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When "diversity" doesn't count for much

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OEA President Alicia Priest
OEA President Alicia Priest

After Gov. Kevin Stitt announced his choices for the state Board of Education recently, the head of the state’s largest teachers’ union voiced her displeasure.

“This group has deep ties to charter schools, virtual charters, voucher expansion and organizations that proactively work to dismantle public education in our state,” Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said on social media last week.

The OEA, Priest said, had hoped Stitt would depart from former Gov. Mary Fallin’s strategy “of punishing our public schools.”

It’s worth noting that charter schools and virtual charters are public schools. But because they operate differently than traditional public schools, charters and virtual schools are often demonized by members of the education establishment.

And so are those who support the idea of exploring charters, virtual charters, etc., which is why appointees Jennifer Monies and Estela Hernandez are particularly concerning to the OEA. Although they send their children to Oklahoma City public schools, Monies’ and Hernandez’s views don’t match those of the OEA, and thus the two nominees must be opposed.

The nominations of Monies and Hernandez also will be handled in the Senate not by their senator but by someone else. This is because freshman Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, who has carried the nominations of 13 other Stitt nominees, has philosophical differences with Monies and Hernandez.

After meeting with the two, Hicks, a former Deer Creek school teacher, said the women indicated they would use their power on the state board to override local school board decisions. Hicks says she has “a fundamental disagreement with them on education policy and the direction of public education in Oklahoma.”

Fair enough. But there’s no shortage of irony in this flap because Democrats love to tout the importance of “diversity.” Indeed, some party leaders early on criticized Stitt’s cabinet choices as not being diverse enough. Hernandez and Monies would provide the state Board of Education, a largely white male-dominated group through the years, with two females, one of them Hispanic.

But for the public education establishment, diversity has its limits — those not in sync with their agenda are disqualified, or should be.

(Another nominee to the state board, Carlisha Williams Bradley of Tulsa, who is black, made it through the Senate Education Committee without the support of its three Democrats. Bradley is executive director of ImpactTulsa a partnership of school districts working to give all Tulsa students a high-quality education.)

To her credit, state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is standing by Monies and Hernandez and says they deserve to be voted on by the Senate. It’s “not reasonable” to expect or want board members who agree on everything, Hofmeister said. She’s right.

Stitt has said each of his nominees “is a qualified leader who is passionate about education in our state.” Those traits should be paramount.

The Oklahoman Editorial Board

The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Kelly Dyer Fry, Publisher, Editor and Vice President of News; Owen Canfield, Opinion Editor; and Ray Carter, Chief Editorial Writer.. To submit a letter to the editor, go to this page or email... Read more ›

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