Ryan Walters’ lips say one thing, but his actions reflect the opposite

State superintendent hasn’t offered additional resources to struggling schools

September 18, 2023 5:28 am

Superintendent Ryan Walters greets board members at August's state Board of Education meeting. (Photo by Brent Fuchs/For Oklahoma Voice)

State Superintendent Ryan Walters’ has said that “I’m willing to do anything to turn these schools around. I’m willing to do whatever it takes for these kids.”  

But it is difficult to find any actions that support those words he spoke about improving the academic outcomes at Tulsa Public Schools. Rather than presenting positive plans, he continues with threats and additional requirements.

He has made it “crystal clear” — as he loves to say — that “the clock has started” on Tulsa Public School’s required improvements. 

But then within days, Walters distributed a highly altered tweet with added comments that resulted in days of bomb threats to schools in the Tulsa area. In that instance, Walters shared an altered TikTok video that was originally posted by a Union Public School employee. The employee spoke of pushing a woke agenda with a caption explaining that she meant teaching children to love reading and to be kind. The Libs of TikTok Twitter account though reposted the video without the caption. Walters then shared the altered post. 

The fear that Walters is responsible for creating has had negative consequences on every school in Oklahoma, and it will not be easily erased. Without a doubt, learning time has been greatly compromised.  

The action he decided to take is a “crystal clear” picture of his lack of commitment, as well as lack of professionalism, experience and just plain old common sense.

Walters boasts that he was in Tulsa a dozen times, but yet he only met with the superintendent of TPS once — when she requested a meeting. 

The comments made by Walters and the questions asked by the State Board of Education members at the August meeting show that they’re working with inaccurate, untruthful, and terribly incomplete information. 

Rather than acknowledging that TPS already had an improvement plan in place focused on “the science of reading,” Walters demanded that they start using it. If any of them had even done their homework, that fact would have been obvious.

Since neither he nor the state board members seem to have accurate knowledge of what is presently in place, it is obvious that they are nowhere close to being adequately prepared to develop a plan of improvement or “take over” TPS

If Walters’ had done adequate research on not only the TPS Report Card but also poverty statistics, he would recognize the far-reaching effects of the high poverty rates and the resulting high absenteeism rate that many of the “failing” schools face.  

There is robust evidence suggesting an association between children’s socioeconomic background and school absenteeism. And a higher rate of absenteeism is associated with poor academic performance. Until these children’s life outside school improves, it is quite unlikely that their testing scores will increase.  

But that is of no concern to Walters when he barks his timeline for required improvement. The fact that Walters is demanding immediate change makes it obvious to all that he has no concept of how poverty affects learning. 

Surely he understands that poverty in the Tulsa schools will not be erased at his command. 

Or maybe, he is just banking on the fact that those socioeconomic needs will not be met, required progress will not be made, and he will fulfill his ultimate goal of seizing control of TPS and being featured on many Fox News spots.

According to the State Department of Education website, the department will deploy comprehensive strategies, interventions and resources to help struggling schools.

Yet, Walters has mentioned nothing about the support that his agency will provide. 

In all of Walters’ rants and threats about TPS, his lips have never uttered “what can I and my department do to help?”  

In fact, has he even uttered that about any problem facing any school in Oklahoma? What a telling question to evaluate his commitment to help public schools become more successful.

He has said he “is willing to do anything to turn this school around.” Yet his actions are completely void of any positive plans for improvement, any offer of resources, or any collaboration to create workable plans.  

The words emerging from Walters’ mouth must align with his actions. 

Right now, they never do.


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Janis Blevins
Janis Blevins

Janis Blevins lives in Oklahoma City. A retired accountant, she’s interested in examining how decisions made by government officials impact Oklahomans.