breaking: Oklahoma Democrats ask DNC to order new state party electionbreaking: Report: Thunder TV analyst Antonio Daniels joining New Orleans Pelicans broadcastLive video: Day 21 of Oklahoma opioid trial

NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Despite opposition, ed board appointees advance

Advertisement
Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City
Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City

A Senate panel on Tuesday advanced Gov. Kevin Stitt’s remaining appointees to the state Board of Education despite opposition from Senate Democrats.

The Senate Education Committee advanced the nominations of four people to the board, including the two nominations Sen. Carri Hicks declined to carry because of what she cited as philosophical differences on the future of education.

The appointments of Jennifer Monies, Estela Hernandez, Kurt Bollenbach and Brian Bobek will advance to the full Senate — the last step in the confirmation process.

The three Democrats on the committee opposed Monies and Hernandez’s nominations — the same nominations Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, declined to shepherd through the Senate confirmation process. Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat carried the nominations instead.

Democrats opposed the nominations of Hernandez and Monies because of their support for school choice policies. Several Republicans also opposed Monies’ nomination in committee, but her confirmation passed on a 10-6 vote — the narrowest margin of any of Stitt's appointments to the board.

Monies and Hernandez have also come under fire from Democrats and the Oklahoma Education Association for their previous political experience.

In the committee hearing, Monies and Hernandez stressed their direct connection to public education — both have children attending Oklahoma public schools.

Senators grilled the nominees on everything from where they stand on vouchers and school consolidation to how the state can better match public schooling to meet workforce needs. They were also asked what they see as the role of traditional public schools versus virtual schools and charters.

Hernandez talked about how diversity on the Board of Education is crucial to better serving Oklahoma students, and how her unique childhood and Latino heritage could bring a different voice to the board.

Hernandez’s family immigrated to the United States from El Salvador when she was young.

“I am a product of public education, and I want to continue being an example to those students who are struggling to assimilate and learn in a new country,” she said. “For you see, 36 years ago, I was one of those kids.”

Hernandez is a small business owner and licensed real estate agent. She also previously served as vice president of engagement for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, and vice chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party.

In her opening statement, Monies stressed her extensive education policy background and her legislative experience, having worked in and around the Capitol for 14 sessions.

A senior director of public affairs for Oklahoma City-based Saxum, Monies previously worked as a political reporter for The Oklahoman and served as an adviser to former Republican leaders at the state Capitol. She also worked as director of Oklahoma Achieves, an education initiative by the State Chamber.

Monies highlighted the need for diverse viewpoints in the education policy conversation and vowed to keep an open mind on all education issues so long as quality outcomes for schoolchildren remains the focus.

“What I promise you is that I have a heart for ensuring that every Oklahoma student has a quality education, and every position I hold is rooted in the desire to make Oklahoma a top 10 state in education,” she said.

Bobek and Bollenbach faced none of the opposition their female counterparts faced, and their nominations unanimously passed out of the committee without a single question from its members. Both are businessmen.

Stitt praised the committee for advancing his nominees."I have full faith they will serve our state well, and I look forward to their confirmation before the full Senate," he said in a statement.

The Senate already confirmed Stitt’s two other appointees — Carlisha Williams Bradley and Bill Flanagan — to the seven-member board.

Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›

Comments