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A developing story for #oklaed

April 30, 2017 5 comments

For those of you who don’t know her, Angela Little is a business professional, single parent, and fierce public education advocate.

angela little

For those of you who don’t know them, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is a right-wing think tank, founded in 1993. The OCPA had $2.7 million in revenue and $1.9 million in expenses in 2015. They closed the fiscal year with about $5.8 million in assets, including one controversial monument.

OCPA ten commandments

That’s impressive for a non-profit!

The OCPA also operates several side projects, including their Center for Investigative Journalism. They call it a center, but it really just seems to be one guy – Jay Chilton. You remember him – the guy who feigns outrage when educators get salty with their frustration. What I enjoy most about his writing is when he refers to his blog in the third person. Sentences that start with CIJ asked… and CIJ contacted… pepper his posts.

Maybe I should start doing that…

Okeducationtruths has learned that in spite of the best efforts of many in the Legislature, nothing has changed.

No, I don’t really like that at all.

I also don’t like drive-by hacks taking cheap shots at friends of public education. That brings me to Friday, when okeducationtruths was shocked – SCHOCKED! – to learn that CIJ had written a post fixating on Angela Little.

The post starts as a follow-up on the relationship between American Fidelity (Little’s employer) and Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s 2014 campaign. American Fidelity was a contributor to the campaign for which Hofmeister is under investigation.

That part seems like fair game. Hofmeister is a public official. She and others associated with her campaign face charges in Oklahoma County. That’s noteworthy.

About halfway through the post, though, it turned into an attack on Little.

While American Fidelity was identified in the indictment, neither the company nor any of its staff were charged with any crimes.

In May of 2016, American Fidelity appears to have adopted another unusual political strategy when it hired Angela Clark Little as part of the company’s “Strategic Quality Management” staff. Despite her listing as a full-time company employee, much of Little’s time is committed to advocating increased expenditures for public education, opposing school choice reforms, and campaigning for the election of candidates who support those positions.

Little’s lobbying efforts have been noted by many legislators and generally take place during regular working hours. If a business pays someone to lobby at the state Capitol, state law requires both the business and the individual to register with the state Ethics Commission and requires the lobbyist to file regular monthly disclosure reports.

Then a funny thing happened. Several legislators insisted that the post come down. It did, briefly. Since CIJ hadn’t reached out to little for a comment, he was asked to pull it until that could happen. Then he sent Little the following message via Facebook Messenger:

Ms. Little, My name is Jay Chilton. I am the director of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Oklahoma City, a project of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. I recently published a story concerning American Fidelity and your activities as a pro-public education activist. Some of my readers have asked me to reach out to you and ask if you wished to comment. I thought you would like to use written communication so that you could be certain I would not mis-quote you, and if I did you would have a record. Please elaborate as you deem appropriate as to your position relating to the facts of my article. Thank you for your time, ~Jay

Well, he didn’t misquote her; he just truncated her response. I asked her if she’d like me to post it in it’s entirety here. See below:

I began my advocacy in 2014 when I was employed as a data analyst with Devon Energy. Having 8 year old twins brought concerns about the 3rd grade retention testing and I strongly opposed implementation of the Common Core State Standards and helped advocate for the repeal. In Feb 2016, I was laid off from Devon Energy along with 2700 other employees which made it nearly impossible to find a job. During my layoff, I spent time at the State Capitol advocating for my children and their teachers as I continued to look for a new position in my field. My time there allowed me to create relationships with many elected officials who shared my passion for public education. Thankfully, I was offered a job with American fidelity in May 2016 after a friend alerted me to a job posting for a position similar to the one I had with Devon Energy. I help various areas of business implement technology solutions in a cost-effective way by determining the requirements of a project or program. Since I am currently employed, I have only been to the Capitol four times this session for which I used paid personal time off. Thankfully, the relationships I made last session have allowed me to reach out to Legislators and discuss issues in the evenings since I am unable to be there during the day. My current focus is helping our teachers get a much needed raise. They say it takes a village to raise a child and as a single working mother, teachers have become a vital part of my village so I want to help them like they have helped me over the years. The State Capitol was built for the people. The paid lobbyists came second so why do we feel everyone who’s there is getting compensated monetarily? I do this for my boys who are my entire world. Their happiness and future success is the only compensation received or needed. It would be different if I were there on behalf of an industry but I am there on behalf of my children. I am and will continue to be their voice.

Angela Little doesn’t have the resources, history, and connections of the most powerful people in this state. Just the same, she makes a difference. I don’t always agree with her either, but I’m thankful beyond words that she’s an advocate for public schools. Last summer, she caught the attention of the Oklahoman editorial board. Now it’s the OCPA, which is basically the same thing. If those are your enemies, you’re probably my friend.

Chilton finished his revised post (after including a cursory Little quote and removing statements by legislators) with the ominous statement that “This is a developing story.” Of course it is. And anyone who doesn’t play nice and kowtow to the will of the OCPA will face their wrath.

We all have the right to visit the Capitol and engage our legislators. That doesn’t make us lobbyists. What OCPA and CIJ and others like them want is for all of the public education supporters in the state to sit down and shut up.

Good luck with that.

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