Elected a year ago this week, Ryan Walters took office in January and quickly generated national attention for his well-publicized efforts to rid Oklahoma public schools of social-engineering practices. That includes questionable material found in textbooks.
Eight textbook publishers have withdrawn from consideration for state contracts ahead of a meeting by the state’s textbook committee later this month, The Oklahoman reported.
The committee will select an approved list of math textbooks for schools to use over the next six years.
Thanks to a 2020 state law, textbooks currently used in Oklahoma's classrooms have gone through a review process, according to Fox News. The books are scrutinized for quality and questionable content before being recommended to the state textbook committee.
“It’s amazing what happens when you speak clearly and you hold folks accountable, and we have been very clear," Walters said on "Washington Watch" Monday. "We are not going to allow indoctrination in the classroom."
Walters, a former school teacher, was described as a "conservative firebrand" by the media -- a description that wasn't a compliment -- when he defeated Democrat Jena Nelson, an English teacher. He cruised to a win 56%-43% over Nelson.
'How does math make you feel?'
In the "Washington Watch" interview, Walters did not describe the questionable and controversial books he is fighting but American Family News found a Tulsa World article related to the controversy. After critics pushed back and demanded examples, Walters has cited several LGBT-themed books by name, which he called pornographic and inappropriate for young readers.
In the Tulsa World story, some Oklahoma public schools denied those books are in their school library or assured Tulsa World the books have been removed.
As far as a standard textbook, parents rights group Moms for Liberty opposed a McGraw Hill elementary math book because it incorporates social-emotional learning, Fox News said. That teaching concept known S-E-L combines a student's emotions and feelings with a lesson, so a lesson on multiplication can include a worksheet that asks "How did today's math make you feel?" and "How did you handle your stress today?"
Walters told "Washington Watch" those liberal textbook publishers can sell their indoctrination-filled books in California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom will welcome them, but Oklahoma parents have made it clear they want their children to focus on reading and math skills in the classroom, he said.
Critics have complained that Walters’ policies are limiting textbook choices for Oklahoma school districts. They say Oklahoma’s population of slightly more than 4 million – and subsequently its small buying market compared to other states -- puts it at a disadvantage in procuring textbooks.
Walters, however, said Oklahoma is standing up to East Coast and West Coast book publishers who are accustomed to bullying states to accept their biased textbooks.
“Our state legislature and our great governor, Kevin Stitt, passed laws that said, ‘Look, we're not going to do critical race theory in the classroom. We passed rules here at the state board of education and said, ‘We're not going to allow all this sexualized material into the classroom either. We were very clear with vendors. We're not going to do it,” Walters told show host Tony Perkins.
Oklahoma AG opposes Christian charter school
In June the state approved the nation’s first religious public charter school. The application for St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School was approved by a 3-2 board vote against the warnings of Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, a fellow Republican. He told the group it was violating both the state and U.S. constitutions.
The school is scheduled to open for the fall of 2024 but is already facing multiple lawsuits, one from Drummond, who expresses concern that the state has opened itself up to other groups seeking to set up charter schools.
“Make no mistake, if the Catholic Church were permitted to have a public virtual charter school, a reckoning will follow in which this state will be faced with the unprecedented quandary of processing requests to directly fund all petitioning sectarian groups,” the lawsuit states.
Countering that legal warning, Walters says he is proud Oklahoma will be home to the first Christian charter school in the nation, where the students will be free from "atheist ideology" in the classroom.
"So you’ve got to get this garbage out of the public schools," Walters insisted, "but also give parents the opportunity to send their kids to Christian schools, so that you know that your kid is going to have a great education and not have this type of left-wing ideology in their day-to-day school."