Home > Uncategorized > Reason #1 to pick Dr. Grace over Mr. Walters: The future we’ve already seen

Reason #1 to pick Dr. Grace over Mr. Walters: The future we’ve already seen

August 21, 2022

When Election Night is over and we wake up Wednesday morning, we are going to hear countless hot takes on what happened, what could have been done differently, and what it all means. This will be true no matter who wins the Republican run-off for State Superintendent. Here’s my takeaway, three days early:

The results of this election will tell us how good our long-term memory is.

No matter who tells us otherwise, Tuesday’s results will not be a mandate for or against vouchers. They won’t tell us how important the governor’s support is or isn’t. They won’t even tell us whether certain high-profile endorsements (or in some cases, a lack thereof), were significant.

Oklahoma run-off elections are quirky. They come down to voter turnout and momentum. If you don’t believe me, ask Vince Orza.

In 2002, Orza outgained Brad Henry in the Democratic primary 44% to 29%. In the run-off, however, with 92,000 fewer people voting, Henry came back and won the nomination, 52% to 48%. For Orza, it was déjà vu

Orza had run for governor before, in 1990, as a Republican. He was a well-known restaurateur, with Garfield’s franchises in operation throughout the state. He was a former news anchor and economics professor. In the primary, he beat Bill Price 40% to 27%. Then in the runoff, with only 3,000 fewer people voting (and heavy influence from the Oklahoman), Price overtook Orza, winning by 0.4%. 

Am I a bigger nerd for remembering all of this or for looking it up to make sure the numbers were accurate? Doesn’t matter.

The point is that this race is completely up for grabs. In this election, in 2022, the primary winner may or may not win the runoff. Nothing is guaranteed.  

More importantly, though, I wonder how vividly Oklahomans remember the 2010 State Superintendent election, and how terrible the next four years were for our schools. Nothing we’re hearing from the Stitt/Walters crowd now is new. It’s déjà vu all over again.

Below are five quotes, either from the Janet Barresi era (2010-2014) or Ryan Walters now. See if you can tell which are from then, and which are current.


  1. “Who can we trust to defend our values?”
  2. “Today’s action is a pathetic and outrageous step back and returns us to a failed system”
  3. “OSDE routinely receives a number of allegations and complaints involving schools around the state, accusations that run the gamut from mismanagement to privacy violations to potentially criminal matters….One need look no further than newspaper headlines and TV news broadcasts to see the spectrum of situations that warrant professional, precise and effective investigation.”
  4. “The liberal education establishment has fought me the whole way. And they’re not about to let reality get in the way of their agenda.”
  5. “Funding for education in this country has doubled over the last 10 years with flatline results. Do we just throw a lot more money at it? Respectfully, school choice is a right in this state. It is not a luxury. It’s an important part of the mix in education.”
This screenshot is just to remind you that anti-teacher rhetoric isn’t the only reason to vote for Dr. April Grace and against Ryan Walters for State Superintendent. Also, I wanted to keep you from peeking at the answers for a few seconds.


  1. Then: Voiceover from a Janet Barresi ad (2014)
  2. Then: Barresi’s reaction to veto override of HB 2625 (2014) – more on this below
  3. Then: Barresi quote on essentially hiring an in-house PI after already losing her primary (2014)
  4. Then: Barresi on how education organizations had questioned her faulty math on a pay raise scheme that wouldn’t have worked (2013)
  5. Then: Barresi advocating for school vouchers (2012)

Yes. They were all old quotes. That’s the point. I’ve kept receipts from that era for a reason.

Also, you probably figured out they weren’t Walters quotes, since she never says woke.

Ryan Walters is nothing more than a cheap cover band for the same attacks that drove us to the polls in droves in 2014. Claiming to be the arbiter of our state’s values? Check. Attacks on educators? Check. Stomping around and acting like a victim? Yeah, that too.

Take Friday, for example, when Governor Stitt issued one of the most head-scratchingly useless Executive Orders we’ve ever seen. In short, he declared that teachers not only don’t have to join their unions (already true), but they also have to be told that they don’t have to join their union (also already true). Membership is opt-in, not opt-out. Anyone who tells you differently – including our governor – is misinformed or lying. 

How many geniuses collaborated on this piece of work?

This right wasn’t codified in the Janus Supreme Court decision, or when Oklahoma became a Right-to-Work state in 2001. This is my 30th year working in public education. I have been employed by six different school districts. In none of them were teachers required to join their unions. In none of them was the right to choose unclear.

Stitt basically said that teachers have the right to breathe air and drink water. His preferred candidate for State Superintendent couldn’t keep from parrotting:

Interestingly, the EO didn’t mention the word liberal, though that seems to be the cherry on top for both Stitt and Walters. When I first saw this, I thought the use of the word chains was doing a lot of work. Then I saw his next tweet:

Yes, the guy with the dead inside eyes just compared mandatory union membership (still not a thing) to slavery. In response, Twitter was thorough, but it was not kind.

Ok, one of those was mine, but I wasn’t the only person who was outraged. Comparing anything to slavery – especially for an allegedly good history teacher – is always a bad idea. It reminds me of a particular time when Janet Barresi – who loves Ryan Walters and absolutely loved Common Core – also used a particularly offensive analogy. 

In 2014, after the Oklahoma Legislature ended implementation of the Common Core State Standards here, Janet Barresi met with a group of educators and compared that action to the 2013 Moore tornado. It was such a personal trigger for me, that when another blogger told me about it, I said he should write about it. I just couldn’t. I went through the Moore tornado and its aftermath. I already despised Barresi for her incessant attacks on the profession I love. This took me to a new level of resentment I had never felt before.

To be clear, we can’t compare any of the following things to each other: slavery, tornadoes, legislative decisions, or voluntary union membership. They’re all vastly different. 

Comparing Barresi to Walters is fair though. We’ve heard his rhetoric already. She was arguably more versed in policy, but her tenor was the same. Defund schools. Make them look bad. Blame teachers while pretending you’re on their side. Attack administrators. When cornered, throw in a culture war. Act like a victim whenever possible. Oh, and blame unions, as she did in this classic moment:

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the unions or anyone else in the education establishment lose another generation of Oklahoma’s children.” – Janet Barresi (2013)

This week, Walters dug deep into the Barresi playbook and said that if he wins, Oklahoma will retain more third-graders than ever. That second Barresi quote in the quiz above was from when the Legislature overrode Governor Fallin’s veto and allowed parents to have a voice in determining whether third-grade students should be retained. Walters is saying he’d take that right away from parents.

In 2014, Oklahoma was poised to hold back about 4,000 third grade students. Students were getting sick prior to testing, or during testing. Parents and teachers lobbied en masse to change the law and allow a parent to sit in on the retention/promotion committee. The change passed the House and Senate easily, with a combined vote of 132-7. Mary Fallin vetoed the bill. The vote to override was nearly as lopsided, 124-19. That’s what Barresi was calling pathetic in the quote.

In 2014, Oklahoma voters corrected the mistake we made in 2010. In 2022, let’s not make the mistake in the first place. Elect Dr. April Grace instead. She believes in teachers. She’s spent 30+ years as a teacher and leader in our schools. She works with parents and understands students. Let’s get this right. Vote like our public schools and the students they serve depend on it. 

  1. Lynn Jones
    August 21, 2022 at 10:55 pm

    I definitely remember number 3 ‘then’ Barresi comment. Was reminded I didn’t hire the person six months before, but he would be my new boss.


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