From statewide offices to legislative seats, Republican candidates who supported the school’s choice prevailed in multiple races during this week’s primaries while incumbents who opposed the school’s choice school lost or narrowly avoided defeat at the hands of conservative challengers.
Topping the GOP ticket, Gov. Kevin Stitt passed three primary opponents, getting 69% of the statewide vote. That strong support came during a year in which Stitt publicly championed the expansion of school choice and endorsed the adoption of college savings accounts for all students, a proposal that would allow tax funds to follow a child to any school, public or private.
US Senator James Lankford also won his race against two main opponents, obtaining nearly 68% of the vote.
In January, Lankford said, “As parents in Oklahoma and parents across the country continue to oppose the ‘woke’ ideology being imposed on their children, school choice is even more important. to increase options and competition for schools to do their best for our children. .”
And in March, Lankford urged fellow senators to approve a resolution that “recognizes the need for school choice as a tool to give all parents the freedom to choose the best educational environment for their children.”
In the race for the Republican nomination for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters came in first with 41% of the vote, while his competitor closer trailed with just under 31%.
A finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year in 2016, Walters has openly advocated for school choice policies that allow families access to a wide range of educational options.
During a recent debate, Walters said: “I will always advocate for measures that help students, giving parents more responsibility in their children’s education – and giving families more freedom with education options is a good thing. I believe no one knows better about a child (better) than their mother and father, and I believe they know exponentially better than a government bureaucrat.
Walters significantly outperformed public polls released before the primary election.
A News 9/News On 6 poll published on June 23, Walters received just 10% of the vote and placed third in the three-candidate primary field. A poll of likely general election voters conducted June 6-9 by Amber Integrated showed Walters in second place with just 14% of the vote.
Walters is now proceeding to a runoff against Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent April Grace.
While the GOP race for an open seat on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission was not focused on education issues, the top voter in that race is also a supporter of school choice. State Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, won 41% of the vote and is now proceeding to a runoff against former State Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada.
David debated and voted in favor of education savings accounts during this year’s legislative session.
“There are kids in parts of Tulsa and Oklahoma City who could desperately use it,” David told colleagues.
In legislative races, some anti-school-choice incumbents have been ousted while others have narrowly survived despite the office’s many perks.
State Rep. Logan Phillips, R-Mounds, was defeated in his bid for re-election. The Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition’s voting guide identified Phillips as an “against the voucher” legislator. Additionally, Phillips voted in 2021 against increasing the size of the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which supports private scholarships for eligible Oklahoma children.
Phillips only got 29% of the vote in a three-way race, losing to Chris Banning, who got nearly 55% of the vote. Banning was supported in his run by the Oklahoma Federation for Children Action Fund, which promotes school choice.
Senator Jake Merrick, R-Yukon, had served just over a year after winning a special election in the spring of 2021. During the 2021 race, Merrick campaigned as a supporter of school choice and its campaign website. declared that parents should have the option of placing their child “in the learning environment that they believe is most effective for their child” and that “funding should follow the child to ensure that parents have a real opportunity to do what is best for their child’s education.
But once in office, Merrick backtracked and voted against Education Savings Account Act that allows the money to follow the child.
Merrick lost his re-election bid to Kristen Thompson, a Republican whose website said she would work to “give parents all the resources that ensure their child’s educational needs are met.”
Thompson got 54% of the vote.
Meanwhile, another legislator who supports school choice easily defeated her opponent.
State Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, was targeted for defeat by the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition. That organization’s voting guide included a ‘WARNING ALERT’ for Conley that said the Newcastle Republican ‘supports ‘school choice’ – embezzling taxpayers’ money from public schools to fund tuition fees. private school tuition via tax credits or vouchers/ESA.”
Conley’s main opponent, Anthony Mackey, denounced on his campaign website the “bad ideas being advanced that might look good on the surface, but are actually hurting Oklahoma’s public education system…”
“One such example is the concept of ‘school choice’, otherwise known as the voucher system, which proposes to divert public tax money to private schools with little or no accountability or oversight of these public dollars,” Mackey wrote.
Conley easily prevailed, getting 70% of the vote to Mackey’s 30%.
In contrast, lawmakers who publicly opposed school choice and embraced national teachers’ unions struggled to win in conservative districts, despite the office’s many advantages.
State Rep. Rhonda Baker, a Republican from Yukon who chairs the House Common Education Committee, narrowly avoided ouster after opposing the expansion of school choice, winning less than 51% of the vote while that his opponent got more than 49%.
Similarly, State Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, picked up a narrow victory over an opponent who supported the school pick. Stanley only got 53% of the vote.
Both Baker and Stanley were endorsed by the Oklahoma Education Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, and both candidates’ campaigns were funded in part by liberal teachers’ unions.
On February 4, Baker received $1,000 from the Oklahoma Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education. She then received an additional $4,000 from the group on June 14. On January 6, Baker also received $500 from the Political Education Committee of the American Federation of Oklahoma Teachers.
On June 18, Stanley received $4,000 from the Oklahoma Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education. On June 10, Stanley received $1,000 from the Political Education Committee of the American Federation of Teachers Oklahoma. This followed a $500 contribution from the same group on January 8.
In an election night statement, the American Federation for Children, which advocates for educational choice, said the Oklahoma Federation Action Fund for Children had invested more than $280,000 in races of State to support proponents of school choice in the 2022 primary.
“For too long, Oklahoma lawmakers have made unions and education bureaucrats the priority in education debates and treated parents and students as an afterthought,” said Jennifer Carter, head of the State for the American Federation for Children – Oklahoma. “It ends tonight. We are proud of the work of the Oklahoma Federation for Children Action Fund to educate Oklahomans about the voting results of their lawmakers, and we will continue to stand by for families who want and deserve more options to education.
In one race, an incumbent who supported school choice was defeated, but by another candidate who supported school choice.
State Rep. Wendi Stearman, R-Collinsville, lost her re-election bid to John Kane.
On his website, Kane said, “Education, at its core, is not just about getting kids to graduate from high school, tech careers, or college. Education is about preparing the next generation to work and live in their community. It’s about training them with problem-solving skills and preparing them for careers. It’s about helping students develop the confidence to dream and equipping them to achieve those dreams. Every child deserves the opportunity to benefit from a quality education. I support school choice and home schooling. Parents and guardians should have a say in how their children learn and what they learn.