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Category archives for: Education

Fallin: Barresi ‘needs to accept the fact that she lost the election’

Nathan Thompson
Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

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.”

Who Is Printing Fake Barresi Signs?

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 (

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.

Mark Costello: School Choice Is Beneficial

Labor Commissioner Mark Costello says school choice is beneficial and he explains why that’s important to him, and to parents:

State PTA Calls For Barresi Resignation

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

Tulsa World Wants Barresi Resignation

Today’s Tulsa World calls for Schools Superintendent Janet Barresi’s resignation. A subscription is required to read the editorial online.

Barresi: ‘He’s a son of a bitch’

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.

Smalley Questions Birney DOE Hire, Wants Resignations

Rep. Smalley

Rep. Smalley

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.”

Civics Education Initiative Announced

Honoring the anniversary of United States Constitution, signed on this date in 1787, United States Senator Tom Coburn, Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Former Congressman Dan Boren and Tulsa Councilor G.T. Bynum today announced the Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative.

This state legislative effort aims to ensure all Oklahoma high school graduates have a basic understanding of American civics and history.

“Our country has endured because of the wisdom of our founding fathers and the system of government they established,” said Senator Coburn.  “Everyone should have a basic understanding of American civics and why our country has prevailed for more than 200 years.  The Civics Education Initiative seeks to ensure that our young people understand what makes America great.”

According to the Pew Research Center, only about one-third of Americans can name the three branches of the United States government, much less say what each doesFurther, studies of high school students in Oklahoma and Arizona showed less than a four percent passage rate on the Unites States Citizenship Civics test – the test all immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass.  According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers the civics test as part of the naturalization process, 92 percent of immigrants who take the test pass it on their first try.

The Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative will promote an active and engaged citizenry by requiring that all Oklahoma high school students and those seeking general educational development equivalency (GED) pass the 100-question civics test administered by USCIS. The state legislation will allow students to take the test any time during their high school career, and to take the test as many times as necessary to pass.

By using the well-established USCIS test, there will be no need or expense to create a new test or study materials, as these materials are already available online and for free.  The legislation will allow individual schools to administer the test in a way the school as deems adequate to meet the requirements.

“We can do better for this generation of students,” said Attorney General Scott Pruitt. “This initiative is a concrete first step to ensuring that Oklahoma high school students graduate with the fundamental knowledge to become engaged citizens. Those who are educated about our government, by and large, participate at a higher rate.”

The USCIS Citizenship Civics test consists of 100 basic questions about American civics and history, such as:

What is the name of the President of the United States now?

Name one branch or part of the government.

What is the capital of your state?

What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?

To date the CEI has seen broad support across the state.  Co-Chairs of the Oklahoma Civics Education Initiative include U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, Attorney General Scott Pruitt and former Congressman Dan Boren.

Six other states today are announcing similar state legislative efforts including Arizona, Missouri, Louisiana, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.  The goal of the Civics Education Initiative is for every state in the nation to pass this legislation by September 17, 2017 – the 230th anniversary of the Constitution.  

The Initiative’s national board of directors includes former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, and actor Joe Mantegna who has been nominated for both Golden Globe and Emmy awards.  (National Board Video Message)

The Civics Education Initiative is an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, which was founded to educate American youth on the importance of our country’s unique freedoms, and to inspire them to public service. Joe Foss was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, former governor of South Dakota, and first commissioner of the American Football League.

Fallin: Land Office Marks Funds Distribution Record

Governor Fallin announced today that public schools, colleges and universities have received record earnings during the last four fiscal years from funds distributed by the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO).

More than $519.9 million has been distributed to the CLO’s education beneficiaries during the 2011 through 2014 fiscal years, according to the agency. That amount is 57 percent, or $188.7 million, more than the $331.2 million distributed during the next-highest four-year period in state history (2007-2010).

“This is great news for public education,” said Fallin. “This money provides much-needed additional funds for school districts, colleges and universities. The increase in CLO dollars is one more way to supplement the $150 million increase legislators appropriated for K-12 education in the last two years. I appreciate the hard work of the land office commissioners and CLO Secretary Harry Birdwell for helping to produce these high returns.”

The CLO distributes money from oil and gas exploration and land leases on the agency’s controlled property as well as dividends from investments made by the trust fund.

Public schools received most of the money, or $381.9 million of the $519.9 million, distributed the past four fiscal years by the CLO. Higher education received $137.9 million.

The money for kindergarten-through-grade-12 schools is distributed to each of the state’s 517 school districts based on school attendance numbers.

The value of the CLO’s permanent trust fund since 2011 has grown by nearly $700 million, from $1.606 billion to $2.304 billion.

It took 95 years for the CLO’s permanent trust fund to reach the $1 billion threshold. It took only 11 additional years for the permanent trust fund to pass the $2 billion mark.

The CLO is assigned the task of managing, leasing and selling properties set aside decades ago to be managed for the maximum financial benefit of Oklahoma’s common and higher education schools.

Hofmeister Criticizes Rush To Penalize Oklahoma As Premature

Republican schools superintendent nominee Joy Hofmeister today criticized the Obama Administration’s penalization of Oklahoma for its repeal of Common Core.

Here’s her statement:

“In revoking our ESEA Waiver before the current academic standards review
process could be completed by our State Board of Regents, the Obama
administration has rushed to penalize Oklahoma for the repeal of Common Core.

“This is an example of a punitive overreach by the federal government that shows
a lack of caring for our students, and I consider it an outrage to penalize
students and children simply because the Obama administration is angry that our
state has chosen to chart it’s own course on educational standards.

“This is a classic ‘Big Brother knows best’ approach.

“It is the right of a state to chart its own education standards.  I have
confidence in our State’s Board of Regents and their process to review our
academic standards.  It is unfortunate that the Obama administration has shown a
lack of willingness to work with Oklahoma children, their teachers and their

“I have full confidence in our teachers’ ability to navigate standards and focus
on student learning.  However, the redirecting of funds away from our school
classrooms to outside supplemental providers is a terrible waste of our taxpayer
dollars.   I witnessed this waste in the early years of No Child Left Behind.
Our children cannot afford to lose teachers and classroom funding due to this
required diversions of funds.  It’s wrong and our children deserve better.

“I will continue my work to fight the federal over-regulation of this failed
national initiative.  We must focus on what’s best for our students,” Hofmeister


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