Oklahoma

Proposal could change state school inspector selection | Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY — An Enid lawmaker is proposing a voting measure that would allow the governor, rather than voters, to choose the state superintendent for public instruction.

State Assemblyman Chad Caldwell (R-Enid) said he did not know how receptive voters would be to a change to the current format, which would require voter approval since it is enshrined in the state constitution. However, Caldwell said he introduced joint House Resolution 1030 to give Oklahoma residents an opportunity to “either reaffirm their previous stance or change the way we are handling that position.”

Caldwell said in an email that he decided to introduce the law after hearing feedback in the last election that the position of state superintendent should be “less political”.

“If we really want the position to be less political, the best way to achieve that is by appointing the position,” he said. “The majority of states appoint their chief education officer rather than elect him, and obviously these types of positions are all appointed at the federal level, so it’s very common across the country.”

He said it makes sense to give the Oklahoma governor the power to find people aligned with their vision to implement their administration’s priorities.

Not everyone agrees with the proposal.

“I think that’s ridiculous,” Erika Wright, founder of the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, said of Caldwell’s bill. “We should do everything we can to give people a bigger voice, rather than going backwards in this area.”

Wright said Oklahomans already cannot vote on who serves on their state board of education, so the law would completely eliminate the public’s ability to elect any of the state officials charged with administering public schools. Oklahomans could only elect the governor.

She said other states have state superintendents who are appointed, but most have an elected state school board that has the power to hire and fire their superintendent.

“It is ridiculous to take a step to push Oklahoma into a fully appointed government of the public education system. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re having this conversation right now,” Wright said. “People need to be able to hold someone accountable for their inability to do their jobs, and that’s what happens in elections.”

Oklahoma is one of nine states that allow voters to choose the state superintendent and its governor to appoint members of the state board of education, according to an analysis by the Education Commission of the States.

Fourteen states—including Missouri and Arkansas—allow their governors to appoint state board members. Those board members then hire the superintendent, the group said.

Eleven states, including Pennsylvania and Tennessee, allow the governor to appoint both the members of the state board of education and the state superintendent, according to the group.

Seven states, including Colorado and Kansas, elect the members of the state board of education and then mandate that board to appoint the superintendent, the group said.

The remaining nine states, including Texas and New Mexico, have “modified versions” of the other states’ laws, the group said. Texas, for example, elects the members of the state board of education, but the governor hires the superintendent. New Mexico has an elected body that has an advisory role.

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