Former Teachers Campaign for Oklahoma’s Top Education Job

Associated Press - November 8, 2022 10:28 am

Ryan Walters

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Two former Oklahoma teachers are vying for the state’s top education job, albeit with very different campaign styles.

Republican Ryan Walters, 37, Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of education, is a conservative firebrand who has mostly targeted what he says are liberal indoctrinators masquerading as teachers and pushed for the banning of certain books from school libraries.

“The radical left has decided that our schools need to be places of indoctrination,” he said during a recent debate.

Walters also has embraced Stitt’s education-voucher proposal that would allow public money to be spent on tuition at private schools, including religious schools.

His Democratic opponent is Jena Nelson, 44, a former state teacher of the year who took a leave of absence from her English teacher job with Oklahoma City Public Schools to run for state superintendent of public instruction.

Nelson has focused much of her campaign on addressing the increasing number of teachers taking better paying jobs in other states or leaving the profession altogether.

Oklahoma state Superintendent Democratic candidate Jena Nelson speaks during a town hall at the Sheet Metal Workers Union Hall on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022. (Ian Maule/Tulsa World via AP)

“We need a state superintendent who believes in our public schools, elevates our teachers, not threatens to defund schools or threatens teachers,” Nelson said.

Both are vying to replace two-term State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who switched parties from Republican to Democrat to run for governor against Stitt.

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