings and other services, or hiring more people for those jobs, Walters said there are teachers already there that may be able to do that and get paid more for it.

Walters said his summary plan for teacher retention here in the state involves getting indoctrination out of schools, continuing to use accountability and transparency measures to see where money is being spent, and making sure it goes down to the classroom. Another important key Walter mentioned is for teachers to be supported by their administrations, because they need that support to control their classrooms.

“We cannot continue growing bureaucracy,” Walters said.

There are many questions over whether or not money from medical marijuana and the lottery are being used for education in Oklahoma when so many schools are still underfunded throughout the state. Because of this reason, Walters said, he has already called for an audit.

“Taxpayers need to see where their money is going and we need to make sure it is being utilized,” Walters said.

KC Also asked the secretary about early childhood education, HB1775, OEQU and JAG, Teacher Retention, and more that will be featured on our Podcast Road to Rural Prosperity next week.

Click the LISTEN BAR below to listen to KC’s full conversation with Ryan Walters on education in Oklahoma.



right-click to download mp3


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