Battle brewing over funding for early childhood education

Jeanne A. Curley

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Two state officials in Oklahoma are battling it out over funding for early childhood education.

Earlier this week, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said she was ‘appalled’ that Secretary of Education Ryan Walters was refusing to approve a contract for education.

Hofmeister said the state-mandated contract provides early childhood education to high-poverty children across Oklahoma.

After Oklahoma lawmakers approved House Bill 4465, officials say $12 million was allocated to the Oklahoma Early Childhood Program for the 2023 fiscal year.

Hofmeister says that Walters asked several questions about the expenditure, and delayed further action for three weeks.

Hofmeister said that Walters indicated that he believed the contract involved Tulsa Public Schools, even though it doesn’t.

“I will need copy’s [sic] of all documentation by Tulsa Public Schools on this contract as it moves forward,” he reportedly wrote. “There needs to be accountability measures put in place to ensure TPS is acting according to the contract.”

Hofmeister said that it is ‘unconscionable’ that Walters would punish children for ‘political games.’

“Secretary Walters’ refusal to approve this expenditure, which is required by law, received an appropriated line item and has been in state statute since 2006, is worse than irresponsible,” she said. “His gamesmanship bullies infants and children, but it is not surprising. This is a pattern of Gov. Stitt’s administration when they don’t get their way or need to distract from their own financial scandals.”

Secretary Walters responded to the criticism with his own statement on Twitter.

“I am committed to transparency and accountability for taxpayer’s dollars and basic questions go unanswered for this program. A simple email instead of a straw man, politically motivate press release could have provided the transparency I have requested.

Democrat Hofmeister and her staff have resisted in providing basic information, and instead, wants to run to the media to cover up their own unwillingness to answer basic questions.

We’ve got out of control spending in the department of education that has not provided results for parents, teachers, or kids so every program that I oversee will be reviewed. Hofmeister is quick to cry fowl (sic) without providing answers, becoming more of the problem.

They continue to withhold information when transparency is what is needed to provide accountability for a 12 million dollar program. Hofmeister is putting her liberal world view over our kids.”

Secretary of Education Ryan Walters

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