Weekly Opinion Editorial
PUT JOY IN EDUCATION!
by Steve Fair
In two weeks, it will be over! The 2014 campaign cycle will conclude on November 4th. This cycle’s ‘October surprise’ evidently was Ebola, and ISIS and the failure of the Obama administration to handle either with any degree of effectiveness. Political observers predict Republicans will take the U.S. Senate and add seats in the U.S. House. Oklahoma is one of only states where two U.S. Senate races are on the ballot (South Carolina is the other). Congressman James Lankford is running for the unexpired term of Tom Coburn and Senator Jim Inhofe is running for re-election. Both Republican nominees are expected to win easily.
In the statewide office races, Governor Mary Fallin, Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, and Labor Commissioner Mark Costello are running for re-election and are heavily favored to win. The only statewide race that is expected to be competitive is for State Superintendent for Public Instruction. It pits Joy Hofmeister and John Cox. Hofmeister won a three way Republican primary, knocking off incumbent Janet Barassi without a runoff, garnering 57% of the vote. Cox won the primary, but didn’t get enough votes to win outright. He beat Freda Deskin in the Democrat run-off on August 26th 63% to 37%.
What does the State Superintendent of Public Instruction do? The State Constitution doesn’t define the duties of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The office’s powers and responsibilities come from the Oklahoma School Code and the powers granted to the office by the State Board of Education. The State Superintendent is responsible for the general administration, coordination, supervision, evaluation, and improvement of educational programs throughout the state. They also implement the policies of the State Board of Education. Every two years, they are required to publish a book containing the AG’s opinion on school law. Annually, they are to provide the state legislature and the Governor a ‘status report’ on the state of education in Oklahoma. Let’s take a look at the two candidates.
Joy Hofmeister is a former public school teacher and operates a Math & Reading tutoring business. She has four kids and has been very active in the Jenks school district. She was active in PTA, serves on the Jenks Schools Foundation board and was on the State Board of Education for two years. She is a TCU graduate and is working on a Masters at OU in School Policy and Law. Forty five Republican members of the state legislature endorsed her BEFORE the primary.
John Cox is the school superintendent in Peggs, a K-8 school district near Tahlequah. He has a degree from Northeastern University, and got his doctorate in education at OSU. His web site doesn’t say, but it appears Cox is married and has two children. In the past, he served on State Superintendent Sandy Garrett’s advisory board.
Cox is running as a conservative Democrat (if that actually exits). He says he opposes Common Core, but offers no alternative to the national standards. Cox favors increased funding in education and a starting wage of 35K for classroom teachers in Oklahoma.
Hofmeister opposes Common Core and advocates that Oklahoma establish our own standards. She says every student should be able to read before the third grade. She also would like to see classroom teacher’s pay increased, but she says education should be accountability to the taxpayer. She favors more transparency in education funding.
Evidently, Cox has not been complying with the State’s Opening Meetings Act. State statute (Title 25; Sections 301-314), requires public officials to hold open meetings which include advance notice of time, place and agenda of the meetings in a public venue. Those notices are required to be filed with the County Clerk’s office in advance of the meeting. Cox has not posted any notices on the Peggs School website for years.. That should concern voters. If Cox can’t post an online advanced agenda now, what makes us think he can do it when he is elected to a statewide office? He does appear to have the ability to update his campaign website regularly.
A second issue is Cox’s pay. Cox is paid an astronomical $141,678 annually as Superintendent of one of the smallest school districts in Oklahoma. Peggs has just 13 teachers and 248 students. The job Cox is running for pays $124,373 a year, which begs the question- why is he running for an office that pays less money? The obvious reason is the OEA and other liberal education groups in Oklahoma are attempting to re-capture the Oklahoma Department of Education. They understand the power and influence the position has over the public education of our children in Oklahoma.The choice in this race is clear. Hofmeister is more qualified, has a more detailed plan of how to lead the department and will work with the state legislature and the Governor to further public education in Oklahoma. On November 4th, put Joy in education.