Teachers discuss new state superintendent

Jude Weightman and Reanna De La Rosa

Oklahoma has a new state superintendent, and many teachers have concerns about his goals and ideals.

Ryan Walters was elected as the new state superintendent of public instruction, while holding onto his appointed position, secretary of education for Oklahoma. Since his campaign, Walters has pushed for school choice through private school vouchers.

Vouchers are a program that takes public funds to put toward private schools. Some teachers worry about money being taken away from public schools to help fund students already attending private school.

Stephens County has one private school, which was new this year.

The need for a teacher pay raise has been openly discussed my various legislators this session. Walters has a plan for merit pay instead of an across the board pay increase for all Oklahoma teachers.

“There is a lot of talk about giving teaches a pay raise this session,” Derrick Miller, Duncan Legislative Team chair and DMS journalism teacher, said. “Walters wants to tie a raise to the teacher’s evaluations and state testing, and there’s no way to make it equal to every school or every school district.”

Other states have attempted to incorporate merit pay for teachers with varying degrees of success or lack thereof.

Walters, as state superintendent, oversees the Oklahoma State School Board. Earlier this year, Gov. Kevin Stitt removed several members of the school board and appointed new members to work with Walters.

So far during his term, Walters has also turned his attention on diversity and inclusion programs for students.  He has also expressed an interest in refusing federal funds.

Some of the changes made by Walters has teachers concerned about the impact in their classrooms and about the ongoing teacher shortage.