2018 Candidates for Oklahoma State Superintendent

Three Republicans, one Democrat and one independent are campaigning for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The primary will be June 26. If none of the three Republicans earn more than 50 percent of the vote, the Republican primary run-off election will be Aug. 28. The general election will be Nov. 6. The incumbent is State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. 

The OEA members who serve on the Fund for Children and Public Education steering committee decided not to make a recommendation in the Republican primary.

The Oklahoma Education Association asked the five candidates for state superintendent to share more about themselves and their platform. Each candidate was asked four questions.


Candidate responses are presented in alphabetical order.

 

Dr. John Cox

Q: If you had been State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the past four years, what would you have done differently in administering Oklahoma’s public schools than the current administration?

JOHN COX: I believe the tension and frustration concerning the teacher pay increase was a direct reflection of our current State Superintendent and the absence of her leadership.  I definitely would not have started my term by advocating for teachers to work five more days and then we will give you more salary.  The 5 for 5 idea was a slap in the face to educators by a state superintendent that only has less than one year experience as a classroom teacher.  Over my 33 year career as a Principal and Superintendent, and as a teacher, I have been able to build relationships on both sides of the aisle, and I feel confident that we would not have had a school stoppage because my leadership style would have resulted in a true teacher pay increase and additional funding for our public schools in my initial years in office.

I am proud of the work that we did by ending the useless End-of-Instruction tests, but I am not proud that we are still forced to give inappropriate tests to our special needs children and that we forced to test prep for state testing that does not improve instruction and tests results that are not released to our students and teachers in a timely and immediate process to guide instruction.  If I had been state superintendent the last four years, Oklahomans would have seen a common sense approach to instructing our students, and giving our teachers the power and autonomy to help our students be successful for post high school years.

The true difference between me and the current state superintendent is that I would be in the office to serve our public schools and she is in the office to get re-elected and regulate local control.

Q: What is the most pressing issue facing public education that you’ll address if elected?

COX: I believe the most pressing issue facing our public schools is having adequate funding for operational costs and employing more teachers to reduce class size.  My goal is to get our teachers first year salary above $40,000, which I campaigned on four years ago.  This should entice young people to enter the profession and encourage those teachers that have left us to come back to teaching.  Another issue I am passionate about is decreasing the archaic testing system we have, and move our assessments towards more immediate feedback to drive instruction and moving our accountability system to use the formative testing that is already being utilized in our public schools.  Let’s get back to the basics and provide an opportunity for every student to become what each desires to be in adulthood.  Let’s give flexibility to our high school students to earn a trade certification before graduating high school.  Let’s start taking care of our public schools again.

Q: Educators across Oklahoma believe that the pay raises and funding increases enacted this session were a good start, but we must continue to see additional investment in future years.  What will you do to ensure our public schools receive future funding increases and our teachers and ESPs receive future pay raises? 

COX: Absolutely the recent pay raises are the first step!  It is the job of the state superintendent to build and have relationships with the legislators to continue the momentum that was set by teachers and Oklahomans who care about our public schools.  My focus will be to continually advocate for additional funds for our public schools and continued increase of teacher pay.  My experience as a public school educator for 33 years and actually living the day to day process of how state government has gutted our public schools is invaluable to my advocacy of our teachers, staff, children, and public schools.  This election is not about ‘D’ or an ‘R’ like it was in the last election.  This election is about who truly is a public educator and who we can trust in that position to take care of our public schools.

Q: What role do you expect educators, support professionals, and OEA to play in your administration over the next four years?  

COX: As state superintendent, I will be in the office to lead and to serve.  I will only be in that position to take care of our public schools and be a strong advocate for our teachers and support staff.  When I am elected in November, the OEA will have a seat in my office and I expect that the OEA members will be active to help me guide public education and advocate for the much needed resources it takes to help our children become successful.  All teachers and public school employees across the state will have a seat at the table.  Winning the title of state superintendent is not important to me; finally having someone in that position who shares the same values and experience as a public educator is of importance.  One year in the classroom over three decades ago does not make a career educator.  Let’s get an experienced public educator as our next state superintendent!


Will Farrell

Q: If you had been State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the past four years, what would you have done differently in administering Oklahoma’s public schools than the current administration?

WILL FARRELL: Our current system of Oklahoma Academic Standards & Assessments and Teacher and Leader Effectiveness is a hodgepodge of Common Core pedagogy and value-added bureaucracy, a pastiche of education "in the penal colony" and a simulation of quantitative and qualitative evaluation.  We cannot be anachronisms slipping behind the reality of present-day demands.  What do we say about the public education status quo if our user manual of education policy ignores assessment of essential subjects such as computer science and technology education?

The heart of my philosophy is the importance of being earnest.  I know I must be a public servant.  Public education in Oklahoma must be a priority to better the lives of Oklahoma’s children, and must foster respect, trust, empowerment, efficacy, legitimacy, discipline, and development of the people in our great state.  Rather than supporting icons of frustration and punitive faux-accountability, I would support shifting the governmental focus of assessment toward education policy that is not only simple, respectful, and inspiring, but also committed to excellence.  We must reassess our policy so teachers will have more agency and freedom for child development, and so children will have more freedom be children and grow into future success stories.

More ideas: Help all teachers earn masters degrees, because a highly educated workforce provides better support for children.  Allow a shifting focus to portfolio assessment (fostering recursive learning) rather than standardized tests (“in one ear, out the other” teaching to tests).  Encourage educational opportunities outside of the typical university paths (job-specific vocational, apprenticeship, and polytechnic courses).  Demand smaller classroom sizes (allowing better interaction between teachers and students).

Q: What is the most pressing issue facing public education that you’ll address if elected?

FARRELL: We need to fix our state's prioritization of public education and social justice.

Some key elements: (1) safeguarding fiscal responsibility to promote equity and high standards for funding, administration, technology, and collaboration; (2) fixing our funding formula to better combat disenfranchisement, and to ensure that county property values are accurately assessed; (3) promote more respect, admiration, and trust for teachers; (4) encourage local responsibility and assessment with equity, community, and acceptance at the forefront.

We must promote school-to-job programs, not school-to-prison pipelines or school-to-debt oubliettes.  Oklahoma spends far too much money keeping people in prison, both physically and emotionally.  We need to encourage a highly-skilled workforce, and make Oklahoma a state at the forefront of technology, innovation, and economic success.  We need to promote transparency to make sure we are not wasting state resources.

We've been renting out our education for far too long; Oklahoma needs ownership of its future.

Q: Educators across Oklahoma believe that the pay raises and funding increases enacted this session were a good start, but we must continue to see additional investment in future years.  What will you do to ensure our public schools receive future funding increases and our teachers and ESPs receive future pay raises? 

FARRELL: I must submit budget proposals that embolden and embody our need to prioritize education in Oklahoma.  I must work with executive and legislative leaders, as well as public and private leaders, to facilitate a shift in societal focus toward individual development and economic opportunity through education.

Children thrive in supportive environments.  I must do everything I can to spread awareness in society of the importance of prioritizing learning, community, love, happiness, tolerance, virtue, and spirit.

Some future revenue sources: I am glad that the Industrial hemp legislation passed; we still need federal laws changed, but it is a step forward to provide a much-needed new revenue source.  The passage of SQ 788 should provide additional revenue for Oklahoma as well. 

I am excited to see the impact of Tulsa's Gathering Place.  Tulsa and Oklahoma City were also chosen as Amazon fulfillment center locations.  By fostering a public education environment that prioritizes education, we will allow Oklahoma to be a beacon of opportunity for more investment opportunities.  We must work to grow the necessary foundation in education to have more businesses choose Oklahoma as their home.

There is promise of growth in the future, but we must make sure not to sabotage our opportunities.  

Q: What role do you expect educators, support professionals, and OEA to play in your administration over the next four years?  

FARRELL: We must vote. We must make our voices heard.  We must prioritize educational efficacy, student development, and social justice.  We must also be open for compromise, and we cannot shut people out of the conversation or become lost in our own echo chambers.

When legislative action does not materialize, social movements are powerful catalysts for change.  I need educators, support professionals, the OEA, and everyone involved in our current social movement to keep your hearts burning with desire for greatness, and for the success of everyone in our community.  I want you at my table, and I need you to help support a better future for Oklahoma.  I respect your agency to still call our great state your home, and I know that must earn your trust to be the advocate that you need for positive change.

Joy Hofmeister

Q: How do you feel you’ve done in administering Oklahoma's public schools over the past four years?

 

Joy Hofmeister

I have successfully worked over the past four years to rebuild and strengthen public schools and student achievement by working collaboratively with educators, community leaders and families. Upon taking office, I assembled a strong team of professionals at the State Dept of Education and we immediately worked with Oklahoma educators to write new academic standards for math and reading. We removed unnecessary testing from state law, eliminated seven EOI tests and provided ACT/SAT for all 11th graders at no cost to students or districts—cutting costs by 40%. We overhauled our state’s broken and invalid school accountability report card and replaced it with a true growth model that meets federal requirements but doesn’t double count kids. We fixed the RSA 3rd grade reading law and repealed TLE VAM from state mandate. To save costs for districts and teachers, we moved our summer professional development conference, EngageOK, on the road—traveling to seven cities each July for the past two summers, delivering key training to 14,000+ educators—including trauma-informed instruction.

Beyond driving changes in law, decrying budget cuts or resetting state priorities, I supported the rights of our individual teachers to protest the failed policies of the Governor and Legislature. It was a failure of leadership over the past decade that resulted in teachers across the state finally standing up and saying—enough. Our students deserve resources in their classrooms and above all, a well-trained and certified teacher. I led the charge to champion competitive pay and respect for teachers beginning on Day One. We fought hard for every pay raise initiative as early as January 2015 and finally won the largest pay raise in state history this past spring. After 14 months of stakeholder input and collaboration, we built an action plan, Oklahoma Edge, to give our kids the competitive, well-rounded education they deserve. I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished together and I’m optimistic about the new focus on education that’s ignited across the state.

Q:  What is the most pressing issue facing public education that you’ll address if reelected?

HOFMEISTER: I believe the most pressing issue is long-term budgeting stability. We can't focus on education once every ten years and expect to increase student achievement and keep teacher pay at a competitive level. I will work with the legislature to implement a funding process that will make public education a priority every single year. Public education must be more of a priority so we don't govern by crisis.

Q: Oklahoma educators believe that the pay raises and funding increases enacted this session were a good start, but we must continue to see additional investment in future years.  What will you do to ensure our public schools receive future funding increases and our teachers and ESPs receive future pay raises? 

HOFMEISTER: I certainly agree that we have made a great step in the right direction, but the job is not done. Making public education a priority once every ten years is not how we will advance as a state. I believe it starts with the fundamental budgeting process: we must work with the legislature to identify stable, long-term funding sources that will ensure continued growth in education funding well in to the future.

Q: What role do you expect educators, support professionals, and OEA to play in your administration over the next four years?

HOFMEISTER: Educators, support professionals, and the OEA can expect to play the same role in my next four years as they did in my first four years. I have had an open door policy for anyone to express concerns, or share ideas, or just visit and talk about public ed—and I’ve been proactive to collaborate and foster a culture of trust and respect as together we serve students and communities across the state. Additionally, I have actively sought input and guidance from teachers, principals, counselors, librarians, and other education stakeholders throughout my administration. I hope to see more educators engaging with their legislators at home and at the Capitol in the new school year, and for years to come. We must continue to tell the stories of the children in Oklahoma classrooms and speak for those who have no voice. I won’t stop fighting for kids if entrusted with another term as Oklahoma's Superintendent of Public Instruction.


Dr. Larry Huff

Q: If you had been State Superintendent of Public Instruction for the past four years, what would you have done differently in administering Oklahoma's public schools than the current administration?

JOHN HUFF: I would have been much more proactive and successfully articulated to the the legislature, and subsequently the taxpayers the need to support public schools. The greatest present need is to secure sufficient funds to attract, retain and support Oklahoma teachers and to adequately fund schools. I would have ensured that every school in Oklahoma developed, implemented and successfully engaged in school improvement activities. I would have established a data base of best practices (teachers helping teachers) where information, teaching techniques and student activities were projected including student evaluation methods and expected outcomes. I would have been on guard and articulated the need for public school funds to be used for public schools.

Q: What is the most pressing issue facing public education that you will address if elected?

HUFF:The most pressing issue facing public education is securing the resources essential to support Oklahoma Public Schools. Our students and public schools, in general, deserve better than 49th in teacher salaries and better than 46th in per pupil expenditures. We must make sure that qualified teachers have adequate materials, supplies, and equipment essential to teach children in a 21 Century classroom. Also, we must not allow funds that are appropriated for public education be eroded away to the private sector.  

Q: Educators across Oklahoma believe that the pay raises and funding increases enacted this session were a good start, but we must continue to see additional investment in future years. What will you do to ensure our public schools receive future funding increases and our teachers and ESP's receive future pay raises?

HUFF: We must get a commitment from the legislature, patrons, parents, teachers and everyone who understands the value of public education. This is not a one and done activity. We are at least 15 years behind in appropriations for education. We need to quit talking about National or regional averages and realize that Oklahoma's greatest natural resource, and ultimately our future lies in the capabilities of our children; therefore, we must provide them with a world class education.

Q: What role do you expect educators, support professionals, and OEA to play in your administration over the next four years?

HUFF: It would be my responsibility as state Superintendent to hire, retain, provide support and effectively utilize all State Department of Education personnel. It must be a total team effort, but it all starts at the top with experienced, qualified, Superintendent-certificated leadership. Also, every educational organization must get on the same page and work together to improve education and not just support their own pet projects. I have been a perpetual member of OEA since the 1967-68 school year. However, OEA does not appear to be as influential today as in times past. That influence needs to be restored. Today, there are those who are pitting all of the education agencies and organizations against each other in order to divide and conquer. We must stand tall, together.


Linda Murphy

Did not respond.


 

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