Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin told the Examiner-Enterprise on Tuesday that the recent actions of State Superintendent Janet Barresi were not wise, but she will not ask her to resign.
Barresi has come under fire for the recent appointment of Larry Birney as an assistant superintendent overseeing accreditation and compliance for the Oklahoma Department of Education. Baressi created the position and hired Birney just weeks before voters go to the polls to select her replacement.
Birney, who has an extensive background in law enforcement, was the executive director for the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training from 2008 until 2011, when he resigned following the creation of a panel to investigate his conduct. Birney is the husband of Barresi’s general council, Kim Richey.
“I think that Supt. Barresi needs to accept the fact that she lost the election,” Fallin said. “She needs to exit her job gracefully when the job ends. There are only a couple of months left. I don’t think it would be helpful at this point in time to have a vacancy (of State Superintendent). I think she can help with a smooth transition to whoever the next superintendent is, and to keep things peaceful and calm. I don’t think she should be hiring new positions.”
Barresi made the decision to hire Birney by using the powers that were given to the Superintendent of Public Education following the passage of House Bill 2139 in 2011.
The language of the bill allows the governor to make appointments to the state Board of Education, and modifies the terms of office for board members from a staggered six-year term to a four-year term that mirrored the election cycle.
The bill also created a new law, which empowered the state superintendent to organize and control the administration of the Department of Education — including the hiring of personnel, their appointment and their salaries.
Fallin said in light of Barresi’s actions, she would be in favor of allowing legislators to revisit the authority of the State Superintendent.
“I think it would be helpful if the Board (of Education) had more authority to be able to make decisions independently and also work with me as governor,” she said. “I think it is something we should look into this legislative session. I look forward to working with our legislators that helped draft that original legislation and see if we can make a way to improve upon the language.”
Lots of Republicans are asking today about yard signs with Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi’s name and photo.
The signs have been popping up, mostly in the Muskogee area. The photo was snapped by blogger Jamison Faught (MuskogeePolitico.com).
Some accuse unnamed Democrats of crafting the signs, others say it’s the Democrats who want to take control of the Department of Education in the November election.
Barresi, elected in 2010, was soundly defeated in the GOP primary, finishing third with less than 30 percent of the vote.
The Oklahoma Parent Teacher Association is joining the chorus of calls for state Superintendent Janet Barresi to resign from office immediately.
Barresi has “continued to erode the relationship between the state Department of Education and the school boards, administrators, teachers and parents of Oklahoma public schools,” Oklahoma PTA President Jeffery Corbett said in a statement Friday.
The call comes a day after Lee Baxter, a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Education, demanded at the end of the board’s regular meeting that Barresi step down immediately rather than wait until her term is over in January.
Read the rest of this story at TulsaWorld.com.
Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, offended by remarks made by a Board of Education member, called him a “son of a bitch” after the meeting. Here’s the Tulsa World’s report:
A State Board of Education member called for the immediate resignation of State Superintendent Janet Barresi at a Thursday morning meeting.
Lee Baxter, a Lawton resident who was appointed to the board by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2011, said he feels it is in the best interest of public education in Oklahoma that Barresi resign rather than wait to leave office when her term ends in January.
“I want the venom stopped. I’m sick of the lack of collaboration and blatant disrespect for our school administrators, and I think it needs to stop soon,” Baxter said. “The way I think that needs to happen is for the state superintendent to relinquish her role now. I don’t believe that will happen.”
Baxter’s comments came at the end of Thursday’s meeting in the State Capitol. Barresi sat lock-jawed during Baxter’s remarks, which went on for about five minutes.
She quickly adjourned the meeting and turned and watched as Oklahoma City board member Bill Shdeed shook Baxter’s hand and told him, “That took a lot of courage.”
Then Barresi turned to board member Bill Price of Oklahoma City and gestured animatedly with one hand and said, “He’s a son of a b—-!”
Baxter said he was responding to calls in a Wednesday afternoon press release and in public comments at Thursday morning’s Board of Education meeting by state Rep. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud. Smalley accused Barresi of cronyism for hiring the husband of a top state education executive in a new assistant state superintendent position.
A spokesman for Fallin said the governor had no comment on the calls for Barresi’s resignation.
Baxter acknowledged that Barresi has the authority to hire anyone she wanted, but he questioned why the hiring process wasn’t transparent enough for the state board members to be informed in advance. He also called it unethical, saying: “It’s cronyism. Anywhere it is cronyism.”
Smalley told the board earlier in the meeting, “Do not set the traps for the future for whoever sits in this position down the road. … Publicly call for these resignations and stand with me to do the right thing.”
After the meeting, Barresi told reporters she would not resign.
“I understand I have failed at politics, but I am not going to fail at my obligation to the children of Oklahoma,” she said.
She also pledged to provide her successor with “robust transition” assistance even though “that opportunity was not afforded to me by my predecessor.”
Barresi, who was defeated in June’s primary election, recently created a new position — assistant state superintendent of accreditation and compliance — and hired the husband of her general counsel Kim Richey to fill it.
Richey’s husband, Larry Birney, is a career law enforcement official who made headlines statewide when he resigned as executive director for the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training, or CLEET, in Ada in 2011 after three years there. The resignation came after a formal panel was formed to investigate his conduct.
He worked previously as an officer with the San Antonio Police Department for 35 years.
Baxter, in his remarks, said the nature of Birney’s exit from CLEET was yet another one of his reasons for questioning the hire. But he made a point of saying how much he respected Richey as an attorney and appreciated her legal counsel to the board.
In a press release sent out Wednesday afternoon, Smalley said it was “a good ol’ boy hire” and called for the immediate resignations of Barresi, Richey and Birney.
That wasn’t the sole issue Baxter cited in calling for Barresi’s resignation. He said no real progress on the development of new English and math standards for Oklahoma public schools can occur as long as Barresi is associated with the process.
“What’s now been done is to create a system for Oklahoma that stands separate from the state superintendent and separate from the state Department of Education because, sadly, today anything with education associated with the state department has become toxic,” he said. “It can’t pass in the Legislature. It can’t be supported by teachers. It can’t be supported by administrators. It can’t be supported by parents. It’s simply toxic.”
New standards are going to be developed because the Oklahoma Legislature voted to remove the Common Core standards being used in most other states earlier this year.
Barresi had initially tapped Teri Brecheen, executive director of reading and literacy at the state Education Department, to oversee a multi-tiered standards-writing process that called for several rounds of public meetings. But this summer, the state board rejected that plan as too complicated.
Baxter said Barresi had “been quick to point the finger” at the state board for delaying the process, but he said Barresi herself made that delay necessary and it could drag on as long as she remains in office.
“That’s why the move to set standards has gone slowly — we want standards for our kids that Oklahoma accepts, not rejects. If that takes an extra couple of months so be it,” he said.
“I also reject the idea the only people who know or want reform are within the state (education) department and with the superintendent. I know I want it, I know the governor wants it, I know the Legislature wants it, most of the superintendents I know want it, and I know parents want it.”
He said he hopes Oklahoma elects a state superintendent “who favors reform and at the same time is willing to collaborate with others.”
Earlier in the meeting, Barresi challenged the board to accept her nomination of Brecheen to the steering committee that will oversee the writing of academic standards.
Board member Amy Ford, who is now heading up the process, recommended a list of steering committee members to the rest of the board at Thursday’s meeting. Barresi said she had submitted Brecheen’s name previously, but it had been “rejected.”
Her motion to add Brecheen to Ford’s list of steering committee failed because no other board member seconded the motion. The board then split with Barresi 6-1 to approve the membership of the committee.
Rep. Jason Smalley said today he is calling for the resignation of state Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, Dr. Larry Birney and Kim Richey.
“I am calling for an immediate hiring and firing freeze at the Oklahoma State Department of Education and calling on Superintendent Janet Barresi, Dr. Larry Birney and Kim Richey to immediately step down,” said Smalley, R-Stroud. “This past week a new position was created within the agency for what I view as a good ol’ boy hire.”
Lynn Jones, a knowledgeable and experienced regional accreditation officer who was serving as executive director, stepped down last week as she was informed she had a new boss, Smalley said. Jones was previously one of the most experienced in her field and was promoted last year to executive director from the field office, he said.
“I have personally worked with Lynn; she is extremely knowledgeable and gifted in what she does,” Smalley said. “She has an abundance of knowledge and was an amazing resource to myself and all of the schools she served.
“It seems to me that we would want to keep our best and brightest close to us to allow a less of a learning curve come January when a new leader takes office. To replace someone and create a new position with only eight weeks left is inexcusable and shows that the SDE, a bureaucratic monster, is out of control.
“This is irresponsible and accomplishes nothing, it hurts public education and decisions like this should be left until the new superintendent is sworn in.”
The new hire is Dr. Larry Birney, a law enforcement specialist who served as the executive director for the Council of Law Enforcement Education and Training. He resigned in 2011 after a formal panel was formed to investigate an ongoing personal inquiry. Dr. Birney served with the San Antonio Police Department for 35 years and was with CLEET since 2008.
“I don’t question his law enforcement experience, I question his education expertise and qualifications for this newly created position,” Smalley said.
It just so happens that Larry’s wife is Kim Richey, who serves as general counsel for the state education department. Dr. Birney and Mrs. Richey worked together at CLEET as well.
“My question is why we are hiring individuals that have no K-12 education experience to come in and now be in charge of the accreditation standards of our schools,” Smalley said. “As of right now our standards are subject to change in Oklahoma. We need to keep the most experienced people we have to help with the transition. That is what’s best for our schools and our children in Oklahoma. Not hiring spouses and friends, to secure jobs.”
Smalley also noted the financial cost.
“As a legislator every year school funding is a top priority,” Smalley said. “It concerns me when the state education department adds a $90,000 salary and then continues to ask for more and more operational costs.”
Sep 24 2014 | Posted in Education
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Southern Political Report
Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) has been rated a shoo-in for months and the race has been on nobody’s “watch” list, until the past several weeks, when voter survey after survey showed her in serious trouble with the Oklahoma electorate. Her favorability rating dropped from 73% last September to 52% in June, a 19-point drop, according to SoonerPoll.com.
Joe Dorman’s Voting Record: http://votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/46187/joe-dorman#.U-vMr2d0xjo
Moreover, despite being a state legislator with only 35% name ID, Fallin’s Democratic challenger, state Rep. Joe Dorman, is showing up surprisingly strong. In head-to-head polls released in recent weeks, Fallin consistently ran below 50%, a danger sign for incumbents. Fallin led Dorman by 45% to 40% in a Rasmussen Reports poll; 44% to 31%, according to Sooner Survey taken by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates (R); and led 49% to 40% in a CBS/New York Times poll, Fallin’s best showing, though it pushed “leaners” to make a decision, which may have helped Fallin. Moreover, Dorman’s 35% name ID suggests that as he becomes better known, he has room to improve.
Longtime Oklahoma commentator Mike McCarville says, “Fallin has been going through a pretty rough time,” but points out that Dorman “doesn’t have the base or the money” to defeat her. As of August 8, Dorman had $60,000 in his campaign fund to Fallin’s $1,547,000. Whether Fallin’s recent weakness in the opinion polls will bring money into Dorman’s campaign remains to be seen. He did start television ads last week, focusing on education issues, precisely where Fallin is weak, especially due to her vacillating stance on Common Core standards.
Sooner Poll’s Bill Shapard told the Tulsa World that Fallin’s education agenda, specifically her support for the Common Core education standards, changing to opposition, hurt her with Republicans. Common Core “had problems on the left and the right,” says University of Oklahoma Professor Keith Gaddie, “then somebody on the radio called it “Obamacore,” and that was the end of it.” Says McCarville, “She was for then against Common Core. It confused people.”
In the Republican Primary, the current Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi, who supported Common Core, was defeated by an overwhelming 57% to 21% by a foe of the national standards. Dorman “has been hanging Barresi around [Fallin’s] neck,” says one source. In his first TV ad, Dorman says, “Mary Fallin has flip flopped and failed on education.” In addition, some of her vetoes on education issues have been overridden by the legislature, even though both chambers are more than 70% Republican, suggesting Fallin has problems working with lawmakers even from her own party.
Fallin, however, got good marks in crisis management when tornados ripped the state last year. But in the aftermath, she declined to support building storm shelters in public schools, citing the cost. It’s an issue that Dorman cites on his website.
There is also a feeling that Fallin has no “signature issue,” as one source put it, to point to. While she campaigned on tax cuts and did sign a major tax cut bill, the legislation may not survive a court challenge. She has also been criticized for her opposition to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, aka, “Obamacare.”
Dorman, who is term-limited this year, has been in the legislature for 11 years and has a reputation for working across party lines. He has been the research director for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington and also worked with the collegiate mock legislature in Oklahoma, so he has a network of politically-minded young people who may be an asset for him. Despite being a Democrat, he is a member of the National Rifle Association and is pro-life. His most whimsical legislative achievement was to get the watermelon named the state’s official vegetable. It seems the state already had a state fruit, but he wanted to put the spotlight on watermelon, because the annual watermelon festival is held in his district.
The Democratic Party is working to undermine Fallin, filing an ethics complaint claiming that her spokesperson in the governor’s office is working on her campaign on government time, thus at taxpayers’ expense.
The economy is a major plus for Fallin; the state’s jobless rate was only 4.5% in June, compared with a national rate of 6.1%, and a full percentage point lower than the state’s 5.5% in June 2013. Moreover, Oklahoma moved from 31st to 12th among the states in job growth over the past year.
Moreover, Dorman’s party affiliation won’t help him in the nation’s reddest state (Romney received 67% and carried all 77 counties). In one poll, 55% of voters have a “very unfavorable” opinion of President Obama. McCarville says that Dorman “is a capable guy,” but that “throughout his career he has been so aligned with Obama and the East Coast wing of the Democratic Party.”
Despite the shaky poll numbers, Fallin is still the favorite. Said pollster Shapard in the Tulsa World, “I don’t see a scenario where Joe [Dorman] could win.” Says commentator McCarville, Fallin “has plenty of room to recover, and I think she is recovering.”
In any case, there is a race. Stay tuned.
Aug 12 2014 | Posted in General
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Robert G. Holland
Never let it be said that Common Core (CC) entirely lacks educational value.
By exercising even a little of the critical thinking the pushers of these national standards claim to want mandated in all classrooms, consumers can learn a big, valuable lesson about polling that seeks to shape public opinion rather than honestly gauge it.
The one constant in the spate of polls being taken as CC heats up as a political issue is that a sizable portion of the population still knows little or nothing about how these curricular guidelines were developed or what they do. To some prominent pollsters, the knowledge gap is an opening to feed respondents an entirely positive portrayal and then ask them leading questions likely to elicit pro-CC responses.
A recent example was a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll done June 11–15, purporting to find support exceeds opposition to Common Core by almost a 2–1 margin. But first, the pollsters found almost half their participants said they had seen, read, or heard zilch about the national standards. So then WSJ/NBC “educated” them with the following description:
“The Common Core standards are a new set of education standards for English and math that have been set to internationally competitive levels and would be used in every state for students in grades K through 12.”
That is a grossly misleading description. It utterly ignores serious scholarly findings about weaknesses of the math and English standards and their lack of comparability to the best in the world. Furthermore, it fails to acknowledge heavy Obama administration pressure to get states signed up, or the growing number of states now bailing on CC testing and CC itself.
In a June 18 Cato at Liberty blogpost, Cato Institute education analyst Neil McCluskey likened the WSJ/NBC approach to failing to tell people that pufferfish are poisonous, then telling them “pufferfish are delicious and nutritious,” then finally asking, “would you like to eat some pufferfish?”
The first week of May, a survey by Republican pollster John McLaughlin used similar pufferfishy questioning to convert an almost equal split of opinion on CC (35 percent approval, 33 percent disapproval, 32 percent don’t know) to a whopping two-thirds level of support, by feeding respondents what it called a “simple, neutral” description. Again, it was anything but objective. It was CC puffery.
The political takeaway from McLaughlin was that Republicans should beware of opposing Common Core, because national standards will have a big upside with swing voters in the general election. Scribes from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nominally conservative think tank, then sought to drive home that point with commentary warning Republican candidates that criticizing Common Core is a losing issue.
It would have been reasonable for media reporting on all this to have noted the McLaughlin Poll was commissioned by the Collaborative for Student Success, recipient of heavy funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars both creating Common Core and now purchasing support for it. And Fordham also does PR for the Gates people.
Someone might ask Oklahoma state school superintendent Janet Barresi how much being a red-hot supporter of Common Core in a deep-red state helped her. Despite reportedly putting more than $1 million of her own money into her campaign, she lost in a landslide to CC opponent Joy Hofmeister in the June 24 GOP primary. In fact, Barresi finished third with just 21 percent support.
Here and there, some polls are beginning to reflect the growing anger of citizens over undemocratically imposed nationalized standards they like less the more they find out about them. A little-noted University of Connecticut poll conducted the last week of April found just that: Opposition was highest among people who said they were most highly informed about CC.
Now, one of the polling heavyweights, Rasmussen Reports, has done a straightforward survey (June 21–22), using no leading or trick questions, and finds support for Common Core plummeting among parents with school-age children. Only 34 percent of those parents favor schools nationwide having to meet the so-called Common Core State Standards, a drop of 18 percentage points since a Rasmussen survey last November.
Citizens should closely scrutinize all public-opinion surveys for embedded bias. A critical assessment of the accumulating data indicates a growing proportion of parents who have brought themselves up to speed independently on Common Core—as opposed to being pollster-led—oppose this top-down imposition of shoddy, one-size-fits-all standards and subjective testing on their children.
Robert Holland (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior fellow for education policy with The Heartland Institute.
Governor Fallin today embraced the new Republican nominee for school superintendent, Joy Hofmeister, and said they’ve already started working on an agenda for stronger schools.
Hofmeister was overwhelmingly elected by GOP primary voters over the incumbent Janet Barresi.
This, from Fallin’s campaign website:
Governor Mary Fallin and candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister are working together on an agenda to strengthen Oklahoma public schools and produce better outcomes for Oklahoma students. Mary and Joy know the path forward requires:
- A commitment to producing strong, Oklahoma-based academic standards to replace Common Core
- Supporting our teachers by getting more funding for K-12 education
- Focusing on accountability in spending – additional funds need to go to the classroom!
“Joy Hofmeister is a teacher, small business owner and a mother who cares deeply about public education in Oklahoma, which is why I was proud to appoint her to the Oklahoma State Board of Education. I know Joy will work tirelessly to unite parents, teachers, employers and lawmakers as we work to support and improve our schools. I am proud to support her in her race for superintendent.” – Governor Mary Fallin
“Governor Fallin has always said that improving education is the most important thing we can do to support the long term growth and prosperity of our state. She should be applauded for highlighting the importance of public education, not just in the individual growth of our students, but for Oklahoma’s long term economic well-being. I encourage Oklahomans to get behind Governor Fallin to ensure we have a pro-education governor for the next four years.” – Joy Hofmeister